Politics. The dirty little part of life with which every soul on this earth will deal. Why do I say that? Because politics is about dealing with people. Navigating the reefs and shoals seeking a safe port of call in which you can find rest personally. Politics is about you working with people to get what you want. Everyone will do it in their life, if they make it to toddlerhood. Think being a toddler is too young to be a politician? You haven’t been around many toddlers lately.
Sometimes, what we want is not even a selfish thing. It may be a good thing that we desire. Senators and congressmen are lauded when they are able to rise above their peers and produce meaningful and beneficial legislation. Still, these leaders among leaders are called one of the most vile epithets in the English language: Politician.
Why is the name so foul? The butt of so many jokes? Because politics lends itself to narcissistic motives and actions that reveal a lack of character. If you lack character, it will come out when you attempt to get people to do certain things so that you can benefit.
What about politics within the church? Either the local body or the universal body? Unfortunately, we deal politically with one another far more than we should. That is to say, we attempt to move one another around to gain things for ourselves when I think that dealing with each other honestly, speaking the truth in love, is what we ought to be doing.
Christianity is made up of things that should be the end of politics among us. Self sacrifice. Honest speech. Kindness. Gentleness. Self control. Against such things is the political agenda.
I could go on forever about local church politics, about a friend of mine who eschewed politics recently for prayer – and God moved – but I need to get to the SBC. The SBC is the heart of this post.
Three years ago, politics as usual took a hit on the floor of the SBC. A messenger nominated his friend, a pastor at a small church, for president, running against Bobby Welch. He received a sizable portion of the vote, but not enough to make it close. Still, it was a moment for those who would pay attention to such things to take note. Something significant had happened.
Let me say that Bobby was not the choice of the “inner circle.” It was Johnny Hunt’s turn, but Bobby bucked the trend and threw his hat in the ring. Then somebody bucked that. I say all of that to say that I don’t think it had much to do with Bobby, one way or the other, but that we were allowing a handful of folks to pick the President of the SBC every two years. In other words, the messengers were tired of being handled politically – moved around by a certain group in order that the group could get what it wanted: a Convention that reflected their hopes, dreams and desires. Not necessarily bad goals, mind you. The method, though, became a burden to those who were being navigated.
Two years later, a chain of events begin that culminated in a three person race for the presidency and the only one of the three that was not endorsed by one of the architects of the Resurgence won the presidency. The chain is long, but goes like this: the advent of the internet, blogs – giving anyone a voice to the world, IMB issues & Wade Burleson starting a blog to voice an opinion about those issues, the IMB BOT responds by seeking to remove Wade, many others – myself included – begin their own blogs, other issues within the SBC begin to be discussed on the internet and this affects the traditional media by offering alternative views (sometimes) of these issues. Among the issues discussed, two will play a major role in the election of Frank Page: 1) dissatisfaction with a one person slate of candidates & 2) the involvement, or desperate lack thereof, of previous convention presidents and two of the three candidates in the Cooperative Program – in combination with a request (later altered) from the Executive Committee to have positions filled by folks whose churches gave at least 10% to the CP.
Long story to a short one, the CP takes center stage and Frank Page, despite quite a bit of politics against him, is elected on a first ballot over the two other candidates, Ronnie Floyd and Jerry Sutton.
Allow me, if you will, to postulate that Frank Page’s presidency is the anti-politics reaction of the SBC. Some will say that the advent of the bloggers and the ruckus raised last year was what got Frank Page elected. Honestly, I don’t think the blogosphere had that much impact. I’m not saying that there was no attempt made by blogtown to influence virtually everything in the SBC last year. I just don’t think that there was much movement because of them (us) – especially with the election.
With one exception: Wes Kenney produced a set of tables that showed the record of CP giving for each candidate and his church. Frankly, this wouldn’t have made much impact, but the giving of the churches pastored by Ronnie and Jerry was dismal. This is especially true compared to Frank Page. The reasoning for such low participation that was often offered – that the money went to missions within the church – didn’t hold water when compared to Frank’s church either, since they are very engaged in missions (planting one new church per year) in addition to the significant percentage amount given to the CP.
So what did the blogosphere and the counter politics of the last year accomplish? Not that much, really. Not in the realm of moving people to get a desired result. Frank Page? Honestly, I think we simply were saying something about the CP and the convention’s leaders that most of the messengers already believed. The blogosphere didn’t lead them. It turns out, we were merely a vocal part of that group.
Frank Page doesn’t owe his election to the bloggers. Any blogger, other than Wes, who claims to have had a significant impact on that vote, has delusions of grandeur. Wes, you already have a big enough head. Don’t let this feed it. ;)
The convention, tired of the same old thing, and motivated to promote the CP (a common value among most small churches that make up the SBC) elected a president that reflected that sentiment.
So what’s my point? I have two observations. First, the blogosphere is not capable of “herding the cats” that make up the messengers of the SBC. No voice or group of voices can move that boulder any significant distance. Second, the change, or “revolution” within the SBC is already well underway. It was taking place before the advent of the blog and is not going to be stopped, altered significantly or even sped up by anyone.
At this point, we might just take a moment to observe the phenomenon. Realize. Revolution is upon us.