George Bullard, President, The Columbia Partnership, 332 Valley Springs Road, Columbia, SC 29223-6934, Voice: 803.622.0923, E-mail: GBullard@TheColumbiaPartnership.org, TCP Web Site: www.TheColumbiaPartnership.org, Blog: www.BullardJournal.org
May 1: Exponential church planting conference in Orlando. 4: Online conference with Methodist congregation in Raleigh, NC. 15: Lunch Dialogue for TheCollaborative.info in Charlotte. 22: Online conference with Methodist congregation in Ohio. June 3-5: Kansas to meet with Mennonite Brethren and others. 24-27: Atlanta for Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and other connections.
PRAY for the year of preparation for TheCollaborative.info, the fundraising for this effort, and the research and development actions of George Bullard. Pray for the various lunch dialogues being held in various locations.
PRAY for Shelby, NC, First Baptist Church as they craft their future story of ministry. May significant new vitality and vibrancy result from their efforts. They incremental decline has happen over many years, and they must take prophetic action to move forward.
PRAY for the new vision of The Columbia Partnership that seek to empower the transformation of 2100 congregations per year by the end of 2017. Pray that we may be able to connect with an increasing number of congregations who desire to reach their full Kingdom potential.
PRAY for the work of the Baptist World Alliance led by Neville Callam, and its North American Baptist Fellowship that I lead, as we anticipate 2014 as a year that will significantly move forward our work among Baptists worldwide. Pray specifically for our NABF's 50th anniversary as celebrate the future of Baptist missional collaboration from the base of North America. The theme is FutureBaptists: A Collaborative Missional Movement.
Four years ago Joel Gregory, Professor of Preaching at George W. Truett Theological Seminary at Baylor University, was commissioned by the Baptist World Alliance to study representative Baptist preaching throughout the world. Talk about taking a bite out of an elephant? How do you pick just a few? His challenge was to come up with six or less preachers from North America. With six regions of the world that was still three dozen preachers.
Promised out of this study was a book—a heavy book—from Baylor University Press. I guess I never thought it would take four years to complete this project and get the book published. But it did. The book has finally arrived. Baptist Preaching: A Global Anthology, Joel C. Gregory, Editor, has just been released and is available at www.Amazon.com by clicking HERE.
If you want to buy one, pull out your platinum card because the retail price is $59.95. Doesn’t this sound just about right for an academic publisher who believes every book should be seen as a textbook, and no textbook is worth its considerable weight unless it costs at least $50.00? If you want it, you have to buy the whole thing. They are not—at least initially—making it available as a Kindle eBook. Sad!
"Four years ago Joel Gregory, Professor of Preaching at George W. Truett Theological Seminary at Baylor University, was commissioned by the Baptist World Alliance to study representative Baptist preaching throughout the world. Talk about taking a bite out of an elephant? How do you pick just a few? His challenge was to come up with six or less preachers from North America. With six regions of the world that was still three dozen preachers."
During a recent research visit with a congregation, I was waiting in the hall for the pastor to finish a conversation with a staff person before we began our dialogue. A well-dressed older gentleman–probably in his late 70s– came up behind me and started complaining about the lights being on in the sanctuary and the money the electricity being used would cost the church.
I thought to myself, “What a classic complaint by a senior adult. I wonder how the pastor is going to handle this when he comes out of the staff member’s office.”
I could tell his agenda was more emotionally urgent than mine, so I stood aside for he and the pastor to talk first. He voiced his complaint to the pastor. Without hesitation, without raising his voice, without any sign of anger or anxiety the pastor said, “Oh, Wanda, our wedding director was showing a family the sanctuary in preparation for an upcoming wedding. Would you mind going and turning them off for us? George and I have a commitment to meet.”
“Sure”, said the older gentleman. “I just wanted to know who left them on. I can handle that.” You see, Wanda is a layperson he knows and respects. He may have thought he was going to get the opportunity to verbally discipline the pastor or a staff person. But not this time.
On a pleasant morning a few years ago at a church preschool, a 3-year-old boy fell backwards off a piece of playground equipment and hit his head. It was no one’s fault. It just happened.
His symptoms indicated the need to be checked out by a doctor. The preschool director called his mother and could not reach her. The father was called, but he was a doctor performing surgery at that hour. The boy’s pediatrician was called and the nurse in that office said, “If there is no one who can bring him to our office, then call 911.”
By this time the boy’s symptoms intensified and the caregivers at the preschool were anxious. The director responded, “We can bring him to your office.” The director decided she would drive and a member of the staff would hold the boy in their lap in the back seat. They set out for the doctor’s office ten minutes away.
On the way as they approached a busy intersection, the boy’s trauma seemed to increase. The director turned around to see what was happening, the traffic light in front of her turned red, and she broadsided another car in the intersection.
At this point, 911 was the only reasonable choice. Within a few minutes the EMT’s arrived, treated the boy at the scene and took him to the hospital as a precaution. He was back in preschool within a couple of days.
