Are We Entering a Post-Cooperative Program Era in SBC Life?

I am a CP guy. My current church gives 12% to missions through the Cooperative Program and that is the smallest percentage of the 4 churches I have been involved in during my 31 years of ministry. A couple of my churches gave in the neighborhood of 20% and my last church was giving near 15% – I believe in the Cooperative Program! I think it is an amazing and genius idea that has enabled us to fund an unparalleled world missions program. I have fought against tendencies to fix our church’s financial problems by cutting missions giving – that is the easy way out, and I am convinced, the wrong way! To twist the old phrase, “I’m CP born and CP bred, and when I die, I’ll be CP dead.”

That is why it pains me to say what I believe:

The Cooperative Program is on the endangered species list. 

When I was a kid, the standard Southern Baptist church had Sunday School, morning worship, Training Union, evening worship, and Wednesday night prayer meeting. Training Union (later called Church Training) was the first to go. Sunday night worship services seem to have largely followed that path. But the linchpin of SBC life since 1925, the funding method that allowed us to become what we have become and do what we have done is almost inexorably following the same course.

Here’s the basic point I would make: The CP depends on Southern Baptists buying into some key premises about giving, missions and our denominational cooperation.

  • We can do more and better missions together than we can do separately.
  • We trust our leaders and our entities to make wise decisions about the use of our money.
  • We are committed to denominational life and cooperation. Our Southern Baptist identity is strong.

I would say that none of these things is very true anymore. Many churches and even some state conventions believe that they can decide better how to spend their missions dollars than the denomination can. They believe that they can do a better job funding missions individually and directly than they can joining together with other churches to support IMB, NAMB and our other works together. And, frankly, there is such a sense of division, of us against them, of anger and competition between disparate groups that cooperation – the sine qua non of the “Cooperative” Program – is becoming less of a reality.

I present the following evidence and perspectives.

1) The increasing phenomenon of designations in giving.

There is nothing wrong with deciding where you missions offerings are going to go. That is your right as an autonomous Southern Baptist church. But when churches and state conventions start the designation process, that is going to destroy the SBC’s CP system.

  • William Thornton wrote an article entitled “New Wrinkle to the Cooperative Program” discussing the decision of South Carolina Baptists to directly allocate $583,000 to the IMB. Again, there is nothing sinful about that, but it is an indication that people are not willing to play within the system.
  • Several pastors issued threats against Midwestern Seminary when its presidential search committee announced its candidate, threats that they were going to designate around the seminary.
  • An increasing number of churches, many frustrated with NAMB or some other entity, are bypassing the CP and giving  directly to the IMB and/or their favorite seminary.

Again, autonomous churches do what autonomous churches do. But if we do not trust the denomination to settle its priorities and make wise decisions with our money, the designation phenomenon will continue to increase. Every time someone designates, it is a small cut to the cooperative missions that we hope to do. None of those cuts is devastating, but enough small cuts will eventually kill the patient!

2) The increasing prevalence of the do-it-yourself spirit.

One of the themes of the “missional” movement has been the idea that it is not enough to simply give to missions, you have to be on mission yourself. Amen! But one of the unintended consequences of that concept has been the tendency of many churches to go with a do-it-yourself approach to missions.

When I was a kid, SBC churches simply did not support missionaries outside of the system (or at least it was very rare). Now, it is a unique church that does not support several local or international missions efforts in addition to whatever they give to the CP.  My church, a strong CP church by just about any rubric, also supports other missionaries and ministries outside the SBC tent. Churches have also begun to fund mission trips throughout the USA and around the world to get their people personally involved in missions.

Where does the money come from to fund these works? The overall percentage of missions giving has not increased in most churches. A lot of these do-it-yourself projects have been funded out of money that once would have been given to the SBC through the CP.

Let me reiterate what I have previously reiterated and will likely reiterate again. Churches are free to make their missions decisions as it pleases them. And the do-it-yourself spirit of missions is a good thing. But if we fund our do-it-yourself missions by reducing our CP giving (and percentages bear out that this may be happening) it is another blow to the health of the CP.

3) Young pastors and younger (hipper?) churches that are invested in denominational life and cooperation are as rare as humble SEC football fans.

Sorry, my sports-related bitterness came out on that one!

There are a lot of good young pastors in SBC-affiliated churches, who are doing a good job and building good churches. But many (I might say most, but I don’t have statistics) of these younger pastors and younger churches have little sense of denominational identity, have little interest in denominational affairs and have almost no commitment to cooperative missions through the CP.

For the 700th time, that is their right, but the SBC cannot survive if our younger pastors work completely outside the structure and system.

  • Go to the website of one of the young, hip churches (I mean that descriptively, not pejoratively) and try to find out if they are affiliated with the SBC. Many church websites hide this denominational relationship like a state secret.
  • Check the giving stats (if any of those kinds of churches even bother to fill out the ACP) of those kinds of churches and their CP giving will often be minimal.
  • Look at the CP statistics of some of the pastors who are now stars in the SBC universe, and you will see a lack of interest in or commitment to the CP.

For the millionth time, that is their right. They are committing no sin.  But if the LEADERS of the SBC do not give to the CP, how are others going to respond?

When this current generation of young pastors with little or no interest in the SBC become the dominant generation, they may do great work, reach many people, build wonderful churches, but unless their attitudes toward cooperation change, there will be no future for the Cooperative Program.

4) Finding megachurches that are heavily invested in the CP is as rare as finding Nebraska Cornhusker fans who are not insanely obsessed about their team. 

Oops! My bitterness leaked through again.  Sorry.

The rise of megachurches (sometimes called the Walmartization of the church) has had many profound effects on the church today. But megachurches tend to be a world unto themselves and are therefore less interested in cooperation with other churches.

A lot of those megachurches have a strong church identity. They have their own way of doing things and they have been effective. They see the struggles of the SBC in recent years. Why, they wonder, should we give to a plateaued or perhaps even declining denomination’s work when we are doing something effective right here? What we are doing is working and what the SBC is doing isn’t.

The “do-it-yourself” spirit is more prevalent in megachurches, because they have the money to do significant work themselves. Our offerings will likely be about 400,000 bucks this year, so our CP gifts will come close to $50,000. What could we do with 50k in missions work? A little. For us, the CP is a greater investment. But if we had a budget measured in the millions, we could support our own missionaries and maintain control and authority within the local church.

