One entity hire made, four to go…

IMB is the largest, oldest, and most important of our SBC entities and has a new CEO. Paul Chitwood was a good choice. My prayers for a stable and prosperous future. IMB has been around for a long time. Although the CEO is important, they don’t need any Savior other than Jesus to survive and thrive.

That leaves LifeWay, New Orleans and Southwestern Seminaries, and the Executive Committee still looking.

I’m somewhat ambivalent about the seminaries but a leader needs some marketing savvy to increase enrollment. The CP pool of funding is not likely to grow; hence, tuition will keep the doors open. LifeWay is a large business and needs some business acumen to keep the revenues flowing. The Executive Committee needs a solid, sagacious, and stellar hire or we are in for some difficulty.

I’m moderately inclined not to favor celebrity hires who want to serve out their careers with the high profile denominational jobs, although I can think of one or two that might be a positive agent for change. I don’t see much evidence that celebrity megapastors can, by personal magnetism, influence the great body of SBC churches. Maybe the seminaries could benefit from such, though. A generation (half-generation) change would be good, seems to me.

My colleagues here have strongly advocated for a minority hire in at least one of these. Not likely, I’d think but who knows?

It is unlikely that any opinions expressed here will influence any search committee but it’s good to know what rank-and-file SBCers are thinking along these lines. How about you?

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Extraneous addendum, ignore if necessary:

I know no one likes to think that we “hire” these people but if we hire them, we can fire them. Sometimes, that’s a better alternative than enthroning them and making them think they are anointed and thus untouchable.

And we haven’t hired a CEO who wasn’t “God’s man” in my lifetime and probably ever. I think it inappropriate to blame God for some of the leaders we’ve had. And, just once, I’d like to see someone use the phrase “God’s woman,” as if only men can be “God’s” while women may not.

Dave Miller usually does this type of article but I think he’s shovelling his driveway or something.

Cow pic because this is something to ruminate on…

IMB Trustees Elect Paul Chitwood President by Unanimous Vote

It is not surprising that IMB trustees elected Dr. Paul Chitwood as their next President yesterday. It is somewhat remarkable, I think, that he was elected unanimously. Every single trustee at the IMB supported his election. I looked back at previous articles announcing the election of David Platt from 2014 and they did not mention a unanimous vote. I assume they would if the vote was unanimous (I have been informed by an authoritative source that Platt had ONE no vote). I do not know of a search committee recommendation failing but I do know of some that engendered significant resistance among trustees.

That the IMB trustees are united behind Dr. Paul Chitwood is a good sign from the start.

Here is a link to Dr. Chitwood’s statement after his election. He makes five significant statements about his philosophy of ministry as IMB president.

Another link to the IMB article about the election.

Addressing Field Experience

He has addressed one of my chief concerns already (a concern shared by many, of course), that he did not have field experience as a missionary. He’s been on many short-term missions trips but never served. He’s been on the IMB board, of course, and served as chair, but that is not the same as serving as a full-time missionary. He has stated that it is his intention to hire an Executive Vice-President who is an experienced field missionary to assist with that side of things. The word that was circulating before Dr. Chitwood’s announcement was that such a man had already been chosen and would be announced at the same time as Dr. Chitwood’s name was announced, but that did not prove to be the case. But we assume the announcement of the EVP will be forthcoming soon.

Perhaps the president, an able administrator and a committed Southern Baptist statesman, working in close partnership with a career missionary who understands life in the trenches, will be the best of both worlds. Our hope and prayer is that our missionaries, many of whom felt their needs were neglected and ignored in the past, will feel that the IMB is, as Dr. Chitwood put it, “washing their feet,” and serving them as they serve the Kingdom of God.

The IMB Policy Controversy

My second concern has not been addressed to the best of my knowledge. Dr. Chitwood was on the board and involved in the crafting of the policies that were so divisive in the SBC during the late 2000s. They were policies that were seen as an attack on the sitting IMB president and went beyond the BF&M in setting up doctrinal parameters for our missionaries. Candidates from fully cooperating Southern Baptist church who adhered fully to the Baptist Faith & Message would be excluded from candidacy because of these policies.

It led to an ugly time in the SBC, blog wars where there were few heroes and a lot of sin committed. I was ashamed of the behavior of the side I supported as much as the behavior of the side I opposed! I have no desire to reopen those wounds or refight the Battle of Baptist Identity. Actually, some of the guys I used to wage warfare with back then are close friends of mine now. I do not think that being on “my side” made you a good guy or being on “their side” made you a villain. There was plenty of sin on both sides.

