I attended our South Carolina Baptist Convention Annual Meeting in Columbia last week with a good pastor friend of mine. I enjoy annual meetings such as these. I have always made an attempt to attend these meetings and involve myself in the business of the state convention of which the church that I pastor is a contributing member. These annual meetings are times of fellowship, encouraging worship, challenging messages, reports from the agencies and entities owned by the state, and times for various business items to be handled.
As I look back on Columbia this year, I do so with mixed emotion. On one hand it was an enjoyable positive experience. I had the opportunity to represent my church as a messenger and participate in the voting process. Opportunities presented themselves for me to meet new people and form new relationships. Being new to the SCBC, this was important. I was personally encouraged by the messages I heard during the annual meeting and the pastor’s conference. Mike Stone, Ed Stetzer, James Merritt, and Ken Whitten and others personally touched my heart. I had been previously asked and was elected to serve on of the convention committees over the next three years. I am looking forward to this opportunity. I was also encouraged by a motion from the floor that called for the convention president to create a South Carolina Great Commission Resurgence Task Force whose purpose is to respond to the recommendations contained in the SBC GCR Task Force that were adopted back in June and bring their report to the messengers in Columbia next year. Anytime we can begin seriously focusing on how to better accomplish the Great Commission it is a positive step. Outgoing president Dr. Fred Stone has named this 35 person task force. You can read their names here.
On the other hand, it was a puzzling experience. To be honest, I don’t know any other way to say it than that. I was left scratching my head at times in disbelief. To put it plainly, there was a spirit of fear present during the meeting this year. As the budget was being discussed, this spirit of fear is something that could be felt. It is hard to explain, but can be characterized by statements like these, “let’s wait and see”, “what will happen if?” “we just don’t know”, “let’s make sure first”, and “how do we know what will happen?” To me, two motions demonstrate this.
First, under the 2010 SCBC operating budget, 40.44% of receipts are forwarded to the SBC. The proposed 2011 budget calls for 41% to be forwarded to the SBC. A motion was made to amend the proposed budget to freeze the SBC contribution at 40.44%. The argument was put forth that there was no way of knowing what kind of changes may be recommended or what revenue may look like. So, we should just wait before changing our percentage giving to the SBC. Unsaid was that while we wait, the nations wait. Thankfully this amendment failed.
Second, a motion was made that all receipts in excess of the 2011 budget be kept in state and divided among the seven state institutions, agencies, and schools. Again, the argument was put forth that the funding was desperately needed in the state due to the work that was going on here. I don’t doubt there is good work happening across the state of South Carolina. To ask that any extra, above and beyond what is necessary, be retained in the state and divided among the agencies who already, by percentage, receive budgeted funds is a mistake and a missed opportunity. A missed opportunity to send this surplus to the mission’s agencies whose sole source of funding comes from the gifts of the churches. Again, the nations will have to wait.
In my opinion, the upcoming year is going to be a crucial one for our state. As the task force meets to being their discussion over the recommendation the SBC has adopted and plan for the effects as the state level, a great deal is at stake. We could see a call for major changes or no changes at all. Will our state convention continue on the path of retaining large portions of the CP dollars from the member churches? Will there be a shift to move toward an even distribution of CP monies? I don’t know. I am praying for the latter. I don’t know how many more years we are Southern Baptists can absorb the number of missionaries having to leave the field due to lack of funding. I don’t know how long we can absorb the shrinking number of missionaries while the number of those without Jesus Christ continues to rise. I do know one thing. I left Columbia convicted because I did not stand and voice my opinion and feelings on these crucial matters. That will be the last time that I walk away wishing I had said something.