Sixtysomething retired micropastor Plodder and thirtysomething megapastor J. D. Greear see the Cooperative Program in remarkably, or frighteningly, similar terms.
Greear, something of a rock star among younger SBCers has a blog article up
on Southeastern seminary’s blog site Between The Times: Our Church, The SBC, and the Cooperative Program
Greear states plainly that he appreciates the Cooperative Program but identifies the main problem with it as being the reality that “so much of what is given to the CP stays right here in the states.” He uses his state convention, the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, as an example. The BSCNC keeps about 65% of CP gifts in state.
This causes, he writes, a “disturbingly small fraction” of the total to actually make it to the “mission fields,” a phrase he sets out with quotation marks, presumably meaning our two mission boards.
He declares his appreciation for SBC leaders, his BSCNC leaders, the good things they do, and the difficulty of significant change in mature organizations; however, he notes “that it will be a long journey to get our [CP] dollar allocations back to the right levels.”
I’m a full generation older than Greear but would say almost exactly the same things. I have no quarrel with our leadership, state or national. I appreciate the work done here in Georgia through the Georgia Baptist Convention. It is good work. But giving a dollar to the CP and watching it whittled down to about thirty cents for our two mission boards leads me to ponder methods that give greater efficiency to my mission dollars.
I would however, point out for Greear that states have for decades kept a little under two-thirds of a CP dollar, so changing this wouldn’t be getting back to anything. It would be a completely new direction and a proper one, both he and I would say.
Greear also intriguingly writes, "I don’t think there’s any question that some of the institutions must cease to function, at least at their current levels" leaving one to ask, "OK, J.D., which ones?"
Greear declares his intent to increase CP giving with the caveat that “[w]hile we are doing that, however, we will continue to give directly to institutions we are particularly excited about, bypassing some of the unnecessary bureaucracy. As the system gets leaner, our giving will increase.”
It seem to me that this statement can be generalized and should be seen as what lies ahead for the SBC, her institutions, the Cooperative Program, and mission support. The Cooperative Program will continue to be our main giving program but direct giving will become more and more attractive and will increase proportionately to the CP.
I see state conventions getting "leaner" because the money is not coming in through the CP, not because they choose to keep less of it. And, I don't see the SBC getting any leaner in the sense of significant institutional change.
Has anyone forgotten that we went through a high profile self-study process called the Great Commission Resurgence that, for all the noise it made, changed very little?
As a result of the GCR process and report, many state conventions have voluntarily made commitments to begin adjusting downward what they keep of the CP with a goal of an equal split.
While that is good, I have noted that 50/50 probably means, at best, 55/45 and in some cases even 60/40, hardly the kind of change that will move Greear and likeminded pastors to conclude that the CP is a more efficient method for distribution of their mission dollars.
One would have to conclude, either disparingly or dispassionately, that the kind of "getting back" to the “right” levels Greear envisions will never happen.
Which leaves both Greear and his older colleague, me, to conclude that while the Cooperative Program is a wonderful giving plan, and while we appreciate our state and SBC leaders, we desire to get more in mission from our dollar than the CP permits. In my case that meant most of my church’s mission dollars went to the Annie Armstrong and Lottie Moon offerings. In Greear’s case it means that those plus, presumably, other direct giving consume most of his mission dollars.
I see nothing that will change our common view on this.