An Important Issue for the GCR Task Force: More Dollars for International Missions

As our readers should now be aware, following a decisive vote at the annual Convention meeting, SBC president Johnny Hunt has appointed a Great Commission Task force to study how Southern Baptists can work “more faithfully and effectively together in serving Christ through the Great Commission.” That task force will begin meeting next month.

Of the number of particular issues that can be subsumed under such a study, one is of great interest and importance to me. While it is up to individual churches to put into practice many of the axioms in the GCR document, this issue addresses a collective problem – namely the stewardship of Cooperative program resources. Specifically, many people, myself included, believe that not enough of our cooperative program dollar makes it to the foreign mission field.

The issue is plain enough on the surface: More money is needed for international missions. Many unreached and unengaged peoples remain who need the light of the gospel. More laborers to help bring in the harvest among receptive peoples. At the same time, the need and missionaries willing to fill that need nearly always exceeds available resources. In a bad economy, financial resources become tight and difficult decisions must be made – missionaries are not appointed, short-termers whose time expires are not reassigned, whole people groups and locations continue to be left without a gospel witness. Even in a good economy, we are not able to fund all that we could or would like. Yet, in the midst of this great need, our beloved Cooperative program sees little of the overall pie actually being used to fund international missions.

Of course, the issues are not as cut and dry as I and others would like to make them. Just saying we need more money for international missions does not answer the question of where that money should come from. Many of the good things we do now with CP money may not get done if the money is redistributed to international missions. Every possible solution –changing the CP distribution on the national level, increasing the percentage forwarded from the states, reeducating churches to increase CP giving, restructuring entities for greater efficiency, eliminating redundancy and duplication among the entities, etc. – is wrought with significant implications, will have real consequences for the parties involved, and is sure to be resisted by some of those affected by the change. While such changes may be needed, they should not be undertaken without much prayer, careful consideration, and an honest assessment of the consequences of such decisions.

My hope and expectation is that the GCR task force will take up this issue. I pray that the Lord will give the committee and its members godly wisdom as they consider how to best cooperate together in Great Commission work and as they weigh the various issues and implications accompanying whatever proposal they bring forth. I pray they will come up with a solution that reflects the priority of taking the gospel to the nations.

In the end, I do think a change is needed. I do believe that international missions ought to take a higher priority than it does now and such priority ought to be reflected in our financial stewardship as a denomination. I am thankful that we have a Great Commission task force that will include this issue in their deliberations. I do not envy them for the task they to which they have been entrusted, but I am thankful for their willingness to serve. As they meet, I will commit to lifting them up in prayer with the hope and expectation that God will use them as we together seek a more faithful and effective partnership in Great Commission work.

Comments

  1. says

    I’ve been disappointed at the apparent lack of outrage by the SBC over the IMB cuts. I don’t see much being written on the blogs but the truth is….the cuts this year are substantial. I know people serving all over the place that are being denied extensions….they already have the language and the cultural understanding….and others that are sitting in a holding pattern, approved, ready to-go that are being delayed 6-9 months. All because giving is down.

    I’m hopeful that the GCR committee will come up with some ideas on their end…but the sad truth is that the autonomous SBC churches don’t seem bothered by it and they’re the ones that can make the biggest changes.
    .-= Grady Bauer´s last blog ..Do we over complicate the “calling?” =-.

    • says

      Grady,

      On what are you basing your analysis? How do you know whether churches are concerned or whether or not they are doing anything about it? How do you know whether the number of churches doing something about it is or even “seems” to be few? That may be your gut feeling, but is it based on any objective data?

      I think it’s a bit too early to say that no one is doing anything about the problem. I believe Southern Baptists will rise to the challenge and make up the shortfall. Let’s give churches time to take action and see what happens when the IMB trustees meet in a couple of months.
      _____

      As for my post:
      There are a number of factors involved in the IMB shortfall. I have only addressed one here: CP stewardship. I trust the task force will look at this issue.

      As far as us putting all our eggs in the GCR basket, I agree if you are referring specifically to the Great Commission Task force. The task force is needed and will be a big piece of a resurgence in our denomination. The Great Commission Resurgence, however, is far bigger than the task force. It is a commitment by Baptists to refocus on the Great Commission. The GCR document includes 10 axioms not just #9. The task force will focus on what we do collectively. We must also focus on ourselves as individuals and local churches.