It is natural that megachurches would decide to fund their own missions efforts. It is not sinful. But, it is just one more nail in the CP’s coffin.

5) The spirit of distrust and division in the SBC has made cooperation much more difficult. 

Several people on this site in recent years have said in plain language that they do not want to help fund churches that are Calvinistic. This debate has produced great rifts in our fellowship. An us-against-them, good guys vs. bad guys spirit has risen up. People have accused our denominational leaders of top-down power grabs and a redefinition of what it means to be Southern Baptist. Perhaps at the root of much of our angst has been the Traditionalist Southern Baptist way versus the newer attempts at more “culturally relevant” ministry approaches.

I don’t really want to open those old cans of worms and rehash them. But these debates have left many Southern Baptists angry, disillusioned and distrustful of leadership. Who is right and who is wrong? That is not the issue here. My point is that if we continue to allow our differences to drive us into camps, if we do not develop a shared vision of Southern Baptist identity that disparate groups can buy into, we are going to continue to break apart.

In conclusion, let me share the words of an email I received a couple of days ago. His context was a little different, but the principle he gave applies here as well.

Remember the movie …Gladiator…as they were huddled together in the arena waiting for the big doors to open and Russell Crowe said something to this effect, “Whatever comes out of these gates, we have a better chance of survival if we work together.”
This is what I’m beginning to see!
Southern Baptists and our Cooperative Program can only survive if we buy into that concept, that we can only survive (and thrive) if we work together. I am not trying to judge here. I am only observing. But from my observation, the disease that will eventually destroy the Cooperative Program has already infected the SBC. Will we treat it or let it go?
I still believe in the CP. I still believe we can do more and better together than we can do apart. But I am not optimistic that there will be a general buy-in to that principle in the SBC of the future, and I believe that because of this trend, the life and health of the Cooperative Program is severely threatened.

Comments

  1. Dave Miller says

    I am going to issue a $10 fine to anyone who says, “But each church gets to decide for itself what it gives.”

    I reiterated this point several times in this post. My intent is to observe, not to condemn. I am not saying that megachurches are evil or that the do-it-yourself approach is sinful. I am certainly not saying that the CP is the only way to fund missions.

    But it is the way we have done it and it has been remarkably effective. Many of the trends we see today, which I have identified here, are at cross purposes with the CP.

    My point is that I am becoming pessimistic that the CP can long survive the changes that are taking place in our denominational life.

  2. Tommy Ruckter says

    Dave, Maybe it’s a generational thing, but I, too am absolutely committed to the Cooperative Program. If the SBC ever gives up on CP, then those of us in the smaller churches will lose a tremendous means of reaching the world for Christ. I wonder if any other Baptist groups have a similar missions funding system . . .

    • Dave Miller says

      Not that I am aware of, Mr. Ruckter!

      I have a friend named Tommy Rucker – strange that your names are so similar.

      By the way, Tommy, that extra letter was what sent your comment into moderation. New commenters have to be approved their first time, so with your creative new spelling, you got caught!

  3. Mark Mitchell says

    The problem is the division that has been created because of the GCR. Largely because of the way it was brought about. It was not brought about above reproach. It reminds me of Obamacare. That has caused more division than anything else in a long time. People are wanting to succeed and the lawsuits are to many to count.

    Cramming the GCR down the throats of churches in the manner in which it was done and in spite of the division it was causing was a mistake that could have been seen if those powers that be would have cared enough to look.

    So now we are here and people are in reasonable disagreement and many angry. You do not get to just do whatever you want and there be no consequences. I was at the convention and was part of the vote on this. It should have been a ballot vote. The vote is as much in question as any other part of it.
    They caused this division and now they cannot just demand everyone get in line. It is just not going to happen and people are going to push back.

    No amount of guilting anyone is going to change that.

    • Dave Miller says

      The problems existed before the GCR.

      But, your attitude here is reflective of the greater problem we often have. When “my side” doesn’t win a vote, how do I respond?

      Many have preferred your approach rather than putting the past in the past and moving forward.

      • Mark Mitchell says

        It is not the past. Making that claim is only an attempt to shut down disagreement. It is current reality and the reason for the observations in your post.

      • Dave Miller says

        Why so accusatory, Mark?

        If you want to talk, fine. If you just want to rant, I’m not interested.

  4. Dave Miller says

    Oh, and I would reiterate that while I broached some of the hot-button topics of recent years in my post, I would much rather this not be another rehashing of those ancient grievances, but stick to the topic of the CP and its future.

    Of course, few ever pay attention to my wishes!

    And, one more thing, my most sincere apologies for any insults I may have inadvertently leveled against any football teams or conferences in the post. Purely accidental, I assure you. (Is my sincerity coming through?)

  5. says

    It’s been said that there comes a time in the life of most institutions when their primary goal becomes not the purpose for which it was formed, but its own perpetuation. I think that time for the SBC may have come, and perhaps some years ago.

    I’ve been an SBC’er for nearly 32 years, albeit active beyond the local church for about 7. And it occurs to me that in those 32 years, things have changed vastly. Churches have worldwide outreach and influence, themselves, without the hierarchy or the expense of a structure like the SBC. I know churches which individually have schools and clinics overseas, themselves. And do lots of missions work, too. Without the aid of the SBC, from what I can see.

    The SBC should have seen this coming and surely could have led the way in this. To my knowledge, they haven’t. But I admit I could be wrong; I just have not seen it.

    Think how many local pastors could be involved in the SBC annual meeting if the SBC arranged a site in every state for them to congregate and “attend” electronically as businesses do with virtual meetings every day! They may stream meetings so folks can watch passively, but that leaves them without input or involvement.

    There are other things, too, but they don’t contribute to the preservation of an antiquated system, so I don’t expect any changes or updates until it’s gotten so small they’re not needed any more.

    As I pointed out in one of my blog posts a couple years ago, the Jamaican Baptist Union has slightly fewer members than the SBC does churches, yet they have over 10,000 messengers at their annual meeting. In a country which is comparatively very, very poor. I said that was a wake-up call, but I don’t think anybody did.

    Sorry. I just took my daily curmudgeon pill and it hasn’t had time to mellow out yet.

