Sunday, April 09, 2006

Resolution on Integrity in Reporting...revisited


The Southern Baptist Convention website has very clear instructions on how to submit a resolution to the annual convention. You may submit one either electronically or via regular mail as early as April 15.


Last August, in response to a suggestion made by Gene Bridges, I put together a resolution on church discipline and integrity in reporting statistics as a possibility to submit to the 2006 Resolutions Committee. There was not much response to it then. But I am posting it again to see if there is more interest now that the SBC annual meeting is only 2 months away. If enough people express support for this resolution, perhaps it might make it out of committee and be recommended to the convention for a vote. I don't know exactly how such support can be registered with the Committee on Resolutions, but I am sure there must be a way.

If you have suggestions, please let me know. I plan to submit it April 15.


_____________________________________________________________________


Whereas this 148th annual session of the Southern Baptist Convention marks the 26th anniversary of the conservative resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention; and

Whereas at the heart of this resurgence has been a determination to return to an unashamed commitment to the inerrancy and infallibilty of the Bible as the written Word of God; and

Whereas the Baptist Faith and Message states that the Scriptures are "the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried" (Article 1); and

Whereas the inerrant, infallible Word of God instructs us not to bear false witness (Exodus 20:16), but to put away lying and to speak truthfully to his neighbor (Ephesians 4:25); and

Whereas in 2004 the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Church Profiles indicated that there are 16,267,494 members in Southern Baptist churches; and

Whereas well over one half of those members never attend or participate meaningfully in the life of any local Southern Baptist church and are thus no different than non-members; and

Whereas the ideal of a regenerate church membership has long been and remains a cherished Baptist principle; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED that the messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Greensboro, North Carolina, June 13-14, 2005, urge Southern Baptists to repent of our failure to maintain responsible church membership, and be it further

RESOLVED that we urge the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention to repent of the widespread failure among us to obey Jesus Christ in the practice of church discipline (Matthew 18:15-18), and be it further

RESOLVED that we plead with pastors and church leaders to lead their churches to study and implement out Lord's teachings on this essential church practice, and be it further

RESOLVED that we encourage denominational servants to support and encourage churches that seek to recover and implement our Savior's teachings on church discipline, especially when such efforts result in the reduction in the number of members that are reported in those churches, and be it finally

RESOLVED that we commit to pray for our churches as they seek to honor the Lord Jesus Christ through reestablishing integrity to church membership and to the reporting of statistics in the Annual Church Profile.

49 comments:

David B. Hewitt said...

Dr. Ascol:

It's EXCELLENT. How can we get this to the Convention? Do you need me to sign something or email someone to express my enthusiastic support for your resolution?

SDG,
Dave Hewitt

Jeff Wright said...

Tom,

I'm with David. Let me know what I need to do.

james said...

I'm all for it.

joethorn.net said...

Perfectly constructed, meaningful, relevant and important. Great stuff. I hope you send it in, Tom.

B. Preston said...

Brother Ascol,

I think your resolution was well written; however, it seems to me that the following section needs some substantiated support, otherwise it may be dismissed as mere conjecture.

"Whereas well over one half of those members never attend or participate meaningfully in the life of any local Southern Baptist church and are thus no different than non-members;"

Blessings,
B.Preston

joe kennedy said...

Agreed.

joe kennedy said...

With Dr. Ascol, I agree, that is.

hashbrown said...

Go man go!

Preston does have a point, however.

Is the resolutions committee accessible to discuss what makes a resolution more or less acceptable to proceed to the floor?

Just presenting it may get the issue some attention, even if it doesn't get to the floor.

Is Hunt still the odds on favor to be the Prez?

sldfndtn said...

Dr. Ascol: I am in total agreement with that resolution. It has been perfectly constructed and meaningful. I will be praying for that. If you need anything please let me know via e-mail
preach_j.c@juno.com
The Lord bless you.

Ranger said...

Thank you Dr. Ascol...exceptional resolution...let us know what we need to do.

Also, has there been any momentum behind standing against Dr. Hunt as the nominee for president?

Jeff Richard Young said...

Dear Dr. A,

Sounds great to me. We definitely need reform along these lines.

Love in Christ,

Jeff

wisdomofthepages.com said...

Hashman,
I think Hunt will remove his nomination within a short period of time.

GeneMBridges said...

