Is There Room for Me?

These days, everyone is talking about the SBC’s recent steps (and ongoing trend?) toward narrowing parameters of cooperation. Denominational leaders are redefining what it means to be a Southern Baptist in order to “defend the faith” from liberalism. They seem to think that without them, we’d all be heretics.

Some bloggers are asking whether we’ve gone too far in restricting the parameters of who is “in” and who is “out.” Others are insisting that we haven’t gone far enough. Through all of the discussion, the boundaries are drawn and redrawn, and I get the feeling that I’m no longer welcome. I can’t help but wonder, “Is there still room for me?”

For many, it all comes down to the question of inerrancy of the scriptures. I affirm that the Bible is without error, but I also believe that many of our interpretations are in error (or at least incomplete.) Others show their allegiance to the SBC by stating their support for the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 (which I signed), or by emphasizing their thankfulness for the “Conservative Resurgence.” While I agree with the doctrinal position of the “Conservative” players in the Resurgence, I believe that their “hostile takeover” tactics were unChristlike, and essentially negated the good thing they intended. I believe that we as a convention are suffering the consequences of the worldly and divisive approach both sides used in their battle for the “doctrinal purity” of the SBC. It’s true that most of us today affirm that the scriptures are without error, but many (most?) of us no longer trust our leadership. We are known for what we oppose. We are marked by division, gossip, and a need to be right. We act as though it is more important to demolish the people we disagree with instead of working to restore them.

My political views don’t follow the party line. I believe in the sanctity of all life (not just legally innocent life), so I’m against abortion and capital punishment. I do not believe that a preemptive war can ever be considered just. I believe that with our great material blessings come an obligation to help the people among us who are less fortunate (even if it’s their own fault). While many church leaders are excited about the political influence they think they might have, I think we need to be careful to retain a separation of religion and State; joining the two is only fun when you’re the favored religion.

I’m a fan of simple, organic churches. I don’t think we need professional clergy, buildings, or Sunday School programs. I don’t think “what works” is always good, nor do I think bigger is necessarily better. I believe in the autonomy of the local church, even if it means that I might have to associate with a body of believers that do things differently than I’m comfortable with.

I’m frustrated with the way money is handled in the SBC. Giving to the Cooperative Program is not, in fact, the same as giving to missions. I think that we’re going to have to make some major changes, because churches are not going to continue to pay for fancy denominational buildings or to support missionaries they don’t know.

I don’t think that theological training is the answer to all of our theological problems. I don’t care about denominational politics, or who knows who in the Convention. I disagree with the recent resolution against drinking. I think that the State Baptist “news”papers are a waste of time and money.

These are the differences that I continually run into between me and many outspoken Southern Baptists. You’ll notice that very few of the things I’ve outlined here are doctrinal. Nevertheless, these are things that we debate and discuss.

I’m not sure who gets to define the boundaries for “in” and “out.” I suppose it’s the men in positions of convention leadership and influence. I don’t think I’ve even met one of them in person, yet I get the feeling that they’re trying to get rid of me. Because of the differences I’ve listed here, they don’t want the money that they administer going to support someone like me.

My question is this: Is there room for me?

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25 thoughts on “Is There Room for Me?

  1. I would say after 9 years of working for the same company as you, I came out with very similar thoughts and feelings. From my observations, I saw that the SBC is being driven more by fear of what people might or might not do as opposed to really trusting people to be led by the Spirit. That’s why you get things like “resolutions on alcohol”…we don’t trust or believe that people can be yielded to the Spirit and not get drunk. If you ask me, it’s fear… and a complete lack of trust in people to walk with Jesus. It was deeply sad to me to watch this and be around some of the politics first hand. For me, there was no room because I didn’t see that was really an invitation to a healthy discussion on the issues…

    Anyway, sure appreciated your thoughts and the post.

  2. Amen, and Amen. I’ve posted similar thoughts at believingjesus.org

    Glad to hear others who sympathize.

  3. so imagine that you hold all the beliefs that are counter to the powers that be in the imb plus you are a woman. now ask yourself if there is room for you….

  4. I think we will all be surprised how quickly things will change when revenues start declining. Our institutions are going to change whether they want to or not.

  5. I have been a Southern Baptist for as long as I can remember and even before. The first Sunday of my life I spent in church 52 years ago. I now serve in the 10-40 window or Fontiers or whatever it is called now. Yes I care about what is happening within the denomination. I was in the middle of it during the 70′s on the mission field and simply went about doing what God had called me to do. I returned to the States and to church in the middle of it. What did I learn? I did not even know there had been a take over of any sort until this last year! Now isn’t that just a hoot. I missed it all! I went about just doing what I was called to do. Standing in His will as best I could. Is there a place for me with SBC/IMB. Yes, if that is where God wants me. If not, I will go gracefully where He leads me. If you do not have a sense of humor about most of this it will drive you crazy. There is enough to drive me crazy just living where I do. Hey, how about a real challenge. Let’s all really fast and pray for each other the first day of every month. Now that could be interesting. :-)

  6. Take courage – you are not alone. I find it encouraging that others have similar feelings and beliefs. Having served as a staff member, bi-vocational minister, missionary, and full-time pastor, I too, feel like neither fish nor fowl and wonder where my place is.

    Have you noticed how much of God’s “fussing” (judgment) in the Scripture is directed to His own people as opposed to those outside the family of faith? Also, it is interesting that God – through the prophets — spent a great deal of time showing His people that their relationship to Him was directly related to how they treated the least of society.

    If we are going to believe in the Word – let’s believe it all.

  7. Thanks for this post!

    It’s exactly what my husband and I have tossed around for the last nine months!

