Wednesday, January 23, 2013

SBC Pastors love the Cooperative Program...

...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.



Anonymous said...

Just to push your "20 cents on the dollar" observation a little further down the track: Is there any budget information available regarding the monies that do find their way to the IMB? Specifically, what percentage of those funds are actually used to deploy and support personnel on the field, and what percentage goes for the support of the folks (and facilities) in Richmond? I'm sure that info is out there, but a cursory Google search didn't turn anything up.

William Thornton said...

I do not have a figure but from what I know, I don't have an issue with how the IMB allocates their funds.

Anonymous said...

Thanks...and since I don't have the figures at hand, I honestly can't say whether or not I have an issue with the current allocation.

The reason I was wondering is that I think you might be being generous in your estimation that 20 cents on every CP dollar goes to putting and keeping missionaries on the field. If we assume the ratio of 2/3 kept in-state to 1/3 sent to the SBC (of which third the IMB receives a shade over half), then that gives a figure of only 16.5 cents on the dollar. And depending on how many of those sixteen and a half cents get spent in Richmond, the actual figure that is expended on the mission field might be only 15%--or less.

Please understand I'm not trying to pick nits with your math; but I think these are things that need to be factored into our conversation as we talk about how CP monies are spent. Blessings!

William Thornton said...

The 20 cents on the dollar figure I always use as that which ends up at the IMB. It would be too complicated to attempt to break down the IMB budget and categorize expenditures.

Like I said, I have no particular quarrel with how the board spends its millions.