“We’ve Never Done It That Way Before”
by Rev. W. Allen Thomason
Question: “How many Baptists does it take to change a light bulb?”
Answer: “. . . Change !?! . . .”
We have all heard it and seen it in our own churches. Someone wants new carpet for the sanctuary/fellowship hall/nursery. “What’s wrong with our old carpet? Why not get the same kind of carpet we have if we need new carpet? Why do we need to change?”
Some saint goes on to glory and leaves the church $15,000 for a new prayer garden. The memorial committee eventually disbands because they can’t decide where to put it or what it will look like.
“New Hymnals! What was wrong with the old ones? Everyone here is used to the shaped notes! Nothing was wrong with our old hymns. We want to sing the ones that we know!”
“I liked the bulletin the way it was.”
“I liked the parking lot the way it was.”
“There’s nothing wrong with our outhouse – we’ve always done it that way before.”
Every churchgoer knows about a congregation’s inherent resistance to change. Any time the subject of change is mentioned, some people instinctively react to what they perceive as a threat. The key to understanding them is to know that they cherish what they have known. Their church has been meaningful to them. The old hymns have helped shape their understanding of God. For some, the trappings of faith have come to be inseparable from the reality of their faith.
That’s why some folks still don’t want to hear about “all the trouble in the SBC.” I completely understand. They grew up in the SBC, it helped form their faith, and they can’t envision being a Christian without it. The idea of changing their perception of that old institution is painful and it scares them, hence their reluctance to hear about all the “controversy” in the SBC.
Some people do not want the good ole days to go away. They are precious memories, indeed. They really were good ole days. So this next paragraph is for all those who cherish the good ole days, who prefer the SBC they have loved all their life, and who feel reluctant to become involved in the controversy.
If you genuinely loved the way things were, if you wish people would just stop making trouble, and if you cherish the old things of the SBC, (the Home Mission Board, the Foreign Mission Board, the Broadman Hymnal, Lottie Moon, Annie Armstrong, Training Union, Brotherhood, the WMU, etc.) then my brother or sister, YOU OUGHT TO BE VERY ANGRY. I mean foaming-at-the-mouth mad. Everything you loved is being attacked or has already been dismantled. Not only is there a fox in the henhouse, its made away with most of the chickens.
There is a way to get church people to change something without the backlash. Stealth. Misdirection. “Sneaking it by them.” This approach is especially helpful if the object is to deceive the churchgoer. Keep them distracted long enough, say, about a generation or so, and then pretty soon there will be no one left to know anything was ever changed. This is deceptive and most Christians would be repelled by it, but some groups have motives that are evidently more important to them than being honest.
Allow me to clarify it for you. You should be very angry with the leadership of your denomination. I do not mean hate or bitterness; anger is appropriate for your situation. The ones complaining the loudest – like Mainstream Baptists - are not the ones changing the SBC. The SBC leadership – Morris Chapman, Richard Land, Jerry Rankin, Robert Reccord, Adrian Rogers, Paige Patterson, Albert Mohler, Paul Pressler, and all the presidents over last 22 years have been involved in a confidence game since 1979, distracting the trusting and naïve SBC everyman while systematically dismantling the entire denominational framework while they weren’t looking. The SBC you love is dead. It is gone. It was traded for a bowl of stew. It is being transformed into the likeness of its makers.
The Home Mission Board no longer exists nor does the Foreign Mission Board. Both have been renamed and completely restructured. NAMB even changed the way it counts its missionaries. We have an International Mission Board that would kick Lottie Moon off the field. Missions is no longer a priority with the new SBC. Follow the money if you don’t believe me. Are they proportionally increasing the funds going to the missions field? Nope. The increases have gone to Richard Land’s Political Lobbying group, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, (what used to be called the Christian Life Commission) and the Seminaries, which are covering for a drop in enrollment by counting the wives as students also. Our seminaries were once the envy of every other theological educational system that was not committed to an “elite” status. Now they are literally laughed at and their accreditation reviews are occasions for faculty panic attacks. Training Union is gone. WMU has been stripped of power and its influence, only kept around for the names of the two Missions offerings. Missions and theological education were once primary concerns. Now the priorities of the SBC are fighting a culture war and indoctrinating preachers that will tow the party line.
Maybe you’re thinking, “There’s no way this could have happened without everyone knowing about it.” Really? Don’t misunderstand me, I admire all dedicated churchgoing folks, but some can’t even retain consciousness throughout a 15-minute, 3 point, and 1 poem sermon. Why should we expect church folk to be aware of something that has been buried in the back of their state newspaper, completely ignored, or otherwise falsely represented by Baptist Press? Many have been intentionally kept ignorant.
Thousands, and by that, I mean thousands and thousands of churches are changing how they relate to the SBC as a result. Did that happen in the old days? Exactly how long has Jerry Falwell been a Southern Baptist? Since when do 28-year-old men who have never been to Seminary qualify to sit on a Seminary’s Board of Trustees and demand faculty be fired? How long has it been a tradition at our Mission Boards to accuse our veteran Missionaries of heresy? Ever remember the SBC turning down Cooperative Program dollars? Since when do our Mission boards make decisions regarding ordination instead of our churches? When did Baptist Press start firing its journalists for telling the truth? Is it a common practice for our Executive Committee President to instruct churches to withhold funds from their own state convention and send them to the SBC instead? When did we get a creed? Wait one doggone minute…
“We’ve never done it that way before! We’ve never done things like that!” You got that right.
You got that EXACTLY right.
W. Allen Thomason is pastor of Chesterfield Baptist Church in Chesterfield, S.C
Online since April 7, 1999
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