Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The new SBC president and the Cooperative Program

In less than four months the SBC will be electing a new president. I am planning to attend - God willing, the economy doesn't crash, we don't get hit by an asteroid, and Global Warming doesn't put Baltimore under water. I may or may not have messenger credentials, since I'm a member of a large church that has lots of retired SBC pastors in membership. If I vote, here's how I look at presidential candidates and the Cooperative Program.

I will not vote for a candidate whose church doesn't give at least around 5% of undesignated receipts to the Cooperative Program.

May I be allowed a bit of a fudge factor in this? The CP is important to Southern Baptists. The convention as we know it is unimaginable without the CP and we need leaders who express a sufficient level of support for it. There has to be some threshold percentage that marks a church or individual as actively supportive of that which marks us as cooperative Baptists more than any other indicator. The one-percenters, two-percenters, and certainly the 0.28 percenters need not apply for my vote.

That string of megachurch pastors we elected in the past to the SBC presidency whose churches gave low single digit percentages was important to the Conservative Resurgence but at a cost to the CP. We need to be weaned away from celebrity, megachurch candidates whose churches give token amounts to the CP.

Fred Luter, our current president, is a pastor whose church gives a robust percentage to the CP, above the average that is now between five and six percent. Bryant Wright, our immediate past president, gave under five percent. While I supported my fellow Georgian, it's time to bump up the standard a bit.

Our new giving metric, Great Commission Giving, the combined giving of a church to all SBC causes, is significant but not a substitute for scrutinizing CP giving.

I appreciate those churches that give 10% and above to the CP but am not persuaded that these high percentages show accrued value to the SBC as a whole or demonstrate inherent value in a candidate.

Let's be honest and candid here. Those high percentages given by a church to the CP are more an evidence of how much that church supports their state convention than anything else, since state conventions keep most of the money. One might make the argument that such a church is less supportive of reaching the vast numbers of people in the world than a church that gives less to the CP but more supportive of our two special mission offerings, Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong.

Does anyone believe that funding for the Gospel in West Africa, the Middle East, or South Asia is not more important than the same for Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee? A church that gives a high percentage to the Cooperative Program and a token offering to Lottie and Annie demonstrates either a lack of understanding of lostness in North American and around the world or a deliberate choice to keep money, jobs, and power at home.

The CP percentages have been dropping for decades and SBC giving, always a combination of societal and cooperative, is mostly societal these days anyway, so the arguments for ten percent giving haven't been persuasive to most churches for years and years. We should have a sensible balance here, one that supports cooperative giving but one that doesn't indicate an ignorance of the global status of the Gospel.

There are no announced candidates as of now, at least none that have gotten notice in the SBC hinterlands where I am. We will see who bubbles up. When those names are advanced, we will see percentages affixed to them. In regard to money, I would look at the Cooperative Program percentage first and then other measures.


TOM PARKER said...


You said:"That string of megachurch pastors we elected in the past to the SBC presidency whose churches gave low single digit percentages was important to the Conservative Resurgence but at a cost to the CP."

Why was this so important to the CR? Did not these leaders of these Mega churches send a loud message to other churches that supporting the CP was not really that important and other SBC churches got the clear message and the CP has been declining ever since.

William Thornton said...

No Adrian. Stanley, Smith etc = no CR. They were the drivers.

I don't think it is a simple cause-and-effect but the CR leaders are part of the cause of the CP decline.