What is Wrong with the Baptist Press?

June 28, 2007

It is time for the people at the Baptist Press to get over their obsession with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. Every several months they put out an article attacking CBF's system for counting churches. It is always the same basic argument--that CBF should not count any church that sends money since many of them are simply forwarding money from members. Thus, it should not be surprising that the Baptist Press issued another such article today since the CBF's general assembly is going on right now. This is not newsworthy, but simply an attempt to disrupt CBF's meeting.

I dealt with this problematic type of attack by the Baptist Press in an Ethics Daily column last September. The piece was entitled "CBF, Baptist Press Numbers Flap Unnecessary, Misguided." Here are some excerpts that are sadly once again relevant:

Poet and novelist Victor Hugo once remarked, "The greatness of a people is no more determined by their numbers than the greatness of a man is by his height."

... Ultimately, the attack on CBF seems to be less about anything that CBF is doing than about trying to prove that the SBC is better because it is bigger. ... Yet, this whole debate over church counts is an unnecessary distraction because it does not really matter.

The real problem with the attack pieces is that an overemphasis on statistics seems to often lead to the false presumption that might makes one right. This argument that more people follow us so we must be correct is a logical fallacy called ad populum ("to the people"). It assumes that a majority of people cannot be wrong, despite the fact that history is littered with such examples: the world is flat, the sun revolves around the earth, slavery is right.

... Rather than being so focused on quantitative data, perhaps we should care more about the qualitative. I have known churches with 25 people that do more for the Kingdom than churches 10 times as large. Yet, the larger church might point to their numbers as proof that they are more right with God. Thankfully, God is with us when two or three are gathered in His name, not only when we are part of the largest group.

In Matthew 25, Jesus said we will be judged on how we help the "least of these," not on how many people join our organization. Sharing the love of Jesus with people is more important than building the largest church by getting Christians to transfer their membership or have lots of kids. Serving people and churches is more important for a convention than having the most members or contributors.

It should not matter how many churches give to CBF as long as they share the love of Jesus. It should not matter how many churches give to the SBC as long as they serve people. It is time to quit wasting our energy and resources seeing who is bigger and by how much. It does not matter if we have one, two, or five talents as long as we are using them for God.

It is time to care about what really matters. We must start focusing on reaching the world with the love of Jesus. Regardless of what numbers one uses for the SBC or CBF, the two groups combined are still fewer in number than the number of people who are lost, hurting, starving and dying. So let us quit counting ourselves and starting serving our neighbors.

One of King David's greatest mistakes was ordering a census of the people. It demonstrated that he was too focused on his own power than serving and trusting God. As a result, thousands of people died. Today, millions are dying as we fight over how to take a misguided census to prove the level of our power.
It is time for the Baptist Press to start focusing on the "Good News" and spend less time with pointless attack pieces. One especially odd aspect of today's Baptist Press article was that it listed all the churches that have been reported to have messengers at this year's CBF meeting. Why? It is incredibly odd that they would report that and yet they did not report which churches had messengers at the SBC annual meeting. Wouldn't that be more relevant? Apparently, the (black) list is nothing more than an attempt to stir up problems in local churches on the list. If so, then such an act is completely inexcusable and unbiblical. Those at the Baptist Press may call themselves "Christian journalists," but they are acting like neither.