But I have a few questions I hope will be answered by Dr. Chitwood at some point. He may have hinted at an answer in his open letter yesterday when he said, “I will enthusiastically support and implement the policies adopted by this board and will count on the support of the board.” David Platt got the policies reversed during his term and perhaps Dr. Chitwood was signaling that he was willing to abide by the new policy and not attempt to reinstitute the policies of days gone by. His first point was that he would not seek to bring a new vision and his second was that he would work under the authority of and in partnership with the board. These are hopeful signs. I would like more specific answers to these questions.

Dr Chitwood: are you planning to continue the board’s policies on PPL that Dr. Platt established that reversed the policies established when you were on the board, or will you seek to reinstitute the more restrictive policies? 

Dr. Chitwood: are you content with the Baptist Faith & Message as the doctrinal confession for IMB missionaries or will you establish policies and selection procedures based on doctrinal parameters that go beyond our common confession? 

Dr. Chitwood is entitled to his beliefs on Private Prayer Language and on tertiary issues related to baptism and in churches he pastors or is a member of to advocate for policies that are in line with those beliefs. But I would like to know what he plans to do in terms of these policies. A simple statement from him that he intends to work with the policies that exist is all I need.

Let me make my view clear. If Dr. Chitwood seeks to reinstitute the policies (I do not think he will, but this is hypothetical), I will speak against it strongly. I will attempt to express my opinions better than I did the last time and avoid some of the strife that arose. But I will speak. I will continue to support the IMB and Dr. Chitwood regardless of any disagreement that might arise on a matter such as that, will continue to work in Africa (as my health allows), will continue to support Lottie Moon and CP. I will fight the policies but my support of cooperative missions will not change.

I would just like to know what his views are.

Endorsing Dr. Chitwood

When Dr. Chitwood’s name began to circulate as the primary candidate at IMB about 6 weeks ago, many of us were a little baffled. Perhaps we’d considered him a frontrunner for one of the other open jobs, but the IMB search team picking him was a total shock. I have never met him but many of my friends have and I’ve received testimonials from several sources. Throughout the years I’ve heard nothing but great things about his work at the Kentucky Baptist Convention and I heard from pastors in Kentucky that he is the best executive they’ve ever had in any state convention.

My initial tepidity has turned to optimism about Dr. Paul Chitwood at the IMB, especially as he partners with an experienced missionary as Executive VP.

  • He is a Southern Baptist statesman – a no-doubt SBC Cooperative Program-supporting leader.
  • He is an able administrator.
  • This is personal, but I’ve asked several people privately if he’s a Calvinist and no one seems to know. To me, that is high praise. He’s not a Reformed soldier nor an anti-Calvinist crusader. To me, that is a plus.
  • He realized that his lack of field experience is an issue and is hiring an EVP to assist him. That demonstrates a lack of hubris that will be helpful.
  • He seems to care genuinely and appreciate the work of missionaries.

I said this often privately, that the IMB needs to hit a home run with this hire. I am cautiously optimistic that they have done so. Time will tell. For what it is worth, Dr. Paul Chitwood has my support.

Congratulations.

Things Remembered

One of William Thornton’s posts prompted me to think about Southern Baptist practices of the past. I’m 69 years old, and I grew up in Southern Baptist churches. So, I remember lots of things that may seem quaint to our younger readers. Other old codgers (like William and Dave) may want to add to my list.

Hymns and hymnals. In the old days we did not have LCD projectors, and no one knew anything about PowerPoint, so we sang hymns from the hymnal. Typically, we sang three hymns on Sunday morning, not counting the invitation hymn. The only time we sang a chorus in worship was during a revival meeting. Often, we had a theme chorus that we’d sing at each revival service.

Doxology. Every Sunday morning we sang the doxology after the offering had been taken. I kind of miss doing that. It’s good to be reminded that all our blessings come from God.

Organs. No, not heart and lungs—a musical instrument that was played during worship services. Wealthy churches had pipe organs, and most other churches had an electric organ. Even small churches used a small Hammond organ. Not many churches use one now. I’ve heard it’s hard to find an organist.

Responsive Readings. In the back of the hymnal you could find many responsive readings. These were passages of Scripture, divided into verses read by the leader and verses read by the congregation. I miss these, too; responsive readings involved everyone in reading the Bible aloud. Surely, that is a good thing.

