Have you ever heard anyone say, “I think I will just give them a piece of my mind,” only to have someone else respond, “I would not do that if I were you. You can’t afford to lose any of your mind?” I must admit that personally, as a man who lives in the swirl of words, I have probably lost more of my mind than I can afford to squander!
Over the last few months, it seems everybody is giving away a piece of their mind. From health care reform in the political arena to the Great Commission Resurgence in the SBC, talk is abundant. In the midst of it all, with the profusion of words has come an excess of intemperate thought and speech.
Dialogue, debate and exchange of ideas are important to the process of moving toward better approaches and greater effectiveness. But in the current environment, in which sharing a piece of one’s mind is widely practiced, I find that several important elements of good discussion are often missing.
Number one, much of what I see flowing from the fingers of the new sages regarding Baptist life fails at a fundamental point—first, seek to understand. Some of the free thought that I have read—about how to bring us to a more effective way of ministry—reveals the writer has no understanding of the way we have historically cooperated. That, by the way, does not mean we must do things the same way we have always done them. However, change should come about only after clearly understanding why our forefathers organized and funded our cooperative ministries in the past. Why and how do the different levels of SBC life connect and function? Was their rationale sound—and is it still sound today?
Second, offer solutions, rather than destruction. Far too many suggest we should place a stick of dynamite at the foundation of our convention and blow it sky high. Some need to heed the sagacious advice of an old adage from yesteryear: “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.” They have concluded that all institutions are bad, and anything that looks organized and stable must be stagnant and ineffective. It would be better to suggest ways of improving our work, rather than destroying everything and hoping for something better to emerge from the process. “Tweaking” the mechanisms that allow us to cooperate is not taboo.
Third, use language of respect, rather than derision. Denigrating good and godly people, or suggesting that their ministry is not as important as another, is uncalled for. While the local church is the most important institution for the Gospel, it is not the only place where Kingdom work is done. Sometimes, local churches choose to work together in order to accomplish greater good. That is as biblical as the work of the individual church.
Fourth, speak less your mind and spend more time seeking the mind of Christ. As the old song says, “He knows the way through the wilderness, all you have to do is follow.” I struggle here myself. I have my own thoughts and perspective. I want to share my ideas—I know how to fix our problems! In the end, I know diddly. As smart and brilliant as the Great Commission Task Force members are, they do not have the answer to more effective cooperative Kingdom work. But our Lord does.
Fifth, I am going to seek to follow my own advice. I will not weigh you down with more words. To quote a great theologian, Forrest Gump, “That’s all I’m going to say about that!”