    • Dave Miller says

      I think it roots in our sense of identity. We no longer know who we are and we need to figure it out.

      But, in a similar vein, I have heard the idea that all institutions have an arch of life. Birth, growth, maturity, decline and death.

      Maybe the CP is experiencing such an arch.

  6. Tom Edwards says

    Dave,
    Thank you for a clear an thought provoking piece. I want to contend that there are two primary things that unite Southern Baptists. 1) Biblical Theology [for the most part]. Most Southern Baptists claim to be conservative in their theology (though practice may indicate otherwise). 2) The Cooperative program. Without the first area of agreement (theology) the second is meaningless. But without the second–the means of supporting missionaries at home and abroad–we would soon disappear from the face of the earth. We can do more working together, and we MUST. When people use negative designations or seek to give with strings attached we end up with an attitude that everything must be, “my way or the highway.” I truly believe that when our Baptist forbears stumbled on the idea for the Cooperative program is was a gift to us from God. If we abandon it–even for Great Commission giving, we are apt to find ourselves on the ash heap of forgetfulness in the next generation. Could it be we have already arrived there?

    • Dave Miller says

      I think that might be the new motto of the SBC: “My way or the highway.” I will suggest it next chance I get.

      I agree that theology and the CP are what SHOULD bind us. But the SBC was more bound together culturally than by anything else for many years. As those cultural bonds have been broken, we are having trouble finding a ground for unity.

      Good thoughts.

  7. says

    It’s often been said and perhaps bears repeating again that if you go back to the early days of the Conservative Resurgence in the SBC, the majority of those elected as presidents during that battle for denominational control came from the megachurches of that time whose CP percentage giving was a mere pittance in comparison to the rank and file among SBC churches. Perhaps the chickens are coming home to roost as their example spoke louder than their words.

    • Dave Miller says

      Yes, I am thankful that there is a biblically-based SBC for us to discuss, so I will never regret the CR. But many of the luminaries of the CR were not huge CP supporters (because of the creeping liberalism in the seminaries). I have written previously that I believe this to be one of the sources of our CP woes now.

    • Joe Blackmon says

      Why would a pastor seeking to lead his church to be good stewards of God’s money in the early 80’s have encouraged them to give to places like Southern Seminary where professors mocked the word of God and taught a completely different gospel than what Jesus and Paul preached?

  8. says

    No. We are not entering a post-cooperative program era. One can hardly call our time post-CP when churches still devote a significant portion of their offering plate dollars to it. I would call the CP a mature brand, a legacy brand, still strong but declining.

    The three premises of cooperation you describe are all still present and important in SBC life. If they were not we would not have a pool of several hundred million dollars flowing through the CP to all the entities and state conventions.

    I know the Yankees lost, ingloriously lost, but can we have a bit less pessimism about SBC life?

    The action of the SCBC to directly fund the IMB I understood to be a way for SC churches to accelerate their increase of IMB work. Nothing wrong with that and nothing is uncooperative abou that. The amount involved is a mere 2% of their CP receipts. Most SBCers who understand the CP recognize that it is about as sclerotic as any institutional funding scheme can be and that there is virtually no possibility of any significant changes in the allocation formula being made; hence, state conventions introduce actions that bypass the frozen formulas and better express the priorities of their churches.

    Dave offers these five reasons for his post-CP lament. I append my responses:
    1) The increasing prevalence of designations in giving. WM: No, not ‘prevalence’ but rather increasing preference. Lottie and Annie were built into the system. Churches show a modest inclination to give more to those relative to the CP. Aside from that, someone will have to show me the data where there are large changes in designations. I haven’t seen it.

    2) The increasing prevalence of the do-it-yourself spirit. WM: True. This accounts for more of the decline of average CP giving from 11% to under 6% in the last three decades, IMO.

    3) Young pastors and younger (hipper?) churches that are invested in denominational life and cooperation are as rare as humble SEC football fans. WM: True. A fair way to describe one of many SBC generation gaps. As an aside, I offer myself as a humble SEC football fan, but that will change if the Dawgs upset Alabama Saturday.

    4) Finding megachurches that are heavily invested in the CP is as rare as finding Nebraska Cornhusker fans who are not insanely obsessed about their team. WM: True. Larry Wynn’s former church was the only one I can think of that was heavily invested in the CP. But, the dollars of the megas still pay a lot of bills.

    5) The spirit of distrust and division in the SBC has made cooperation much more difficult. WM: Hey, we’re Baptists, Southern Baptists, we’re conservative Southern Baptists. Nothing new here, although Calvinism has raised a rather prickly new challenge for cooperation.

    One commenter offered that Great Commission Giving was the culprit. Dead wrong. GCG was merely a recognition of the reality on the ground. The idea that it is a motivator for less cooperation is not true. The GCG critics might at least wait until we have a few years of data to view on this.

    What might change these factors to make cooperation more attractive in the SBC? Perhaps Dave would offer some suggestions.

    • Dave Miller says

      In response to your first response: I will agree that your wording, “increasing preference” might have been better than “prevelance.” So much so I may go back and change the article.

      On the other hand, I stand by my point. This growing preference is a danger and threat to the future of the SBC’s CP.

      What I am looking at, William, is not that which is, but that which will be if trends continue. The trends we are seeing are discouraging. If they continue, they will bode poorly.

      (Sounds like Scrooge’s speech to the Ghost of Christmas Future.)

        • says

          I don’t think the SBC can ever make a minimum requirement, but I can make one. I’m not likely to vote for candidates for elected office in the SBC who are CP pikers! That is a moving target, but it is one that matters to me when I cast my ballot.

    • Dave Miller says

      As to what we can do, I’m not sure. Part of me says the continuing of our fracturing is inevitable – that’s my pessimistic side coming out.

      I think we need to:

      1) Do great ministry in each of our entities. (Duh)

      People today aren’t going to support the denom out of loyalty. What we do has to be done well. People (in general) believe that the IMB is doing a good job. That same perception does not always attach to NAMB. These entities need to do excellent, missional, transformational work that people can enthusiastically get behind.

      2) We need to define our identity as a denomination.

      People don’t really know what it means to be an SB. We need to clarify that a little bit – theologically, methodologically, practically.

