If Coca-Cola lost about half of its market share, shareholders would force the CEO out. Executive heads would roll, advertising agencies would be fired. The corporation would do just about anything that would restore market share.
Not so the SBC. We just keep rolling along. Market share down? Let's wring our hands, wail loudly, and lament that fact but then why don't we just create a new metric, Great Commission Giving, that acknowledges that churches are eschewing the CP for direct funding? If we do that we can have a number that might actually increase.
Can you see the future Baptist Press headline? "Cooperative Program funding down but Great Commission Giving is up!"
The SBC and the states have a dozens of intelligent, skilled, resourceful, committed, and knowledgable employees whose responsibility includes the promotion of the CP. The SBC has had numerous high profile, blue ribbon commissions and task forces who were charged with studying the Cooperative Program, its promotion, and its allocation formula. The stewardship brain trust meets, studies, laments, decides, and acts...and the percentages continue to decline.
So I ask: Is there an inherent problem, a flaw, in the Cooperative Program that contributes to its sad march downward?
I think that there is such a flaw and it is the most obvious and self-evident characteristic of our grand giving scheme:
It is virtually impossible to significantly change the formulas for distributing Cooperative Program receipts from the churches.
I offer as evidence the following:
1. In the past half-century the percent of Cooperative Program monies that state conventions have kept has moved within the extremely narrow range of between 61 and 67 percent. When all Southern Baptists were happy and harmonious, states kept around two-thirds. When Baptist were feuding and fussing, states kept around two-thirds. When times were good states kept around two-thirds. In times of recession, states kept around two-thirds.
Some state conventions are declaring a move to a 50/50 split. Good, but let's be honest here. First, 50/50 doesn't mean they keep only half. Second, we've heard this before and there are a thousand caveats and loopholes in that commitment. States may move to three-fifths but I'm not optimistic about seeing them make it to 50/50. There is simply too much self interest.
2. The SBC Allocation Budget is virtually unassailable: The International Mission Board will get about half; the North American Mission Board will get a little under a fourth; and the seminaries will get a little over one-fifth. That's the way it is. That's the way it has been. That's the way it is going to be, forevermore.
We recently went through the most significant upheaval since the Conservative Resurgence and wrested a magnificent additional...zero point two percent...for the IMB.
The billions of lost people outside North America notwithstanding, does any sentient Southern Baptist think that NAMB will get less than 22%?
The most visible SBC leaders are seminary presidents (Patterson, Akin, Mohler). Does anyone think that the six seminaries will bear any percentage cuts? Does anyone think we will close a seminary? Merge two or three of them? Even if we did, good Southern Baptist money says that the presidents and trustees will still want the same percentages.
And when heaven and earth fade away, the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention will release the next year's CP Allocation Budget. It will look essentially like the previous year.
The inherent flaw in the Cooperative Program makes it simple: Southern Baptists options are limited to tweaking the CP allocation formula and trying to increase the entire CP pie. So, we tweak and hope.
But here's a tip for those tweaking and hoping: Churches have power. They get to choose. They are choosing to give less to the CP.