By Allen Palmeri
JEFFERSON CITY— The Organizational Study Group (OSG) of the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) completed its focus group stage Oct. 13 by listening to a group of directors of missions voice their opinions in the Gold Room of the Baptist Building.
The OSG is putting together a progress report for the December meeting of the MBC Executive Board. Approximately one year later, the new structure of the MBC will be launched with the expectation that it will endure until at least 2017.
Rodney Hammer, executive director of missions, Blue River/Kansas City Baptist Association, served as a peer moderator/OSG representative for the Oct. 13 meeting. Another DOM serving on the OSG, Jim Wells of Tri County Baptist Association, helped frame the discussion by stating that the future of Southern Baptist ministry across the country is tied to the idea of doing more with less.
“You cannot do everything if you want to do some things well,” Wells said.
A third DOM, Steve Patterson of Spring River Baptist Association, said he was drawn to “a compelling vision” put forth by Carlisle Driggers, retired executive director of the South Carolina Baptist Convention who was on hand in his capacity as Missouri’s OSG consultant. Driggers told the story of how South Carolina Baptists matured in the 1990s.
Faced with a mass exodus by various entities, a desperate Driggers authored the Empowering Kingdom Growth (EKG) initiative which wound up becoming a national model. Sticking with the basic question, “Why are we here?”, he held a series of meetings with state staff members, directors of missions, Executive Board members, and institutional presidents and saw God draw them all together.
“Empowering churches to fulfill their vision for kingdom growth became our purpose statement,” Driggers said. “Before we took that to anybody else in the state, we called together the directors of missions.”
After meeting for the better part of a day, Driggers asked those DOMs what they wanted to do.
“Our thought was, this will lift us up above all this turmoil that we were in with the institutions,” he said. “The DOMs talked about it that afternoon and then made a motion and voted 100 percent to be a part of this. We will be a part of it. We don’t know all it means, but we’re going to be hand in glove with the state staff in serving these churches for the sake of the kingdom of God.”
Over a period of around four years, the Executive Board, institutional presidents, and messengers to the state convention all managed to get on board. EKG was now “a thing of beauty” in South Carolina.
“It became a unifying factor in the state, that compelling vision of the kingdom of God,” Driggers said.
“There’s an old saying that I grew up with in South Carolina. It came out of farm country. The farmer and his boys would come in from work at noon and eat a big lunch. They all wore overalls in those years, and they would take their straps, their suspenders, and kind of drop them off and sit around eating lunch. At the appointed time, the oldest man in the group, mainly grandpa or father, would say, ‘Alright, boys, hitch up your britches. It’s time to go to work.’
“And I’m saying to DOMs every time I have a chance, ‘Alright, boys, hitch up your britches and go to work.’ Then call the rest of us in to help you.”
DOM Bill Jetton of the Cape Girardeau Baptist Association expressed his displeasure that fewer than 400 completed surveys and the comments of maybe 180 people in five focus groups make up the entire database on such an important topic. There are said to be hundreds of thousands of Missouri Baptists.
“The research is OK, but the research is not effective to make good decisions,” Jetton said.
Jetton’s gut tells him that the new MBC ministry lineup must focus on equipping DOMs.
“Maybe one of the models the state needs to do is be that equipping center for directors of missions to go out into those local churches with whom we minister daily,” he said.
MBC Executive Director David Tolliver stated that his goal is to run forward with the DOMs to the final destination.
“We have got to come together and work together for the good of the convention—for the good of the churches,” he said. “We’re desperate to do that.”