I’m not sure how many of you are aware of what happened at this summer’s Southern Baptist Convention in Louisville, KY. IF YOU’RE NOT AWARE, YOU NEED TO BECOME AWARE! At this meeting, SBC president and FBC Woodstock pastor Johnny Hunt and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary president Danny Akin spearheaded a movement they are calling the “Great Commission Resurgence.” The movement is summed up in this document called the “Great Commission Declaration” found here. A motion was made by Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, that the convention to respond to the “Great Commission Declaration” and empower Dr. Hunt to appoint a task force to study how our convention can better work together as Southern Baptists more faithfully and effectively in the Great Commission. The motion passed with an amazing 95% approval. Apparently, Southern Baptists see the need for change.
With this approval, Dr. Hunt appointed 22 men and women the Great Commission Task Force. See the roster here. They’ll give their report at the 2010 SBC.
I would encourage you to watch these videos from the recent Great Commission Resurgence luncheon. In it, you’ll meet some of the task force members and hear more about the heart behind this movement.
In my opinion, the real heart of all this effort is the belief that we as a convention have allowed bureaucracy to creep into our convention structures at the local, state, and national levels, which is eating up Great Commission funds. To be honest, bureaucracy is always an evil we must fight against. Why? Let’s look for a moment at these developmental stages of bureaucracy, which I believe will answer this question. These are not original to me, and to be honest, I’m not sure who to give credit to. I heard someone talk about these stages one time, and they just make sense.
The first stage is birth. At this stage, a person or a group has a mission that they are passionate about. Things are simple and not very well organized, but everything focuses on the mission.
The second stage is institution. It’s at this point that this mission becomes more officially organized. The mission maybe gets an official name and a headquarters and maybe even a professional staff is hired to help facilitate the mission. At this point, the focus is still on the mission, but some overhead has been taken on to facilitate mission. Nevertheless, the institution is subordinate to the mission. In other words, the institution is ready to change if it will better meet the mission.
The final stage is bureaucracy. It’s at this point that the mission takes a back seat. Where the institution was once subordinate to the mission, maintaining the institution is now the primary goal. It’s institution for institution’s sake. This end is somewhat understandable in that people’s livelihood gets tied up in the institution (aka, vested interest), and people have become so accustomed to the institution as it has been (aka, tradition) that they want to see things continue as they are. But what about the mission? Unfortunately, bureaucracy will lead to a declining and eventually failed mission. It’s for this reason, and this reason alone that bureaucracy is not good.
Now in terms of the Southern Baptist Convention, I’m afraid that we have crept into this final stage. How do we know? I have two hypotheses, which I cannot substantiate as true or false at this time. I guess I would call them hunches. Here are my hunches that would be tell-tale signs of bureaucracy. One is that it seems to me that we have administration for administration’s sake. In other words, there are people in positions that are being a paid to do an unnecessary job. I’m in no way impugning their character or their work ethic. It’s simply that their job is not needed any more or is not forwarding the mission. Yet we keep these positions anyway because we care personally for the people occupying them and because it seems we’ve always done it this way. We see this situation on the associational, state, and national levels. Two is that it seems that we are still doing things the same way we did 50 years ago even in the face of declining effectiveness. If you continue to do the same thing, you get the same results. The truth is that if you want different results, you must do things differently. The SBC’s same ole’ thing isn’t working. Baptisms are declining. We’re not able to meet the financial needs for the International Mission Board and North American Mission Board. We’re losing a ton of our young people from the church when they become adolescents and adults. Status quo is failing us!
I’m afraid that we’ve fallen into bureaucracy, and if we have, we’ll see our decline turn into failure. I certainly don’t want this. I want to see the mission of the SBC, which is to take Christ to the world together, thrive. Therefore, I’m happy to hear of the developments with the task force and pray that it will be an effective diagnostic tool in determining where we stand as a convention. Have we become an ill-fated bureaucracy? I pray not, but if we have, I pray that the task force will be the wake-up call we need to pull back into faithfulness to the mission of Christ.