12 Witnesses

Let these stones be a witness to what we have done here this day.

The Organic Revolution, Pt. 2

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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.

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14 Responses to “The Organic Revolution, Pt. 2”


  1. Alan Cross
    on Mar 7th, 2007
    @ 7:15 am

    Interesting analysis, Art, and one that I have come to share. After the Baptist Identity conference, I realized that much of what we had spent our time on regarding the blogs was not affecting things one way or another, for the most part. That seems counterintuitive, I know, because the conference seemed to address many of the bloggers concerns. But, I realized, that what needed to be said had been said regarding the IMB policies and corruption in the SBC. What was moving the hearts of people as reflected in the conference was the missional aspect of our blogging, just like Steve McCoy and Joe Thorn told us a year ago. I’ve been progressing in that area in my church and life, but spent a good amount of time on baptist politics on the blogs, hoping to change the structure to better reflect the incredible work that was happening in my church. From the conference, I realized that I should be finished writing about politics and focus on the work of God around us, the original intent of my blog and writing in the first place.

    I write this from India, where I am wrapping up an incredible trip. I’ve written a few posts on my blog about it. God has moved in awesome ways. We need to flood the blogosphere with stories of how God is working and moving and call the SBC to move in that direction, and join with those of our ranks who are already there. Not that political blogging is all bad, but it changes little. So, I used a lot of words to say that I agree with you, but I felt that it was important to add another voice.


  2. Charles
    on Mar 7th, 2007
    @ 8:03 am

    I would agree with you, Art. And I also believe Alan to be correct — we need to hear about what God’s doing in the world. He’s still very active, even when we are stagnant and off-track.

    However, I would like to thank Art, Wade, Ben, Marty and others for their political blogging. Until the news of Frank Page’s election last year, I knew nothing of what was going on in the convention (not even about Wade’s situation, I’m sorry to say!). So the blogging world has awakened me to some of the great things and not-so-great things going on in SBC life. Sometimes I rejoice and sometimes I’m disgusted; but in both instances I thank God that this forum is out there to get at the “real” story. Most, if not all, of the traditional media (state Baptist papers and the secular media) is skewed and we don’t get the whole story most of the time.

    Again, thanks!


  3. Bob Cleveland
    on Mar 7th, 2007
    @ 8:43 am

    Art: Good, thought-provoking post.

    I’d hope that the bloggers you and Alan mentioned are blogging because it’s the right thing to do. I’d hope they’re saying what they think needs to be said.

    Think about a church business meeting. We say what we think needs to be said, and then accept the results. Same way with the blogs. We do what we need to do and leave the results to God.

    You’re right not to attach “influence” to the blogging trail you mentioned. Not because it didn’t have an influence, but because if it did, God was behind it. But then, that’s the way it works with God, IMO. The question is never what WE can do for God what GOD can do WITH what we do. The reward, or the end of all that isn’t what we see here, but what we’ll hear when we finally see Him face-to-face.


  4. Marty Duren
    on Mar 7th, 2007
    @ 8:47 am

    Art-
    I’m going to disagree with a specific portion of your thinking, but only because of what I’ve been told by others who do not blog themselves.

    It is the view of a great many people that the conversations taking place on the blogs opened up (on a large scale) conversations that were happening only in hushed tones behind closed doors. Morris Chapman and Jimmy Draper began it publicly in Indianapolis, but much of those concerns would have had less a widespread impact if their concerns had not been taken up by bloggers, some of whom sprang from the Younger Leader Initiative. This is not to say that blogs had the greater influence, only that blogs became a primary conduit for the exchange of thoughts. What once took place in small fellowship hall gatherings of 5 or 6, now is taking place in cyberspace for thousands to read, thus the tipping point has been reached quicker. This is why so many people have said, “Bloggers must keep asking the questions that have been ignored for so long.”

    (For the record, I was just too stupid and tactless to know better.)

    Online and hard copy state news papers, BP, and ABP have all sourced blogs for stories in the past year and this probably will not change (if trends are indicative) as more and more people look to secondary news sources to supplement the large scale diet of Fox, CNN and BP. I do tend to think that, ultimately, more journalism trained SBCers will begin to blog, leaving us pastors free to play golf to concentrate more on the specific mission of our local churches.

    I do firmly agree with your conclusion that the political aspect of things will morph; most of the people that you and I know never intended to start any kind of war, only to see if there was a role that we could play in turning a ship which we envisioned was far too close to running aground.


  5. Kevin Bussey
    on Mar 7th, 2007
    @ 9:09 am

    Art,

    Great post. I don’t thing blogs got anyone elected.

