Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Lingering Fears, Questions, and Doubts in the Middle of the Night

OK, so I'm a recovering fretter and worrier. I'll cop to my tendency to do better with analysis than constructive action. So it should not be a surprise that my region's transition from ABCPSW to Transformation Ministries leaves me with more than a few unanswered questions and anxious moments. Yes, my pen spilled more than its share of ink arguing against the revisionist view of soul liberty within the denominational leadership (especially as evident in the REMC, OGS, and--therefore in the--GEC). My congregation sent me as a delegate to Pomona to cast a vote for withdrawal from the ABCUSA. Still, questions and concerns abound.

* Why has the flow of information been so slow to get to the grassroots? It is almost as if Covina operated on a need-to-know basis rather than flooding the churches with information. I must say that Dr. Salico did an excellent job of providing quick FAQ's responses and posting them on the regional web site. And, his regional tour was amazing in terms of the numbers of venues where he appeared to present the region’s position and to field questions. Getting the information to the congregations, however, proceeded at a much slower pace.

* Despite the role of the vision team in developing a regional vision, the actions of the board in affirming it, and the indefatigable efforts of the good and Godly Dr. Salico in interpreting it, where is the role of the "folks" in this "Baptist" movement? Sometimes it feels as if the model of self-perpetuating boards of mega-churches has been adopted uncritically as the controlling one for our region's latest movements. Yes, the board did take the unprecedented step of holding a plebiscite in Pomona with several more in remote locations. Still, the "feel" is more top-down than representative.

* Do the pastors who were so quick to condemn heresy within the ABCUSA have an equal commitment to promoting a positive vision for ministry in the new Transformation Ministries? For decades we have been focused on what is "wrong" with the ABCUSA. Now we are soon to be free of “them” (as of November 1, anyhow). But, do we have a similar degree of energy for the arduous task of building a new and effective network, one that will meet the organizational needs of the 21st century? Or, as some of our critics have predicted, will we simply fly off in as many directions as there are people? Or, even more frightening, will we merely fall into internal fights and feuds among ourselves?

Conservatives have the reputation for being fractious beyond all reason. Will we find that sans the common enemy of "Valley Forge," we have little in common to bind us together? This becomes more worrisome given the post-denominational nature of our present church experience. Some of our larger churches boycotted the Pomona plebiscite, not out of disagreement with the regional direction, but more due to a casual indifference to finding relevance in anything “denominational.” It may be that some of the churches were willing to continue a tenuous and largely symbolic connection to the ABC rather than expend the energy to pull away from it. But will congregations bother to go out of their way to create new ties with the Transformation Ministries, particularly if it involves the expenditure of precious time and energy? Or, will a significant number of them just drift away from both the ABCUSA and the region?

I have great faith in the character and ability of Dr. Dale Salico and his staff. My questions and doubts can be explained in part by my fretting personality. But, beyond this, my fears are directed toward the post-denominational nature of our current church reality. George Barna has been predicting the end of many institutional churches, to be replaced with house churches. Will we see a new region emerge with vigor and vitality out of the old PSW or merely a passing away of a structure now deemed strangely out of touch with the times? Dr. Salico and his team of vision architects (to use a term from Bill Nicoson’s endeavors), have worked on these questions for a good bit of time. My prayer is that by the grace of God they will succeed and that we will experience an unusual season of blessing from our sovereign Lord. Certainly the needs are great. May God bless his harvesters in their efforts.

[His Barking Dog chases all cars, regardless of whether they bear Valley Forge or Covina plates. My quixotic runs are entirely on my own and without official sanction from any power, authority, or organization. IMHO, despite my genuine questions about some things in Transformation Ministries, this seasoned car chaser still thinks that the people driving the cars with PSW plates seem to follow their biblical roadmaps better than those with the VF ones.]


roy said...

time will tell...

Joel said...

We are seeing the end of denominationalism, IMHO. The challenge for Transformation Ministries is to build an organization that has a reason to exist and a reason to secure financial support. It reminds me of all the commercials I hear on the radio for Real Estate Agents. When was the last time you heard a radio commercial for a cardiovascular surgeon: "Don't do your own heart surgery, use a real cardiovascular surgeon!"

Real estate agents are trying to deal with an internet age that has made their profession largely irrelevant. That doesn't mean they are useless, but people don't HAVE to go to an agent to find a house for sale anymore. And what agents are finding is that people don't want to spend 6% to sell their homes anymore. Radio commercials aren't going to change that, they are going to have to adapt and provide a reasonably priced service that people want to pay for.

The same challenge faces Transformation Ministries. They need to look at their operations the same way any other parachurch organization would, and build it around what people are excited about and what to support. The days of supporting a denomination simply because they are the denomination are almost over.