June 18, 2007

Shake Them Out

Jim White, editor of The Virginia Herald, has an excellent column entitled "Sounds like competition to me." He responds to the work of Bobby Welch, who is trying to help the Southern Baptist Convention start its alternative to the Baptist World Alliance (see my previous posts here and here). Here are a couple of excerpts from White's piece:
Welch will be doing on a global scale exactly what others have done here in the U.S. He will be going to Baptists telling them that the group they are a part of is liberal. He will introduce suspicion among brothers and cause divisions among them.

If you like what has happened to the SBC on a national scale, you will love what Welch is up to globally.

Why not be honest enough to say, "Yes, we are setting up an organization which will mirror many of the same purposes of the BWA?" Obviously, it would not be good PR. Such an admission would expose an indifference to the welfare of brother Baptists around the world who will be devastated by what is about to happen. We are already beginning to see the consequences in Romania, where SBC influence has been at work. Romanian Baptists are experiencing conflict there between moderates and conservatives.
Amen! White does an excellent job of pointing out what is happening despite the protestations to the contrary by Welch (thanks to Gary Snowden for pointing out the column). Meanwhile, the Baptist Press reported today on Welch's comments during last week's meeting of the Fellowship of Baptist World Ministries. Welch stated:
As soon as I accepted this calling, I went straightaway to a store and bought a fold-up, global map -- one I could carry with me. And the habit I am forming is to unfold that map, get on my knees, put my hands on that map and pray. Then I get up and shake that map like a rug, and I say, 'God, you must shake them out. I can't find them. If you depend on me to find them, we'll never get them. You know where they are. You shake them out.'
The phrase "shake them out" jumped out. At first I thought maybe he was admitting that he was having trouble finding people to join the effort (which might be why he is apparently heading to Antarctica!). This reading could also be viewed as putting his allies down. After all, when one shakes a towel or rug it is dust that one is trying to shake out.

If Welch was not talking about the lack of support or putting down his allies, what might the phrase mean? It might show that White was correct in his assessment. Here are a couple of definitions for "shake out":

Steal: "Both shake and shake out of in the sense 'to steal' are clearly related to shake down, which is first recorded in 1872, shake down being glossed 'to extort money from individuals.'"

Competition: "The elimination of competing businesses or products in a particular field."

Welch probably did not intend these meanings, but his word choice is pretty interesting nonetheless. Unfortunately, this will probably not be the last time we hear odd rhetoric from Welch on this issue.

8 comments:

  1. It's not odd rhetoric so much as it is frightening. I've actually heard the phrase used several times by very conservative missionaries on several trips I've made. What they mean, at least in my experience, is that they wish God to shake the church clean - to remove all impurities. Perhaps that's not something scary in and of itself, and something we should all wish for, only what they really mean is they want God to help them root out "heresy" and "liberals" or anyone who doesn't agree with them.

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  2. Ben: Thanks for the comment and your insight! You are correct about the problem with this type of rhetoric. I suspect that what you describe was Welch's intention. However, I find it funny that he got the metaphor backward as he makes it seem that his allies are the items being shaken off (and thus the impurities).

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  3. Chuck4:09 PM

    Brian,

    The quickest look at the link you provided in the post reveals Ben and you are mistaken about what Welch meant:

    "This 'shaking out,' Welch said, represents his search for 'likehearted Christians around the world who have a burden for the raw lostness of those who don't know Jesus.' Welch solicited the group for prospects worldwide who are 'evangelical Christians who would feel comfortable and effective in being loosely connected in joint venture projects for Great Commission causes.'

    The metaphor is "shaking out," not "shaking off." Impurities in the church have nothing to do with it.

    As I said a couple of weeks ago, you would like Bobby Welch if you met him. He is genuine, gracious, and immediately makes a new friend when he meets someone.

    Welch attempts to inspire evangelical Baptists. It seems critics--you included--attribute to him quotes made in that context (i.e. addressing FAITH conferences, the SBC, etc), yet critique him for his words as if his audience were lost people.

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  4. Chuck4:18 PM

    By the way, Jim White's column is accusatory, cynical, and sounds not at all like the words of someone who would desire all Baptists--including Welch and other Southern Baptists--to be in Atlanta next January.

    I'm only assuming White is supportive of the NewBapCov. Perhaps he's not, which would be consistent with this piece of writing.

    I find the column far from excellent.

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  5. Chuck: You are correct that the metaphor is "shaking out," but you miss the point of that metaphor. What does one shake out of something? You shake dust out of a rug or you shake dust of a towel or you shake dirt out of your hair. Thus, Welch is comparing those who will work with him and the SBC to dust or dirt.

    And while his comments were intended for Baptists, they will be read by lost people (because the Baptist Press reported them). Thus, he must be careful what he says regardless who is in the room or not.

    As for Jim's tone, he is merely pointing out the apparent deception going on here. Why can't Welch be honest with what he is up to?

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  6. Chuck6:19 AM

    Brian,

    I'm sorry this post is so old, and I just now saw the response you snuck in. :)

    How wrong you are on each point!

    1. Does one not shake money out of one's pocket, or gold out of ore? Is not money a desirable thing (as long as one doesn't worship or serve it)?

    2. Bobby Welch has every right to speak freely to the troops. Lost people don't look to Baptist Press for news.

    3. White's, and your, assertion that Welch is being dishonest or deceptive is simply sour grapes or hurt feelings, both of which are below your journalistic integrity. You should be ashamed at the volume of the whine.

    4. You omitted the fact that Ben and you were totally off in the intial comments about what Welch meant.

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  7. Chuck: Thanks for the comment. Here are my thoughts on your four points.

    1. Good point. Although it seems that shaking out is usually used to talk about dust, there are other uses of the metaphor.

    2. Yes, he has the right to speak but that does not mean it is always right to do so. And although lost people may not check out the Baptist Press everyday, they might stumble across it from time-to-time. I actually have seen atheist websites discuss comments (but not this one) by Welch that were reported in the Baptist Press. Based on their comments, it seems that Welch's words were driving them away from Christianity.

    3. Are you saying that Welch is being honest about not trying to start a competitor to the BWA? If this new project is not a replacement for the BWA then what in the world is it?

    4. Actually, you are wrong. Please read my post more carefully and you will see that I wrote about this being shaking out not off.

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  8. Brian,

    3. I am saying that my experience with Bobby Welch has shown him to be sincere, honest, and upright. I've no reason to doubt what he says, and I don't believe you would if you knew him.

    4. I'm referring to your praise for his insight, and agreement with Ben Wilkins' ascribed meaning to Welch's intention (Kaylor: "I suspect that what you describe was Welch's intention"), the clear error of which I pointed out in my comment which followed. Welch wasn't talking about impurities or liberals in the church!

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