Revivals. When I was a boy, most Southern Baptist churches held a fall revival and a spring revival. At first these were two weeks long and later one week long. Now, they are usually a weekend meeting or even a one-day event. Many churches also sponsored a summer youth revival, and there were young evangelists who became famous for preaching in these youth revivals.

Training Union. On Sunday evening, before the Sunday night worship service, we attended Training Union, which was a church program intended to disciple new believers, train leaders, and teach Bible doctrine. Typically, each participant had “a part” to read to the group.

M-Night. M-Night was short for Mobilization Night. Baptist associations sponsored these rallies in in September, before the new church year began in October. These were like pep rallies and informational meetings to promote Training Union.

Women’s Missionary Union (WMU). The WMU was an organization for SBC women, and they promoted missions education, prayer for missions, and giving to missions. They sponsored the Week of Prayer for Foreign Missions every December and the week of prayer for Home Missions every Easter. Of course, they also encouraged the church members to give generously to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for Foreign Missions and the Annie Armstrong Offering for Home Missions. They taught missions to little children in Sunbeams and to girls in the Girls Auxiliary (GAs). Every year our church would have a GA coronation service to honor the girls who had earned recognition. One year Mary Alice was crowned “Queen Regent with Scepter.” Of course the WMU still exists, but its numbers have steadily declined in recent years. Our SBC churches miss the missions emphasis provided by the WMU.

World Missions Conferences. When I was a young missionary, while on furlough I was required to speak in a certain number of World Missions Conferences. These were 8-day (Sunday through Sunday) conferences that were sponsored by local Baptist associations. Foreign missionaries, home missionaries, and state missionaries would go to the association, and we would speak in a different church each night and on two Sunday mornings. I would preach on missions on the two Sunday mornings. Every night I would lug my Kodak Ectographic slide projector to another church and show my 2 by 2 slides and tell the folks about our ministry in the Philippines. At one church a man came up to me after the meeting and said, “Usually, these missionary talks are really boring, but yours wasn’t half bad.” I believe that is called faint praise. Very few associations sponsor these events any more. I’ve been told that our folks will not attend them these days. That makes me sad.

Dressing Up. In by-gone days we wore our “Sunday best” to church. Men wore suits and ties, and women wore hats and gloves (when I was really young). Now, folks dress more casually, and that does not bother me, though it seems some people take it too far.

Well, what are your memories, precious and otherwise?

 

An exciting day at my state convention annual meeting

By popular demand your humble hacker and plodder blogger was in attendance at the annual meeting of the Georgia Baptist Convention yesterday. Actually, the reason for my presence was more marital command (my wife was in the choir for the event) than popular demand, but why quibble over the ultimate cause. I was there, eyes open, eyebrows raised, ears perked.

The meeting was dominated by the retirement of our Executive Director, Robert White, and beginning of a new ED, Thomas Hammond. White’s tenure was over a quarter century and he is an old school patrician Baptist, an indefatigible, tireless advocate for the SBC, the CP, and all of our GBMB and SBC entities. The partially hirsute Hammond (he has the requisite goatee) is a generation younger. Change is in the air. Both good men.

Dr. White isn’t going away. In fact, he’s just going down the hall to the Georgia Baptist Healthcare Ministry Foundation, an organization with a lot more money than the GBMB (something in the several hundred million in assets and which makes several million in grants each year) and a lot less staff.

I heard the best sermon I’ve heard in years from the outgoing GBC president, Mike Stone. The slight of stature, buttoned down pastor had a message on a convention in crisis was absolutely splendid, challenging, and inspiring. His intricate alliterative outline was successfully overwhelmed by his powerful delivery. He declined the traditional second term partly because he is the chairman of the SBC Executive Committee. He pastors in sand gnat country and his wife’s publicity photo has her holding a deer rifle. Kill ’em all sister, I say. Menace to drivers everywhere.

We SBCers are reflexively ironic, congratulating ourselves for good work while almost all measurable church data is declining. Over the past quarter century the population of Georgia has increased by over 50% while the number of GBC churches has inched up at about 6%. We are baptizing over a third less each year. I don’t see the state convention as the blame for this but it seems obvious that in spite of what we are saying and our mission statements the $25 million we keep in this state, mostly CP revenues, is not being used in ways that increase churches and generate baptisms. We do good things, have good people, have good programs, but growth is elusive.

