...just not as much as we used to.
That would be the most salient point based on the consistent decline of the percentage of church offering plate dollars that are devoted to the Cooperative Program, from over eleven percent a generation and a half ago to under six percent now.
So, how is it that these periodic opinion surveys have pastors being brimming with enthusiasm about a giving program they support less and less?
I'll offer a wild conjecture in a moment.
SBC Life is the SBC Executive Committee's slick promotional publication that is sent to pastors and churches several times during the year. In a recent SBC Life a new LifeWay Research opinion survey of pastor was featured:
Pastors Value Cooperative Program
The headline was derived from the responses pastors gave to this statement:
The Cooperative Program fuels an aggressive global enterprise of reaching the unreached people groups around the world.
Only seven percent of pastors surveyed disagreed or strongly disagreed with this statement, while eighty-one percent agreed or strongly agreed with it.
So, over four out of five pastors so affirm the CP while at the same time presiding over the long term decline in giving to it? Seems so.
Am I unreasonable to think the research on the CP is somewhat tendentious? I mean, the main goal of denominational entities and executives is to promote the CP and no one has any incentive to be too candid about the long term negative trends. Better to find something positive and go with that.
I assess the main question above as having a number of emotional triggers for SBC pastors. The words and terms "agressive," "global enterprise," reaching," "unreached people groups" all incline towards a positive response in my view; hence, we pastors affirm yet cut.
One statment not presented for response by LifeWay Research, who is nothing if not sensitive to her greater constituencies, is this:
State conventions keep too much of the Cooperative Program revenues for work within their state rather than forwarding it to be used in aggressively reaching unreached people groups around the world.
They will not touch that one but pastors and churches are fueling a movement in many states that has state conventions agreeing to keep less than the roughly two-thirds of the revenues within their own states and send more that would end up at the mission boards and seminaries.
To return to the statement about how the CP "fuels an aggressive global enterprise," my humble view is that any funding program that allocates only about twenty cents on the dollar to international missions where the vast majority of unreached people groups are located cannot be called "aggressive" under any reasonable definition of the term.
There are some interesting results in this most recent survey. More later.