Track of Cooperative Program Gifts

In yesterday’s post, I made several observations relating to the Baptist Press article on the budget shortfall at the IMB. Due to these shortfalls, there may be delays in some missionaries arriving on the field. One of the observations I made was that I believe it may be necessary to change the percentages of Cooperative Program giving to allow more funds to arrive on the mission field. The Cooperative Program is the Southern Baptist’s unified giving program for funding missions that has been in place since the early 1900’s. The CP is about percentages. The local church designates a percentage of the undesignated receipts to be given to the CP through the state convention. The state convention then designates a percentage (based on messenger vote) to retain in the state and a percentage to forward to the SBC for the mission boards, seminaries, and other entities. It is along these lines of designated percentages that funds make their way to our missionaries.

The South Carolina Baptist Convention retains 59.56% of CP dollars coming from the local church and forwards the other 40.44% to the SBC. It is best to look at this through a real-life example. Let’s say that a church gives $100 to the CP in the state of South Carolina. 59.56% of that $100 stays in the state. This percentage is broken down as follows:

30.4% – South Carolina Baptist Convention Ministries
25.56% – South Carolina Baptist Institutions
2% – Womens Missionary Union
1.6% – Church Staff Retirement Plan

40.44% of that $100 is forwarded to the SBC. The SBC has a consistent distribution plan for all CP dollars that are collected from the state conventions. Here is that plan:

50% – International Mission Board
22.79% – North American Mission Board
22.16% – Six Seminaries
3.4% – SBC Operating Budget
1.65% – Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission

The local church’s gift of $100 at the SBC level amounts to $40.44. The gifts, at their final dispersed amount, look like this: International Mission Board ($20.22), North American Mission Board ($9.21), Six Seminaries ($8.96), SBC Operating Budget ($1.37), Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission (.66).

In my opinion, here in where the answer rests. It is not so much as the amount the church itself sends, it has to do with the amount that the state keeps. Now, I understand that each state, including our state of South Carolina, have ministries and programs the leadership deem important and worthy of Cooperative Program dollars. When it comes to the funding of missionaries where their only source of support comes from the local church, through the state convention, can’t we do better? Again, in my opinion, I believe we will see a recommendation come from the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force in June of 2010 relating to this area of CP percentages. Listed below is what other state conventions retain/send to the SBC as a matter of comparison.

Florida Baptist Convention  (60%,40%)
Georgia Baptist Convention  (58.6%, 41.2%)
Alabama Baptist Convention  (58%,42%)
Mississippi Baptist Convention (66%,34%)
Hawaii Baptist Convention  (69.4%, 30.6%) 
Tennessee Baptist Convention (58%, 42%)
California Baptist Convention (72.1%, 27.9%)

Great Commission Resurgence Task Force

At the SBC Annual Meeting in Louisville of 2009, the messengers voted to establish what has come to be known as the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force. The genesis of this task force was a chapel message shared by Dr. Danny Akin at Southeastern Seminary. He and SBC president Dr. Johnny Hunt worked together to draft the Great Commission Declaration. A motion was made by Dr. Al Mohler for the convention as a whole to respond to this declaration. Subsequently, Dr. Hunt appointed the members to this task force. The purpose of this task force is to study the ways in which the SBC and its entities (seminaries, agencies, boards, etc) can better carry out the Great Commission. They were asked to bring these recommendations to the messengers of the SBC Annual Meeting in June 2010. The make-up of this task force is rather diverse. It is made up of twenty-two members ranging from pastors to (2) seminary presidents (Southeastern and Southern) to state convention executive directors.

The work before this task force is great. They have been charged with taking a hard look at the SBC and determine what can be done that will allow more effectiveness in carrying out the Great Commission. This is harder than it sounds. Here is the problem the task force faces, as I see it. Each SBC entitiy, agency, and seminary make their own decisions and cannnot be directed to change the way they operate or change their structure. Only messengers can direct this type of action. If the task force finds that a particular agency would be more effective by changing its structure, they can only reccommend the change. Their recommendations are non-binding.

Further complicating their work is the recent resignation of the president of the North American Mission Board and the announced retirement of the preseidents of the International Mission Board and the SBC Executive Committee. The leadership of our mission boards will be critical in our continued efforts to fulfill the Great Commission. Effecting significatnt change across the SBC will be alot like stopping a fully loaded freight train. It is no easy task. The SBC has been around for ovr 150 years. There is alot of tradition. There is alot of programming in place. In my opinion, there is duplication of some ministries and programs across national, state, and associational levels that do not make the best use of personnel or Cooperative Program monies. Rumors have circulated as to what the task force will do. A casual reading of state baptist newspapers show these. Some are saying that one of our seminaries will be closed. Some are saying that a merger of the North American Mission Board the International Mission Board will be recommended (big mistake). Others are suggesting that an overhaul of the Cooperative Program will be recommended. I don’t know. The task force chairman (Dr. Ronnie Floyd, Pastor, FBC Springdale, Arkansas) and the SBC president (Dr. Johnny Hun,Pastor, FBC Woodstock, Georgia) have been out front and proactive in putting rumors to rest and sharing the purpose of the task force.

Why is this important? Why does this matter? First, I am a Southern Baptist pastor leading a Southern Baptist church. I believe in the SBC and its commitment to missions, doctrinal integrity, and cooperation. Second, the latest research shows that nearly 89% of all SBC churches are plateaued or declining. It is the right time, as I see it, to take a look and determine if we have put too much focus on programs and structure and not enough focus on people. If it is found that we would be better able to reach people with a restructure or realignment, I am in favor. Third, I believe in the Cooperative Program. The CP is the best vehicle for funding mission work here and around the world. As we give collectively through the CP, we are helping to fund missionaries, train and equip future leaders at our seminaries, and provide resources for church planters to birth churches in places and among people where no church exists. Yes, the work of this task force is important. What this task force recommends and suggests will have an impact on us for years to come. I feel the best days for our SBC are ahead. I am excited to lead our church to do our part in carrying our commission. Pary for this task force.