JEFFERSON CITY—The Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) Executive Board voted April 12 to receive the Organizational Study Group (OSG) Report with its five recommendations designed to empower and resource churches.
The OSG finished the work it set out to do Dec. 15, 2009, by delivering a report with various observations, illustrations, data, and findings about Missouri Baptist life. The report provides a general framework and direction for moving forward with a new structure that will now sit in waiting for a new executive director to review. MBC Interim Executive Director Jay Hughes called the report a useful tool.
The five recommendations call upon the MBC to:
- Assist churches to make missional disciples among all peoples, to multiply churches, and to develop effective 21st century leaders;
- Implement a new structure that is streamlined and philosophically decentralized;
- Focus church planting efforts in the metro areas of our state where a greater concentration of unchurched people are located;
- Direct more resources toward developing and equipping bi-vocational leaders; and
- Focus more efforts on engaging and developing younger leaders.
The report was offered in a special presentation April 11 to the Executive Board, MBC staff and other visitors who filled the Gold Room at the Baptist Building in anticipation of getting a glimpse of what the MBC’s future may entail. The 10 OSG members took turns introducing the material and answering questions.
“This is a strategic moment in our history as a convention,” said OSG Member Jim Wells, director of missions, Tri County Baptist Association in Nixa. Stating plainly that “we have got to cooperate,” he noted the report advocates networking with the local church and the local association by way of homegrown strategies. Reflecting the new nomenclature that describes the OSG recommendations, Wells said, for example, MBC staffers of the future would be known as generalists, not specialists as they are presently.
In the final question-and-answer session, Hughes was asked by Board Member Frank Welch, director of missions, Salt River Baptist Association, Bowling Green, if there was some other way for the MBC to achieve its goals.
“We’re going to have to figure out how to do ministry more effectively with less,” he said. “Our Cooperative Program (CP) revenue is in a downward trend, and has been for years. There are just realities there that are going to make us take a harder look at how we’re doing things. We can’t just do what we’re doing and do more of it. The resources just aren’t there.”
Hughes was then asked by Welch if the MBC will go the way of the Kansas-Nebraska Convention, which recently cut its CP giving to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).
“Philosophically I don’t believe in that,” Hughes said.
That prompted OSG Member Bill Vail, pastor, First Baptist Church, Poplar Bluff, to express how painful this process – especially the possible personnel cuts — has been for him.
“When we first started this, the last thing that I think any of us wanted to even think about doing was cutting staff,” Vail said. “That tore at my heart to even have to enter into the realm of that possibility, but that’s one of the things we were charged with.
“We were given the responsibility, ‘How can you help us get some ideas on how we can hopefully accomplish the same thing with less staff?’ I don’t think there’s anybody up here at this table that wanted to think about doing that.”
After 3 hours, 10 minutes of OSG and board interaction, Hughes said to Executive Board Chairman John Marshall, pastor, Second Baptist Church, Springfield, “Dr. Marshall, we put the report in your hands.” Marshall commented on how amazing the report was and called it “a great night for Missouri Baptists.”
On April 12, Marshall noted that in receiving the report, board members looked favorably upon it. The chairman noted that “it does become an important document to us,” and that by their action board members “sort of put our blessing on it.” In ending the session, OSG members, standing in the front of the room, took about 10 questions from board members before the final vote was taken.
The convention has been without an executive director since Jan. 7. David Tolliver began serving in that position February 2009 after going nearly 22 months as an interim. Tolliver is known as the visionary behind the OSG concept and the facilitator who helped steer the bulk of its work.
ALLEN PALMERI / associate editor