In both the SEC and the SBC the rich get richer…

…and the poorer schools get no top level recruits; the smaller churches lose solid members. And ain’t we got fun, so the song goes. Well, no we ain’t got much fun if our team has little chance to win against one of the SEC rich powerhouses and, worse, it’s no fun at all for the vast majority of SBC pastors who’s average 100-or-so SBC church loses not just prospects but good members to the nearby megachurch.

A friend told me with some concern that one of their church’s best families were leaving and joining another nearby larger church. It’s a conversation I have had repeatedly over the years. In my own pastorates there were sad occasions where good, solid, longtime members left, not because of conflict or personal issues but because they were attracted to a larger church with more staff, programs, and facilities.

The Christian, classy, way to handle this would be for the member to approach their pastor and share how God was leading them to another church. A wise pastor would be disappointed but would like to know some of the reasons why. Honest, candid, conversations in this context are difficult but doable and may be helpful to the pastor and church going forward. In contrast, the classless way is just to ‘ghost’ the church and pastor and leave them wondering or to make a cheap shot departure with something like, “We just weren’t being fed in your church or by your preaching.” Bye. I wish you well.

It’s not rocket science. Large churches are getting larger, have much more in the way of specialized staffing and gold-plated facilities. I don’t know of a trend in SBC church life more prevalent or relevant than movement from smaller to larger churches. Here’s a Christianity Today article along those lines. I know there are SBCers far more in touch with this than I, so feel free to post other links.

But, back to less important, frivolous matters like pushing a football across chalk lines more often than the other guys.

The photo above is your humble hacker and plodder blogger, not in jail, but looking through the security fence at the University of Georgia athletic facilities. ‘Athletic’ as in football, not all the minor sports. Domed athletic association building, indoor practice field soon to be supplemented by another building, an $80 million football building. The idea is to dazzle top level recruits and their families with platinum weight rooms, medical and training rooms, etc., etc., etc. It’s all private money generated by booster donations, ticket sales, television revenue, and merchandise sales. Star football players get to see people pay for their name on jerseys, though the NCAA, a stunningly ineffective organization, may soon allow some revenue to go to the athlete.

 Don’t bring your kid, though, onto campus and ask for an autograph:

Lower tier SEC teams like Vanderbilt and Kentucky may have a good team once a decade or so. Two years ago both of them defeated UGA, fancy weight rooms and all, but in the long haul our firepower is greater than theirs and eighteen year-old five star prospects will gravitate to the ‘haves’ not the ‘have nots.’

We can get all spiritual about churches but it cannot be ignored that megachurches, celebrity pastors, and the like may be great churches but some of their growth comes at the expense of smaller churches. Fact of church life. Deal with it. I’d admit that the least pleasant part of being a pastor was seeing so much movement by people among churches. On a sunny day, I’d attribute that to the outstanding preaching, great programs, innovative leadership and fabulous facilities dedicated to serving the Lord. On other days I’d be more realistic and conclude that it is mostly driven by money. The rich get richer. The poor get emptier pews.

So, what’s your state convention or SBC entity going to do about that? Not a whole lot that I can see. We’ve yet to not elect a megapastor as SBC president in the scores of years I’ve been an active and now semi-retired SBC pastor. Important committees and task forces are made up of mostly megachurch people. Maybe we will be seeing a more representative slate of nominees, our current president has done well here, but I’m guessing in the long haul, probably not.

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There are exceptions. UT (not the burnt orange colored one, but the real orange colored one) is one of the top programs now in a funk, actually, in the rocky top outhouse. I’m almost sad to see it.


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