I would support this myself, and since my name has been mentioned I want to fully endorse this. It has come to my attention recently that my service on the blogs has attracted a bit of a following in some quarters. I say this not to "toot my own horn" but rather to thank you all for allowing me to serve and sending me so many encouraging emails over the past few months. The least I can do is endorse this resolution, and I agree that there would need to be some statistical backing for the statement Brother Preston noted. The ACP's of selected key churches and off the Convention's reported totals (membership to attendance ratio) should provide all the information required.

Also, some concerns have been raised in the Convention with respect to the statistical reporting at the seminaries and mission boards. Nobody seems to be able to agree on the number of NAMB missionaries for example, and there are concerns that the enrollment numbers for the seminaires are being artificially inflated through the counting of undergraduate students with graduate students and conflating part-time and full-time students.

In short, there is a lack of uniformity in reporting it seems and this is causing problems. The very first rule of good statisitical keeping in an organization the size of the SBC with so many bodies reporting is a consistent reporting form for all institutions of like ministry, where the numbers are clear.

That said, I regret that, while I will be at the Convention to observe, since it is being hosted in "my town," I will not be able to join you all as a messenger, nor will I be able to help shuffle this through the resolutions process in NC personally (though I may know some willing hands), as at the end of this month I will be moving my membership to a non-SBC church (See: www.sfofgso.org) They are a new work, about a year old, and they are as yet unaffiliated. Perhaps we will join the SBC in the future, but for now, we desire to establish ourselves as a stable local congregation. My heart is still in the Convention, but my first loyalty is to my Lord and my local church, and rest assured I'll do my best to keep my foot in the door for you all, my brethren.

So, to summarize: TWo thumbs up, tweak it with a supporting document regarding statistics, be sure of what the resolutions process is (as I believe they have to run through a process, and the Convention is fast upon us, so y'all MUST get on this now). If there is not enough time, then do continue working on this for the next Convention.

martyduren said...

Tom-
Send it in; whether or not it is approved at least it isn't Disney again.

Hashman-
The Resolutions Committee will determine which ones are presented for a vote. Unless I am mistaken, when Tom takes the mic, he'll only be allowed to say, "A resolution regarding church discipline and accurate reporting of stats," or something like that.

Pages-
I agree regarding Johnny.

Others-
Preliminary support means nothing to the process. We must go to Greensboro and vote.

T A Blankenship said...

Sounds great. Send it in.

jbuchanan said...

If I am not mistaken the resolutions committee will have to first approve this and then they will present it. I think that this is a well-written statement and really cannot imagine why they would not support it. You should include should more statistics (hard proof) in the statement to help give it some force. I'm not sure what the best way to do it would be but I would also like to see more Biblical references and support in the statement.

To actually get this past may take some campaigning outside the Founders camp. This is a grave concern to us but I wonder how many people in the SBC really have even thought about this. On several occasions I have brought this up to other Pastors and they looked at me like I was from Mars. I believe that most people in the SBC just think that this is the way it has always been and how it will always be. I remember back to the Sunday School Growth Spiral says when we just assumed double your enrollment and you will increase your SS attendance. Unfortunatley most Pastors apply this to church membership as well.

With that said a resolution even if it fails, and there is a good chance that it will, will at least get a discussion going. The SBC will be reformed but we must remember that we have an uphill and long battle to fit. The inerrancy battle marked the end of the beginning but brothers we still have a ong way to go.

By the way, what makes you guys think Dr. Hunt is going to withdraw his name.

Matthew said...

I would like to join the chorus of "Amens" - in addition, I think the passage or a resolution such as this could be a fine blessing to the overall convention... irrespective of particular theological incongruities.

wisdomofthepages.com said...

JBuchanan,
You asked, "What makes you guys think Dr. Hunt is going to withdraw his name."

In the last year, a great deal of attention has been placed on renewing the support for CP giving, including the selection of leadership based on their church's support (i.e. % of church budget given to CP).

p.s. darkhorse candidate= David Dockery

Les Reed said...

I support your resolution and will support you in any way possible. Please keep us up to date and how we can help you out. My prayers are with you and I hope that God blesses this endevour.

In Christ,
Les

TheHudsonFam said...

Dr. Ascol,
I encourage you to make every effort to see this resolution brought before the convention. Even the reading of it publically will be to God's glory as an encouragement to all those listening.
M Hudson

Nathan said...

Tom,

This is a great resolution and I hope much good comes from it.

Just so you know, it looks like there might be a typo in the third "Resolved" paragraph. You wrote "implement out Lord's teachings..." I assume this should be "implement our Lord's teachings." I apologize if I am wrong about this!

Nathan

Tom said...

