JEFFERSON CITY—Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) Executive Director David Tolliver and his two associate executive directors, Jerry Field and Jay Hughes, are merely part of the MBC Organizational Study Group (OSG), but the trust that they have with other group members is such that Nov. 30 may turn out to be a key moment in what may end up being a transformational process.
Tolliver, Field and Hughes spent that day together behind closed doors at the Baptist Building seeking God’s will on a new convention structure that Tolliver wound up relaying Dec. 14 to the Executive Board. The OSG preliminary report came on the one-year anniversary of the OSG’s members being made public.
“I believe God is beginning to put this thing together,” Tolliver said. “We’re beginning to see a plan unfold. I can promise you I went into that room with absolutely no agenda. It began to come together in quite a unique way.
“I don’t want to get in front of the OSG, so I’m not going to outline the plan for you, but I believe I sense God’s direction in this.”
It appears that some MBC staff will be cut. Field all but acknowledged this on Dec. 14. A staff hiring freeze remains in place, and the numbers are such that last year at this time there were 73 staff positions with the total now at 68.
“There is a growing sense of limbo for staff,” Field said.
Tolliver emphasized to Executive Board members that they will have the final say in the restructuring, which means that even though the full OSG will be meeting Jan. 26-27 to prepare its initial draft of the report, there will be more input to come.
“They’ll tweak it,” he said. “Here’s what else I expect. When it gets to you, you’ll tweak it some more. I’m not expecting a rubberstamp in this case, but I’m excited because I believe we’re on our way to finding God’s will and God’s plan for our convention.
“The changes will be dramatic in the makeup, the structure, or the organization of the convention. I believe we’re going to see dramatic changes in the whole of the Southern Baptist Convention. We’re already seeing that. We’re seeing dramatic changes unfold on the national level, and I’m convinced we’re going to see several state conventions begin to follow suit.
“I’m convinced that Missouri’s going to live up to its name. We’re going to be the Show-Me State. We’re going to show folks how to go forward with a bold plan to efficiently and effectively do the job. Listen to me, this is not a theological statement, but leading the way to reformation—that’s an organizational statement.”
Tolliver noted that the new structure of the MBC, which will be launched in January 2012, will be of sound theology and methodology, with conservative doctrine and pure, relevant ways.
“Consistency will accompany the change,” he said, emphasizing that local church methods will be, as they have been, left entirely up to the local church.
The heartbeat of that consistency will be to better deliver goods and services to the MBC churches. The OSG is locked in right now on getting that job done.
“We are not just rearranging the chairs,” Tolliver said. “We’ve rearranged the chairs before. We’ve rearranged the chairs since I’ve been executive director. We called it then a tweak. This isn’t a tweak. It could be a whole new philosophy in how to do the ministry of the Missouri Baptist Convention.
“I didn’t start out knowing where this is going. I just knew that we needed to change the way we do business. The churches of the Missouri Baptist Convention by and large are not growing. By and large, they are not healthy. Overall, we are in decline.
“We’ve got to stop the way we’re doing business. I’m convinced we’re going to have a not-business-as-usual report. We’re not reaching Missouri and the world with the Gospel.”
Tolliver said Executive Board members in 2011 will be presented with a tremendous opportunity.
“I’m convinced that this Executive Board will set the agenda for the direction and the future of our convention,” he said. n
ALLEN PALMERI/associate editor