      You see groups trying to define themselves as “mainstream” baptists which means that the other group isn’t. An egregious example of that was the use of the term “Traditionalist” to describe non-Calvinists. Of course, a similar complaint could be made against the use of the term “Founders.” First, Calvinists and non-Calvinists both have a claim to Baptist tradition and heritage. We are and always have been made up of people from both sides of this debate.

      These groups need to accept each other and stop trying to cast themselves as “the True Baptists” and implying that the other group is not.

      3) We need to intentionally reach across social, racial and other barriers.

      It’s much easier to define problems than to develop solutions.

  9. Matt Svoboda says

    Dave,

    I think you are right. I also must admit that I dont blame the younger churches with the younger pastors (like mine).

    When the older generation in the SBC wants to spend all of our time dealing with Driscoll books in Lifeway, keeping an anti-alchohol stance, crying about the growth of Calvinism and how its hurting the SBC, and has no desire to even have the missional conversation the rest of the country is having- why in the world would the younger generation want to have a strong identity in the SBC?

    While many people whine about some CP money going to SBC-calvinist church plants we would prefer to simply plant churches through the A29 network, Sojourn network, etc where we dont have to put up with whining and belly-aching. Many churches in these networks are also partnering together internationally.

    Simply put, what has the older generation done to make having a good “conventional identity” attractive for younger pastors. Here in Middle Tennessee, we deal with more SBC baggage than anything else. We have never had someone in our church say, “I wish we were more involved because of all the great work the SBC does.” We have to spend more time defending why we choose to be SBC (despite the fact that we dont fit it).”

    The SBC has a whole lot of unnecessary baggage that a lot of young pastors dont want to have to deal with. At this point, there is little to no reason to. Its sad that, at least in the way people talk about one another, the SBC tent has shrunk significantly.

    • says

      Okay, Matt, I understand all of that.

      But there is one thing that trumps a lot of that in my mind. As a Southern Baptist who contributes through the CP, I am part of a fantastic missions program that is reaching people around the world.

      That kept me SBC back when I was not pleased with lots of stuff that was going on in our convention.

      I think that is something that younger folks could trumpet – “The SBC is a way for us to be part of something wonderful – worldwide missions!”

      • Matt Svoboda says

        Dave,

        And we do that… My question is, “Beyond giving to worldwide missions why would “young, hip” pastors and churches have a strong conventional identity when much of what they are about gets slammed and bemoaned all the time?”

        A church that believes in having elders, leans Calvinistic, practices liturgy, etc, why would they want to tout them being SBC besides, “We are part of the greatest missions agency the world has ever seen?”

        • says

          Matt’s points are nearly exactly as mine. I did not become SBC until after I graduated College from a SBC affiliated school (Hannibal-LaGrange). At that point, I began looking at churches to start attending. As I was largely reformed, I started looking at PCA churches, but due to those at HLG that helped me see the light (I was into the WOF movement while I was attending there), I also considered the SBC when looking at churches. Ultimately I decided on the SBC for two reasons; the issue of Baptism (in that I believed that the baptist view of baptism is closer to scripture than presbyterian…though I still struggle with some aspects that each present), and second the strength of SBC missions work home and abroad.

          That said, over the past few years as I have become more and more attentive to SBC politics, I have started regretting my decision to join the SBC. THis largely revolves around the whole “Calvinist” debates, but to a smaller extent, issues such as consumption of alcohol, and interdenominational relations to fight social issues (ie working with the RCC and other denominations to fight abortion). I have seen far too many SBC folk, both individuals, churches, and even State conventions, come with the attitude of “if you are truly saved you will attend an SBC church”. The arrogance of a significant portion of SBC members shocks me as a Christian. The whole “My way or the highway” which reflects itself in CP and designational giving, sickens me as a follower of Christ.

          Some in the SBC have tried to discuss this issue (Mohler and Theological Triage for example), but even then such ideas are laughed at by an unfortunately large portion of the SBC. The possible “post-CP” question is in my opinion but a symptom of the true disease that has taken hold of the SBC. Youth leaving is but another symptom. Until the SBC as a whole confronts this, the “lack” of CP giving and exodus of “young folk” will not only continue, but more and more problems will continue to arise until there is nothing left but a bunch of half empty churches with loud mouths who are no longer able to continue saying they are apart of the “best missionary supporting force in the world”.

          • says

            “I have seen far too many SBC folk, both individuals, churches, and even State conventions, come with the attitude of “if you are truly saved you will attend an SBC church”.”

            If course, attitudes of this sort are not exclusive to the SBC. I was raised PCA and when I switched to SBC, I remember my grandmom saying, “I just can’t understand why anyone wouldn’t be Presbyterian!”

      • says

        Dave,

        I used to agree with that statement about the greatest missions sending organization in the world. However, when the narrowing of parameters started and missionaries began to be sent home, I lost that agreement. So when my church ran into issues on the local SBC level it was really easy to just leave. You can be a part of overseas missions by giving money a lot of places- and there are many organizations that are just as effective- and not as narrow- as the SBC. They may not have as many missionaries on the field, but you and I both know that quantity is not always the best judge of quality.

        I echo a lot of Matt’s post above. Being SBC is really tough when you don’t fit the typical mold. Being involved in the SBC is almost impossible if you are not willing to travel. Neglecting technology, nitpicking, narrowing parameters, and difficulties drove me out. I have lots of friends who are still in both at the State level and in churches, but I never hear any of them telling me why I should come back. Truthfully, I think many of them are envious of the freedom I and my church have to not be scrutinized by what has become a narrow, close minded group that is very concerned about self preservation and not nearly as concerned about helping the local churches who give the money to make things go.

        I think that’s the ultimate elephant in the room. What does a local church gain from affiliation with the SBC? I think a lot of guys see the answer as little to nothing anymore. They are able to support missions, partner together locally, and do it all without the baggage of Disney boycotts, slavery beginnings, and political entanglements. Those are pretty good reasons to stay away.

        Just my 2 cents…

    • says

      “The SBC has a whole lot of unnecessary baggage that a lot of young pastors dont want to have to deal with.”

      I have to wonder if this isn’t a major problem with our generation. It seems to me that quite often we are so busy doing “gospel business” that we don’t want to have to deal with “unnecessary baggage”. The problem is, this “unnecessary baggage” is part of the gospel. What I mean is that Jesus purchased our unity with these brothers and sisters in Christ that we disagree with. We are commanded to make every effort to pursue peace with everyone.

