Monday, June 20, 2016

Great Commission Giving: The metric that can't get any respect in the SBC

One would think that giving by SBC churches to the Cooperative Program, Lottie Moon offering, Annie Armstrong offering, state mission offering, associational offering, their local association, state convention, mission boards, seminaries, children's homes, Baptist colleges, ministries for the aging, hospitals, recovery programs, disaster relief programs, direct partnership projects with our International and North American Mission Boards, and a range of other Southern Baptist national, state convention, or associational causes would be something to be praised and commended. We would all be for such giving, right? No one would object to celebrating such giving, right?

Not quite right. All of the above giving is what makes up Great Commission Giving, the giving metric that just can't seem to get any respect among us.

Here's what the The Great Commission Resurgence Task Force Final Report said about Great Commission Giving:

We will recognize the total of all monies channeled through the causes of the Southern Baptist Convention, the state conventions, and associations as Great Commission Giving.
We call upon all Southern Baptists to celebrate every dollar given by faithful Southern Baptists as part of Great Commission Giving, including designated gifts given to any Baptist association, state convention, and to the causes of the Southern Baptist Convention.
We affirm that designated gifts to special causes are to be given as a supplement to the Cooperative Program and not as a substitute for Cooperative Program giving. 
 ...we will call upon Southern Baptists to give as never before, to support the Cooperative Program as never before, and to celebrate every church’s eager and sacrificial support of Great Commission Giving at every level.
Here are the totals for Great Commission Giving since the giving category's inception, in millions of dollars:

2011        696
2012        744
2013        777
2014        638
2015        613

Aha! GCG has been dropping for the past couple of years, right?

Wrong.

From the get-go, people complained that GCG would divert money from the Cooperative Program; thus, some churches and state conventions have refused to report GCG. In the most recent statistical report for the SBC, five state conventions do not ask for a number for GCG and LifeWay gives an orphan chart for "Other 2015 Items - Not Asked By All State Conventions" that duly footnotes the five state conventions that do not ask their churches for a figure for GCG.

Maybe the thinking is that if I don't like GCG, I can ignore it altogether and maybe it will go away.

Add to state convention recalcitrance the utter confusion among pastors and churches about exactly what is meant by Great Commission Giving and you've got a recipe for a generally worthless statistic. I regularly read pastors talking about GCG who convey an understanding that GCG is one category of giving and CP is another. GCG includes both. 

Well, no one tells Southern Baptist pastors, churches, or state conventions what to do, what to ask, or how to count. 

We don't have the means to determine an accurate, convention-wide figure for Great Commission Giving. Even if every state convention clearly defined what it is and asked for it in their Annual Church Profile report, it's a certainly that pastors and churches would respond with their own definitions of GCG. Some would include CP in the figure, some would not. 

But I doubt that the most strident critic of the statistic would argue that GCG is not growing. We have a record Lottie Moon offering for 2015. The Annie Armstrong offering is close to the record. SBC churches collected $406 million more in 2015 than the previous year. Since GCG is mostly CP + LM + AA, and those three total to more than the $613 million reported as GCG for 2015, GCG is increasing. It looks like many in the SBC just don't want anyone to know it. If that constitutes a Cooperative Program growth strategy it is a pretty pathetic one.

Frankly, it doesn't really matter if LifeWay cannot collect an accurate figure for GCG. Southern Baptist churches are trending towards designated giving while keeping the Cooperative Program about the same, perhaps with a tiny fractional increase. That's the way it is. That's the way it has been for a generation and a half now.

Pity the poor GCG. Although it is growing, it just cannot get any respect. But at least it gets talked about. 

Whatever happened to Great Commission Baptists anyway?


Thursday, June 16, 2016

Convention winners and losers

From my distance, 597 miles, here's my winners and losers on the convention just completed in St. Louis.

Winners

1. J. D. Greear. He lost the most contested race for SBC president in many years but his withdrawal was a statesmanlike decision. He leaves St. Louis with a Mississippi barge load of goodwill that didn't arrive with him.

2. Steve Gaines. Hey, he won and is the voice and face of the SBC for at least the next year. Congratulations.

3. Dwight McKissick. He submitted the resolution on the Confederate Flag and spent a good bit of time over the past weeks explaining and defending it on SBCVoices. Although his original was heavily amended by the resolutions committee, it was and is his baby. Nothing in recent days has elevated the SBC as has this resolution.

4. James Merritt. Merritt had the moment, offering an amendment on McKissick's resolution on the flag. Good for him and well done.

5. Russell Moore. When asked about religious liberty, he gave a full-throated defense. We know there are always some among us who would drop kick religious liberty in a D. C. second. We need a guy who will stand up for it. Moore did his job and did it well.

6. Dave Miller. Miller is the new Pastor's Conference president. He and others came up with a plan that was persuasive enough to pry attendees away from the usual celebrity leadership. Just don't call him a small church pastor. His church is well above average attendance.

Losers

1. The resolutions committee. I know these people have a hard job but to report out McKissick's flag resolution with a timid and tepid call “to limit” the display of the flag and to “consider” stopping flying it altogether, completely missed the mark. 

2. Rick Patrick and unnamed amateur parliamentarians. By making noise about a possible challenge to the parliamentary ruling on what constitutes a majority, the main thrust of which was to declare Steve Gaines president without the additional vote that was announced and scheduled, an ugly cast was put on the convention. It concerns me that these people don't see clearly enough to understand the disaster that would have occurred.

3. Judge Pressler. I  didn't see it and don't want to see it. If Baptist royalty has to stand in the same line as Baptist commoners, that's not a bad thing.

4. Dave Miller. Guy has a new part time job and the pay is lousy.



Sunday, June 12, 2016

Is Steve Gaines is running paid social media news feeds in his campaign?

I expect all of the three candidates for SBC president to get their messages out. J. D. Greear has a series of short YouTube pieces covering a number of topics relevant to the SBC. David Crosby has some interviews but not much else that I have seen. Steve Gaines has some videos similar to Greear's, along with media interviews.

Steve Gaines, or someone on his behalf, appears to have some "sponsored" media, news feed stuff, touting his candidacy. This is curious and, best I can tell, new to SBC presidential campaigns.

I don't have a problem with it but think it an interesting development.

There is a possibility that I, a low tech Luddite who defiantly and proudly carries a dumb phone, is interpreting something wrongly here but "sponsored content" is a paid ad, right?

I am open to being corrected and/or further instructed on this but an SBC-oriented website stated that one of the three candidates was using paid ads. Is this what they meant?

Any of the three candidates would be fine but this is an escalation in denominational politics.