      Blessings,
      Todd

      • says

        Todd,
        Thanks for the dialogue. I have no hard data to support my opinion. I do however know that typically we are a denomination that makes our opinions known. Normally when something ruffles our feather it’s all over the press, on our blogs and heard from our big voices. Where is this with the IMB cuts? As one on the field…looking at the results of the cuts…we’re not hearing anything. We’re not hearing that people are outraged and that change is coming.

        I think the GCR is great, but we can’t expect a bureaucracy to lead us into change…we as churches as those in the SBC have to want to change. The GCR can reshape the organization to be more efficient and productive with less resources but they cannot change the heart of individual churches.
        Grady
        .-= Grady Bauer´s last blog ..Do we over complicate the “calling?” =-.

        • says

          Last time there was a shortfall, the churches did in fact rally support for missions. I believe you will see that happen again. I can only commit for myself and my church, but I know of many other individuals and churches that are concerned and taking steps to make up the shortfall.

          The economy has hit us hard on every level. Nearly every church, association, and convention has experienced a decline in funding. Many families are making sacrifices just to make ends meet. Still, I know that God will provide and I believe Baptists will make the sacrifice to make His Name known among the nations.

          Blessings,
          Todd
          ____

          And God is able to make every grace overflow to you, so that in every way, always having everything you need, you may excel in every good work. As it is written:
          He has scattered;
          He has given to the poor;
          His righteousness endures forever.
          Now the One who provides seed for the sower and bread for food will provide and multiply your seed and increase the harvest of your righteousness, as you are enriched in every way for all generosity, which produces thanksgiving to God through us.

          2 Cor 9:8-11 (HCSB)

  2. says

    Grady, I don’t mean to take out a little frustration on you, but alot of folks are blaming the churches for a drop in giving, saying in effect, that we don’t care about the lost billions of people outside tiny Osprey, FL.

    We are bothered by the cuts. But in our church we have cut everything because of the downturn in giving, but we haven’t cut our percentage (10%) to the CP. But it’s 10% of a 15% drop in giving. We’re not giving less because we don’t want to give. We have less to give. Now if the task force can do something about that, I will be thankful.

    What they might do is to develop a leaner, meaner SBC, where we use the dollars given to effectively do what God has called us to do as a denomination without the duplication on the local, state and national levels. And that is something they can begin to work on.
    .-= Tom Bryant´s last blog ..Guilty Pleasures: Top Chef Masters =-.

    • says

      A shortage of funds is often an invitation to review our priorities. While some churches will make across the board cuts, others will find that we need to cut some less important things in order to focus on what is more important. I hope churches will see missions as a priority for which to make sacrifices elsewhere.

  3. says

    Things like this make me wonder how far we have missed the mark when our missions, etc. are so damaged because of the American Economy. Maybe, I will write a post.

  4. says

    Tom,
    Please excuse me for implying that SB churches do not care….I should have worded it as “it appears that many SB churches don’t seem bothered by it.” I know there are some that are bothered…and some like yours who refuse to cut their giving to missions (thanks BTW).

    The sad truth is that the convention came and went with very little being done about it. There are some churches out there doing special Christmas in August offerings including Dr. Hunt’s church….but they same to be few.

    The point I want to make is that I don’t think we should put all of our eggs in the GCR basket. Those in local church leadership positions should hold their local and state associations accountable for the CP money they’re eating up. And I would challenge them that if they don’t agree with the usage…speak out or bypass them. I know alot of churches give to CP…but so much is being eaten up along with way. I think churches should be driving the changes with their voices and money and the GCR can do their part to change things from the top down.
    .-= Grady Bauer´s last blog ..Do we over complicate the “calling?” =-.

    • says

      I am sorry that you were an unintended target for the frustration that has been building when I hear from leaders of churches who give 2% of undesignated funds to the CP how I ought to take up a special offering so that we can give more.

      I agree that we may be expecting the GCR to do what we won’t willingly do ourselves.

      From my pov, most associations are just giant sponges soaking up money and wasting effort… well, at least mine is.

      Again, sorry for taking it out on you.
      .-= Tom Bryant´s last blog ..Guilty Pleasures: Top Chef Masters =-.