Lessons Learned by the Preschool Staff
In the days following, the preschool director and her staff debriefed the situation and listed several lessons learned from this experience. First, they were right to seek medical assistance for the boy. It is important to care for the child as a first priority.
For decades we have known that persons who smoke multiple packs of cigarettes per day are slowly committing suicide. Many of these people did not want to commit suicide. Some claim they did not know they were committing suicide.
At some point in their life they started smoking because it was cool, to deal with stress, in response to peer pressure, as a rebellion against their parents, because cigarettes were denied to them, or because cigarettes were available to them.
Later they became hooked and even if they wanted to quit many could not or were in denial. Even when they began showing signs of illness they could not stop. Even when they were told they were committing suicide they could not stop. Even when they were hospitalized due to their illness and had surgery to remove diseased parts of their body they could not stop. Even when constantly on oxygen some could not quit.
In What Ways Is This Like Your Denomination?
Many denominations are slowly committing suicide. Suicide is not an intentional destination. It is, however, the unintended consequence of their collective actions over multiple years.
The first response of many people may be “I don’t care”. That’s fine. You have that right. But you ought to care. More about that later. Keep reading.
Why Are Baptisms Down Among Southern Baptist Churches?
First, take note of the report that came out recently discussed in the article Pastors’ Task Force Releases Report on Declining Baptisms. The annual number of baptisms is down 25 percent in the last 15 years. They are the lowest they have been in over 30 years. This is devastating news for a denomination that prides itself on evangelism that leads to conversion and baptism. Or is it? Keep reading.
Second, membership in Southern Baptist churches is also down. In the seven reporting years beginning with 2005 total membership has declined from 16.6 million to 15.8 million. Where are these 800,000 people? An article on The Atlantic magazine’s web site points out that the decline in baptisms preceded the decline in membership by five years. See Baptists, Just Without the Baptisms. Do you think the baptisms drop caused the membership drop? Keep reading.
Third, most embarrassing for Southern Baptists is that this decline in baptisms and membership has happened during the early years of the denominational wide emphasis called the Great Commission Resurgence [GCR] that was guaranteed to transform and grow the denomination.
Some prognosticators—myself included—felt the GCR was also intended to keep young adult Southern Baptist pastors in the denominational fold by repositioning the denomination to do something dramatic that would reach the “Next Generation”. The baptism report implies that reaching the next generation is not working and remains one of the biggest challenges. Does this represent a failure? Keep reading.
Before proceeding let me indicate this post is not about bashing Southern Baptists. If you think that you are mistaken. It is about sounding an alarm about denominational reality in the second decade of the 21st century.
With all due respect to my blogging colleague, Jonathan Waits and his blog post, the US Supreme Court got the decision wrong about the town of Greece, NY and their ceremonial prayers.
How prayers are handled in government sponsored settings is a forever issue. While I was not truly aware of the controversy until the 1960s Supreme Court cases that excluded required opening religious exercises, Bible reading, and prayer from each morning in public schools, that was now a half century ago.
I wrote a blog on this subject 18 months ago—50 Years of Confusion About School Prayer. This post talks about my personal presence in or near two of the three Supreme Court cases that were deliberated and decided on in 1962 and 1963.
I recently returned from the Exponential church planting conference in Orlando where I spent time thinking about women in ministry; especially women in church planting. I sat in on all three workshop sessions led or co-led by a woman in ministry who is a church planter strategist and a friend.
This workshop brought a diverse collection of people together to talk about the role of women in church planting. At least a dozen women present are currently planting congregations. The majority indicated they left their denomination of heritage to plant a new congregation. People with backgrounds in the Church of God [General Conference], Presbyterian Church—USA, Southern Baptist, the non-denominational world, and other groups talked about their journey to a safe place where they could be seen as the pastor of a new congregation.
An increasing number of people miss church on Sundays, or other times during the week when primary worship services or small groups gather. The average number of weeks active Christians attend church is decreasing. The benchmark of at least 48 Sundays per year that marked true church commitment when I was growing up has sunk below 39 weeks per year. No one knows where it will bottom out.
Much of the conversation I hear about this centers on churches having to work harder to maintain their attendance–much less grow. Churches struggle to have enough volunteers in place on Sundays to cover all the areas of responsibility. So called “committed Christians” are not making up their financial gifts to the church when they are not present. Thankfully there are still enough committed tithers and people who feel an obligation to fulfill their annual financial pledges.
March 6thand 7th a diverse group of Baptists from North America gathered in Philadelphia for the 50th anniversary of the North American Baptist Fellowship [NABF] of the Baptist World Alliance.
Using the title—FutureBaptists: A Collaborative Missional Movement—this gathering was more a conversation about the next 50 years than a memorial to the past 50. This was good. NABF strived to clarify its focus during its first 50 years. The next 50 years has an emerging focus expressed during this gathering.
NABF: The First 50 Years
NABF, which has almost 30 Baptists organizations as members representing almost two dozen of the three dozen organized Baptist denominations in North America, has always been in the shadow of the Baptist World Alliance. This was good until about ten years ago.