    We feel like, after having been overseas for eight years, that all the politicking is for the birds! What happened to trusting Scripture?

    Thank you to anonymous above who first went to church 52 years ago. We needed to read what you wrote! We, too, have to come the realization that we need to keep on doing what God has called us to do. He will direct us every step of the way. If he ever wants us to leave the IMB, he’ll show us that too!

    Blessings!

    IMB M in Asia

  8. At the risk of sounding mathematical, I think you have to determine for yourself if the comparative advantages of working through the IMB outweigh the possible philosophical imcompatibilities (which seem to be in a state of flux right now).

    They (being the BoT, or whoever else decides those things) will eventually have to decide those same things, from their perspective.

    I personally hope it doesn’t come down to a decision to part ways on the part of either one of you. But, even if that were to ever happen, I think the important thing to remember is that the work of God’s Kingdom goes on, and, if we are truly called according to His purpose, no one can separate us from that.

  9. Thank you all for your comments. I appreciate the support and encouragement.

    The coal miner’s-parakeet comment kind of disturbed me. I’ve had this recurring nightmare ever since of a guinea pig and coal miner’s parakeet fighting to get out of their cages…

    At first I wrote this post as a rhetorical question, but now I’m wondering if I couldn’t get an answer from someone like Brad Reynolds or Tim Rogers. I’m sure they don’t read my blog, so maybe I’ll email them…

  10. Great post. I pray you will continue in missions as long as God calls you to it, no matter the medium through which you go. You have hit many nails on the head with this post.

  11. Problems will always arise when community turns corporate, which seems to be about 150 people. I find it ironic that this number is just about the point which we feel we have to “break through” in order to grow a church. (anybody read “Breaking the 200 barrier in your church”) To get past that point, we have to turn from community and begin to apply corporate principles and practices. In a group of 150 or less, everyone can be treated as a person. At 150 and beyond, you have to put a policy in place. The powers that be can no longer deal with people as individuals, they must deal with policies. This is what you are talking about in the SBC (and any other corporate entity). We are asked to relate to the Baptist Faith and Message instead of to one another.

    Here we become a victim of efficiency over effectiveness. Doing whatever it takes to get your ministry past the 200 barrier may be efficient for the staff, but in my opinion, it ultimately diminishes effectiveness of its community.

    I found there was no more room for me, and I am moving on in faith and love. I struggled with rejection and being bitter at first, but I now am releasing that as I see my choice was right for me. I miss certain people. I have good memories. That was a good season of my life, but the sun rises in new territory for me this morning.

  12. Watchman,
    So you’ve proven that there’s life outside the SBC. In a way, I’m ready to accept that I’m not wanted an move on. But on the other hand, I want to stay and encourage people to move in a better direction.

    I’m sorry you were hurt by the people who were supposed to love you. Thanks for keeping in touch with the rest of us black sheep.

  13. It’s a bit discouraging that you’re thinking of jumping ship while I’m in line to buy a ticket. Especially when we share many of the same concerns.

    Regardless of how this turns out, I’ve seen God work in my life in the application process alone, so I’m not too worried. His will is bigger than all our bickering. But it would be nice to think the tent isn’t shrinking too much.

    Anyone ever think the name “Cooperative Program” is becoming a little ironic?

  14. Whose jumping ship? Just serving where God calls!!! We are all on the same journey, to know Christ and to make Him known. I know I’d love to share about the incredible journey I’m on. This particular organization where I am is larger than 200 and yet because of the biblical foundation upon which it is built it is the most godly organization I have ever experienced…

  15. Publius,
    Yeah, I don’t want to discourage you. The Board has be great to me, and while I do sometimes feel like an odd man out, I have never felt anything but full support from my leadership.

    The thing is, there are quite a few of us on the field who struggle with feeling like we don’t fit. Not with the IMB, but with the SBC.

    I’ll stay with the Board as long as my conscience and Paige Patterson allow.

  16. You have not posted again in over a week so either you are working too much or you decided that there is not room for you after all. A really strange guy came out to Central Asia once and my friend commented on what an unusual person he was. I responded by saying, ‘Normal people don’t come here.’ You are not normal but you are welcome. -Strider

  17. Strider,
    Thanks for your kind words. No worries, I haven’t gone away. I’ve got about a dozen half-posts that aren’t ready to see the light of day. I just need some time and inspiration. Please stay tuned…

  18. Keep doing what you’re doing. Follow God and determine to keep following Him. If and when your actions or heart are unacceptable, you’ll be made aware.

  19. Poor little stepchild… he’s such victim. Shouldn’t we all feel sorry for him. God bless his little impotent heart. Bad ole BoT just keep making him feel so unwanted. They are such bad people. I’m sure they will have to answer for making poor little stepchild feels so little.

  20. Stepchild,
    Your post saddens me. As a brother in Christ, serving God where He has called you, you should not have to deal with these questions. If you, as a believer, feel shut out by other believers, the problem does not lie with you. God bless you and your service to Him.
    Alan

  21. I read annonymous last night and chose to ignore it but his venom is bugging me so I will address it. As followers of Jesus we have a model to immulate. A character to become. Too many have set other men as their models and then called themselves Christians. This is wrong. The post above from annonymous is dripping with sarcasm, anger, and frustration. This is not the spirit of Christ. The angry model is used to instill fear which is from the evil one to bring about conformity to his plans. Our Lord calls us with open arms always inviting us into a relationship. I think the point of Stepchild’s post is that there are those amoung us who want to control with fear and division. Paul would have called these ‘wolves’. They must be fought off and defeated. We do that by inviting, by showing grace, by loving. We fear God alone and Him only must we serve. Sorry for the long rant.

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