A Convention’s Vision

November 07, 2006

What is the purpose of a religious convention or denomination? What should its vision be? Is the convention or denomination the same as the church or there to help the churches? These are important questions that are not often dealt with, at least not publicly. Consider, then, a change one state convention made recently regarding its vision statement (found at the bottom of a Baptist Press article here).

The old vision statement: “Radical commitment to kingdom growth through healthy churches.”

The new vision statement: “Cooperating Missouri Southern Baptist churches penetrating all people groups with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

There is a perhaps subtle but important change in subject here. In the first statement, the convention’s work is to work through churches. Thus, the convention is set up as an important aid to the churches but not the same thing as the churches. In the latter statement, on the other hand, the convention’s work is the work of the churches. Thus, the convention is set up at the same level of the churches (if not higher since it can do more as it gets to count the work of all of the churches).

While the first statement is not perfect, it does at least seem to recognize that the convention is there to help the churches in their important work. It is the local church and not the convention, after all, that is set up in the Bible as the primary agency for sharing the love of Jesus. Perhaps I am biased, but I believe the convention I work for (the Baptist General Convention of Missouri) has a very good vision statement that properly captures the relationship between conventions and churches.

The BGCM’s vision statement (find it here): “Our vision is to be an organization that gives First Priority to Serving Churches.”

I was able to be a part of the group that developed this statement and it was interesting to see how it came to be. There was a deliberate desire to communicate that the convention is not the church but exists to help churches. As the BGCM’s website explains, “The vision statement is a statement of direction or destination. It is a statement that describes where the BGCM is going or the direction of the journey.” Thus, the words chosen in the vision statement are important. A convention that sees its work as serving the churches and not the work of the churches is more likely do exactly that—serve the churches.

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