Thursday, May 1, 2014

Five reasons to be optimistic about the Cooperative Program

Ah, pity the poor Cooperative Program. It has been around so long and has accumulated so many scars that from reading about it, one might wonder why it isn't dead and buried.

What we need here, brethren, is a little optimism about the Cooperative Program. I'm happy to offer five reasons for being optimistic about the Cooperative Program.

1. The Cooperative Program is still the flagship, signature denominational financial support plan.

It has been such for 89 years. It is today. It will be tomorrow. There is nothing on the horizon that will change this. Think of it this way. The CP withstood the most severe denominational schism/conflict in our history and is still supported by virtually every Southern Baptist Church. The Cooperative Program will provide this year in the neighborhood of a half billion dollars to mission work at the state convention and SBC levels. The CP is not dead.It is not terminally ill. It is not on life support. It's future is assured for as far as we can see. Perhaps we can be realistic without all the dead and dying drama.

2. Many state conventions have responded to their constituencies by increasing the portion of CP giving that goes to the SBC level entities.

Allow me a bit of license here, brethren, to count it positive that less CP funds will be kept within some state conventions. That state conventions have recognized their churches as desiring a greater level of support for the seminaries, NAMB, and IMB is positive. I'd judge this to be a slight positive movement but let's take what we can here in the way of positive news.

3. The decline in the CP percentage of church offering plate dollars is greatly slowed and perhaps stopped.

At 5.4% the CP is not near the double digits it was thirty years ago but the last few years have been mostly flat. My guess is that most SBC leaders would secretly make a deal with churches to maintain a 5% threshold level of CP giving if that were possible and forget about increases.

4. Frank Page's One Percent Plan has had a positive response.

Frank Page called for churches to increase their CP percentage by a single percentage point - from two to three, six to seven, nine to ten. Wherever the church is in regard to CP giving, just do a little better. Many churches have responded positively to this. One should understand exactly what this CP increase is - a simple call by a denominational leader for more money, and that without any change or promises of change. The success of this plan, I judge as a measure of Frank Page's street cred among SBCers and the attitude of churches that the CP whatever its flaws is a good thing.

5. The Cooperative Program is still held in high regard among almost all Southern Baptist pastors.

Now, it is difficult to get the truth from the brethren sometimes and surveys that seek to assess attitudes toward the CP are far too simplistic and seldom drill down to find the more useful truths, but the CP still scores highly among SBC pastors. This is positive and reflects the value of having a combined giving system. Experienced pastors with a modicum of knowledge about our system recognize that the SBC as we know it is unthinkable apart from the CP.

So, we might offer one of these positive points when discussing the Cooperative Program.

Coming next week...reasons to be pessimistic about the Cooperative Program. This coin has two sides.


Anonymous said...

In theory the CP is good and honorable but bloated salaries and wasteful spending by those who receive the money negate all of that. If people would clean up their acts then people wouldn't mind funding it. Guess the beggars got too choosy--or rather too rich. We only have ourselves to blame for the demise of the CP.

Anonymous said...

"1. The Cooperative Program is still the flagship, signature denominational financial support plan."

There are two funding philosophies operative under the moniker CP:

1: CP
2: GCG

The good news: both are funding Christian work.

The bad news: The non-cooperative nature of GCG makes planning and integration more difficult.

William Thornton said...

In a sense but churches still report their Cooperative Program giving separately. Few SBC churches haven't practiced what falls under Great Commission Giving. The question is, has defining a new reporting category led to increased GCG and lowered CP gifts?

I have seen no evidence that it has.

There is nothing in GCT that differs from longstanding societal practice of churches (Lottie Moon, Annie Armstrong, etc.)other than the fact that it now has a reporting category.

dr. james willingham said...

Five reasons to be optimistic? How about 500 reasons to be pessimistic? I am being a little satirical. Well, not a little. The reason I so say is that we are paying so little attention to the reality of our society, like the folks on the Titanic< having hit an iceberg And it is in the process of beginning to sink. In fact, we seem to be past the point of no return, no recovery, no passing ship ready to rescue us from a great catastrophe.

Perhaps, it might seem farcical on my part to speak in this manner, but consider how we have lost 55,000,000 of our youngest and best hope for a future, the aborted multitudes who have been replaced with people with little or not stake in keeping this society or country going - except for money. And what shall I say about the future coming at us, a future that will make the past work, Future Shock, seem like child's play. About 30 years ago I figured out that we had tried to go to the stars in the early 50s. A person who taught interrogation techniques to intelligence people told me that they tried, but something went wrong. Now we have on the internet, a Mexican Physicist, who might have well figured out in 1994 how to go to the stars faster than the speed of light. He wrote his theory in 94, but before he wrote it, the head of the Skunk Works of Lockheed, Ben Rich, told the graduating class of UCLA in '93 that "we already have the means to go to the stars." Really? Put that with my thinking concerning the early 50s, and the fact that another fellow intelligence said it was the early 40s and that the problem was that they did not know there was a gravity warp between the earth and the moon.

We pay very little attention to ideas, and yet we deal with the most ideological book known to mankind, the Bible, the intellectual depth of which has not and never will be fully plumbed or fathomed. Pshaw! We don't even know how in the world Baptists really set the pace for everyone else in religious liberty and did it with a Sovereign Grace theology or Calvinism as some mistakenly are wont to call it. However, I will cease by quoting Dr. George W. Truett, who declared at the Spurgeon Centennial in London where he was introduced by the Prime Minister of the British Empire, "Calvinism pressed down on the brow of man the crown of responsibility."