Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Drowned in a flood of Calvinism and Traditionalism in New Orleans...

...was the Cooperative Program, the long, steady, depressing decline of which is the SBC's real elephant in the room (a grossly overused phrase which is from henceforth banned from SBC Plodder).

Sure, the Cooperative Program was incessantly mentioned by various speakers. Testimonies were offered. Videos were shown. Nifty displays were set up in the exhibit hall. But, from this distance one surmises that there was little interest in anything other than the election of Fred Luter (good) or the Calvinist/Traditionalist buzz in the convention all (not good but could have been much worse).

The Cooperative Program needs something that will stanch the slow bleeding that has seen the average percentage of church offering plate dollars given to the CP decline from around 11 percent to under six percent in the last three decades.

Frank Page is doing what Chief Encouraging Officers of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention can do - challenging, encouraging SBC churches to raise their CP giving by a percentage point. Such efforts (a) always have some success, but (b) have never been successful enough to stem the decline.

Fred Luter offers an inspiring example of CP giving but it was not the primary factor in his election.

When pastors and churches look closely at the Cooperative Program, they are not dissuaded from dropping their church's giving level.


That would be a good question for LifeWay Research to examine. Their last effort, completed in 2008, revealed that 87% of pastors were generally satisfied with the CP leaving one to wonder why they continue to cut what they are happy with.

Now would be a good time to try and do better.


Mike Bergman said...

Like many churches we base our cp giving on a % figure in the budget. For the past several years our percentage has remained the same but our giving has gone down, therefore our CP figure has dropped.

I'm guessing for a good number of churches the drop isn't an intentional cut but lower church giving that leads to lower overall budgets and therefore a lower CP #.

Anonymous said...

Are you pulling a G. Gutfeld with your word ban?

Jon Estes

William Thornton said...

Mike, if you kept the percentage that should not figure into an overall decline in the proportion of dollars going to the CP. The problem is that churches have been cutting their percentages rather steeply over time.

Jonathan said...

This is yet another example of the variance between who we say we are/what we say our focus is and who we really are/what our focus really is.

Everything was of greater importance than the financial life blood of the mission of the SBC.

1. Patting ourselves on the back for electing a black man as SBC president (a huge symbolic move, perhaps might sway some transfer growth of primarily black congregations into the SBC). We had a "genuine moment" at a time when there is an authentic crisis of leadership in the SBC. Well, at least Russell Moore got to tweet some silliness about the end of Jim Crow (not sure he's been keeping up on current is 2012, not 1964).

2. The Chicken Little histrionics over Calvinism.

3. The threat of a meaningless resolution to get "The Blind Side" off of the shelves of Lifeway (which was amazingly - and embarrassingly - successful in moving the needle in Nashville).

4. The name change/nickname option that spent oxygen and energy and will have no impact on anyone.

5 through 7,868. The experience in self importance that is much of the modern SBC convention experience.

I followed the events of the SBC annual meeting during a business trip in China (I returned a few days ago). I had several conversations with IMB ground pounders (all with more than 10 years of experience in the field doing the work in areas where there is real persecution going on). To a person, they told me:

- Given the increase of inflation that the world is surely going to experience as a result of the last few years of stimulus and debt, prices are going to way outstrip purchasing power by our global missionary force such that, if the Lottie Moon offering doesn't show significant year to year increases, the IMB is simply not going to be able to sustain the current +5,000 global force.

- The middle management situation within the IMB continues to degrade as more and more supervisors, "strategic coordinators", and other admin types are being hired with little to no field experience and with a loyalty to political machines in North America not the people who are doing the real work in the 1040. Here's an example: a recent initiate coming out of Richmond has funding going to purchase automobiles in an Asian region for use by our missionary units. Funds will no be diverted to driver training, licensing fees (which will include what amount to bribes of local officials), and maintenance. When this was proposed (and by "proposed" I mean mandated), the missionaries in this country argued that with the mass transit available in this country, the money could be used to much greater affect in other areas of the budget. The missionaries also argued that having these vehicles will result in a much greater visibility on the missionaries by the local city, province, and national authorities (never a good thing in a region where it is illegal to organize churches outside of the officially sanctioned bodies).

The response by Richmond and the regional middle managers? Pretty much, "Shut up and thank us for providing you with cars...we know what's best for you".

This is just the latest example of how we're getting in the way of the work that is at the heart of our 1845 charter.

You can probably guess their response when I asked them their opinions of what occupied the focus at the 2012 SBC annual meeting.

You can also probably guess my response when a couple of prominent IMB trustees and local pastors asked me if I would share the names and locations of the missionaries who confided in me with their most grave concerns.

Appreciate the Gutfeld reference, Jon. I'm an infrequent DVR watcher of Red Eye and The Five.