By Allen Palmeri
JEFFERSON CITY—Restructuring of the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) is scheduled to be completed by Jan. 1, 2012, under a timeline adopted by the 12-member Organizational Study Group (OSG) charged with the task.
The timeline has been enthusiastically embraced by MBC Executive Director David Tolliver and the convention’s Executive Board.
A series of board and staff meetings July 12-15 at the Baptist Building signaled that the OSG is accelerating its pace as it entered a new phase of its work. OSG, which has been operating since December 2009 as a research entity under the facilitation of Tolliver, met with all of the MBC Executive Board committees except the MBC Administrative Committee, which got a special briefing from Tolliver. The OSG had previously met with MBC staffers June 8, and it will keep on working into 2011.
“They’re looking at structures,” he said. “They’re gathering data about all kinds of different things.”
On July 15, Tolliver showed the staff the OSG timeline. The Great Commission Resurgence (GCR) has brought us to this point, he said, resulting in the timeline and the perceived inevitability of budget cuts. On July 12, he took ownership of the timeline before the Administrative Committee.
“I’ve said all along that I would rather do this well than to do it quick,” Tolliver said. “That’s still my position. However, in light of GCR, we need to get moving. My timeline puts us with a whole new structure, a whole new organization, by Jan. 1, 2012.”
Tolliver emphasized that the OSG is coming up with findings for the Executive Board so that the 53-member governing body can make all of the decisions. Board members may accept, tweak, or reject the findings.
Carlisle Driggers, who served 15 years as executive director of the South Carolina Baptist Convention, is helping Tolliver as his OSG consultant. Methods and a common objective for the group are beginning to emerge.
“They have other people to listen to and to talk to,” Tolliver said July 13 during the Executive Board meeting. “They’re going to have a couple of special times with the directors of missions, focus groups, and listening sessions around the state.
“Our goal is to make the Missouri Baptist Convention as efficient and effective as possible to reach the world. Starting right here in Missouri, we want to reach every town, we want to reach every city, we want to reach every county—every nook and cranny for Jesus Christ.”
As group facilitator, Tolliver said he would make the final OSG report and deliver its recommendations to the Executive Board sometime in 2011.
Seven OSG members were called to the front of the Gold Room on July 13 and introduced by Tolliver so board members could get to know them a little better. They are: Jeff Purvis, pastor, First Baptist Church, Pevely-Herculaneum; Rodney Hammer, director of missions, Blue River-Kansas City Baptist Association; Matt Marrs, pastor, Northland Baptist Church, Kansas City; Josh Hall, pastor, Selmore Baptist Church, Ozark; Kim Petty, member, Grace Community Church, Smithville; Tom Johnson, pastor, First Baptist Church, Fredericktown; and Jim Wells, director of missions, Tri-County Baptist Association. Petty, Johnson, and Wells are also Executive Board members.
Two members—Bill Vail, pastor, First Baptist Church, Poplar Bluff, and Marvin Daniels, senior director of leadership training at Kids Across America, Branson—were absent. Two other members of the OSG are MBC Associate Executive Directors Jerry Field and Jay Hughes. Two members—Purvis and Daniels—were previously announced as replacement appointments by Tolliver and were unanimously affirmed July 13 by a vote of the Executive Board.
Field was given the assignment of praying over the OSG.
“Father, as has been repeatedly noted, this is a great time of change, enormous change before us,” Field prayed. “I thank you for these people that You’ve provided with minds and experience and all that they bring to the table to work with us as we look toward the changes that You would guide us to in the future. God, give us wisdom, give us direction, give health and strength to each one of these members.
“As an Executive Board, and as an Executive Team for the convention, Lord God, help us lean heavily upon You that as we navigate the changes before us that You would be that voice behind us saying ‘to the right’ or ‘to the left’ or ‘straight ahead.’ Whatever the direction we need. That we would in everything we do ultimately bring honor and glory to Your Name. For it’s in the precious name of Jesus I ask it. Amen.”
Any Missouri Baptist is encouraged to contact any OSG member with a comment or a suggestion that may be helpful. A survey will soon be posted to help in that effort. It is going to be made available on the MBC website.
“We want to really get the word out to Missouri Baptists, ‘Participate in this process,’” Tolliver said.
Hammer said members of the OSG now will conduct focus groups around the state to get more personal input from Missouri Baptists.
“The goal is for the churches and leaders of Missouri Baptist life to be heard in terms of the needed priorities and goals for future work of the MBC,” he said. “That feedback, the research data, and learnings from other conventions and Christian organizations will then be analyzed, and recommendations formed for the most efficient and effective organization and ministry by the MBC in our new context.
“I believe the OSG represents a diverse cross-section of Missouri Baptist life. I’ve not only enjoyed getting to know other members and the senior executive leadership of the MBC, but I’ve learned much already about the MBC, the dedication of its staff, and the hopes and concerns as well. I’ve found great openness to putting everything on the table, allowing the OSG to receive unfiltered feedback and direct access to Executive Board and staff to be followed by statewide interaction as well. There has been good transparency in responses, open dialogue with senior executive staff, and a constructive spirit open to evaluation.”