OK, we got it. Anonymous criticism is the ultimate example of lay cowardice, say many preachers - even anonymous preachers like "Caleb" posting on my blog. In their world, that view apparently works for them. Everywhere else in society we do value feedback, even anonymous criticism - painful as it might be at times - from pupils and customers and employees. But not in the preacher's world. It is sin and must be rooted out.
But this begs the question: if anonymous criticism is the most prominent example of "cowardice" of lay folk - what then, pray tell, is the most prominent example of cowardice amongst mega church pastors and convention leaders in the SBC?
Easy. It is their lack of openness and transparency. Those pastors and leaders who can't be open and transparent with God's people are cowards. Both anonymous critics and non-transparent pastors and church leaders withold information for fear of the personal consequences resulting from its release. Perhaps these pastors and leaders don't trust God, and they don't trust God's people with important information, even to the detriment of their own church and ministries.
"SIGN YOUR NAME!!", screams Matt Chandler to the "pathetic anonymous cowards".
"BE TRANSPARENT!!", we lay people scream to the non-transparent pastors.
There is no shortage of examples of this "transparency cowardice", such as: closed-door agency meetings, sealing GCR deliberations for a decade, refusal to institute a Baptist clergy sexual abuser database and safe reporting and investigation system...and many others, some of which I've blogged about here.
But lack of financial transparency is one of the worst examples of this cowardice.
SBC pastors, especially those in the mega churches, are notorious for not telling people the details on how money is spent, especially when it comes to their compensation. Their total compensation is a closely guarded secret that only a few trusted men in their inner circle know. When pushed hard enough (by pesky reporters), they will only declare what they DON'T earn, or compare themselves with the average of other like pastors, or say things like "I don't make as much as you think I make"...but never, ever, ever, do they tell their church members their total compensation.
Often these same non-transparent pastors love to ask for money, and special offerings, and use the "tithing" doctrine to guilt folks into giving a minimum of 10% of their gross income, undesignated, to their church - else they're "robbing God" and stopping God's blessings, and incurring more frequent car repairs and doctor visits. The non-transparent pastors love to ask for dough, but not so much do they like to explain how it all is spent.
The sad thing is the lack of financial transparency at local church level and within our agencies ultimately hurts the institutions. It might help the leadership maintain a higher compensation package and lifestyle, but it ultimately hurts the institution's revenue sources. Transparency breeds accountability, accountabily leads to trust, and trust will allow more people to give knowing their dollars are used wisely.
Homer Lindsay, Sr. of First Baptist Jacksonville had a saying that many of the modern-day Baptist big-wigs ought to heed. Lindsay used to say:
"Trust the Lord, and tell the people."
Unfortunately today the saying seems to be: "Trust the Preacher, and don't tell the giving units".
I believe the cowardice of non-transparent preachers and church leaders is a much bigger problem than the cowardice of anonymous critics.
And our churches and the convention are paying the price.