Tuesday, December 18, 2007

MISSOURI BAPTIST CONVENTION BREAKS FELLOWSHIP WITH ACTS 29

The Executive Board of the Missouri Baptist Convention has decided to break their partnership agreements with churches that are also affiliated with Acts 29, a church-planting network. The resolution reads (not well, I might add): Motion. Effective Jan 1, The Acts 29 Network is an organization which the MBC Exec Bd. Staff will not be working with, supporting, or endorsing in any manner at anytime. Amendment. While recognizing the autonomous nature of all areas of MBC life beyond that of the Executive Board Staff, the MBC Executive Board directs the Church Planting Department and other ministry departments to not provide CP dollars toward those affiliated with the Acts 29 Network.
The motion as amended passed by a vote of 28-10.

You have to like the head nod to autonomy of congregations, while they proceed to ignore it.

This evidently occurred because one of the churches held a meeting in a bar and some of the participants drank. Therefore, they broke their sponsorship agreements with all the church plants. This is like the SBC saying, because Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth is liberal, we have cut out all ties to all Fort Worth Baptist churches.

The MBC did not contact Acts 29 and discuss it. They just acted. Here is part of the reaction of Acts 29 (from Scott Thomas, director):

On January 1, several church planters in Missouri will lose their promised funding, not because they were guilty of breaking a rule, but because they were associated with a small church planting network (only 9 churches in Missouri are affiliated with Acts 29 Network).

Acts 29 Network and the Southern Baptists share the same mission: to seek and to save the lost; to go into all of the world and share the gospel of Jesus and to baptize and teach the believers through the local church. For this reason, we love the SBC, have appreciated our partnerships throughout the country and are now mourning the loss of our fellowship with the MSBC. Since Acts 29 Network has never been contacted by the Missouri SBC to seek reconciliation, clarity and understanding, I am requesting justice and not retribution as an honorable response to an abstinence policy that we fully respect. I am asking you to consider reversing the vote to read, “We reaffirm the policy of the Missouri Southern Baptists to abstain from alcohol and will remove any funding from church planters who disavow this position. That way the baby church doesn’t get thrown out with the fermented bathwater.”

These same MBC folks will be sitting around years from now wondering why they are in decline and no one wants to join them. The Acts 29 churches are normally church plants in hard to reach areas. They have largely been successful. Since Southern Baptists tend to be pragmatic and believe the generation of numbers means success, you would think they would be thrilled to have badly needed help starting new churches in hard to reach areas, especially among a younger generation that needs reaching. It is, frankly, hard to understand this reaction, except that alcohol has become more important than Christ to many of these convention bureaucrats.

A young SBC pastor friend of mine wrote:

The older SBC leaders are "attractional" rather than "missional." The older SBC leaders try to attract people to their churches by putting on the biggest show possible or by being more relevant. Whatever it involves, the older SBC leaders want their members at the church building every night of the week (unless they go out to knock on doors, which is the only kind of missional outreach the old guard approves), so they make their churches into a parallel universe with their own gyms, coffee shops, giftshops, etc. The problem is that the attractional approach does not attract unbelievers anymore (because church members don't know any unbelievers because they are always at the church building all the time). The attractional approach only succeeds in stealing the members of smaller churches that can't offer all the same services as the megachurch.

The missional approach tries to minimize the amount of money spent on the church building and the amount of time members spend at church. The missional churches want their members out in the world meeting unbelievers on their own turf (using approaches other than knocking on doors), even meeting unbelievers in places like bars.

The action takes away funding already promised to these new churches, money they are counting on to survive. The effect will be to hamper their growth, cause some of them to remove themselves from Southern Baptist ties and hurt new members who do not understand what it means to be a Baptist very well. Their impression of being a Baptist will now be to drop an atomic bomb to kill an ant.

Shame on MBC. This action is un-Christ like and harms the spread of the gospel. It is also unbiblical, as none of the scriptural guidelines for dealing with disputes or problems were followed. This is one of the practice what you preach deals. It shows how often we preach what the Bible says, but feel justified in ignoring it when we want to accomplish something.
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