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Biting the hand that feeds

 

Recent articles in The Christian Index with regard to NAMB have been both intriguing and troubling. One of the articles for me goes beyond troubling to near reprehensible!

The article, “North America: Hanging in the balance,” while disturbing, appears to be good research reporting based on data, raising grave issues of concern about the effectiveness of NAMB in reaching our nation for Christ. The article was done in a forthright and ethical manner. The second article, “NAMB response to Index article …” assures the reading audience that the issues raised by the Index will be looked into in a timely and effective manner, steps delineated as to how and when such will be done and by whom. The board of directors for NAMB can be trusted to do just this.

However, since the churches at large are now aware of the situation, it should be understood that the last court of evaluation will not be NAMB, nor the state conventions, nor the state papers. It will be the local congregations scattered across this nation who give liberally and sacrificially to win America to Christ. My prayer is that when all is said and done, what will accrue will be win-win for our churches and our great mission endeavor and especially win-win for our Blessed Lord Jesus Christ. Nothing short of these are worthy motives or goals.

The third article – the one with which I take exception is “First person: Making evangelism good news again.” This article appears to be connected to the larger issues raised about NAMB and appears to be a rationale as to why we as a denomination are failing to reach our nation for Christ. The end result that the writer, John Avant of NAMB, calls for is noble; the means or the cause that he puts forth for our failures in evangelism is troubling and worse.

The cause of our failures according to the author is our widespread, generalized, nonspecific unchristian infighting! He states in his article: “We have turned on each other like a pack of dogs fighting over a bone.” He then lists some general areas of examples in which this ungodly infighting is taking place. To whom specifically is this referring? And specifically to what?

Is the writer penning a “straw-man sermon?” Or, is he sincere? And, if he is sincere, is he targeting the leadership of the convention boards and agencies or defending them? Is he insinuating that the rank and file of Southern Baptists are engaged in this ungodly agenda against her leadership? The author needs to be more specific.

To take such negative broad stroke swags at our convention appears not unlike a wounded dog’s behavior when backed in a corner with no way out. Or, perhaps he is hurt over the lost not being won as he would hope.

Regardless, where and what is his source of information and data for this widespread dog fighting? Again, do we here have ministerial and leadership license taken too far?

Surely when issues of concern arise in our convention they need to be looked into. I can’t believe that the IMB’s recent directive about private prayer language is the issue. Perhaps the questions raised about NAMB are the primary motivator. If so, then the writer needs to say so – not paint the whole convention with strife and fighting and blame.

Such conflict as he describes may indeed be occurring in some of the state convention agencies and boards. The average pastor and church member have limited means of seeing the big picture. The writer, to be fair, due to his overarching responsibilities, travels regularly and widely and perhaps knows of ongoing conflicts that most Baptists do not.

But, he is surely not speaking about Georgia Baptists. While I am not among the top leadership of our convention – never desired it, probably don’t deserve it – I am nonetheless well connected to both our GBC leadership and most of our leading pastors. If Georgia Baptists are being targeted, he needs to realign his sights. However, I feel that we must somehow be implicated and included since the writer chose to have the article published in our state paper for our Georgia Baptists to read.

The article appears to me to be more about hand biting than dog fighting. To “bite the hand that feeds you” may not only proverbially cut off the food; it may potentially cut off the funds. Wouldn’t that be tragic! Then who gets hurt? Our godly, dedicated missionaries who are attempting to carry out the call of God upon their lives to share Christ lovingly and persistently with the lost of this nation!

We do not want to go there!

Our church has the Index in its annual budget. It goes to many of our families. Just yesterday our women’s ministry director, very disturbed, asked to have a conference with me over what she is reading in the Index. I plan to meet and discuss with her the concerns she has. That will be easy, I pray. But how am I to inform and/or respond to our many members who may now have read that we Baptists are in one big dogfight? Am I to refute the charges and discredit Avant, who serves as NAMB’s vice president for evangelism?

Where does that leave him? Where does it leave them? Where will it lead us? How can Romans 8:28 avail here? Clarification might be a beginning.