  5. says

    Perhaps when pondering shrinking CP giving the GCR committee should seriously consider removing the unnecessary barriers to cooperation within the SBC Family that have been needlessly erected by NAMB, the IMB, and the State Conventions of Florida and Missouri. (Others could probably be added to this growing list)

    I know of Southern Baptist churches that have reduced, and even fully stopped, their giving to the CP because of these new and absolutely needless policies within the SBC Family.

    Can we honestly ask churches to support the CP while at the same time we are telling them that they, and their members, are not fully welcome in the SBC?

    Has anyone even thought to survey/contact these Southern Baptist churches that have reduced or eliminated their given to the CP to discover the actual reason for this reduction and to determine the true cost of these discriminatory policies? Perhaps the damage has already been done and nothing we now do will make any difference with these churches… or, as Grady said, perhaps we just don’t care?

    I learned very early on in life that decisions have consequences… and the consequences of these decisions has been that these Southern Baptist Churches have (for all practical purposes) been forced out of the convention, and forced to cooperate with others in order to do missions.

    Grace Always,
    .-= Greg Alford´s last blog ..Have Southern Baptist invaded the UK? =-.

  6. says

    The hardest part of all of this is to get to the heart of why giving has slowed. Yes, I know the economy is bad. I’ve wondered just how many see the church offering as just another bill. Or how much lifestyles of spending have actually changed.

    I think about all this not only in light of today’s financial difficulties, but in light of what my wife and I went through two years ago. We went through Ramsey’s course which helped us re-structure our spending, budget, discipline ourselves from excess spending and get out of debt. I know we weren’t alone in our class. We aren’t much different than the world in regards to our finances here in America. Sadly.

    Sorry for the rant.
    .-= Mark Lamprecht´s last blog ..Southern Baptist Disclosure and Unity =-.

    • says

      I think it is fair to acknowledge the slow but steady decline in CP giving. There are certainly numerous factors which contribute to that fact. I think the decline in CP giving is at least in part due to a lack of perceived stewardship of such funds and the fact that so little makes it to the mission field. The drastic reduction this year reflected in both CP and Lottie Moon receipts is certainly due in large part to the ecomomy. Thus, we are feeling the pinch in a big way this year.

      In my post, however, I noted that the need for a greater percentage of CP funds to be channeled to international missions exists in a good or bad economy. God is sovereign and in control of the economic forces around the world and there is little I can do about them as one person. I am accountable, however, for how I use whatever resources I am given for the glory of God. Good stewardship is always a need whether we are speaking of families, churches or as a denomination and whatever our economic circumstance .

  7. says

    I think a good indicator of how things are going to play out for the IMB in the future is this year’s Lottie Moon offering total. A healthy total could indicate that our churches are beginning to respond to the GCR in a positive way. The LMCO can give the IMB a substantial boost in funding if our churches are faithful and aware in giving to SBC international missions. But this is only a temporary stop-loss. What we need is for individual churches to up their giving in all areas and for a more responsible denominational structure on state and national levels
    .-= Brian M.´s last blog ..What the Gospel Demands =-.

  8. says

    I fully believe that if all of us, individuals, churches, associations, were good stewards we could get the work that needs to be done completed to the glory of God. I pray that we should remember that we’re not given resources to store them up for ourselves but to use them for God’s glory as effectively as possible.
    .-= Joe Blackmon´s last blog ..Matthew 6:25 Don’t Worry, Be Happy =-.

  9. says

    What will help is that our church (the one where we are members) and some other churches in the SBC are seeking right now to make up for the short fall in offerings for the IMB which has a large number of missionary volunteers ready to go to the field as regular missionaries, but are unable to do so due to the shortages. I think our pastors and elders have set a goal ofa $100,000. If our church and the others succeed then the missionaries ready to go can go. That will surely help the GCR Task Force by way of inspiraton. Maybe it will also speak to other SBC churches, too. God grant that it shall is my payer. After all, this is step toward a Thi Great Awakening.
    .-= Dr. James Willingham´s last blog ..The Climax of the Reformation =-.

  10. Rick Patrick says

    Friends,
    Perhaps a major part of the decline in CP giving can be attributed to the “consolidation” of Southern Baptists through membership transfers away from traditional neighborhood churches toward suburban megachurches. When John and Mary Baptist move their membership from a church giving 10% to the CP to a church giving 2% to the CP, the missionaries suffer an invisible reduction in funding even though John and Mary are still tithing as faithfully as ever. If the growing churches receiving members give less than the declining churches sending members we are certain to fall short.

