Hunt says church is ‘king’ to bureaucracy’s ‘prince’
    May 14 2009 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

    Part of the reason SBC President Johnny Hunt was ready to “shock the system” with a strongly worded call to a “Great Commission Resurgence” is that he and other leading Southern Baptist pastors feel a large denominational structure that depends on gifts from churches is not flexible enough to appreciate churches that sometimes do missions outside of that structure.

    Hunt shared his feelings on a new Koinonia podcast conducted by Doug Baker, public relations director for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina and posted May 14 at

    Hunt said in Baptist life, “the church is King,” but “some in our denomination feel the church can be king in word only.”

    BR file photo

    Johnny Hunt

    Hunt’s church, First Baptist of Woodstock, Ga., gives millions to missions and has started numerous other churches, but he received criticism last year when running for the SBC presidency over Woodstock’s giving just 2.2 percent of its undesignated funds for missions through the Cooperative Program.

    Ten percent has become an implied leadership standard, even as average church gifts have sunk to just over five percent. In the 30 years since the “conservative resurgence” launched, the churches of only four SBC presidents have given as much as 10 percent, a fact that a committee commissioned by the SBC Executive Committee said contributed to the decline of CP giving overall. Executive Committee President Morris Chapman’s church was one of the 10 percent givers when he was SBC president 1991-92 and pastor of First Baptist Church, Wichita Falls, Texas.

    “I feel sometimes…that bureaucracy is speaking down to church and holding us accountable, such as, ‘Here’s what Johnny Hunt gives through the Cooperative Program. Question mark. Would we want someone to lead who has no greater commitment to CP?’

    “There we have speaking down to the pastor. Now this is an opportunity for us to speak back up to the state and ask, ‘What is fair?’”

    “Should it be the church holding the denomination accountable…or should they be holding us accountable?” Hunt asked. “If the church is king, anyone else that speaks to us is a prince speaking to the king.”

    Hunt emphasized that the 10 commitments called for in the “Great Commission Resurgence” document, posted online for supporters to sign, reflect “what we hear from grass roots pastors and grass roots leaders of local churches across America,” and are not just his feelings and those of its primary author, Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. 

    Chapman himself raised the possibility during an address April 5, 2004 at a Baptist Identity Conference at Union University that an “overhaul” of the processes by which national and state conventions function “appear(s) to be an absolute necessity.”

     Hunt said that without being aware earlier of Chapman’s remarks, “I am literally attempting to lead the SBC to do literally, literally what he said. If he said the SBC needs fine tuning, let’s tune it up. If it needs an overhaul let’s tune it up.”

    Hunt favors messengers approving a study committee during the 2009 SBC annual meeting in June. “Let’s let the facts speak for themselves,” he said. “No one in our denomination should have to be afraid of what we discover if indeed we discover the facts. I want to know this denomination does a better job of serving the churches.”

    “Facts are our friends,” he said repeatedly.

      He said Southern Baptists have more resources, pastors and churches than ever before but the primary measure of effectiveness – baptisms – is at its lowest rate since 1972.

    “We should be doing more,” he said. “Why are we not? It’s time to take a look.”

    He said “the church is king” and “we should be giving proper leadership to denominational staff” to “help us to experience the ‘Great Commission resurgence.’”

    Hunt expressed gratitude for state convention executives and “those in Nashville,” home offices of the SBC, but wants accountability to begin at the local church and from there have a committee study the national system of associations, state conventions and national agencies and institutions so Baptists can “do the best we can with what God has entrusted to us.”

    Baker said in a question to Hunt that Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Al Mohler raised the issue in 2004 of “theological triage,” or first, second and third levels of importance for particular theological positions. Fellowship is contingent, Mohler said, on agreement on first level theology.

    Hunt said he is not going to break fellowship over “non-essentials” and said “a team from across denominational life” could “help us determine what are these first things.”

    His own list of “first things” is short, but a denominational consensus would help Baptists determine more clearly where they should be “spending valuable resources, valuable time and valuable energy,” Hunt said.

    “One thing that can steer us in the right direction is that we Southern Baptists agree almost always on far more than we disagree on,” Hunt said. “I hope we can get our arms around the gospel, the Great Commission, the building of churches, global missions, evangelism to the point we can agree to agree on so much that it will start pointing us in the same direction.”

    Hunt said some say his call for a “Great Commission resurgence,“ particularly Article 9 that refers to “commitment to a more effective Convention structure,” and a willingness to streamline at all levels, is threatening the Convention.

    He said trust is “really missing in this denomination” and asked if either he or Akin had given any evidence that they would “desire anything other than God’s best for the denomination.”

    “If Southern Baptists as a Convention win, we all win,” Hunt said.

    5/14/2009 10:21:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 0 comments

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