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02 March 2005

Southern Baptist Conventions

Natalie has had a few posts lately about the Southern Baptist Convention. The SBC has been on my mind recently as well.

My wife and I know a couple who will be moving to Ukraine this summer to become missionaries. Ideally, they would have liked to have gone as SBC missionaries, as they grew up Southern Baptist and go to the only SBC church I know of in the Wheaton area. But the SBC doesn’t make it quite that easy.

Despite the fact that our friend will graduate with a MA in counseling, and wants to work as a counselor in a school in Ukraine, the SBC would require she and her husband to complete several more years of theology training in order to become missionaries. Well, that’s part of it. The other problem is that, despite the fact that it’s a woman who has the marketable skill in this case, the SBC would really prefer it if she take a backseat to her husband. In other words, if the Southern Baptists haven’t OKed your training, then you obviously aren’t ready to spread the gospel. And God help you if you don’t have a penis. Needless to say, she and her husband are working with a different missionary organization now.

This doesn’t surprise me. In college I attended an SBC church with my wife, whom I was dating at the time. Towards the end of our brief tenure there, my wife wanted to do a presentation at church about Compassion International, a group that provides food, education and other basic needs for children living in poverty. Nothing too fancy. Maybe a small display with some flyers and a short announcement. After being given the run around for weeks, the church finally told her that it just wasn’t doable. Why? The SBC isn’t affiliated with Compassion International.

So it seems that the SBC is a corporation more than it is a body of Christ followers. If you aren’t attending its schools, using its methodology, kowtowing to its leadership or preparing French fries with its secret blend of herbs and spices, then you’ve got some explaining to do.

I learned something else interesting about the SBC’s missionary tactics this week from a coworker. My coworker, a hyphenated-American who has lived in many parts of Asia over the course of his life, told me that the SBC missionaries he’s encountered in the field do not live amongst the people to whom they are ministering. According to what he’s seen, the philosophy is that you work and minister to the natives during the day. But at night you retire to your lodging, which is adorned in Western attire. No blending in with the culture. No attempting to live like the silly foreigners. No making the people you’re living amongst feel comfortable should they come into your home.

Instead you spend your home life in an Americanized box, in order to stay strong for the rest of the journey. What’s worse, the missionaries my coworker encountered were also living in what was essentially a gated community. White-skinned people in. Dark-skinned people out.

So much for apologies.

Comments on "Southern Baptist Conventions"


Anonymous zalm said ... (3/03/2005 03:00:00 AM) : 

since when does wheaton have a southern baptist church?

it's not first baptist, is it? i'm pretty sure they're independent, but i can't honestly think of any other baptist churches in wheaton (although that's an awfully long mental list to sift through).


Blogger Wasp Jerky said ... (3/03/2005 11:03:00 AM) : 

Hey Zalm. The church I'm thinking of is in Glen Ellyn actually, just a couple of miles outside Wheaton.


Anonymous zalm said ... (3/03/2005 01:12:00 PM) : 

aha. i guess my memory is still ok, then.

sorry that i don't have much of substance to add to your post. i just have very little experience with the sbc. i don't think it's a bad thing that some denominations have rigorous processes in place to screen missions candidates. but i agree that it's tragic when churches stand in the way of qualified people for bad reasons.


Blogger jvpastor said ... (3/05/2005 12:23:00 PM) : 

"but i agree that it's tragic when churches stand in the way of qualified people for bad reasons."


We have some friends that are missionaries in China, I'm not supposed to say where, they are with the SBC, and they are definetly not approaching things the way you have described they are English teachers and they are involved culturally night and day, it is not the missionaries in general that I think get it wrong, but the convention definitly does, check the younger leader forum at lifeway for some laughs.


Blogger Wasp Jerky said ... (3/05/2005 01:55:00 PM) : 

Yeah, hopefully what my friend described to me was an isolated incident. My wife's parents' pastor and his wife were missionaries for a while, too, down in South America. I can't remember which country at the moment. I don't know if they went with SBC or not (they're SBs), but I don't think their experience was as I described either.


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