  11. says

    A big part of the problem why giving is declining is that there are no jobs. E.g., the textile and furniture jobs here in NC were shipped South of the Border or overseas. Even so they did not need the workers here or where they sent the jobs. In 90-91 I wrote an evaluation of jobs in the future for the vocational director of a country school system based on materials she had secured at a conference. What the materals showed was that there would be no jobs in the future due to 3 reasons, namely, computerization, automation, and robotics. Around 2000 I read a book written by a fellow with a Ph.D. in Politial Science from UNC-CH. He cited a fictional work written in 1906 discussing treaties in the 1990s that would export jobs from America., nafta before nafta. But then I read another source where a man in a letter written in 1878 mentioned World War I & II in the next century. An soe people today want o reduce the worlds pop. by 5.5billion. Hmmm! But there is more. However, I forbear. Too much reality can b overwhelming.
    .-= Dr. James Willingham´s last blog ..The Climax of the Reformation =-.

  12. says

    The overall amount of giving is a side issue for me at this point. More important to me at this point is how much of the overall pie is spent on international missions. As far as the amount is concerned, I believe there would be a renewed commitment to CP, even by megachurches, if a more significan percentage of CP dollars were spent on international missions efforts.

  13. says

    Rick, what you said does make sense. I wonder just how wide spread that may be though.

    Dr. Willingham, while that too is true to an extent Christians also have to stop living like the world i.e. above their means. How much “stuff” do we need that we can’t afford? It’s ridiculous.
    .-= Mark Lamprecht´s last blog ..Book Review: Religion Saves By Mark Driscoll =-.

  14. says

    I am afraid the Christians will not have much of a choice about not living like the world as it is likely being forced upon them by those determined to take advantage of the need of no workers and who will get rid of the excess pop. by what ever means necessary. What we are bsically doing is giving up our necessary involvement in the world (we are “in the world” but “not of it”) and letting the others run it – a disaster for all concerned. Although even believers can and do make messes, too. There is a complexity to our situation in this life which requires us to be as subtle (wise) as a serpent and at the same time as harmless as doves. No easy task.
    .-= Dr. James Willingham´s last blog ..The Climax of the Reformation =-.

  15. says

    Money is one reason I don’t agree with IMB and NAMB being joined together under one roof. They have different issues to deal with. I think in both cases more money is needed but we will have a serious problem of both entities being short-changed if we no longer separate their functions.

    Sallie
    .-= Sallie´s last blog ..Military kids with autism need your help!! =-.

  16. says

    Todd, I appreciate your heart and your understanding of this as a very complex issue. I am so pleased to see so many thinking and praying about how God would have us to proceed. I agree wholeheartedly that we need to be keeping the Geat Commission Task Force in our prayers as they begin their work later this month. I know that I don’t have the answers myself but I am confident that God will direct if we keep our focus turned on Him.

    I think a couple of hinge points in the discussion are individuals’ definition of missions and their perceptions about what the role of the Cooperative Program should be. I talk about this in a post on the Great Commission Kentucky blog if you or any of your readers would like to check it out at: http://www.greatcommissionkentucky.com/2009/08/what-is-your-definition-of-missions/
    .-= Robert Reeves´s last blog ..What is Your Definition of Missions? =-.

  17. EK says

    I am a little bothered with two issues within this conversation. First, that CP designation or structure should become “leaner” meaning, less fluff. I am all for this but. . .currently is it not simply a reflection of our churches. Have our churches gotten leaner? I am not talking about leaner due to the economy but leaner in philosophy and practice. We talk about the death of the church growth movement yet many churches operate under the old principles– build more building, add more staff, increase programs: spend, spend, spend and they will come. If we want our State Conventions and CP designations to be lean, it must start with the Church. There were many comments here that said that churches were having to cut back. Until we are willingly and intentionally sacrificing our facilities, paid professional staff, events, focuses, etc., I don’t believe we are really cutting back. The second issue I have within this conversation is how we quickly pat ourselves on the backs. We are proud that during economic hard times, we are still giving 10% or more to CP. When did this become the standard of missional giving? We preachers talk about how we can tell where a person’s heart is by looking at their checkbook. Is this not true for the church as well? So, look at the checkbook. We say we are on mission but does the money back that up? We can continue to do church they way we do and continue to watch our culture become more and more unchurched. When will we wake up?