Problem of Power Structures in the SBC


I was a young Pastor in the late 80s when the conservative resurgence was winning the day in the SBC. Like many I was supportive of the need to defend the inerrancy of scripture against the stranglehold of creeping liberalism. It was a fight I am glad we fought and won. And I’m thankful for those who led the way in the fight.

However, as a young observer back in the day I was always curious at how the spoils of battle were handed out in the SBC. Entity heads were quickly replaced with Pastors who were on the frontline of the fight. I suppose for some this seemed like the natural thing to do. Power was clearly placed in the hands of those who had orchestrated the fight.

Here is the problem as John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton said, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

I would suggest that the SBC does not have a people problem we have a structure problem. A structure that inadvertently places too much power in the hands of too few.

Entity heads wield too much power with too few restraints. (Recently I asked one of our state convention leaders to contact one of our entity heads regarding what appeared to be a duplication of national work verses state work. His response was that isn’t something you do. That those kinds of conversations make this particular entity head very upset. One has to ask is this healthy?)

Centralization of power is favored over decentralization. (We hear all the time about the importance of local input, however decisions and the balance of power still seems to predominately come from HQ.)

Yes, we have oversight by boards of trustees and directors. But as one who has served on such boards I know all too well the way these boards tend to function.

I believe it is time to rethink our structure.

  1. Boards need to become more active in our entities. Not just when a leader fails but when the leader is doing well. Remember a good structure protects the organization from the leader and the leader from the organization. We need less rubberstamps and more proactive leadership on the part of our boards with whom we entrust the oversight of our entities.
  2. Whenever possible we need less top down leadership from HQ and more field level, localized leadership and decision making. We need to look for ways to decentralize our leadership particularly with our mission agencies. We may need to consider giving more power back to the state conventions.
  3. Maybe, it’s time to rethink the entire structure of the SBC. How the entities are related to each other. How the national convention interfaces with the state convention and local associations.

Clearly, we can do better. But we won’t do better by simply hiring new people to lead a system that tends to over time corrupt even the best men. Because remember, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”



1 thought on “Problem of Power Structures in the SBC

  1. Good thoughts, We conservations “won” the convention, but we didn’t know how to “run” the convention. Conservatives had not served on the major boards and had not had the opportunity to see firsthsnd how they worked. Thus, our leaders became agent leaders operating them as they did their churches.

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