Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Millions in additional Cooperative Program giving promoted: Southern states to suck up almost all of it.

One of the primary objectives of the Great Commission Advance is to address the decline in Cooperative Program giving over the past two decades.
Frank Page, our Executive Committee chairman and day-to-day SBC leader, rightly has a concern for the long slow slide downward of our venerable Cooperative Program. In the past three decades or so churches have almost cut in half the percentage of their offering plate dollars that they give through the CP. We were at 10.7% in 1982 and are around 5.4% now.

State conventions promote, collect and forward CP monies to the Executive Committee but the most visible promoter among SBC pastors and churches is Frank Page. His "1% CP Challenge" program over the last several years has had some success. The CP slide even stopped for one year before continuing.

So, here's the new iteration of the CP promotion from the Executive Committee:

Page to Announce "Great Commission Advance"

The plan is to sing another verse, same as the first: Let's convince the churches to give more.

To his credit, Page has decreased the Executive Committee's allocation. He cut his budget a few years ago so that the International Mission Board would receive more. He is cutting it again so that the mission boards and seminaries will get tiny fractions in additional allocations. He, alone among SBC leaders, shows a genuine and material commitment to reaching the vast numbers of lost people in America and the world.

Quickly: who else in the SBC is cutting their budget voluntarily? No one. Not the seminaries. Not the ERLC. Not the state conventions. Give Frank Page a trophy. He can promote the CP from a standpoint of genuine commitment and sacrifice. Not many can do that.

His hands are tied, though, in that he has to promote the CP that we have and what we have is a sclerotic, legacy program where state conventions take most of the money, where the seminaries will take their considerable slice, and the mission boards are left with the rest. If we really wanted a Great Commission advance, we would start with the state convention split and then move to the SBC allocation formula and end up with NAMB and IMB getting more than the 29 cents of the CP dollar dropped into the church offering plate.

Will the Great Commission advance if Southern Baptists realize that less than thirty cents of each CP dollar actually ends up at our two mission boards? I rather think not at least not at our hands.

We are stuck with a legacy giving plan that fails to recognize 21st Century realities. We would like to advance the Great Commission and are perfectly willing to devote a few dimes out of a dollar. Will that do the job?

From the article:
The International Mission Board has estimated that it needs seven thousand missionaries on the field to intitially reach every known unengaged, unreached people group in the world but it currently has less than five thousand. The North American Mission Board has committed to planting fifteen thousand churches in the next ten years. 
I like the motivation but let's consider the reality of the CP. Take all the state conventions on the eastern seaboard, VA and NC, down through the deep south of SC, GA, FL, AL, and MS, and to LA, TX, up through AR, OK, MO, and take in TN and KY. Those are the states where about three-fourths of all SBC churches are located. These states will suck up the majority of any additional CP dollars. Make some sense out of that.

If we wanted a genuine Great Commission advance we would put more dollars into the Great Commission, wouldn't one think?

Here's an idea that is dead-on-arrival at the Executive Committee, at the seminaries, and at each one of the legacy state conventions:

  1. Each of these 17 state conventions would take as their baseline CP total their most recent year. Any giving above the baseline would be split 20% for the state and 80% for the SBC allocation. Adjust the baseline amount for inflation. State conventions in these legacy states with 36,000 of the 46,000 SBC churches continue their work at the present level.
  2. Take the most recent SBC share of the CP as a baseline. Apply the SBC allocation formula to any amounts up to that baseline. Any amount over the baseline receive a new allocation formula: 75% for IMB, 20% for NAMB, 5% for the seminaries, nothing for the EC or ERLC. Adjust the baseline amount for inflation. Seminaries continue at their present level and internally adjust to training additional individuals for our NAMB and IMB missionary forces. They prioritize their spending along these lines and eliminate superfluous programs that bump up the student count for peripheral programs.
This would actually advance the Great Commission because Southern Baptists would know that if they give a material increase in their Cooperative Program gifts, above the baseline amounts, then over three-fourths of each dollar will go to our two mission boards. That, my fellow SBCers, would be an incentive. 

The incentive now employed is this: the CP stakeholders - state conventions, seminaries, and Executive Committee - ask for more money on the same basis as always and just hope that churches and members think the money is for missions where most needed and ignore the fact that state conventions in the legacy southern states will suck up almost all the money.


Anonymous said...

Great Commission Advance sounds to this observer like a restatement of Bold Mission Thrust, which was trampled underfoot by the rush to resurgence in 1979.

Anonymous said...
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Lee said...

If NAMB is committed to planting 15,000 churches over the next decade, they are certainly going about it in an interesting way. The growth in the SBC has been outside of Dixie for several decades now, with the drop in baptisms and total membership largely accounted for in those 17 "legacy" state conventions that you mention. But NAMB pulled a lot of funding that was supporting mission personnel in those states where the membership is growing, and the baptisms are increasing.

My plan would be to cut the state conventions down to an executive director, an administrative assistant and a missions coordinator to work with the NAMB appointees and church planters. Hire a contractor to take care of the finances at a fraction of the current cost, and you're in business.

Anonymous said...

Its time to stick a fork in the SBC. They are done but just don't admit it.

William Thornton said...

Some do wish for the SBC to be done but flat, slightly declining still leaves 46k churches, about a half-billion in CP revenues and well over 10b in total receipts. The 310k baptisms would not be seen as robust but is considerable.

Set that obit aside for a few decades at least.