If implemented, Wright’s vision of “a radical change in priorities” — which also is the vision of many fellow megachurch pastors — will not only effect changes in leadership and strategy throughout the SBC, but will radically redefine what it means to be a “Cooperating” Southern Baptist church. Instead of the bottom-up, grass-roots convention that we have been, we will become (if we’re not already there) a top-down, corporate denomination that
tellssuggests how autonomous state conventions and local churches should act. That’s not the kind of hope and change that this Southern Baptist pastor wants to embrace! (Radically Reprioritizing and Redefining the SBC)
When I wrote those words on July 15, 2010 — on what would have been my dad’s 75th birthday — I did not realize just how quickly and thoroughly that the ruling elites would attempt to redefine the Southern Baptist Convention. Regardless of what others might think is an overreaction to this week’s events within the SBC, the time has come for grassroots Southern Baptists to stand up for the values and principles that we hold dear before this great Convention is destroyed from the inside.
I perhaps have too much of my dad in me for my own good. The antithesis of a “yes man,” the original Dixie Howell Scott would often be the burr in the saddle of the pastor who wanted to unilaterally and heavy-handedly implement “his” vision for a church that had been positively (although imperfectly) impacting the community and world with the Gospel of Christ since her founding. It wasn’t that my dad did not respect the office of pastor. In fact, one of his closest friends during my late middle and early high school years was Brother Don, the Pastor of our home church.
However, my dad had little respect or patience for pastors who felt that their office gave them the power to do whatever they wanted to do, even if it meant disregarding the rules that should otherwise apply to them. My dad was a fair-dealing man who thought that everyone — including pastors –should abide by the rules. When he saw pastors blatantly disregarding the policies and procedures that the church body had approved, he was not silent. He would confront the pastor in the hopes that the pastor would see the error of his ways and begin to follow the rules that had been agreed to.
Funny thing though. Pastors of churches of all sizes (our home church was a medium-sized one) don’t take too kindly to being challenged, especially by the “little people.” In fact, some have even been known to ostracize “troublemakers,” sue “disgruntled” members or use state government officials in their efforts to destroy the credibility of members who ask too many questions. Although there are notable exceptions (here), these tactics have been remarkably effective at shutting up any opposition to a power-hungry pastor.
And, because these tactics are tried and true, we see many churches which are destroyed from the inside-out because the pastor, through various means at his disposal, runs enough people off that the church finally collapses. What once was a vibrant ministry is erased because an arrogant pastor foisted “his vision” on church in order to remake it in his own image. I wish I could say that this is a purely fictional account, but most readers will know of far too many churches where this scenario has played itself out.
Why are churches or Conventions destroyed from within? Because, despite the reputation that Baptists have, most of us simply do not want to fight. The “fight or flee” instinct often surfaces in situations where leaders begin to unilaterally implement radical changes. Some members, who have been a part of that local New Testament church for longer than the new pastor has been alive, are tired of fighting. Instead of staying, many understandably leave before things get “really bad.”
Others try to reason with the pastor, but any negative criticism is met with overwhelming force, often in the guise of “God-language” (i.e., “It’s God’s will.” “I have prayed about it and God has given me a bold vision for the future of this church.” You can add others). Even though most Baptist churches still enjoy a congregational polity, most members cannot stand up to the bully with and in the pulpit. Flight is inevitable. Before you know it, the church that you knew and loved no longer exists and the Convention that you knew and loved is but a memory. (And, for those snarky commenters who will ludicrously point out, “You said you loved the church and the Convention, but you didn’t say that you loved Jesus, so I’m not sure if you love Jesus or are even saved” I will only say to you, “God bless you.”)
I cannot speak for anyone else, but I will speak for myself. I will not be silent while those in power make up their own rules as they seek to implement radical changes which I believe will destroy the Southern Baptist Convention as we now know it. I may not ever get appointed to any committees or boards within the SBC. That’s okay. After all, I am my father’s son. And, that will always be good enough for me!