      It seems to me that so many young guys are planting churches so that they don’t have to deal with this stuff. It makes them far more “gospel effective” or something like that. But I just have to wonder what that is going to look like in 20 years. There might be wounds and battle scars that are necessary for sharpening that only can come through working together with people that we sharpely disagree with. After all isn’t the gospel worth partnering with people and carrying one another’s “unnecessary baggage”.

      It seems to me that our generation–myself included–often forgets that we have a significant amount of baggage ourselves. Yeah it’s easier to get on with “gospel work” and give through Calvinistic networks. Yeah it’s difficult to have to fight this battle. But I just wonder if sometimes it is fear of conflict and love of comfort that causes us to cast off this “unnecessary baggage”.

      Just a thought…

      • Matt Svoboda says

        Mike,

        The unnecessary baggage I am talking about has nothing to do with the gospel.

        It has to do with people being part of a SBC church “way back in the day” when it split for stupid reasons, church bought a 8 million dollar building, etc. that really turned people off to the gospel message.

        Yes, we all have out baggage. Im not saying there isnt some baggage worth dealing with. I am saying there is quite a bit that isnt necessary.

        • says

          And what I’m saying is that the gospel often makes this “unnecessary baggage” necessary. A church splitting for stupid reasons has everything to do with the gospel. And what I’m asking is whether or not it is possible that our generation is using “gospel advancement” as an excuse to mask a fear on conflict and a desire for comfort.

  10. says

    BTW, I commend Dave for his outstanding, stellar CP percentage that is about double the average. Heck, I’d vote for him for SBC VP.

    Matt, I take your points but would suggest that if no one in your church is saying “I wish we were more involved because of all the great work the SBC does” then you should say it. If you can’t say it then I would gently suggest that you aren’t as familiar with SBC stuff as you might could be.

    I have offered not a small bit of criticism of SBC stuff and have spoken plainly about such things when appropriate in my churches, but I am first to say that we do a lot of outstanding work and the CP is worthy of a portion of our budget.

    • Matt Svoboda says

      William,

      Sorry if there might be confusion. In our Membership Class we do share all the reasons why we are in the SBC.

      My point was, when we share those things we deal with more baggage than people being excited about us being SBC.

  11. Matt Svoboda says

    Dave,

    Answer this question: for a church like you describe in your post (young, hip, etc) what is the benefit to being highly involved with the SBC when they are partnering with other churches for international missions, has great cooperation with churches in a network, and are highly committed to raising up leaders?

    • says

      The worldwide missions program of the SBC. And the chance to participate in other missions endeavors.

      Not to be unkind or anything, but if a church doesn’t believe that there is benefit from being part of the SBC, it probably shouldn’t be.

      • Matt Svoboda says

        Dave,

        I agree with both of your comments, 100%. I am pointing to a bigger issue. So either they believe in 1- and they give straight to the IMB, not the CP. Or they decide, SBC adds no benefit to us as we can be involved in world missions through other avenues and they leave the SBC. Again, no CP dollars.

        I do believe the death of denominations has already started… Denominations are like an elderly dude that still feels like he has plenty of life left, but in reality the time is pretty short.

        When people cant get along within the SBC (which it cant, obviously) there is no hope for cooperation, therefore, no hope for the SBC. Now, the SBC might be around for a lot more time, but her influence and work will never match what it once did.

        • Dave Miller says

          I don’t know that denominations are dying, but they are certainly morphing. There are always going to be networks and associations.

    • says

      I understand your point, but it raises up another point: why would a church even be part of the SBC if it has no interest in cooperation? It could just as easily be independent.

    • says

      I know of no church or church network that can put people and keep people in areas of the world where there is the most need for the Gospel. They can put a couple here or there for a few years but where is the global strategy? It is beyond their reach. If we are willing to eschew taking the Gospel to these places in a systematic and permanent manner then, sure, we can be happy with whatever networks we are involved with.

      I rejoice whenever and wherever Christ is preached but merely point out the glaring flaw in any individual church or even network approach to global missions.

    • Matt Svoboda says

      Just to be clear guys- my church is happy in the SBC because of the IMB… but admittedly, that pretty much the only reason.

      My point is, If the IMB is the only thing you guys can point to as an attractive reason for those type of churches to be a part of the SBC that is EXACTLY why the CP will die.

  12. Jon says

    The CP is a funding mechanism that works well — for those who agree that it is worth funding.

    The Convention needs to let go of things that do not require cooperation, and move on to things that require it. Even through the 1980s, megachurches felt like the SBC did somethings they could not do. Today, it is easy for a seminary student with an ipad and a projector to put on a worship service that looks better than FBC Atlanta in the 1980s.

    Megachurches still cannot do Lifeway, or Guidestone, or liberal arts colleges, or nursing homes, or hospitals, or hospices, as well as they can in cooperation. In missions, even megachurches can’t do data science and technology on the scale that will be required soon. If there is a future for the CP, it is because the Convention does things that churches can’t do alone.

  13. Frank Darvish says

    In full disclosure, I am one of those “go it alone” missionaries who is part of a mission organization with over 2,000 missionaries. I am also sent by an SBC church which is part of the CP. While I am sure they exist, all of the churches I am familiar with who are sending their own missionaries to the field are sending them through established mission agencies who, in many situations, partner with IMB missionaries on the field. I work hand in hand with an IMB couple. (In the country where I work the IMB and the Assemblies of God work together to run a school!)
    If I could throw out a statistic here, there are approximately 45,000 churches in the SBC with 16,000,000 members. The latest statistic I found for the IMB is that there are currently 4,908 missionaries on the field. While this is a large (and very good) mission organization, this equates to 11 SBC churches, or 3,260 SBC members to send 1 IMB missionary to the field. Those are not statistics to be lauded. It all comes down to giving. Theoretically with that number of members, the IMB should have close to 15,000 missionaries.
    So why aren’t people giving? I will give the example of an SBC church I used to attend. 10 years ago, they dutifully gave to the CP. I’ll spare the long story, but they decided to stop giving to the CP and send their own missionaries to the mission field. Right now the church has 34 of their adult members serving overseas with a variety of established Evangelical mission organizations. The church provides the bulk of their support and the rest come completely from the membership of the church. So instead of 3,260 members sending 1 missionary, there are 1,200 sending 34. Giving increased exponentially because they know what is happening with their money. They know what is going on and they get to hear and rejoice when “(fill in the blank) got saved and was baptized!”
    We have people in our church who prior to us going to the field used to throw a couple of bucks into the Lottie Moon offering after watching the 2 minute video in church of a missionary who they had never seen before. Now they support us in excess of 3,000 dollars a year. Why? Because they know us.
    I will be honest and say that I believe that the IMB is slated to become smaller and smaller and finances are going to shrink. I don’t think this is a good thing. I have good friends who are IMB missionaries. Yet I think it is inevitable unless there are some radical changes made to build the connections. Our culture is changing to being more independant, and I think that realistically we can fight it and most likely become irrelevant, and look at how we can adapt. I am not talking about compromise of Biblical values, I am talking about looking at if the “way we have always done it” is still the most effective. My argument would be “No” based upon the example I gave of my previous church. I know that SBCers like numbers and statistics, and I think there is no way of arguing with those numbers.

