No one is better than Southern Baptists at slogans, titles, and labels

Southern Seminary is now “Trusted for Truth“. Leaving Southeastern and others to be trusted for, what, something less than truth? Well, Al has that alliteration going for him. Southeastern is the original Great Commission Seminary, probably the better branding. I do hope seminaries stay as “seminaries,” seed beds for ministers, pastors, and religious leaders. Or, maybe they’ve already moved beyond that to being seed beds for consultants, coaches, and impressive titles and degrees.

No level of SBC life has had to be more creative and aggressive with titles and labels than associations. I rode by one of the offices yesterday on the way to church. It’s not an “association” but a “network.” What’s the difference between a Baptist association and a Baptist network. Not a doggone thing that is obvious to me other than the word. They still struggle to prove that they can add value to the churches. Success there seems to be elusive.

Which raises the question of the most beleaguered of SBC ministry position – the associational missionary, er, network missionary, er, associational director of missions, er, network mission strategists. Shoot. Just pick one term from each of the two groups below:

Group one: Association, network, gaggle, group,

Group two: Director of Missions, Missionary, Mission Strategist, CEO, Good Ol’ Boy, Executive Director, Back Slapper, Hail Fellow Well Met.

Associations (er, networks) have to do something that state conventions and the national entities don’t have to do: be effective in appealing directly to the churches for their funding. The Cooperative Program relieves all the others from being forced to do that, though it helps.

Then there’s our 41 state conventions of which about 16 get their hands on 90% of all Cooperative Program funding and if you count their being the transfer agent for Lottie and Annie, touches most of our common revenues.

My state changed their name from Georgia Baptist Convention to Georgia Baptist Mission Board. Revenues continued to decline. Baptisms continued to decline. The convention staff were all rebranded as “missionaries.” Baptisms continued to slide down and revenues maintained their unabated drop. We have a new leader. I like him and wish for great success. He knows the slogans and buzz phrases: “Activity is not accomplishment”. “Pastors are our heros,” and the like (I might suggest “Semi-Retired Pastors are our Semi-heroes”).  He’s had to immediately carve over a million out of the budget and has done so with some serious shifting and relabeling. We’ve got “catalysts” who look like the “consultants” of old. We’re calling a lot of stuff “strategic” these days. We’re “welding together” some departments. We’re shuffling with a vengeance. We’re continuing to keep 60 cents of every Cooperative Program dollar west of the Savannah River and east of the ‘Hooch’. When I see a detailed budget, I’m guessing that all the vested interests have maintained their shares. It’s a tough task to fight legacy interests.

Well, let’s see how it goes. Baptisms have declined in this state for over a decade running and that with a growing population. I predict an increase in baptisms when reports are in for 2019 but that such is attributable mainly to national emphases, not state.

Dost thou detect a bit of skepticism in these 500 or so words? Well, it bubbles to the top. After all, any of us who are long in the tooth have seen it all before. New leaders, blank canvas, great new visions painted, same results.

I’ll say that I am on board with JD Greear’s “The Gospel Above All.” Let’s put money where that is evident.

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I’m still waiting for the brave soul who will attempt a rebranding of our venerable Cooperative Program. Soon we will be planning to celebrate a century since its creation. I’m open for ideas.

And, whatever happened to ‘radical’ as an approach to denominational life?

For the record: I like my state convention leader, Thomas (“call me Tommy”) Hammond. I support the Cooperative Program. I’d like to see things that would increase confidence and optimism about where things are going. It’s a tough job and a tough task. He and the staff have my prayers.

And I’m all for changing titles. What would it be saying if we still had “Training Union”? I would have attempted a list of Great SBC Slogans but my brain would overheat – doesn’t take much nowadays. One new title I hope is immensely successful is CaringWell.


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