J. D. sez…no evening sessions in Birmingham at the 2019 annual meeting.

He tweeted that bit of news.

Nightlife in Birmingham:

  1. Have a leisurely, gluttonous, triple-bypass BBQ meal (need recommendations from the Birminghamians for the best spot).
  2. Find a nice park and sweat profusely while watching grass grow.
  3. For Cals…pass the evening at the Good People Brewing Company. Cals are good people, right?
  4. Most likely, attend one of the ancillary SBC org meetings who now have time for more bragging and blustering than they did when they had to squeeze in a luncheon between SBC sessions.
  5. Sit in some overpriced coffee lounge and gossip about stuff with your buddies.

This is a welcome change that fits habits of the august messengers these days.

EC not going to waste missions money on remote SBC voting…and other news

The SBC Executive Committee met this week and did a few things. Here’s a secondhand report of the highlights. Quotes are from BP:

Declined a request to study further the feasibility of remote participation in the SBC annual meeting.

Among the reasons cited: “Diverting missions’ offerings to pioneer the use of such technology (there being no known model for web-based constituent participation in any similarly-sized, deliberative body, nor even in any state Baptist convention) would be an inappropriate prioritization” and “The simplicity of conducting business at a single site is preferable to the complexity of doing so via innumerable off-site computer configurations.”

Those who promote the idea think it to be a panacea for their complaints about the SBC. That is, they believe more people think like them who, if they could, would show up at their associational office and strike a blow for whatever the cure du jour happens to be. It’s the best terrible idea around. Learn more about it here so you can at least discuss it intelligently. Good job making short work of this, Executive Committee.

Agreed to allow up to a quarter million dollars to the “SBC president’s initiative to study ways to address sexual abuse and related issues in a church or ministry context.”  J. D. Greear’s proposal on this matter was timely, astute, and needed. The ERLC will jointly do this with some group (yet to be named) appointed to do the work. I assume most of the money is for meetings, travel, and expenses. They have until February of 2020 to make a report. I would have thought that the group could have something for next year’s SBC Annual Meeting.

Agreed to put a “Baptism Day” on the SBC calendar. I’m all for that. No reason a church couldn’t delay some baptisms so that this could be a big day and encourage the convention. There are 33 special Sundays (or longer periods) already on our SBC calendar. As a pastor, I’d use three or four of these. Oh, last Sunday was “Anti-Gambling Sunday.” Did your church observe that? Here in Georgia, SBCers love the lottery because it sends their kids to college for free and mom and dad and use their savings to buy them a condo near campus. I don’t know of a single Georgia Baptist church that observes anti-gambling Sunday but I, personally, am not in favor of the lottery tax on the poor and uneducated Georgians.

Learned that some of the seminaries are requiring students to undergo sex abuse training. SWBTS and SBTS use MinistrySafe online training courses. Maybe all six do, I couldn’t find out with a quick search. This is the easiest and fastest measure that SBC entities can take to address this matter. Too bad churches cannot be required to have at least one person so trained as well. My church is implementing it, at my suggestion and because I said I would handle it and not make any of the church staff take the responsibility (and I will give a report here on the experience before too long).

Agreed that from henceforth and forevermore, unless requested otherwise, DOMs and AMs will be called Associational Mission Strategistsproving, once again, that what we do best is to rename and attempt to rebrand moribund offices, positions, and concepts. Maybe this will accomplish something. Maybe not. Can’t hurt.

Heard some good old-fashioned bragging. Seminary heads gave reports to the EC and Danny Akin reported that “Southeastern has experienced 10 consecutive years of record enrollment and is committed to being a “Great Commission seminary,” he said. The seminary’s commitment to the Great Commission was evidenced by an International Mission Board report indicating five of the 10 top missionary-sending churches in the SBC are geographically near SEBTS. I’d brag about this too (but to be fair, I’ll acknowledge that Akin was rejoicing, not bragging which SBCers would never admit to). I’m looking for the list and haven’t found it yet but other reports say that these five churches are all within 15 miles of the seminary. SEBTS is clearly a powerhouse of missionary sending for our convention. Other seminaries take note. Jason Allen of MWBTS touted increasing enrollment. SWBTS interim president asked for prayer and for members to “move forward” with the beleaguered school.

You could have gotten the live blog of the SBC Executive Committee meeting if you didn’t have anything better to do yesterday and Monday. I was extremely busy watching some paint dry but I was pleased to be able to get the reports.

The EC held an open forum and interim CEO Augie Boto fielded questions. A few, with comments from your humble hacker and plodder:

  • One member wanted to question the SWBTS Trustee Executive Committee action of firing the president. The EC asked for a formal report on the matter from SWBTS trustees but otherwise will not interfere, nor can they.
  • One member tried to skewer Russell Moore but was cut off by the EC chairman. Good job.
  • A pastor from Utah/Idaho complained that associations were “falling apart” in his area” due to funds being cut off. Yeah, NAMB no longer shovels money to a lot of places for job creation but has prioritized their funding for planting churches where most of the lost people are located. U/I has one EC rep for their 134 churches. My state has one per 675 churches…so our western colleagues have that going for them.
  • One member suggested the SBC annual meeting be held in the north. Looks like Indianapolis is as far north as we have scheduled, and that doesn’t do much for me. How about Toronto, or is it required that the meeting be held in the US? We were in Detroit some years ago but no thanks on going back there. How about Minneapolis?


Stuff not taught in seminary that might get you fired

The big three firing issues for pastors are, and I’m opining here sans data because it fits what I think: women, money, laziness. LifeWay has a series on the top five reasons but, trust me, they aren’t as deep in the SBC local church hinterlands as I am. Here are some things not taught on-high by seminary gurus and sages.