Brother Tom, this looks great. I'm all for it.

Scripture Searcher said...

An important subject and the comments are interesting but why do so few of you pastors who cannot get your local flocks to practice church discipline think the entire
SBC will support such a resolution?



Will this simple question serve only to provoke some of you dear modern Bereans
and cause me to lose my reputation as a positive thinker?


Probably.



I am a positive realist!

Jim said...

I'll be there, and I'd vote for it.

art rogers said...

For all those who are asking how they can help, they just need to be there to vote.

The Resolutions committee, chaired by Tommy French, can bring any resolution they choose. If they choose not to bring this one, the house can vote to bring it to the floor for discussion and vote.

That is why it is imperitive that you be there to vote.

Timmy said...

Amen! May it ever be the resolution of every SBC church!

Michael King said...

Tom,

Send it. I need to apply the resolutions myself.

Much grace to you,
Mike

Tom said...

Thanks for the encouragements, suggestions and corrections. I plan to submit this to the Resolutions Committee early next week.

Castusfumus said...

I spoke to Mark Dever last night about this and I understood his opinion to be that this is more of a local church matter than a denominational matter.

In my opinion, the denomination is not representing the truth with inflated role counts. The denomination needs to represent the truth.

GeneMBridges said...

I agree. The local churches have to do this...but the local churches make up the denomination.

The Convention in Session is composed of the Messengers. They have the right, and indeed the duty, to call on the churches to do this.

Many of these churches present themselves as models of growth based on their inflated membership numbers. This is dishonest. Dr. Dever is right it is a local church issue.

By the same token, the messengers are their representing those churches. Here's the deal...if they vote for this, they are implicitly saying that they will return to their churches and repent.

The Word of God says a lot about the taking of oaths. If they vote for this and do not do anything about it, then this will, I promise you, result in God's disfavor.

The resolution, because of this, is more important than many. It is not merely a set of words without meaning. It amounts to an implicit resolution not only to call on the denomination to report correctly but also the churches to shape up. If their representatives vote for it and do nothing, then they will certainly incur the judgments for failure to keep a vow before the Lord.

So, while I support this resolution; I see why Dr. Dever would feel the way he does, given the ramfications of making vows one cannot or does not keep.

jfile said...

It is my understanding that it suprised everyone in 1979 when Adrian Rogers was elected president. I don't know if I would be so sure that it wouldn't pass. It would be wonderful to be suprised by overwelming support. I wish I could be there to vote for it.

jbuchanan said...

wisdomofthepages- Are you saying that First Woodstock does not adequatley support the cooperative program? I would be interested in seeing some info on this because I have always been under the impression that they are very committed to the co-op program.

Scripture-searcher brings up a good point. How many of us have really dealt with our own unregenerate church rolls and church members? I have been at my current church for two years and have just begun the process of interviewing our existing members and reforming the way that we take in members. In our last church we saw our membership drop by about 40% and attendance increased about 400% in 10 years. This was in a very small church that really didn't have a great deal of problems. Our present situation looks a bit more omninus though and I think it will be much more difficult. I would love to hear from others about their experieinces. The one thing that I know for sure about this process is that you must take it slow and precede any action with a great deal of Biblical teaching and instruction on the matter.

I will support this resolution but I think that at best it will only bring attention to the issue. Talking with other Pastors in my area I have founf no one else who will vote for it. I've probably talked to about 10 or 12 other Pastors. That does not bode well for success. But if a resolution can get the convention and its leadership to at least talk about our bloated, unregenerate rolls then it is a victory. But brothers, let me say this, if we are not doing this in our own churches then God help us! We cannot expect the denomination (a purely man made institution) to correct an issue that is first and foremost a local church problem. If we show other Pastors the rightness of our position through actual experience and can show the reviving effect of church discipline we can and will win a hearing. Until then we are just blowing a lot of hot air.

wisdomofthepages.com said...

Jbuchanan,
You ask, "Are you saying that First Woodstock does not adequatley support the cooperative program?"

The word "adequately" begs one to answer the question, "What is adequate?"

At this point, I must state the obvious - when it comes to defining what "adequate support" for the CP is, nobody gives 2cents for my opinion, so I will leave it out as completely irrelevent.

Now, when denominational leadership says, "We all must support the CP more" and they quantify it by recommending/suggesting that senior leadership positions should come from pastors who come from churches with a minimum of 10% church budget contribution to CP...

then, I would have to ask- "What about Woodstock? Where are they at in their CP giving?"

