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Hunt says church is ‘king’ to bureaucracy’s ‘prince’
Norman Jameson, BR Editor
May 14, 2009
6 MIN READ TIME

Hunt says church is ‘king’ to bureaucracy’s ‘prince’

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

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 ncbaptist.org.

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.