    • Frank L. says

      “”this equates to 11 SBC churches, or 3,260 SBC members to send 1 IMB missionary to the field””

      I won’t argue we can and should do more, but I will mention something about your statistic.

      First, remember that the 4900 plus IMB Missionaries are 24/7/365 for four years. They have full financial support including medical. They are on the field continuously without ever having to leave to raise money. Having been an Assemblies of God member, I can tell you that is not the case with all the missionaries our church supported who showed up about every six to nine months on their tour to raise money. I understand there are some exceptions to this rule.

      Second, our mission strategy is not to put missionary pastors on the field but missionary “trainers” for indigenous work. In other words, each missionary oversees the pastoral work of several (often many works) depending upon the assignment needs of course. Again, this is a general rule. We are looking for “quality” not “quantity.” The quantity comes as an effect of the quality of our missionaries.

      Third, the numbers of missionaries supported do not include the “mission service corps” that has missionaries serving who have raised their own support.

      So, while we could and should do more, the raw statistics do not adequately telll the story in my humble opinion.

      PS–Exactly where are those “16,000,00” Southern Baptists I’ve heard about for years?

      • Frank Darvish says

        While my initial response is to be insulted by the “quality, not quantity” statement, I will assume you did not mean it as an insult. :) With the exception of a very small number of missions (I can actually only think of one that could be considered evangelical), the vast number have the same strategy as the IMB of getting local leadership of the church as soon as is feasible. Of course no mission includes the local church leaders in the numbers of their missionaries.
        We are 100% faith supported 24/7/365 a year and our term of service is 4 years with 9 months in the States. My coworkers and I all typically have a certain amount of “donor attrition” and do some support raising while we are home, but we are almost always above 90% in our support and get along just fine. We also find that the process of going out and doing support raising is a great ministry.
        As far as the AOG missionaries going home every 6 to 9 months, I have never observed anything such as this. It costs our family 15,000 dollars to fly home and it would never be feasible to fly home every 9 months. We are near a school that the IMB and the AOG work together on and I am familiar with many AOG missionaries and would say that going home in 6 months is definitely a huge exception to the rule. I don’t know personally of anyone within my mission who has been sent home early due to lack of funds, but I have been told it has happened 3 times in the last 15 years. That is with 2000+ missionaries.
        I can’t help you find the 16,000,000, but that is the only figure I see touted anywhere. :)

        • Frank L. says

          Frank. No insult meant. I also qualified my comments several times to avoid a broad brush.

          You are obviously doing a good job and I pray God will continue to bless you.

          You prove the point that the one indispensable factor in missions is a God-called missionary. Everything else falls in line after that. Kind of like the thing about “skinning a cat”.

          The quality comment should have been a “rifle verses a shotgun” approach.

          I’m betting everything about your ministry is “quality”.

          Too bad you can’t help me find those missing Baptists:)

    • says

      I am glad whenever the Gospel is preached, whether or not the IMB is behind it.

      That said, I am of the opinion that the approach such as employed by the IMB is preferable to a church funding this guy or that couple with this or that agency. God bless them all. I’m not going that route nor would I lead my church.

      All the talk of the CP and LM being impersonal is only that if a pastor or church chooses to ignore it. A church that merely uses the LM dvd clips around Christmas is doing much less than is possible.

      • Frank Darvish says

        Beware of saying you would never lead your church that way!! :) You may just have one of your members come to you and say that they believe God is leading them to go to PNG with Wycliffe Bible Translators! Then your choice it to either support them or tell them to look for a new church to send them. To say that God would never lead a SB to a mission other than the IMB would be, well, (fill in the blank as you wish). I would say that over a third of the missionaries with my agency are SBC members, although there are a few …. (whisper) presbyterians. (We do tolerate them and I think we might even see a few of them in heaven.) :)
        I never considered the IMB because God made it so clear he was leading me another direction. After much discussion with our church leadership, they concurred wholeheartedly. God has done nothing but confirm this decision over the years and we never looked back.
        I really think it is the people in the States who get a little too wrapped up in “this mission vs. that mission” In my experience on the field most of us are all working together anyway. We do ministries with IMB missionaries and other missions all the time. We help them and they help us. We meet together with missionaries from other agencies to discuss strategies and for prayer and encouragement all the time. You really don’t get a “we are better than you”. I better stop because I am making it sound like we hang out in Disneyland!

        • says

          I have few presumptions about what God will do in the future but I am unhesitant in saying that if someone in my church want to raise independent funds to go with one of the other major or minor mission sending agencies, I would not be inclined to support them financially. I think our best dollars are spend through IMB.

          And I have confronted this personally in churches.

          • Steve Lamb says

            I too am with a non-denominational mission and am sent by a fairly large SBC church. Our church leaders and the pastor said “good luck”, but they were adamantly opposed to supporting anything other than the IMB. I doubt you are any more opposed than they were. We were confronted by some in the leadership who flat out said “you are wrong” to be outside the SBC. Well, we knew we were following God, so we prayed and fasted that God would change the mind of the church. After over a year, He Did! God changed the heart of every single one of them and now we are considered an active ministry of the church and a budget item every month. Beware of saying God won’t change you. We weren’t the first to be turned down by the church, but we were part of the beginning of change.

  14. says

    * * * * W A R N I N G * * * *

    Baby Boomer analysis is detected.