    But I have to agree with Marty about blogs opening eyes. Look at how many times Wade, Ben and Marty are quoted in mainstream news outlets.


  6. Bob Cleveland
    on Mar 7th, 2007
    @ 10:03 am

    One other thing I’ll add … on the way to Jackson, CB, Alan and I were hashing some of this around. At one point, CB turned and asked me “Why did you go to Greensboro last June?” I said “Because I read Wade’s blog…”. CB said, to Alan .. “See?”

    I don’t suppose we could know how many others were at Greensboro under similar motivation, but I cannot deny the effect that blogs had on me. And if I ever do or say anything that makes any difference, as a result of my involvement, the connection would be self-evident. To me, anyway.


  7. a simple swbts student
    on Mar 7th, 2007
    @ 12:52 pm

    while i agree that we should primarily be about the MAIN THING, i disagree that blogs have not had an impact. every day when i am swbts and read the latest blog stuff and laugh out loud, my coworkers ask me why and then i have an opportunity to tell them what i read. these people will soon be going out into the sbc and will similiarly affect other people. it could be that the effect is going to take a little bit longer than you think. the spreading of this information still only goes from one sphere of influence to the next. like others have pointed out, draper and chapman have made things known that were written on blogs (and they happen to have large spheres of influence). enough rambling … i think that blogs are an effective means of spreading information but that it simply takes a little longer than previously anticipated.

    a simple swbts student

    ps watching people engage in theological debate on the blogs has also helped my mind to develop. in seminary, many of the issues are presented from one view only (either the prof’s view or the view that they are trying to oppose) and so watching people engage each others arguments with passion has been very informative and, what is more, formational in my thinking. thank you all who have posted on the blogs over the past couple of years.


  8. Art Rogers
    on Mar 7th, 2007
    @ 1:27 pm

    Ok. Let me clarify my thinking about the influence of bloggers. No one in their right mind can deny that blogging has some influence on the Convention. However, I am saying that bloggers aren’t originating the conversation, nor are they able to control it, direct it, etc. It began in the hearts of Southern Baptists throughout our convention and these thoughts are being expressed on the blogosphere. In other words, blogs are representative of the various thoughts and feelings within the convention – all sides included, at this point.

    Technology, The World is Flat (Thomas Friedman), leading to Glocalization (Bob Roberts, Jr.) are all a part of this, but you are making me get ahead of myself.

    Suffice it to say, I will elaborate on the four concrete things that the blogosphere directly moved in the last year in a later post as well as the influence issue – the spheres of influence and how that works – at the end.


  9. Marty Duren
    on Mar 7th, 2007
    @ 2:03 pm

    That’s what I was trying to tell Bob all along.


  10. Marty Duren
    on Mar 7th, 2007
    @ 2:04 pm

    ;^)


  11. Bob Cleveland
    on Mar 7th, 2007
    @ 4:24 pm

    See? See? I KNEW you guys have been lying to me, all along.

    The world IS flat!


  12. cb scott
    on Mar 7th, 2007
    @ 5:35 pm

    Hurry up and clean that ‘possum, Art. Everybody at the table “is hungry”

    cb


  13. Alan Cross
    on Mar 7th, 2007
    @ 8:24 pm

    Well, let me jump in and say that ALL of you guys are clearly right (doesn’t sound very Baptist does it – I’ve been in the syncretism of India too long). Of course blogs changed things and moved things along. My point, is that a good portion of the political blogging was probably a waste of time, and I don’t necessarily blame the writer of a political post. Good information was often put up on Outpost or Wade’s blog, but then, 125 comments later, the point had often been lost and there was just a bunch of arguing going back and forth. That is the part that I think had little effect.

    I still think that politics can and should be talked about, but if we take a more missional stance as we talk about it, I think that the blogs will be even more effective. I think I’m starting to see that happen across the board, and it seems really healthy. The readership and comments will likely go down, but that just reveals people’s hearts. Some folks are just looking for a car wreck they can gawk at.


  14. Bob Cleveland
    on Mar 7th, 2007
    @ 9:27 pm

    One more jab .. I’ve been a believer since CB was young, and I have never, ever enjoyed my faith and my involvement in spiritual things, as much as I have since I read Wade’s blog (after reading about it in The Alabama Baptist, and I sent him an email and he actually answered. It’s been the biggest awakening in decades, for me.

    I cannot deny that. Besides, I met C.B. Scott and there’s no way I can place a value on that friendship, and those with the rest of youse guys.

    Whoops. My Calumet City childhood crept in there for a second. Sorry.

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