At the beginning of June, my family and I will be taking a trip to Dallas for my oldest son’s six-month check-up at the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children. Stephen, who turns 12 on June 22, was diagnosed in 2006 with Perthes Disease, a childhood medical condition affecting his right hip. After five years of living with this often-times painful condition, surgery for Stephen may be in his future. While we may not be looking forward to putting our son through surgery, our family is looking forward to spending some quality time in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. I hear Six Flags calling our name!
This will be my second trip to Dallas (not counting layovers at DFW Airport). Last November was my first time in Dallas. It was just Stephen and I on a father/son road trip to see doctors at TSRHC and the sites in Big D, including Dealey Plaza, site of the 1963 assassination of John F. Kennedy.
As a Baptist pastor, I was not only interested in the tourist sites in and around Dallas, but I was also looking forward to eating some great Texas barbecue (which we did). However, one of the best places that Stephen and I ate while on our visit was at this “little” hamburger joint in the Galleria Mall named Five Guys Burgers and Fries. After my first Five Guys double burger, I was hooked. It didn’t take me long to find the Five Guys in El Paso, a mere 90 minute drive from where I live in Alamogordo.
But, what would a Five Guys burger be without french fries made from fresh potatoes (no frozen stuff here)? Each Five Guys franchise has a white board which tells customers where that day’s potatoes originated. Most of the restaurant’s fries were grown in Idaho. As Five Guys is a business, I assume (well, more than assume) that the Idaho potato farmers do not give their crop to Five Guys (or any other burger place) free of charge. I also assume that without the potato farmer willingly selling their spuds to Five Guys Burgers and Fries, that this great chain would have to settle for frozen fries.
Because of their commitment to using only fresh potatoes, Five Guys knows that they cannot take the potato farmers for granted. In-and-Out Burger and any number of other quality hamburger chains would be more than happy to get the best of the best of Idaho potatoes. And, these farmers know full well that there are many choices when it comes to who they sell their potatoes to for final french fry consumption.
This potato-french fry connection involving Five Guys is a relatively simple concept to grasp. Perhaps because of this simplicity, someone recently used this analogy to talk about local Southern Baptist churches, Baptist State Conventions, and the new NAMB. There are currently over 45,000 local Southern Baptist churches that grow lots of potatoes (mission funds). In order to get the most bang for their Baptist buck, most SB churches give their potatoes away through what former SBC President Bobby Welch believes is the best way for churches to fund missions — the Cooperative Program.
Through CP, Southern Baptist potato farms (churches) give away their potatoes to citywide restaurant chains (local associations), statewide chains (State Baptist Conventions), and national chains (the SBC and its entities). Some local farms have even been known to give their potatoes to mom and pop hamburger stands and upstart chains that are springing up all over the country in direct competition to the established chains. Most of the larger potato farms (megachurches) have apparently decided to start their own de facto chains.
But, just like Five Guys, none of these chains — regardless of their size and geographic scope — grow their own potatoes. They must rely upon the local farmers (churches) to give them potatoes to distribute for ultimate consumption (missions and ministries nationally and internationally). What seems to be happening as of late is that new management has taken control of the big national chains and have forgotten where their potatoes come from. This problem has been particularly acute at the national chain known as the new NAMB.
While the old managers of NAMB (and other national SBC chains) understood the importance of partnering with the local and state chains and the local potato farmers, the managers of the new NAMB seem to view partnership as a one-way street. Try as they might, they cannot force anyone down the line to give them potatoes. And, when established potato farms are seemingly ignored while new farms are heralded as the best way to grow potatoes, the managers of the new NAMB should not be surprised when these established farms begin to question the wisdom of this new strategy. The new NAMB can continue to ignore the established potato farmers, but they do so at their own peril.
Because of the radical reorganization of the new NAMB, some potato farmers are beginning to question whether or not they want to keep giving as many (or any) of their potatoes to the new NAMB. Following the lead of some of the owners of the large potato farms who previously decided to give their potatoes to other chains or who chose to keep more potatoes for their own restaurants, many small and medium-size potato farms are wondering whether sending their potatoes to the new NAMB is the best use of the resources that God has blessed them with.
As the president (pastor) of a 500 member potato farm in New Mexico, we have traditionally sent an extra crop of potatoes to NAMB each spring (Annie Armstrong Easter Offering). In the next few weeks, we will forward a $13,000 direct shipment of potatoes to the new NAMB. I cannot say whether or not we will send as large a direct shipment next year.
That’s because there remain too many open questions for our local farm to make a final determination as to whether or not we will continue our level of potato investment with the new managment of the new NAMB. In part two of this post, I’ll pose some questions that all Southern Baptist potato farms must have answered before we keep sending the “free” potatoes to the new NAMB management. After all, as the GCR tells us, the buck — or the spud — stops at the local potato farm!