If they are less than 5% (a factual piece of information that can be easily looked up), then I predict that there will be some contention over his candidacy... perhaps enough to cause him to back out.

Having said that, if Mark Dever's church gave 1%, and he was nominated for President, I would personally "bus them into Houston" to see him elected.

jbuchanan said...

Wisdomofthepages-

Where could I find the information about FBC Woodstocks cooperative program giving. I did contact their webmaster and was told that they do not use a percentage basis but instead use a budget line item. That is not a problem for me, although I do think that churches should give at least 10%. I disagree with you about your hypothetical situation, if Dever's church only gave 1% I would bus them in to vote against him.

slmayes said...

I agree with this resolution. Our church is planning to attempt to restore inactive members to active, faithful membership. Those who will not be restored or who have not united with another church will be removed from our membership rolls. We are looking at around 250 individuals on the inactive role.

As far as substantiating the percentage of members who are inactive across the SBC, a page on Jim Elliff's website,

www.ccwonline.org/sbc.html

indicates that only 37% of our membership show up for the church's primary worship meeting, usually Sunday morning. He cites the Strategic Information and Planning Department of (what he calls) the Sunday School Board (2--4 statistics). That number would be considerably lower than the one Tom Ascol is citing here.

GeneMBridges said...

Where could I find the information about FBC Woodstocks cooperative program giving. I did contact their webmaster and was told that they do not use a percentage basis but instead use a budget line item.

Okay, if I may, I served on staff of a church that used that line all the time, and I know what it is intended to say.

Basically, it is a way of saying, "We don't want to tell you what percentage of our budget goes to the CP. You'll have to do the math yourself."

The issue isn't that they include it as a line item in their budget. Rather, the issue is what percentage of their budget that line item represents.

Many, many, many large churches use the reply you were given when asked this question. Usually, they do it because they give to so many other kinds of missions. In fact, I have known churches to say, "We don't give a high percentage to the CP because we support a large number of other mission causes."

Essentially, to get that number, you need to take that line item number and divide it by their total budget.

There are two ways to do this. One way is to get total CP giving total budget, divide the CP line item by the total budget for the whole church.

(2)To get CP giving as a percentage of the missions budget (a subtype of the whole budget), divide the CP line item by the total of all mission causes to which they give. Usually, these will include any foreign missionaries, home mission projects and church plants, pregnancy support centers, and (since theological education is often lumped in as a type of missions) seminary scholarships, Baptist college support, etc.

jbuchanan said...

Gene,
I understand what you are saying. I have written to FBC Woodstock and asked them for the pertinent information so that I can calculate the %. I am just wondering if anyone else has already done this and if it is really true that Dr. Hunt may withdraw his name. In the interest of fairness maybe we should also ask Capital Hill Baptist Church to supply the same info.

slmayes said...

If the association where FBC Woodstock is located publishes a compilation of the annual church profile, the information should be contained there. The Association would probably supply that information by fax if asked - or it may be online.

Our association (Rankin - MS) publishes a book of reports each year that has these numbers. Each reporting church is listed and the reports indicate data such as SS enrollment, baptisms, etc. There is a financial report which lists, by church, total receipts, undesignated gifts, designated gifts, total missions expenditures, and cooperative program gifts (plus others).

Even if the church is not willing to supply these numbers, they should be available from the association or state convention - maybe even some SBC entity.

slmayes said...

FBC Woodstock is part of the Noonday Association. I could not find any financial info there or on the Georgia Baptist website. The association's web address is:

http://www.noondayba.org/templates/aso01bl/default.asp?id=21988

Tom said...

I, for one, would discourage Johnny Hunt or anyone else from withdrawing his name from nomination as President of the SBC because of what his church gives to the CP. As the recent CP report admits, many of the key leaders in the conservative resurgence--including several who were elected as President of the SBC--came from churches who gave a very small percentage of their overall budget to the CP. When this was pointed out by those who were in charge (liberals and moderates), the autonomy of the local church was cited in response and all "Bible believing Baptists" were exhorted to support those leaders as authentic Southern Baptists, regardless of their CP giving. I know of one church whose pastor was leading them to steadily increase their CP gifts each year who, when they learned that James Merritt had just been elected as President when his church gave less than 3 percent to the CP, voted to reduce their percentage to match his church's in order to "follow the leadership of our esteemed President of the SBC." It strikes me as hypocritical to now seek to require what was previously renounced as an infringement on the autonomy of the local church. If it was a proper argument then, it remains a proper argument now. If it is not a proper argument now, then let those who are trying to reimpose an artificial percentage of CP giving as a standard stand up and say that men like Adrian Rogers, Bailey Smith and James Merritt should not have been elected previously because of low level of their CP support.

wisdomofthepages.com said...

