“You shall not show partiality in judgment; you shall hear the small and the great alike. You shall not fear man, for the judgment is God’s…” Moses to the nation of Israel as recorded in Deuteronomy 1:17
Jared Moore, Ronnie Floyd, and Dennis Kim
The 2014 Southern Baptist Convention is fast approaching and will commence on June 10 in Baltimore, MD. The historic 2nd term of the Convention’s first black president, Fred Luter, will end after the gathering and, thus, a new President must be elected. Three men will be on the ballot: Ronnie Floyd, Jared Moore, and Dennis Kim. Last night, as I was considering these names and the state of the Southern Baptist Convention, another name, one that is not in contention for the SBC presidency, popped into my mind: Neville Longbottom. Neville Longbottom, as many reading this will already know, is a fictional character from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter stories. It’s likely that the Harry Potter stories came to my mind while think about Jared Moore because Moore is the author of the Harry Potter Bible Study: Enjoying God Through the Final Four Harry Potter Movies. I’ve never read this Bible study nor have I ever read a single Harry Potter Book, though I have seen all the movies. Quite frankly, a bible study that coincides with stories about witches and wizards seems absurd on its face and risqué to say the least. However, the religious themes in the Harry Potter stories are undeniable and have been identified by J.K. Rowling herself. In any case, one moral lesson from Harry Potter came to my mind last night while thinking about the SBC presidential election and the state of the Southern Baptist Convention: It takes more courage to stand up to your friends than it does to stand up to your enemies.
Neville Longbottom: An Unlikely Hero
“It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to your enemies but a great deal more to stand up to your friends.” Headmaster Albus Dumbeldore, from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
The character of Neville Longbottom is described by J.K. Rowling as “round-faced, short, and plump.” (Certainly, the actor selected to play Neville in the Harry Potter movies, it is safe to say, will not likely be gracing the cover of GQ in the foreseeable future.) The Neville character is often portrayed as bumbling and disorganized. He’s sometimes used for bit of comic relief. However, despite his persona, Neville Longbottom proves to be a character worthy of admiration. In the first Harry Potter story, Neville confronts a group his friends for breaking the rules of their school. His friends (the main characters of the stories, including the titular Harry Potter), through their constant and well-meaning mischief, are constantly costing Gryffindor (their boarding school house) points in the prized House Cup competition. The fearful but brave Neville receives a hex for his troubles.
Given his lack of success, it initially appears that Neville’s brave efforts are for naught. He does not stop his friends from breaking the rules and Gryffindor House falls just short of edging out Slytherin House for the house cup. However, his courage pays off for Gryffindor in the end as he is awarded ten house points for showing courage against his own freinds. These ten points break a tie with Slytherin and cause Gryffindor to win the house cup.
After his house cup heroics, Neville goes back to being a minor, background character for the rest of the Harry Potter series…that is, until the very end. Neville, not Harry Potter, as it turns out, ends up being the hero of the entire series. It is Neville who vanquishes the powerful villain, Voldemort, after the defeat of Harry Potter. True courage was sitting in the background all along, in the form of the unassuming, unglamorous Neville Longbottom.
Oh, by the way, just for context. This is mega-church pastor Ronnie Floyd:
Jared Moore’s church runs about 60 people per Sunday. This is him:
What does your pastor look like? What should a leader look like? Does your pastor have a professional photo on his church website?
“He has no stately form or majesty, That we should look upon Him,Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.” Isaiah 53:2, a prophecy about Jesus Christ
You Knew Harry Potter, Did You Know These Nominees?
“When conservatives won the Battle for the Bible (in the SBC), they rewarded themselves with power. And Now they protect that power.” Pastor Dan Armistead
If you’re like the average pew-sitting Southern Baptist, you’ve never heard of any of these nominees. Anyone who does keep up with denominational activities, however, can tell you that Ronnie Floyd can fairly be considered the “establishment candidate.” In her book, Spending God’s Money, former North American Mission Board marketing director, Mary Kinney Branson, alleges that the 16,228,438 member Southern Baptist Convention is controlled by a group of 35 powerful leaders (p. 18). For all intents and purposes, Ronnie Floyd is one of them. He’s their guy.
So do lesser known men like Moore and Kim have a chance? I hope so. The Southern Baptist Convention, though relatively healthy compared to other American denominations is in dire straits. A very influential Southern Baptist Leader recently told me via email correspondence:
“When I am asked to describe the state of the Southern Baptist Convention today, I say that in our Convention the center is getting smaller and the splinters are getting bigger. There is intense communication within each of the splinters, but very little communication between the splinters. In the midst of this we have a steady decline in the Cooperative Program and a baptism rate that is dropping like a stone. Our people are giving to their churches at the same rate people gave to their churches during the Great Depression. This great, vast Convention is baptizing the same number of people we baptized in the 1940s with far fewer churches.”