    Can’t you guys stop trying to classify everything into neat little boxes just once??? Why does everything have to be an era this or pre- that or post-somethingism??

    Old people pass on, younger people grow old, babies are born that grow up… etc. Things will ALWAYS change. Don’t classify it, just do your part that you feel called to do. If this means the SBC spins into 2-5 smaller pieces, so what!

    The Kingdom will go on even if the SBC doesn’t. Things are changing for many reasons. Please don’t tell me how or why the CP is important, I get it. But if it is changing, then do what you feel called to do, designate how you see fit, even if it is a bypass of the CP.

    The culture of the SBC is not as monolithic as it once was. That’s what happens when you move outside of your cultural base and you have offspring: they don’t always turn out like you.

    Relax. CP or no CP, you were never in control; God was, is, and will always be.

    • Frank L. says

      “”Relax. CP or no CP, you were never in control; God was, is, and will always be””

      I don’t recall reading where someone said “he or she was in control, not God.” I can’t speak for Dave, but I’d be willing to guess that even though he is “old” and “pre-most everything” (except for CB who is pre-historic), he feels very strongly God is, was, and always will be in control.

      I did not take this post and discussion as a diatribe against change, but a discussion of what the change is and where it may lead.

      And, I’m sorry, but I happen to like to keep things in neat little boxes. “A place for everything and everything in its place,” Momma would say.

      Surely, you aren’t suggesting Momma was incorrect.

      • says

        No she wasn’t incorrect, but she wasn’t always right either :)

        I’m sorry for my diatribe (I like that word) but sometimes I get tired of seeing (my perception) another blog charting this-or-that thing that is changing and where is it going and how do we chart it or classify it… ad infinitum.

        Regardless of the outcome of the direction of the CP or the SBC, even if the SBC becomes the leading theological liberal organization in the world, it will affect my salvation not. Nor will it affect my discipleship or evangelism efforts.

        I think I prefer posts that are more theologically oriented or personally challenging… something that I can modify and use with my youth.

        Giving is relevant. Missions is relevant. CP: not so much. But that is just me.

        • Frank L. says

          “”But that is just me.””

          I think one is wise to come to this understanding.

          I personally do not separate the ideas of “giving, missions, and CP” as much as you do, though I do understand that missions and giving have a unique place in Scripture that CP does not.

          I can’t find air conditioning in the Bible, but I sure do appreciate it when the temperature rises.

          As far as charting change, well, I can see it from a different perspective. That was part of my duties on the submarine. If I did not keep up with the changing landscape around us, we were in big (shall I say, deep) trouble.

          I do understand your point about making this process an “end” in itself.

      • says

        As for control… you are correct. No one implicitly stated that anywhere.

        However, in my limited experience in RL and here on this blog, discussions about money are really always about control: controlling who gets to spend it because they aren’t like us; if we don’t keep this traditional model, then “X” program or ministry will fail (as if God can’t do so without us); etc.

        I’ve seen fights about this or that expenditure “because we need to keep it in the bank… if we spend it it’s gone; what is the return on our investment in this expenditure; etc.” I’m just wary about money discussions.

        Dave – I apologize for any false implication. I just think we might have too much faith in the CP and not enough faith in the One who owns the cattle on 1000 hills –> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OgXHM2emqZw

  15. John K says

    For the 2012 budget of $324.3 million for the IMB can anyone say how many local pastors were ordained?

    How many men have received practical pastoral training? 21,797
    How many people received training to start new churches? 51,547
    How many individuals received advanced theological education? 4,311

    And for $324.3 million is this an acceptable return compared to historical returns?

    Just curious how others view this.

    • says

      Well, what would an SBC entity be without numbers? It may be, however, that the most effective and valuable work done by IMB folks is that which generates few numbers.

    • Jeremy Parks says

      I have no idea where your numbers are from (I mean that as an expression of personal ignorance, not in doubt to your numerical accuracy). However, there’s more to the story.

      Number of salvations
      Number of baptisms
      Number of people who have received a clear presentation of the gospel.
      Number of people given a clear chance to accept Christ.
      Number of churches planted, broken into first generation, second generation, and third generation churches.
      Number of Bible studies or preaching points begun
      Number of people attending churches
      Number of people attending Bible studies or preaching points

      Your stats are great, but I think they show less than the full story.

      • John K says

        Jeremy,
        Here is a link to some of the figures you are looking for.
        http://public.imb.org/globalresearch/Documents/2012%20ASR%20Annual%20Summary%20(Public).pdf

        I was not trying to tell a story with those stats I was just curious if any one had any stats on how many local pastors were ordained. In looking back at how I phrased my question, I can see how poorly I phrased it.

        The IMB is much more productive with its funds than I would be. I was interested in historical and ordinations comparisons to see if current stats have any cumulative benefits correlation’s vs lets say a mega church sending out its own missionaries and possible time it takes to be productive in raising local pastors to then take over the majority of the local pastoring responsibilities.

        It is great that local churches want direct responsibilities for mission. I was just starting to wonder if a track record of IMB had a more cumulative advantage from a statistical perspective. Not that God needs any of us to do missions to get his word out, but he does ask us to be responsible in the methods we choose to support.

        • Jeremy Parks says

          Ahh! Now I see where you are going.

          I’ll bow out now because I lack sufficient brain power to even consider such an approach.

        • Frank Darvish says

          I have a question out of curiosity. Is the assumption that if a church is sending out a missionary (not through the IMB) that they are “going it alone” and not sending them through Wycliffe Bible Translators, OMF, Pioneers, New Tribes, GEM, SIM, WEC, or one of any number of missions that has over a thousand missionaries and has been around for 100+ years? While I am sure they exist I don’t personally know any missionaries who are only affiliated with one sending church in the States.

      • Frank Darvish says

        The difficulty I have with numbers is that they rarely tell the whole story. We work closely with 2 IMB couples and I can say that over the past year, they have been part of 0 professions of faith or baptisms. Are they doing a poor job? Are they lazy? Are they doing something wrong? I would say no, no, and no. They are faithfully building relationships and sharing Christ whenever the opportunity arises. We just work with a people group which is very resistant to the gospel and has significant barriers to accepting Christ. But if you are sitting behind a desk in the US looking at statistics, it would appear they are doing a horrible job. Not every people group in the world comes running to Christ enmasse as soon as they hear the gospel presented.

