Let’s follow the Executive Board’s example
Pastor and author Charles Swindoll has often found himself with too many commitments in too few days. In his book, Stress Fractures, Swindoll tells about a particular time when he got unusually nervous and tense in that kind of situation. In the book, he admits “I was snapping at my wife and our children, choking down my food at mealtimes, and feeling irritated at those unexpected interruptions through the day. Before long, things around our home started reflecting the pattern of my hurry-up style. It was becoming unbearable.”
Chuck Swindoll recalled that one evening after supper his younger daughter, Colleen, wanted to tell her father something important that had happened to her at school that day. She began hurriedly, “Daddy, I wanna tell you somethin’ and I’ll tell you really fast.” Realizing her frustration and the source of her frustration, her father answered, “Honey, you can tell me—and you don’t have to tell me really fast. Say it slowly.”
The little girl looked at her father and replied, “Then listen slowly.”
Good advice for many of us.
I am learning to listen slowly. I recently completed a whirlwind tour of the Show-Me state, listening to Missouri Baptists. Throughout May and June, I and several other members of the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) staff travelled to nine different locations in each of the eight regions of the Missouri Baptist Convention. We have been leading Rise & Pray prayer meetings and participating in Listening Sessions. We listened very carefully to the concerns, sometimes complaints, even congratulations offered by Missouri Baptists.
In one Listening Session, we heard congratulations for the ongoing emphasis on Church Health in the MBC. At that Listening Session, there were no concerns or complaints—only a discussion of the issues that have been identified and the resources that are available to Missouri Baptist churches and associations to assist those churches and associations as they move toward health. Only one Listening Session—with no concerns, no complaints—just congratulations and encouragement for your MBC Staff.
It was refreshing, but short lived.
Mostly, at the Listening Sessions, we heard concern, even anger over the legal action to recover the five breakaway agencies for the MBC. It quickly became clear, abundantly clear, in several of the Listening Sessions, that some Missouri Baptists have “… grown weary in well-doing.” I have stated the matter in that way—not to offend, but to acknowledge that the goal of restoring the breakaway agencies to Missouri Baptists is a worthy and admirable objective.
In fact, before I go further, this is a good time to note that the Agency Recovery Group and the Executive Board are simply following the directives given them by the messengers of the convention. When you are tempted to erroneously complain that a few people, either the Agency Recovery Group or the Executive Board, are pursuing lawsuits against the wishes of the majority of Missouri Baptists, realize that the following motion was overwhelmingly passed by the messengers of the 2001 MBC annual meeting: “That the President working with the Executive Board be instructed and authorized to employ legal counsel to secure a legal opinion in reference to the actions taken by The Baptist Home, Windermere, Missouri Baptist College, The Missouri Baptist Foundation, The Word and Way, or any other institution which may become self-perpetuating, and if the legal opinion indicates their actions were improper, then we further instruct the Executive Board to take any and all steps necessary to restore them to their former relationship with the Missouri Baptist Convention.” Those were the instructions given to the Executive Board at the 2001 MBC annual meeting in Cape Girardeau. Since 2001, those instructions have been reaffirmed by the messengers of several MBC annual meetings. The Executive Board does not possess the authority to override actions of the convention messengers.
Even so, many Missouri Baptists are tired of the lawsuits. That point of view was made clear in the Listening Sessions.
In the Listening Sessions, we also heard a significant amount of complaint pertaining to the inclusion of Cooperative Program (CP) dollars to fund the lawsuits in the recommended 2010 CP Allocations Budget. In several of the Listening Sessions, the legal actions and funding for agency recovery were the only issues discussed. I assured Listening Session participants that I would report what we heard. And, what I heard was that many Missouri Baptists are opposed to the lawsuits, even more oppose the use of CP dollars to fund the lawsuits.
As promised, I made that report to the Executive Board.
The Executive Board listened to the report and they responded to Missouri Baptists.
The Executive Board responded to the concerns of some Missouri Baptists by authorizing an alternative giving option that will allow Missouri Baptist churches to omit funding for agency recovery, while continuing to participate in the Cooperative Program.
You now have a clear choice. Missouri Baptist churches that wish to include agency recovery in their missions giving may simply continue giving as they have by choosing Plan A. Plan A of the recommended 2010 CP Allocations Budget includes a 3 percent line item for agency recovery. However, Missouri Baptist churches that wish to exclude agency recovery will need to choose, by a vote of the church, to employ the alternative giving plan. You will then need to identify your choice on the redesigned CP remittance form. The 3 percent that will be distributed toward agency recovery through Plan A will be redistributed between Hannibal La-Grange College, the Missouri Baptist Children’s Home and Southwest Baptist University through the alternative giving plan. The options will be made clear on the redesigned remittance form. Both plans will be considered Cooperative Program giving plans. The choice will be yours.
I appreciate the members of the Executive Board. As is often the case, the Executive Board had to make a difficult decision. They made that decision courageously but compassionately. The members of the Executive Board listened to the concerns of Missouri Baptists. They heard you. And, they responded in grace. I applaud the Executive Board for their prudent and benevolent response.
Now is the time for all Missouri Baptists to follow the example of the Executive Board, acknowledging our differences concerning the legal issues while cooperating together to reach Missouri and the world for Christ.