Tom,
I agree.
For the record, in my original rabbit-chasing comment (sorry about that), my point was not that Hunt SHOULD drop out because of Woodstock's CP giving...

my point was that, given the much-increased focus on CP in the seminaries and in BP articles and in the associations... there is the possibility that Hunt MAY drop out.

My language was that of description not prescription.

Mark said...

Sir,

This is a great resolution and that is why the SBC will reject it. It is a numbers game plan and simple. They may call it soul winning, but it is not about that. The seeker movement has a death grip on the SBC, present SBC president wants what 1 million baptisms. Not true growth as per the Holy Spirit, but the Rick Warren method .

I attended NOBTS for about 2 years in pursuit of an MDIV degree. It was horrible. The lack of theological insight, the get intouch with your inner self mumbo jumbo etc. I was never taught to truely study the scripture and prepare for sermons. I was given websites of past preachers and told to "glean" from them. Just re preach them. Part of my learning was to attend pastors meeting and conferences. I attended one for the Florida Baptists when it was held in Pensacola.

What a circus! Watching pastors getting plaques for winning the most souls, baptizing the most etc. reminded me of sales meeting I have to attend. One youth pastor rode his "hog" into church (the building) to impress the youth. Wanted to do the same in the sanctuary, but the senior pastor said no. So he preached in his chaps. And sadly all the sermons to the pastors was about being sexually pure and true to your wife. I kid you not.

The majority of the SBC is about hype, show and entertainment. The mega churches, most churches, will not purge the rolls for to do that would affirm they have failed. I think the SBC stat, as told to me in my last NOBTS class, of 80% of our children walking away from the faith (they never had) is telling in its self.

Sorry for the rant, I have just come from a meeting with the youth pastor of my church. My suggestion of not letting the youth sit in the parking lot during services and wednesday night was called legalism.

I am continuing to pray for my SBC.

jbuchanan said...

So let's be clear here about something. The comment that Dr. Hunt may withdraw his name was mere specualtion, not based on anything substantial.

jbuchanan said...

Mark,

You mean you actually expect teenagers to come to church on Sunday nights and Wednesday nights and even make them attend the services? Isn't it sad that parents actually care so little about their kids spirituality that they would even bother you with this. Don't give up the fight brother!

Cary Loughman said...

Tom,

In getting an opportunity to lead the Weds. night Bible Study/prayer meeting, I thought it might interest you to know that this is the topic I will speak to. As my SBC church is certainly reflective of the typical SBC church outlined in Tom Elliff's excellent article mentioned in slmaye's post, I will probably be speaking to about 10 people tonight, while Sunday morning has between 150-175 attendees. On Sunday night, maybe 20-25 folks.

Anyhow, here is the heart which I hope to present this challenge to those who have ears to hear, as I drafted a hypothetical letter to reflect why we want members who attend our meetings:

Dear Family Member:

I just wanted to take a minute to let you know I have noticed that you have not been regularly attending our meetings. I am not letting you know this to scold you or demand that you attend, but as a member of our family, your presence has been missed.

Quite frankly, I believe we need each other. I need you to provide certain gifts, talents and abilities that only you can provide to our church family. Likewise, I know others here have gifts, talents and abilities that are intended to serve you and your family through the body of Christ. Most importantly, I love you and miss you when you're not here, whether it be Sunday morning, Sunday night, or at Wednesday Bible Study.

I miss worshipping with you as we sings psalms, hymns and spiritual songs and hear Pastor _____ preach the Word. I miss digging into the Word with you during Sunday School and discussing the things of God with you. I miss breaking bread and drinking of the cup with you as we remember what the Lord did on the Cross for us as children of God.

And I'm sure you have some struggles, hardships, and praise of your own to share with the people of God. Would you consider attending and supporting all of our meetings so that we may together experience the joy of growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ?

Cary Loughman said...

Correction. I meant Jim Elliff and said Tom Elliff in the previous post.

Gordon Cloud said...

This is a great resolution. I hope that it not only passes, but that every church in the convention will take it to heart and realize that the test of fruit is quality, not quantity.

Jim said...

Tom,

Maybe someonelse has caught this, I haven't read all the replies, but isn't the convention in 2006 instead of 2005?

kc said...

Where can I find the resolution on pews?