Friday, June 09, 2006

It's all about Stewardship

Yes, that very "churchy" sounding word we heard growing up, and always thought it had something to do with getting the people to put more money in the offering plate. Rick Warren, in Chapter 5 of The Purpose-Driven Life, says that one of three biblical "life metaphors" is "Life on earth is a Trust." In other words, one day we will be held to account for the "talents" we were given here on earth and what we did with them. And that vision ought to drive everything we do.

As I see it, as Christians, we have all been given the "trust" of fulfilling the Great Commission. Not doing it ourselves, but each one contributing his/her "grain of sand" to see that it is fulfilled. And it is not enough to just say we are working, each in his/her own way, toward the fulfillment of the Great Commission. If we are faithful stewards, we will want to do our very best to get the biggest "return" possible from our "investment".

As Southern Baptists, we have been entrusted with the oversight of a whole lot of Kingdom resources through the Cooperative Program, and the various SBC agencies. I believe the evidence is conclusive that we are getting a better "return" on our "investment" as we learn to cooperate with other Great Commission Christians for the fulfillment of the Great Commission. To take a step back on that, from my point of view, would be like burying several of our "talents" in the ground.

For example, one of the interesting phenomena in world missions in recent years has been the increasing contribution of churches and missionaries from the "Third World". The COMIBAM movement, linking Great Commission Christians and organizations from all over Latin America and the Iberian Peninsula, in order to make a bigger impact for world missions, is at the "cutting edge" of what God is doing around the world today. Sometimes it may be hard for us as North Americans to hand over the "protagonism" in world missions to our brothers and sisters from "south of the border." But, if we are really interested in being good stewards of the resources God has given us, we cannot afford to close our eyes to this important trend.

In recent months, a number of people in Southern Baptist life have begun blogging, many undoubtedly for different motives. I personally believe many have done it out of a sense of stewardship. My friend Wade Burleson (and others like him) have been the object of a lot of criticism because of their boldness in taking a public stand about issues they feel are crucial for being the best stewards possible of the resources God has given us as Southern Baptists.

Sometimes, the easiest thing to do is to remain silent in the face of controversy. I learned the lesson from my own father that, in order to be the best steward of the gifts God has given you, sometimes you have to be willing to take risks and take stands on issues on which you may be misunderstood and criticized.

In the beginning years of the "Conservative Resurgence", in the SBC, it was not near as easy to take a stand for the authority of the Bible as it is today. While we must be careful to not lose the ground gained through the "Conservative Resurgence", I believe the issues we face today as Southern Baptists are in large part different from those faced in earlier years.

As Southern Baptists, we have already pretty much established ourselves as a people who do not compromise with the authority of the Word of God. Now, instead of looking for more and more new ways to tighten the circle of cooperation, I believe the biggest challenge before us now is how to be the best stewards possible of the vast pool of resources with which God has entrusted us.

When He comes and asks an account of how we "invested" our "talents", may we not have to say that we "buried them in the ground."

"To whom much is given, much is required."


Rzrbk said...

I have enjoyed your posts want to thank you for sharing a lot of helpful information with those who may not have followed the recent emphasis on cooperation in missions. When I have time, I would like to comment on your posts on historical documents. This post on stewardship is also very helpful. I agree with your comments on life is a trust and getting a return on our investments. The recent phenomenon of missions from the “The Third World” is a great blessing and is changing the face of missions as we have known it for the last 200 years. We Southern Baptist need to understand and learn to work with this movement.

I must take issue with your statement, “in the beginning years of the conservative resurgence, in the SBC, it was not as easy to take a stand for the authority of the Bible as it is today.” I was around in those years I think it was as easy as or easier then as it is today. I was appointed by the FMB/IMB in 1978 and I clearly stated my belief in the authority of the Bible and received no criticism. In fact if I had stated I doubted the authority of the Bible in any aspect of my life or ministry I would probably have not been appointed. I was a student at Southwestern in those days and never found it difficult take a stand for the authority of the Bible. Every teacher I had took a stand for the authority of the Bible. You can probably find some example of someone who took a stand for the authority of the Bible and was mistreated but that would have been the exception rather than the rule in the Southern Baptist Convention I have known for the last 50 years.
I believe if the conservative resurgence had been about the authority of the Bible there would have been no “battle” and we would not be having the challenge before us now that you mention. I think the battle has been over the authority of the conservative resurgence leaders and not the Bible. When Paul Pressler stated that his organization was going for the jugular, some of us felt that was the wrong approach and had nothing to do with the authority of the Bible. When conservative resurgence heroes such as Ron Wilson and T.C. Pinckney slandered and labeled missionaries and pastors as liberals, heretics and neo-orthodox, many of wondered what that had to do with the authority of the Bible. When the WMU or WOM was told that they had better come under the authority of the conservative resurgence leaders or they would lose their seat on the executive committee, some of us felt that the WMU had been doing just fine and didn’t think they needed to let the same people who choose Tom Hatley and John Floyd to be trustees at the IMB choose their leaders also.

I know I am looking at this from a different perspective than you and other young leaders, but I we need a reality check every once in a while when taking about what was happening in the early days of the conservative resurgence. Wade Burleson probably thinks he is taking a stand for the authority of the Bible and has faced some opposition from leaders of the resurgence.

I wonder have the last 25 years been good stewardship of Bold Missions Thrust and our missions programs. Has all the money, time, energy and meetings spent on the battle been the kind of stewardship that pleases God?

Keep up the blogging.

Ron West

David Rogers said...


Thanks for your comments, and your many years of faithful missionary service.

I did not mean to imply that Baptists have not always been a people who accepted the authority of the Bible. That has no doubt been our heritage.

But I know, for example, that in the 60s and early 70s when my father made some public stands about neo-orthodox theology being taught at Baptist schools, there were some who told him that, as a result, "he would never amount to anything in denominational life." Not that he had any aspirations in denominational politics at that time. I can testify as his son, and having heard conversations he had with my Mom, that he had no ambitions related to that. In those days, for example, the Baptist Press did not support you for taking stands like those taken by my father, you were systematically bypassed for denominational positions if you took such a stand, etc.

Today, that is not the case. It is rather the opposite. I myself am thankful that Cooperative Program dollars no longer go to support liberal and neo-orthodox teaching in our seminaries, and influence in other institutions, which, in my mind, clearly was a problem.

Today, however, I am afraid the pendulum may have swung too far, and we need to come back to the center. We may perhaps have different visions of exactly where that center should be. But, I, at least would be in agreement that when we continue to go beyond the parameters of the BFM 2000, we have gone too far.

Rzrbk said...

Thanks for your willingness to listen and discuss important issues. I regret that your father was criticized for taking a stand against neo-orthodox theology. I am glad he did not let that stop him.
I can only testify to what I have seen and heard. In my home state of Arkansas we had leaders in the 60s and 70s who would and did speak out against theological problems at our schools. They were still allowed to serve in leadership positions at the SBC level. In the 80s and 90s however, the resurgence leaders in Arkansas clearly stated that it didn't matter what you believed about the Bible or whether or not you supported missions and evangelism, if you did not support their presidential candidates you would not be allowed to serve in denominational life. Evidently the SBC presidents agreed with them because those who disagreed in much the same way you and Wade Burleson have spoken out recently were denounced and ostracized. I think the pendulum swung too far a long time ago.
I appreciate the words your mother spoke at the pastors conference. You should be proud.
I admire Rodney Hammer's willingness to speak out. It will be interesting to see how the trustees will react.