Earlier this week a friend came by the office. He informed me he may have to stop attending this Baptist church. I had been gone over the weekend and wondered what calamity had struck that would provoke my weekly prayer partner to utter such a notion. Naturally I asked, “What happened??
He had read with interest the recent goings on at the Annual Meeting of the BGCO (Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma). I attended the meeting. For we Baptists, it was a relative non-event. Any time a group of Baptists get together and there is no controversy, at least on a grand scale, it is a non-event. Even still resolutions were passed expressing the conviction of the majority of those present. This was what my friend found troubling. I pressed for more.
“What about the resolution ‘On Opposition to Gambling?'” People in our community are not naive to the ways in which gaming has devastated families. From time to time we are asked to help in the aftermath of very poor decisions. What became the source of my friend’s apparent consternation was the lack of any statement that Southern Baptist Churches in Oklahoma would be a haven, a place for those ravaged by the ill effects of these decisions and lovingly help them both overcome the addictive habits destroying their livelihood and walk with them to healing and hope. What a great insight!
Many of we younger pastors think the exercise of writing and passing resolutions representing Southern Baptists on any scale to be a bit of an overstatement. How so? Well, for example, this year’s BGCO meeting it was announced there were less than 1000 messengers. There are some 1900 cooperating churches and missions counted by the BGCO. Each is provisioned with generally more than one “messenger.” A messenger is a representative from the cooperating church with opportunity to express the will of the represented church. Our church could have sent 10 messengers – the maximum. It does not take much to underscore the “will of the BGCO” expressed in the passing of resolutions does not represent Oklahoma Baptists. Instead only those present expressed an opinion. Considering the number of alleged Southern Baptists in Oklahoma the overwhelming majority did not speak, only the overwhelming majority of those present. Why the fuss?
For my friend it is a matter of the kind of message sent. It is not that he does not think it important to “acknowledge the harsh realities of gambling … as destructive to the family and society.” There is no opposition to “opposing any expansion of” and even working toward the revocation of gambling.Â No objection to “teaching responsible stewardship.” What he really found telling was no statement resolving to reach out to help heal alongside energy to teach stewardship and oppose gambling. It was much like reading Bob Hyatt‘s tweet yesterday which read,
Old school church idea: picketing adult businesses.Â Missional church idea: women befriending/loving/serving the women working there.
Maybe we could re-write the tweet in light of my friend’s thoughts.
Old school denominational idea: resolving against a given vice. Missional denominational idea: resolving to befriend/love/serve those trapped in the given vice.
Let me quickly say, many churches in Oklahoma offer missional engagement with those trapped in any number of crippling vices. The point is not what churches are or are not doing at this point. My friend thought that if we are going to make public statements, let’s not forget to add the ways in which we resolve to love others. It would mean better resolutions if we must offer them at all.