Monday, August 29, 2016

BMA of Texas Non-meeting

Maybe I won’t go.
While trying to plan my vacation time for the rest of the year, I pulled up the schedule for the BMA of Texas annual meeting. Since the meeting is close this year, it occurred to me that I might be able to put in a few hours at work before heading to the meeting. My big question was, when do I need to be there? I looked at the first day and what do I see? 1:00 pm – message, 2:15 pm – message, 3:15 pm – message, 8:00 pm – message. In between we have worship, question & answer, and a concert. There’s some other stuff in there that I don’t know what it is, but it looks to me like there is absolutely no business on day one. Keep in mind that the whole purpose of this meeting is to hear reports from the departments of the association and to conduct business. It isn’t until 2:00 pm on day two that we see anything that looks like business. But it looks like the plan is to cram all of the departments into an hour and thirty minutes. After that, it is more break-out sessions, preaching, and a commissioning service. Then on Wednesday, they’re going to have an Open House at the BMA Building.
Don’t get me wrong. Preaching is good. This is why Baptist associations have always had an annual message. Recently, it has become customary to have an annual message and also to have a president’s message. Then people started wanting to combine symposiums with the annual meeting. But with this meeting, it appears that we have completely lost sight of the purpose of the meeting.
Why do we have annual meetings in the first place? To answer that, you first need to consider why Baptist churches are members of associations. Most churches have fewer than 100 members and yet Missionary Baptists believe that each church has a responsibility to preach the gospel throughout the world. That is our commission. But our church budgets don’t allow for that. But if a few churches pool their resources, they can put a missionary to work. If hundreds of churches pool their resources, they can accomplish a great deal. This pooling of resources occurs in associations. But who decides how the money is spent? Every church has as much right to say as any other church. So, we come together at an annual meeting. We wouldn’t have room to have all the members show up, so each church sends messengers, who have the responsibility of speaking and voting on behalf of the church. For these messengers to make decisions, it is necessary for them to hear reports from any departments that might exist. Then, based on those reports, they decide whether the association should continue funding those departments, whether the funding should be reduced or increased, as well as what direction those departments should be given to carry out the work of the association. These messengers decide who should lead these departments. Do we need to focus more on starting churches? Do we need to focus more on strengthening the churches that are members of the association? That is what these messengers are tasked with deciding. This is why we have annual meetings.
It is good to have an annual message at an associational meeting. As the messengers make decisions, it is necessary for them to seek the will of God. Preaching can help direct them toward the will of God. But there is also doing the will of God. Suppose you went to church on Sunday and heard a sermon and you were convicted to go on visitation. So, you show up for Tuesday night visitation and the visitation leader says, “We have a special guest tonight who is going to preach to us. If we have time, we’ll spend a few minutes doing visitation after that.” Of course, that would be silly. But that’s what I see happening with associational meetings. The business portion of the meeting is where the messengers do the work they were sent to do, but they are unable to do it because preaching is crowding it out.
Since I’m not a messenger, maybe I won’t go. Or I may just go for the business meeting, but if the reports are going to be limited to ten minutes, I’m not sure there’s anything to be gained by going. There’s not much they can tell us in ten minutes.
Maybe I won’t go.