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The Vision-Casting of the Anointed: a Baptist Push

Stanford University professor and Hoover Institute Economist Thomas Sowell is well-known for his common-sense, straightforward books and editorials about the shortcomings of the progressive leftist worldview.  This worldview, as he explains in his book The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as Basis for Social Policy, is one which posits that a certain “anointed” intelligentsia class knows what’s best for society as a whole and should, therefore, be tasked with crafting and implementing the world’s social policies.   This is the worldview of leftist politicians and professional intellectuals such as Barack Obama.  As a libertarian-leaning economist who believes that society and world markets are to vast and unpredictable to control, Sowell rejects this worldview.  However, many others do not.  The idea that certain “vision casters” know what’s best for their communities has come to permeate both government and business environments.  In the corporate world, CEOs, COOs, and Vice Presidents are trained by secular leadership gurus to “cast the vision” for those under their direction.  Under this method, executives are both manager and coach.  In the business world, where control is often granted to a subject matter expert familiar with local affairs, vision casting can have a positive effect.  Perhaps because of such success the concept of “vision-casting” CEO-style leadership has even found its way into churchmanship.  In feats of eisigetical chicanery, Christian leadership gurus teach modern pastors that they should be “Moses Model” type CEO delegators.  In the corporate world, a leader’s “vision” is devoid of any spiritual connotation.  However, in the church world, the “vision” casted by the CEO-style pastor is understood to come from God Himself.  Such vision can hardly be questioned.  A generation of high-profile vision casting church leaders, such as Ronnie Floyd and Johnny Hunt, has risen to national prominence over the last decades.  As these men age, the intelligentsia of their denomination must select new men to “cast the vision” at national and state levels.  To do so, young leaders must be given a push and promoted to rock star status among pastors and other church leaders.  One way to achieve this push is with fluff pieces printed in denominational newspapers.  Gerald Harris, editor of the (Georgia Baptist) Christian Index seems to be in the midst of doing this with a young, successful pastor named Jeremy Morton.  Morton’s push, however, is not merely about the man himself.  It’s about the very profession of pastor.  Harris’s push is a matter of perpetrating the self-congratulatory environment that is Baptist politics.

In professional wrestling parlance, a “push” is an attempt to make a certain wrestler more popular with spectators.  This is often done through changing a wrester’s gimmick, airing increased promos about the wrestler, and booking matches in which he squashes low-level talent and defeats popular stars.  Fans of the late 1990s wrestling era will remember the massive push Bill Goldberg received from World Championship Wrestling which culminated in his defeating Scott Hall and Hulk Hogan on the same night on Monday Nitro in Georgia Dome to win the World Heavyweight Title.  In the span of a few months, Goldberg went from a relative unknown to WCW’s biggest star.  This is not unlike how promotion works in Baptist conventions.  Young preachers are identified by established leaders.  Dinners are shared, phone calls are made, careers are discussed, and eventually (once the vetting process is complete) the selected preachers are put forth for predetermined positions of leadership.  (The affair is almost as fixed as pro-wrestling except for the back rooms are not smoke-filled.)  For a long time, this is how things have been done in the Georgia Baptist Convention.  For example, a particular cabal of Mercer graduates used to determine future Georgia Baptist Convention presidents five years in advance.  This cabal has fallen out of favor in recent times.  However, methods may not have changed that much where The Christian Index is concerned.  Jeremy Morton appears to be the new Bill Goldberg of the Georgia Baptist Convention.

goldbergIn his March 2016 article, On Twitter’s 10th Birthday, Some Baptist First Tweets, Christian Index author Scott Barkley explored the effect microblogging has had on the Southern Baptist Convention since Twitter’s inception.  He shared the first tweets of several high-profile Southern Baptist superstars such as Ed Stetzer, Bryant Wright, Frank Page, Johnny Hunt, and the one and only Beth Moore.  He also shared the first tweet of his own pastor, Jeremy Morton.  Barkley is a member of the First Baptist Church of Cartersville.  The former interim pastor of that congregation is none other than Christian Index Editor Gerald Harris.  Just two months after Barkley mentioned Morton in The Index, Harris dedicated an entire piece to the young pastor, How a Young Pastor Deals with Stress.

The subject matter of the article itself should not be downplayed, it is relevant an important.  Pastors often work such long hours at their vocation that they fail to take care of their personal health and pay sufficient attention to their wives and families.  Morton appears to be successfully looking after his personal health, his flock at home, and his flock at Cartersville Baptist.  For this, Morton should be rightly commended.  However, Harris went far beyond commending Morton for living a healthy lifestyle in his article.  Harris wrote,

“Morton is also in the process of building a staff and casting a vision for First Baptist Church, responsibilities which require much prayer, faith, discernment, and time.

The Cartersville First Baptist pastor is also a splendid preacher who carefully and systematically crafts expository sermons, a responsibility requiring more time and spiritual energy than most laymen can fathom.”

To be sure, the word around Cartersville is that Morton is an engaging preacher.  However, is it truly the case that non-preachers are simply unable to fathom the effort required for Morton to prepare and preach his weekly sermon?  Can the busy housewife not imagine it?  Can the exhausted custodian not imagine it?  Can the pressured banker not imagine it?  Can the overstretched teacher not imagine it?  Can the factory worker with sore feet not imagine it?  Harris’ statement, written by a preacher for preachers (the main audience of his paper) is self-serving and arrogant.  Harris’s salary is paid by the very money that hard-working pew-sitting Christians put in the plates of their local churches every Sunday.  His statement is profoundly insulting.  Sitting in a comfortable chair in an air-conditioned office in the world’s most prosperous and free country while using world-class bible software and the benefits of a lengthy and expensive theological education to write a 30-minute sermon is hardly a Sisyphean task.  To be sure, the weighty responsibility of shepherding a flock and preparing a weekly message should not be underplayed.  Pastors do, in fact, labor long, often through spiritual attack from the forces of the enemy, to present God-honoring sermons to their congregations.  Yet, to say that it’s “unfathomable” for a non-pastor to understand that is demeaning and insulting.  It’s clear what a lofty opinion that Harris has of “vision-casters” like his friend Jeremy Morton.  It’s further clear what intelligentsia man Gerald Harris thinks about the average Christian.  His truly is a vision of the anointed…and the pew-sitters are not the anointed.

The reader of this article should remember to be fair to Morton.  Morton didn’t write these words, Gerald Harris did.  That pew-sitters can’t fathom what it’s like to work hard or write a sermon is not the personal view of Jeremy Morton.  Bill Goldberg had plenty of fans in his heyday and he certainly should not have been resented for his push.  The same is true for Jeremy Morton.  He got where is today, most likely, by doing a good job and being kind to people.  The prayer of the pew-sitter should be that men like Morton walk in humility when their “push” comes to fruition.   The pew-sitter should also wake up and take notice that they shouldn’t suffer the insults of intelligentsia men like Gerald Harris while they fund his salary.  It’s time to defund the intelligentsia, reel in the vision casting, and expect the churches of God and their local leaders get by on their own merits and without self-congratulatory flush pieces from Christian influence peddlers.  If God is with them, they can surely do so without the denominational newspaper.

*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.