Over the last few years, the United States’ largest biblically faithful denomination has basically been run into the ground by those in power. Just this week, Georgia Baptist Convention President Don Hattaway posted this article about the Southern Baptist Convention’s dismal decline in baptisms and church participation on his Facebook page. I hope many people took the time to read it. To apply the words of Charles Spurgeon, “we are going downhill at breakneck speed.” The worst thing the SBC could do would be to elect another establishment mega-church pastor like Ronnie Floyd. I have serious doubts about his fitness for leadership.
Mary Kinney Branson wrote her book, in part, to expose the lavish-spending and incompetent leadership of former North American Board President “Hollywood” Bob Reccord who was investigated by NAMB trustees after an expose article was published about him by the Christian Index. No sooner did Reccord resign than did Ronnie Floyd sign a statement to endorse Bob Reccord “as a godly man of uncompromising integrity.” Reccord’s former NAMB employee Mary Kinney Branson did not speak so highly of him. Johnny Hunt (to whom Reccord paid $92,000 on his way out the door at NAMB), Bryant Wright, Paige Patterson, and Jerry Vines signed the same statement that Floyd did. All four of these men are former SBC presidents.
The Fox, my friends, is in the henhouse and he has nominated Ronnie Floyd.
Second Time Around for Ronnie Floyd
This is not the first SBC Presidential nomination for Ronnie Floyd. Johnny Hunt nominated Floyd in 2006, stating that he was convinced that Ronnie Floyd was “the man God raised up” for the job.” God must have disagreed with Johnny Hunt; Floyd was soundly defeated by Frank Page. As it turns out, other Southern Baptists were not as impressed with Floyd as Hunt was. At the time of his first nomination, Floyd’s church gave 0.27% of its budget to the Southern Baptist Cooperative Program (Branson, p. 19). This caused the senior pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church, Mike Stone, to write, “In thousands of churches this fall, faithful pastors will face skeptical finance committees at budget preparation time. He will go out to bat to keep CP giving strong even in light of building programs and tight budgets. The last thing that warrior needs is for his finance committee chairman to…read that Southern Baptists elected a president whose church gave .27 percent.”
Jared Moore’s church gives 16% of its budget to the cooperative program. Floyd’s church has made different sorts of uses for its vast funds. For example, it hired former Disney designer Bruce Barry to build a children’s worship area “that includes video games, a light show, music videos and a bubble machine.” The project cost $270,000 and included a fire-truck baptistery that shoots confetti and sounds sirens when a child is baptized.
At a time when baptisms are waning, Ronnie Floyd’s church is, in my opinion, spending big money to entice impressionable children into being baptized for the purpose of pumping up his baptism numbers. Still, people like Johnny Hunt, seem to support him. Do you ever think that Johnny Hunt and his friends might be all about Johnny Hunt and his friends? How long do the thousands such men baptize (as little kids in fire trucks) stick around the church?
Not to be outdone by givers like Jared Moore’s church; Ronnie Floyd’s mega-church has recently changed its tune with regards to cooperative program giving, going from $32,000 (out $11,952,137 in receipts) in 2005 to $700,000 currently. This causes me to wonder if Ronnie Floyd’s church is more concerned with getting its man elected to president than Cooperative Program missions. I find it peculiar that when Ronnie Floyd’s church was giving what amounted to the scraps from the master’s table to the Cooperative Program that he went out of his way to support Bob Reccord, a man who was accused of wasting thousands upon thousands of cooperative program dollars. Perhaps Floyd and his elite friends view SBC management as playing with house money.
“In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” The words of Jesus as recorded in John 16:33
For far too long, the Southern Baptist elite have traded on their stance on biblical inerrancy and their victory against moderates and liberals in successfully in retaining the SBC for conservative Christians to help them hold on to power in the convention. Notable conservatives leaders like Page Patterson, Johnny Hunt, and Jerry Vines were instrumental in purging the left from the ranks of the SBC. Good for them. What have they done lately? Well, Patterson enrolled a Muslim in Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Vines wrote a book about himself. Johhny Hunt invited Bob Reccord to speak and his men’s conference (which generates thousands in revenue) and invited the charlatan, Ergun Caner, to preach at his church.
I think it’s easy to preach against liberalism to (largely ignorant and apathetic) southern congregations. We hate liberalism. How hard was it really for Vines and company to stand up to liberals? After all, liberals lack conviction in God’s word. Surely God was not and is not with them. The SBC elite stood up to liberals…but they refuse to stand up to each other. They are a far cry from showing a level of courage and integrity like that of (the fictional) Neville Longbottom.
They are a slick propaganda and preaching machine who seemingly look out for one another above all else. They seem to be more concerned with their power, influence, and money than they are with any form of public accountability. Everyday baptists need to show some courage and stand up to them.
Let’s kick them out of SBC leadership of them and build God’s kingdom in humility and integrity.
See something, say something, do something.
Encourage your church messengers to vote for Moore of Kim. Score 10 Points for Gryffindor.
*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.