Cultural shifts require efficiency

A momentous shift is occurring in Southern Baptist life. We are no longer a rural, white, Southern convention. We must continue the shift to stay vibrant and carry out our Lord’s directives. Our nation is cosmopolitan and multi-cultural. The mission field has come to our doors.

There are some simple adjustments that must be made in Southern Baptist life. We can no longer focus on maintaining the status quo. It is time for us to radically address the need of people for the gospel in North America and around the world. One of the ways we can do that is to consider how we relate in a cooperative manner as Southern Baptists. State conventions are key players in cooperation for ministry.

It seems immodest to say that every state convention should look like the SBTC, but with all humility I believe that to be true. Please understand I believe very deeply in the sovereign work of God. It is His good pleasure that we have seen His blessings on the SBTC (Psalm 115:3).

We have traveled a great distance together in these 11 years. As Joe Davis, SBTC chief financial officer, has said many times, “We ain’t smart enough to make this happen.” God truly has been pleased to let us see His hand move in our fellowship.

We had the luxury and challenge of starting a convention from scratch. While many old-line state conventions have longstanding commitments to ministry partners and new-work states have few churches with resources to draw from, the SBTC had the best of both worlds. We were able to start with strong churches and we had no institutions at our inception.

There are two major differences in our structure that will serve all state conventions well:

?The first one is how we relate to institutions. We are not sustainers but contributors financially. We want to be a good partner to our affiliated entities. We don’t want control. We cannot allow ourselves to be encumbered by substantially funding institutions, no matter how worthy they may be. State conventions that find themselves overextended financially to institutions need to find an amiable process to move dollars toward missions and evangelism. Complementary ministry between an institution and a state convention should be based on doctrinal agreement and synergistic ministry, not just dollars.

?The second difference is in staffing. The SBTC has a small-numbered staff. Several years ago we ran an informal survey that showed the SBTC to have the lowest staff-to-church ratio. The old philosophy was to have a full-time specialist on staff for every particular area of need. I think at one point some convention might have had a full-time staff member for left-handed, blue-eyed 9-year-old girls in Sunday School. The SBTC philosophy is to find volunteers, part-time specialists and consultants to provide the services needed in the churches and associations. This enables more dollars to go where people want it to go?missions and evangelism. Churches are not bound by brand loyalty any longer. When I was a pastor it was expected by everyone that everything Southern Baptist was to be used. This ranged from literature to hymn books (Wow, that dates me). It is the entrepreneurial age. Pastors, staff, and laypersons can get just about anything on the Internet. Competition raises the standard. The SBTC seeks to provide the best product and personnel for churches in Texas.

Another aspect of service is attitude. We may not always exhibit the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5), but that is our goal. The SBTC staff realizes the churches make up the convention. While we cannot please all of the people all of the time, we can seek to please the Lord with a servant spirit.

It is a joy to serve the Lord and the wonderful people of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. Without casting stones, I believe one way the Southern Baptist Convention could have a Great Commission Resurgence is for state conventions to transition to a better model. We must continue to work together for the furtherance of the gospel in Texas, across America and around the world.

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