Your church has a cemetery and you are dumb enough to mess with it.

My first two churches were rural and had attached cemeteries. They had people to handle it and policies, mostly unwritten, about who can be buried there and at what price, etc. The Lord graciously helped me avoid the cemetery steamroller during my 15 years at those two churches. I, city boy, was dumb as a stump on the matters. Once I suggested a woman to serve on the cemetery committee and was looked at like I had three eyes. Another time during a building program I got mildly skewered because the new building wasn’t built with the convenience of toting the casket from the sanctuary to the cemetery in mind. Somehow the dearly departed managed to make it to the hole in the ground in spite of the flawed design issues. The less you have to do with the cemetery the better. If the funeral home messes up and buries Old Pete with his feet sticking out into the cemetery walkway, just say you had nothing to do with it. It can’t help you but only hurt you. Run screaming into the night when the subject comes up and you are asked for your opinion.

Your church has a cemetery and a cemetery fund and you touch it.

Toss in a pile of money in the mix of a cemetery and you’ve got serious potential for difficulty. One church had a cemetery fund that was quite large and was better managed than the church’s own money. Back in the days when you could get double digit interest rates the fund was exploding. I mentioned in a leadership meeting that maybe we didn’t need to tap members and others for additional donations. They looked at me like I had horns, a forked tongue, and a pointed tail. I let the matter drop. Besides, there are state laws on handling cemetery funds and if the church is on the hook for perpetual cemetery care remember that perpetual is a long time. Besides, if they get mad at you, people will shift their giving to the church over to the cemetery fund. My theory on that is that although it ain’t good, at least it keeps the money around the church.

Your church has employees who are members of the church.

I don’t care how carefully your church crafts policies for the church secretary, custodian and groundskeeper, if the individuals are members then the business has a high likelihood of not ending well. Most of the folks who held these jobs in my churches didn’t leave well and some of the blame fell on the beloved pastor. Sometimes folks left the church over it and that is always the pastor’s fault, right? Same for secretary. Same for custodian. If one of the jobs is passed along to relatives, sort of like rights of royal succession, good luck in getting out of that unharmed. Your goal is to ensure that you have nothing to do with all of this, nothing to do with the windows not being cleaned or the trash not being emptied or grass not being cut. Reach that goal and you’re golden. You just thought that the mighty pastor would be sequestered in his study plumbing the depths of God’s holy word. Actually, you may have to deal with another kind of plumbing from time-to-time.

And who says learning Hebrew is more important that these types of things?

There are many more but I don’t want to overload you. Suggest a few…

Honest obits and designer funerals: How I know my day is past.

I’m fresh out of eyerolls for some of the things I see, hear, and read today. I’m deep into the attitude that as a pastor, my day is past in a lot of ways. Not that I couldn’t serve a church again if the Lord so led but that so many things have moved into uncharted territory. Consider me to be an  an irascible curmudgeon in semi-retirement and an unreformable one at that.

I have declared that I will pass on all wedding requests. Waaaaaaay to much drama and nonsense afoot on those. I’m keeping family weddings as an exception. Should there be some to come my way, I can easily do those. They can’t fire me from being a father or grandfather. Others, no thanks. Have your destination disaster, your exhibition of absurdity without me.

But funerals and obituaries are still on the table and they can be quite interesting.

A wealthy, transplanted Yankee died recently. He was quite an achiever in several fields and a lifelong smoker who evidently relished the habit. In his obituary that was filled with both personal and professional mentions there appeared the sentence “He smoked his last cigarette.” Interesting. I smoked my first and last cigarette, maybe 1/3 of one, a half a century ago, so I suppose my obit could include the same sentence. Context is everything.

I’m still looking for the stalwart seeker of honesty in funerals. Looks like some families are ahead of the august Reverends in honesty about the dead.

Some emotional distance away from a mention of the deceased’s personal habits is brutal honesty: “She abandoned her children…” Ouch.

Maybe not acceptable for my local paper: “She was the grandmother of a ****load of grandchildren.” (We’re a “G” rated site, brethren). I’m okay with the one that described the dead person as “a connoisseur of root beer and bacon.”  My kind of guy.

But a funeral is a time of grief, gratitude, and glory – to repeat a stolen funeral sermon outline that I’ve used many times – and ought to have some respect for the departed, for their family, and for the finality and gravity of death. As God’s representative presiding over a funeral service, there are things I will do and things I will not do. I don’t have to conduct the funeral. The family can always round up someone else if my ways don’t suit them. That’s never happened to my knowledge.

Oddly and unexpectedly, more than half of all deaths these days involve a cremated cadaver. I suppose we pastors ought to try and break the habit of referring to the “body” lying in front of us as we speak. What are the alternatives? “Old friend Bubba, reduced here to a couple of pounds of powerded carbon…”  or “He just doesn’t look just like himself…”

Once, at the home of a dear old lady who died and was cremated, the funeral director showed up with the box of ashes. The family had an urn and a transfer had to be made. The director asked if he could borrow a cup to scoop out the ashes and drop into the urn. He got the cup. It was, I assume, a single use item. If he spilled any, and I didn’t stick around for the whole process, what then? Sweep it up? Brush off and forget? Are cremains (it’s a real word, in the dictionary, and has been used since 1947)  like the consecrated host, to be treated as sacrosanct?

All that is pretty pedestrian compared to what I’m hearing that pastors are asked to do these days for funerals like wear the jersey of the departed’s favorite football team. What’s next? Holler “WOO PIG SOOEE”? Do the “dirty bird” dance?

Yeah, my day is past…recommend that you be sure and remember to give the Lord a word or two at your next designer funeral.