There are some good points in the editorial from the Standard this week related to the need for change in the BGCT, and some ways that it can change which may help it become more efficient and relevant. I’ve been to many church growth conferences where the underlying theme was “deep change or slow death.” The slow death is already occurring, and while we are not the only Baptist state convention experiencing it, that’s not necessarily a consoling thought. Deep change is not quick in happening in a Baptist denominational structure. However, I believe the future survival of the BGCT does depend on deep change, and in 2008, the change must begin to grow deep.
Deep change with a very practical outcome could occur if the leadership core were opened to a larger constituency of Texas Baptists. I believe things would progress rapidly and smoothly if the good ole’ boy Baptist aristocracy gave way to a broader cross section of sources for leadership, but I am not going to hold my breath while I wait for that to happen. Efforts to make change have produced some results, but they are not fast in coming, and an entrenched bureaucracy resists change. I don’t really expect to see much change in the executive board, committee and trustee appointments in 2008.
From a practical sense, the idea of outsourcing convention services to its existing institutions that are already equipped to provide some of those services is excellent. BGCT institutions serve a variety of ministries and needs and they are located all over the state, making access to the churches relatively easy and efficient. They already have their own facilities, and professional staff providing services, and in most cases, their unique focus makes them experts in their respective field. Having the universities involved in church leadership training would be a good illustration of this concept. There is already some of this sort of thing happening, but it could be expanded, with the major benefit being the efficient use of resources. The institutions would also benefit by the exposure.
The Standard editorial also advocated reorganizing the budget to focus on priorities in church planting, education, benevolence and hands on missions and evangelism. Amen to that. A big fuss was made by some Texas Baptists about missions when they wanted to elect a former missionary as president, but not that much of a fuss came from the same sector when the budget axes fell on the missions department, but gave the executive administration an increase. The problem is that the same old eyes are looking at the budget, which remains confined in the same old box. The easiest way to streamline a bureaucracy is to reorganize and redistribute the budget.
We have nine universities, an academy and two theological schools as our educational institutions. In terms of the quality and value of the education they provide, they are outstanding schools. In most cases, more than half of their students are not Baptist. On the one hand, that’s a good thing, because it shows that our schools are doing a great job and that the education they provide is desireable. On the other hand, with tuition and fees being what they are, are we missing opportunities to open some doors for more students from our churches to attend and thus be trained and directed into missions and ministry and sent back into the churches? What if we doubled or tripled the amount of money we give to support the schools, or better yet, gave it to students in the form of scholarship money to attend one of our schools? I think that would be a great use for convention resources, especially if it resulted in those graduates going back into the churches and serving as leaders.
One of the reasons Saddleback and Willow Creek can provide many of the same services as a state convention, and generate the perception that they are offering a better product is that they have learned how to think outside the box, and put their thoughts into practice. That’s the biggest difference that I see between them and the BGCT. The BGCT needs to learn how to do that too.