The longstanding general trend of churches giving less to the Cooperative Program is widely known at all levels of the SBC. We've gone from an average of over 11% thirty years or so ago to less than six percent today.
More keenly felt, though is the dramatic loss of CP dollars in state conventions in the past few years. The mortgage meltdown and subsequent recession has reduced individual giving and concomitantly, the flow of CP dollars from churches to states.
Many state conventions like my own, the Georgia Baptist Convention, have made repeated, drastic cuts in spending, and, since most of the discretionary spending is in staffing, dozens and dozens of jobs have been cut.
Here in Georgia we also have the additional burden of a considerable amount of debt service for a magnificent HQ building that was built just prior to the economic meltdown.
Times are tough in this state convention.
It is not lost on state executives that when CP receipts are down, they are hit the hardest, since (a) they have always kept the great majority of CP gifts (convention wide average is that about two-thirds of CP gifts from churches stay with their state convention and do not leave state borders to go to NAMB, IMB, the seminaries, or other SBC entities), and (b) state conventions have little else in revenue aside from CP gifts (the IMB, in contrast, has other major revenue streams and the CP makes up only 30% of their budget).
One association in our state has passed a "RESOLUTION TO PROVIDE FOR OUR STATE CONVENTIONS" which calls for its churches to "consider" cutting their Cooperative Program giving by 25-35 percent.
Really? Yep. Really, a sort of cut your nose off to spite your face resolution. Undermine the Cooperative Program as a method of helping the state convention which benefits most from the Cooperative Program.
The idea is that churches would take their present CP giving, cut it by 25-35%, and designate that proportion to state convention causes exclusively.
So, here in Georgia, with the Georgia Baptist Convention already retaining over sixty percent of the CP dollar, if churches made this designation it would effectively raise the Georgia percentage of a CP dollar to about 75% if all churches followed this plan.
I have read the resolution and also spoken with the association's director of missions and acknowledge that not everyone is happy with all the changes around the convention. I also believe that this is a well-meaning effort, however misguided. I understand our state convention wants nothing to do with it.
The idea that we would penalize NAMB and the IMB, remove funds from NAMB's church planting efforts or from IMB missionaries serving in places that don't have counties full of churches is rather absurd. Georgia has about 3300 churches, a million resident members, who collected over a billion dollars in 2010, and over $25 million to spend in this state on our own needs.
Do we really think it proper to undercut that missionary in a place desolate of the Gospel to put back in staff in Georgia to conduct VBS training, or deacon training, or other local needs?
If the GBC desired they could propose that we increase our percentage of CP receipts from 61% to 75% or 85%. It is up to us. If the churches feel this is best, we may certainly meet and vote these increases. I'm not persuaded that churches will recognize that associations in south Georgia are suffering enough to take money away from NAMB and the IMB to help our poor peach state brethren out.
Below is the key part of the association's resolution:
Therefore, be it resolved, that the administration committee of the __________ Baptist Association encourages each church to “consider” to contribute a portion of their cooperative program contributions (25 – 35%) to state missions and give the balance to the cooperative program (this is not binding on any church since each one is autonomous, we are only suggesting). The intent of the resolution is not to destroy the cooperative program, though some feel the Great Commission Giving has already accomplished this, but to encourage a means to balance the cooperative program so that state conventions are adequately provided. This will assure that our state conventions will receive enough contributions to provide assistance to our small town and rural churches. The state convention needs us as we need the state convention, and,
Ironically, even though the resolution claims that Great Commission Giving has already "destroy[ed]" the Cooperative Program, were churches to adopt these recommendations, this association would be a leader in Georgia in Great Commission Giving. Go figure...Be it finally resolved, that the ________ Baptist Association encourages all sister churches and associations to consider this recommendation.
Even though the resolution was passed at a recent spring associational meeting and the document is public, I edited out the name. The DOM said they might want to tweak the document. Tweak? How about deep-sixing it?
But, ah, we are all autonomous. And, maybe this resolution should go to the place where lots of associational resolutions go - a cool, dark, place where it can be quietly forgotten.
I don't know that anyone connected with this reads my humble blog but I would happily provide a place for them to defend the resolution and disagree with your humble blogging semi-retired pastor.