As I prepare to travel to Anaheim for the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), I do so with gratitude that I serve in the Northwest. Northwest Baptists understand that the
church is God’s plan to make disciples of all nations and that networks of churches, like the NWBC or the national SBC, only exist if local churches believe that investing mission dollars through them is a good investment. When we invest money in a company’s stock, we do so believing that company will provide a reasonable return on our investment. That is one way to look at the mission dollars that your church invests through Northwest Missions or the Cooperative Program. The question that you have is, “Is my investment of mission dollars providing a return that expands God’s Kingdom?”
It is right and reasonable for a church to ask that question. The only way for the church to answer that question is for the NWBC, and the entities of the SBC, to report on the “return on investment” with transparency. My message last year when I was a candidate for SBC president was that only through transparency can we have accountability. Without transparency in finances and ministry performance we don’t have the information to accurately assess whether our mission dollars are producing the results we expect, and, more importantly, that God requires of us.
What we have seen in recent years is that a lack of transparency, followed by the “accidental discovery” of malfeasance, failure, and corruption, destroys trust. Without trust, cooperation shrivels. That’s what we are currently seeing in the SBC. Last year I documented some of the problems of which I was aware. Now we have added to those a sexual abuse scandal that is ripping the fabric of the SBC and will occupy much of the agenda at this year’s annual meeting. The outcome we should all want is for abuse victims to be cared for, future victimization to be prevented, justice to be rendered to the guilty, and the mission of God to continue and expand through our churches. To that last point, God will advance His mission. The question is, will He do it through me and you?
In the Northwest we are striving to be the kind of people God can bless and through whom God can work. We praise God that while we live in a time where many are struggling, we are seeing more new churches started than ever before, and many of our existing churches are thriving. The church I attended last Sunday was so packed it was literally “standing room only.” They had space for 134 chairs, but 137 were present in the worship center. There were 7 guys standing at the back!
Few churches are “standing room only,” but many are reaching people and doing ministry in their community that’s making a difference. I just had lunch with a pastor who is mentoring two men called to preach. His church has a monthly Sunday evening worship service in which these two men are the preachers. Such is their commitment to training up the next generation of pastors. Also, as I write, we have Northwest Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers in Poland working with refugees from Ukraine. And we have NWBC churches receiving refugees from Ukraine, with others providing help to those churches.
My commitment to Northwest Baptists is that we’ll do all we can to earn and keep your trust, because I really do believe that only by working together can we effectively train leaders, send missionaries, rescue and repair the wounded, and start churches among the dozens of language groups in the Northwest. We pray that it will remain a good day to serve the Lord in the Northwest!