I’ve been hanging on to this entry for about a week. Its been sitting in the “draft folder” waiting to be released. I’ve hesitated because I don’t want to continue to be perceived as the one to bash the denominational drum. But, when CMSlinked to this same article, I felt like it was worthy discussion. It is obviously a conversation taking place across the country in our denominations from the most loosely connected affiliations to our oldest mainline churches. So, here goes.
As I type, a discussion regarding the future of our denomination is taking place. A constant critique of everything from COG General Assembly observations to the state of Lee University Greek club inductions are being discussed. It is taking place outside the COG in the SBC, theWesleyan Church, Asbury Theological Seminary, and other denominations as well. This is a direct result of the internet’s impact on culture resulting in an expectation of inclusion,instant and complete information, and access to leaders.
In an excellent article on the Wesleyan Church, Keith Druryexplains six ways the internet has affected denominations.This article is a must read especially if you are of the opinion that not only must churches see their cities through a missional lense but also believe that denominations must also have a missional focus.
At the beginning of 2006, I received a report from our state office giving a birds eye accounting of where funds designated“Evangelism and Home Missions” went. This fund is derived from mandatory funds from the local churches in Florida totaling over $1,000,000 annually. I was shocked to see that we had only spent and average of $24,000 per year starting new churches out of the “missions” fund. That is ridiculously embarrassing to our purpose as a Great Commission denomination. The stewards of these practices (Administrative Bishops, State Board members, pastors, and members) are falling down on the job and we need to change these widespread practices if we are to remain a Biblically functioning missional denomination assuming we can be called that at present.
At the same time, we have been closing and selling churches with no strategy for opening new churches. I find this to be an insane practice on the part of our denomination. So, I speak about it as often as possible. I write frequently about it onActscelerate, I spoke about it in the Tampa Open Forum, and spoke directly to our leadership about the problem.
About 3 months ago, I met with Waymon Miller (South FL Evangelism Director, Dwight Allen, and a couple other pastors regarding the sale of churches and church planting and proposed a few things. They were:
- When a church is sold in our state, 100% of the proceeds less expenses should go to opening new churches, period. Funds from the sale of church property should not prop up any other function of the denomination. When I spoke about this with Don Walker, Tom Madden, and Alex McManus. Alex commented that the situation “sounded like the dying breaths of an institutionalized church.” According to Alex, he met with leaders of another denomination who were selling off properties in Miami in an almost identical situation. It would be easy to angry with Alex for having the audacity to say that. But, it is absolute truth. I have been told that we have sold dozens and dozens of properties in California in past years and have zero to show for it. That scenario is repeating itself in Florida and other states because of rising property values, rapidly increasing insurance premiums, and declining or plateaued congregations. Accepting the truth about our current direction is paramount to refocusing on our true mission. Once, we develop a healthy reinvestment strategy, we can reverse the trend of church closings in our American denominational churches.
- Church plants coming from these funds should be well financed to the tune of $100,000 a piece as opposed to our traditional token financing of church plants, church splits, and new church affiliations.
- Church planters should be assessed and bench marked in order to receive those funds as well as having a requirement of funding a significant part of the new church in order to have state funds released. If a church planter cannot get people to give money to his church plant, he is probably not going to succeed as a church planter.
At the time, there was over $1 million in the bank from the sale of the West Miami COG (which at the time of its sale was a debt free congregation of about 50 people). About one year ago, we were told by a state official at the South Florida ministers meeting that 100% of those funds would be used to plant churches in Miami. I again expressed myself in the meeting with Waymon and Dwight that we needed to honor that commitment taking that bad situation where an existing congregation was disbanded and property was sold and make it right.
In the past couple weeks, I have received emails, calls, and a church visit from church planters who will be receiving very significant funding from those monies to plant new churches. Waymon confirmed to me at the beginning of September in the middle of the South Florida’s Pastor’s Luncheon that we will be planting 3-4 churches per year at that funding level from the proceeds of that property as a direct result of that meeting. I am very excited about that. I also hope that decision can translate into a formalized policy for our denomination as we deal with these properties and the issues of mission.
I feel that we may be in the process of repairing our focus missionally here in Florida. Waymon Miller and Martin Taylor should be strongly commended for that. I will be contacting Dr. Taylor to express that personally as well.
I do not know how the Home Missions Budget will be treated going forward. I have been told that we will certainly be spending more than we have in the past. I can hardly imagine how we can spend less. The Home Missions Budget is currently paying for things like Senior Adult Retreats and other non-missional, non-core functions. Hopefully, we can end that by keeping the main business the main business. I sincerely hope these developments are an indicator that we can repair a flawed denominational Great Commission priority.
So, what does this rant have to do with COG Catalyst?
Catalyst: “A chemical substance that increases the rate of a reaction without being consumed; after the reaction it can potentially be recovered from the reaction mixture chemically unchanged.”
If our denomination is to become a missional organization, we have to press these issues via questions, honesty, integrity, and respect with the expectation that we will be the ones who motivate exponentially accelerated change. The more people that have the courage to involve themselves denominationally from outside the corporate denominational structure, the more opportunity we will have for becoming a missional denomination. I believe that excellent role models for pursuing that aim can be found among men like Harold Bare and Mike Chapman and some other dedicated people even outside of our fellowship like Wade Burleson and others. There are also a number of men within our corporate structure who have a heart for mission and are kicking against our growing bureaucracy. I know I want to be counted among those who look at our mission and embrace it, fully rejecting the corporate bureaucratic slide we have fallen into.
Bloggers seeking to impact their denomination:
posted by travis johnson