Stone referenced the fact that about half of GBC churches baptize zip, zero, nada annually. Two-thirds baptize zero, one, or two souls. I don’t hold state executives responsible for this but surely someone can come up with some measures that might reduce these numbers. We get a steady diet of concerned megapastors lamenting the fact that so many thousands of SBC churches report no baptisms and I get a little weary of this. Just once I’d like to hear someone make a mention that a good part of  the decline in baptisms is because we have less children. Well, I suppose it’s easier to beat up pastors and churches about evangelism than to cajole husbands and wives to do more procreating.

A few random observations:

  • I always enjoy visiting with the IMB people and I chatted with a couple about the new IMB CEO and other things. Discussed how IMB trustees are sent overseas to visit our people, expenses paid by the board. I asked one of the mssys if a trustee had ever taken a trip to visit their country and mission. “Nope,” was the answer after a decade of service. This is a disgrace. I know there are a lot of people scattered all over the globe but at least once every decade a trustee should show up to visit, even if it isn’t a glamorous destination. A disgrace and a travesty to effectively say to any of our people, “Work hard…by yourselves. Don’t expect any of us to actually join you on the field in your work, though.”
  • Disaster Relief has been busy in Georgia with the hurricane damage. Here’s a tip: DR, for all of the publicity it gets is a very small consumer of CP dollars. Maybe we should put more in DR and less in places that don’t show results.
  • We had nominations touting both the UGA football program and that of U of Alabama. Make note folks: The two head coaches combined salary ($16 million or so) is about 2/3 of the entire GBC in-state budget. Well, both Georgia and Alabama had better years than the GBC.
  • As usual, there was enough obesity to put the CDC in high anxiety. I’ll admit to contributing a few pounds to the overage but my excuse is genetic: I have a vestigial remnant of my Neanderthal ancestors that causes me to store some extra fat cells before the long winter. I hear it’s going to unusually cold this year.
  • Dave Ramsey wasn’t present but still got an infomercial. They guy is a marketing powerhouse. The GBC will put tens of thousands in a partnership to be used by Georgia pastors and members of their churches. The theory is that people don’t give more because they cannot. I think that thinking is flawed. People sometimes restrict giving to their church because they don’t think the money is being used wisely. We might have better results if we looked seriously at providing value to givers instead of sending them to giving re-education camps and expecting the money flow to increase as a result. Nothing wrong with a combination approach.
  • The music was scintillating. “The Great I Am” in the arrangment for the 200-voice choir and orchestra was wonderful. Puccini was on the program but got dropped. Bah humbug. I did get to hear it in rehearsal, though. Still looking for a Christian version of Gotterdammerung finale but that would require this man’s convention to feature a powerful female who screams a lot and jumps in a fire. I can think of a couple of Baptist men I’d like see cross dress followed by self-immolation.
  • The men’s chorus wears tuxedos. A couple of dozen went to lunch at a nearby Chick-fil-a. As is their practice, they did an impromptu performance of the “Doxology” after dining. It was an authentic moment. Other diners stopped eating, lifted their heads to watch and smile. They were recording it with cameras and gave hearty applause when it ended. Make a note that on a day when the sun didn’t shine, birds weren’t singing, no flowers blooming, gray, dark, wet, and depressing a few people had their spirits lifted by sacred music. They went back to work and talked about it. Might be a lesson there.
  • We have in Georgia a president and four, count ’em, vice presidents; a recording secretary and two elected assistants. Is being the 4th VP even resume-worthy? Egad.
  • Quote of the day: Mike Stone on what to tell that obstreperous church member, “It’s easier for you to move your letter than for our pastor to move his furniture.” Uh huh.
  • Likely to be repeated: Mike Stone on paying your pastor, “You ought to pay him so much the church across town can’t afford to steal him away from you.” I acknowledge that some churches like to keep pay low so the pastor doesn’t stay long.
  • Sartorial award winner: They young dudebro in red leather shoes. Yeah, I saw you man. Very kewl…I think.
  • Tonsorial award winner: Another young dudebro who had a crew cut except for sort of a knot on top of his forehead. Don’t know what you call that, maybe the Gerber Baby look.
  • Note to aspiring megapastors: My observation is that if you take your preppy blazer and get some pressed and creased, faded jeans you’ll soon be called by a hip megachurch. Might need to work on skinnying up your posterior, though. Hey, just humble observations and putting two and two together.

See you next year.