Thursday, May 15, 2008

Post-denominationalism - Part 3

I had fully intended to do a follow-up post on post-denominationalism a bit sooner than this, but life and ministry caught up with me these past few days. Our youngest son has had several end-of-the-year school activities he's been involved in that have required my attendance and energies. In addition, I made a hasty trip down to Dallas and back on Tuesday for a meeting of the WorldconneX board of trustees. Yesterday was a funeral for the father of one of our church members and tomorrow I'm headed to Columbia for a meeting of the BGCM First Priority Team.

I wanted to address the issue of post-denominationalism a bit further in this post by mentioning a new paradigm or approach to state convention life that has characterized the Baptist General Convention of Missouri. If you've read my profile on this blog, you've discovered that I work on a part-time basis for the BGCM as their Missions Mobilization Team Leader. The truth of the matter is that the BGCM has only one full-time employee who serves as our office administrator and handles our finances. The rest of us are all bi-vocational and this is by design.

Even if we were a larger state convention with greater financial resources like some of the older established bodies, our commitment would be to continue to grow by adding staff who are practitioners rather than traditional full-time denominational staff. To borrow an old phrase, there's a method to our madness in this regard. Our motto and theme song as a convention is that we exist to serve churches. We express it most simply in the phrase, "Our first priority is serving churches." That mindset influences all that we do in terms of decisions and strategic planning. I firmly believe that the majority of denominational bodies--whether national or state conventions--are in decline today at least to some degree because they have forgotten their "razón de ser" in Spanish--their reason for existing.

It's easy for an organization to become self-serving and self-centered over time. It happens at every level of religious life--from the local church through the association and state convention all the way to the national convention. The tendency to fall into this trap is greater as a group grows in size because more and more resources are needed (or so it is thought) to maintain the structure and machinery of the group. Bureaucracies generate tasks and create positions to accomplish these jobs that frequently have little to do with the original purpose of the group.

The BGCM is attempting to stay on task with the primary responsibility and goal of serving churches. We are doing so through maximizing our resources by utilizing team leaders in the areas of our 4 Great Commission Initiatives--Church Health, Leadership Development, Church Planting, and Missions Mobilization--who have experience and a certain level of expertise in these areas. Brian Kaylor, of "For God's Sake Shut Up" blogger fame, does a very capable job of handling our communications. Our executive secretary, Jim Hill, does an outstanding job of leading us in strategic planning to ensure that this focus isn't lost or blurred.

I'm convinced that for denominational bodies to survive in a post-denominational world, they have to radically re-think and restructure themselves to offer something tangible to the churches which they presumably exist to serve. If the message that these bodies communicate to their constituents, consciously or unconsciously, is that the churches exist to sustain the denominational structures and bureaucracies, their fate will be sealed and their demise will be hastened. A compelling vision is the only thing that will cause churches to "buy in" and continue to support denominational bodies. The challenge is to clearly define and communicate that vision in such a way that folks get on board and adopt it as their own.

No comments: