Friday, September 14, 2012

Luter to check Cooperative Program giving for potential appointees


I like Fred Luter our current SBC president (BP photo above). In the customary seminary tour that all SBC presidents take, he spoke of a number of goals.

Baptist Press story:Luter outlines goals during seminary visit

Luter is asking all churches to increase their CP giving by 1 percentage point of their budget.

"You'd be amazed at the number of missionaries we can put on the field, the number of churches we can plant, and the number of students we can train if all of our churches give just 1 more percent to the C.P."

Luter said he also will consider Cooperative Program giving when making appointments.

"You've got to be able to give," he said. "Don't just have your hands out saying, 'What can I get from the association?' We're asking you to give a percentage of your tithes and offerings to the convention, your local associations and your state convention."
The red is mine.

It has been six years or so since the latest in a series of high profile, blue ribbon Cooperative Program study committees shrank back from actually suggesting that SBC leaders come from churches with good Cooperative Program giving records. They originally suggested ten percent, a figure long in the SBC's past, but were (dare I say) bullied out of it.

The average percentage of undesignated church giving that is given to the Cooperative Program used to be over ten percent. It is now under six percent and headed southward.

Someone with some influence has to make an attempt to persuade SBCers of a floor for this, a threshold percentage, below which an individual would not be considered for major SBC office or appointment.

What is the threshold figure? Five percent sounds good to me. That is more than almost all of the megachurches give to the CP. Ten percent would disqualify almost all trustees and leaders. Five is fine and that is five percent to the CP, not five percent combined CP plus the mission offerings and direct gifts.

Seems to me that if state conventions receive three percent (they keep something above 60% of all CP receipts and forward less than half to the mission boards and other SBC entities) of all church undesignated dollars, that is a pretty good sum to have to spend - probably too much.

So, Fred, in addition to asking for the one percent increase that Frank Page has been promoting, think about a floor percentage for all appointees.

Let the megas complain when told, "Sorry, brother, I cannot appoint any of your members. You just don't give enough to the Cooperative Program."

That would be a red letter day indeed.

Sure, this is all persuasion and would take a lot of guts. I doubt Fred will take my suggestion but at some point we have to fall out of love with leaders who give paltry sums to our grand denominational giving program. [Yeah, I voted for Bryant Wright who was under the five percent...]

I'm with you, Fred, one thousand percent with you - check it, check it closely.


Tom Parker said...


How did we ever get to the point that SBC leaders and especially SB Presidents could be elected to any positions when their churches gave almost nothing to the CP program?

Anonymous said...

SBCers have finally realized that it is time to pay the piper for their 'any means necessary' strategy. Turns out that 'dollars not percentages' does not reflect wisdom or a sustainable practice for ensuring institutional effectiveness, even if it does allow for more self-serving behavior. I hope Luter gets the 1% increase; the world will benefit if he does. If he does not get the 1% the SBC will benefit if he honors his commitment.

William Thornton said...

Tom, we got there because it was felt that the conservative resurgence was more important than high CP giving; hence, the election of almost any and every megachurch pastor, starting with Adrian Rogers, whose CP percentages were down in the single digits.

That was then. This is now. There must be some threshold level of CP giving. I suggest 5% but would be open to being persuaded that a higher or lower number is acceptable.

SBC leaders, seems to me, must outline some percentage below which leadership/trustee positions are not availalbe.

IOW, we have to reinstitute an informal incentive for some minimum level of CP giving. As it is, there is not one.

John Wylie said...

I think that the key word is "elected". Certainly any president has the prerogative of a litmus test percentage for any potential appointee that they might put into place. And certainly any candidate that is nominated for office in the SBC should be transparent about their CP giving. However, ultimately the voters of the SBC are capable of making the decision for themselves without such a percentage requirement.

William Thornton said...

John, there can never be a "requirement" but there can be an informal threshold instituted by voting messengers. so far, the only low % nominee ever rejected was Ronnie Floyd who was under 1% when nominated.

I have written that the SBC seems to have an insatiable appetite for mega church pastors for SBC president, regardless of their low %.

If we want the CP to level out and stop falling, we must find a way to incentivize churches to give generously. An informal minimum could be one component to this.

Anonymous said...

“conservative resurgence was more important than high CP giving”

And thus the new SBC was founded on an assumption that is deeply embedded in its culture and in time and to give credence to increasingly non-cooperative behavior, the SBC sanctioned Great Commission Giving, and as we have seen it is insufficient for sustaining the programs and goals of the institution. The conservative resurgence was fueled by inerrancy, a term that the SBC will not place in BFM (but will offer labored arguments to talk around the question), and criticisms of women ministers and deacons, which are now being questioned by some influential conservative congregations. The theological issues are waning in importance, except among a few, and the ability to sustain their increasingly decreasing significance is suffering, too.

Luter will not likely get his 1%, for it is counter-cultural to current SBC, and if he wants a second term, he will not likely let that influence his choices for leadership. I hope I am wrong. There is a precedent. Jim Henry surprised a few people. And then we never heard from him again.

Some people do not like to talk about the conservative resurgence, thinking that it is done. A big mistake, given that it still directs the functioning of the institution. There is no other vision for SBC, and in the absence of one that is more compelling, a lot more time will be needed to undue its hold on SBC. Words like “that was then and this is now” do not work for they only touch the surface behavior of the organization; they do not at all touch what drives the organization.

John Wylie said...

Anon 10:38,

Well I think you're wrong. First, I think Dr. Luter will succeed. Second, the CR saved the convention, and maybe we need to change a few things, every denomination could stand to do that.

Anonymous said...

"Second, the CR saved the convention"

Yes, that is essentially what Stanley said was being done. And what he said has yet to materialize.

Anonymous said...

"maybe we need to change a few things"

Well, yeah, of course. The question is, "can we?"

Tom Parker said...

John Wylie:

May I ask you why it is acceptable to elect Southern Baptist presidents when the churches they pastor give little or nothing to the CP?

If something does not happen in a positive way in the SBC with the CP program a financial disaster is going to occur.

Whose fault will it be when missionaries for the United States and other countries are told there is no money for them to serve as missionaries?

This issue with low CP giving has gone on for years but this must change and why not let it start with the leaders of the SBC supporting not only in word but deed.

John Wylie said...


Sorry it's taken me all day, I just got home a little bit ago. I think you ask a very good question and my answer is simply this, the messengers have every right to nominate and elect anyone they choose.

Now do I personally think that a man being nominated for president or vice president who pastors a church that gives less than 1% to the CP is an asinine proposition? Absolutely. But do I believe that there ought to be a a set policy in place that curtails the choice of the messengers? Absolutely not.

Ultimately I think two things are necessary to remedy this problem. 1.) Realize that the individual pastor is more of a catalyst for change in the SBC than any president is and so it the rank and file pastor who is going to have to lead his respective church to give more. 2.) The SBC is going to have to get over its love affair with super star Mega church pastors. Can you imagine if we treated our foreign missionaries with the kind of respect we do the big wig Mega church pastors?

Tom Parker said...


Thanks for the kind and reasoned response.

You said:"Can you imagine if we treated our foreign missionaries with the kind of respect we do the big wig Mega church pastors?"

It is a shame that they do not get the respect they deserve.

Lee said...

There is no way that the mega churches which dominate SBC denominational politics today will ever allow a "floor" percentage for CP giving as a qualification for having church members nominated to serve, at least, not officially. The SBC will have to keep electing Presidents like Fred Luter, who will investigate and make his own nominations based on a giving standard in order for that to happen.

Jonathan said...

I applaud Luter for having sufficient bravado (naivete?) to make such a suggestion. There are far too many mega brethren who are incentivized by the current "no floor" standard of CP giving. These are same folks who will stand behind Luter as he makes his argument, smiling the warm, thoughtful, Southern smile and nodding their heads as if in agreement while knowing that they are already 3 steps ahead of Luter on this ("We love this man...and anyway, he can only be president for 2 years...we can wait").

Don't forget that the dust is just now settling on the GCR episode (that was, in reality, an attempt to normalize what the megas have already been doing), I don't see the appetite by the big names in the SBC to revisit such a committee.

But, again, a tip of the hat to Luter for making the case that none of his conservative predecessor have made.