Thursday, September 17, 2009

Biting the Hand

Given my background with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, some readers of this blog may have been surprised by the comments I made in yesterday’s posting offering some unsolicited advice on the future of CBF. You may be thinking, “You didn’t say that when your paycheck came from a CBF state organization.” Well, actually, I did. Some of the suggestions I offered were articulated to administrative and planning groups. I also attempted to create an innovative and resilient environment in the organization I led so that we could be more responsive o the needs of individuals and congregations.

I need to be clear on several points. First, organizations are created to serve a purpose. Whether for-profit, not-for-profit, or church-related, each organization was created to accomplish one or more tasks. For the Southern Baptist Convention, the initial task was to unite Baptists behind missions. Of course, the task may change over time. When an organization no longer serves the purpose for which it was created or fails to find a more worthy purpose, it is already dead.

Second, the church was ordained by God, but too often it is an organism that has taken on the structure of an organization. Each local expression of the church is unique whether its polity is congregational, connectional, or hierarchical. When a local congregation becomes more concerned with its organizational structure than its mission, it is in trouble. Congregations are based on relationships not rules.

Third, organizations are not inherently good or bad within themselves. Like every human creation, they are initiated by sinful human beings. Sometimes they succeed in spite of those who lead them. I believe that one of the Niebuhr brothers expressed the belief that there is something of the demonic in every organization! In spite of that, we can do good through our organizations if we accept their—and our—imperfections and use their ability to change.

Fourth, every organization must continually evaluate its actions and their results to make sure that they align with the organization’s mission and core values. When there is misalignment, it is time for change.

By the way, the responses I have received so far on yesterday’s post have been encouraging. Most seem to understand and agree with the need for new approaches. It is good to know that there are those who care enough about the CBF movement to share these comments.

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