        • Jeremy Parks says

          Amen.

          Even so, I (as an IMBer) must be careful not to stampede towards the “but my people group is resistant” line if, in fact, I am stagnating in my efforts. It is an easy excuse for any of us to use.

          I greatly believe I am doing a good job right now, but even so I must constantly look for ways to improve and ask myself hard questions about complacency and drive.

          You’ve got great points here, though; it IS easy to sit back from somewhere in the US and cast a suspicious eye on poor numerical results. It is just as easy to do so from a country on the field somewhere that the locals are rushing to the church in droves.

          • Frank Darvish says

            I agree with you completely and if I may take your point and bring it full circle back to the original topic with regards to the, I believe, waning of the CP. You can’t sit and be complacent with “Well, that’s how we’ve always done things. People aren’t giving as much, they are just wrong” The leadership has to evaluate critically if what we are currently doing is working. If not, then how do we adapt and overcome? It may mean a radical change in the way we go about business. I am not advocating the demise of the CP, but I do belive it IS going away if some significant changes don’t come about.

        • John K says

          Frank,
          I agree that numbers do not tell the whole story and when it comes to the Gospel it can be the most misleading factor depending upon how they are presented. But as the bible says our heart wrenching also can be very misleading. Oh how we must depend upon God for correct discernment. After all Jonah had a poor quality 8 word evangelism yet had great response.

          • Frank Darvish says

            John,
            You have hit the nail on the head. We have to rely totally upon God for discernment. Sometimes what he leads us in directions that make no sense at the time.

  16. Dean says

    I personally believe the CP is dying because of the state conventions. Folk simply don’t see much benefit from our state programs. Are our men’s ministry dept, our church music dept, Sunday school dept etc… Making much of a difference? It seems that missions still move the needle. Are our Lottie Moon offerings shrinking?

  17. Adam says

    Hey Dave, or anyone who knows, where might I get my hands on a resource that describes where all the CP dollars go. I’m 31 so I’m not sure if I’m young or old but I want to support IBM and namb, I don’t care as much about the seminaries. (I started at Nobts, went to swbts and finished at DTS) so I’m not ignorant of their services or anything. I assume CP dollars go to children’s homes, and I would still want to back those, is their anything else the money is spent on?
    Thx

    • says

      You will have to go first to your state convention which keeps on average 60+% of each CP dollar. The remaining portion is allocated as follows (I am rounding the percentages:
      IMB, 50%
      NAMB, 23%
      Six seminaries, 22%
      ERLC, 2%
      Executive Committee, 3%

      Chances are very few of the CP dollars kept in your state go to children’s homes.

      • cb scott says

        “Chances are very few of the CP dollars kept in your state go to children’s homes.”

        The above statement made by William Thorton is a fact and easily proven.

  18. cb scott says

    I think I shall make a greater issue here in regard to William Thornton’s statement:
    “Chances are very few of the CP dollars kept in your state go to children’s homes.”

    It is my opinion that this is a sad truth, a sad truth indeed. The number of children entering foster care in the United States is growing. (over 800,000 in 2010) It is possible to give a credible argument that foster children can be identified as a sub-culture in this country. However, it seems that state conventions are far behind in recognition of this growing group as a true domestic “mission field.”

    Another issue is that Baptist sponsored foster-adoption agencies do not pay enough attention to the hiring of employees. It is not enough to hire secularly educated social workers who “are members and regularly attend church.”

    It is extremely needful to for Baptist foster-adoption agencies to rethink their hiring practices for social workers. Social workers hired by Baptist foster-adoption agencies must be trained in a true and biblically missional approach to their vocations. The cost of this particular negligence is just too high from a Kingdom perspective.

    In simple terms; It is pitiful. It is pathetic. It is a mess.

  19. Pastor Harold says

    I’m 37 yrs old but I’m not mad or trying to be hip. The problem is (from my view growing up in the SBC)that the CP system has been elevated to the status of equal to the Scriptures. So who would cares if the CP dies? Only the older SBC members who have basked in it’s glorious past for years. I have heard sermon after sermon on this great machine of God’s harvest. Now as it begins to sputter, it doesn’t seem as great as it once was.
    If the CP dies will the work of God suffer? No, the work will only be carried on through different channels. Missions start in the Church and if the Church continues to send the same portion of it’s income/people to mission endeavors, how will the work of God diminish? It won’t, but the bean counters will not get to give the credit to this great vehicle. This is just a case of sentimental attachment to a system that has served was well in times past and they hate to see it go.
    All of the reasons Dave mentioned are accurate to the cause of the CP decline. However, I don’t think it is important to promote a missions system over the simple scriptural mandate to support the spread of the Gospel.
    I hated to see my 90′ model Toyota pick up go, but I knew it wouldn’t last for ever in spite of my best efforts. So make your best effort to keep the system you love going strong but don’t be surprised if after 250,000 mile you have to find a new one.

    • Frank L. says

      “”So who would cares if the CP dies?””

      Reminds me of Scrooge — “Bah! Humbug!”

      Will God’s work suffer if the CP is allowed to die an untimely death?

      Well, I guess it comes down to that old battle between free-will and determinism. In a deterministic world nothing matters, including this discussion on what matters.

      I a biblical world where “free-will” mattered enough for God to create it, then our decisions, choices, and actions all have consequences.

      You are certainly entitled to your opinion, but it does seem a bit jaded. And, I have to agree with you that God will always accomplish his plan. So, I’m stuck between the old rock and hard place: everything matters or nothing matters.

      So, if you are right in your opinion, it (the CP) doesn’t matter . . . I don’t matter . . . you don’t matter . . . nothing matters. You could be right.

      • Benji Ramsaur says

        God’s determinism promotes the best kind of action. The kind that doesn’t overwhelm people (Gen. 41:32-36).

        If people believe things ultimately depend on them, then I think that can eventually overwhelm and thus discourage them from action.

    • Frank L. says

      ”’Missions start in the Church and if the Church continues to send the same portion of it’s income/people to mission endeavors, how will the work of God diminish?””

      This seems like a fair and straightforward question that requires no reply — on the surface at least.

      However, results are determined by the “quantity of resources” thrown at a problem. If simply spending the same amount of money equaled the same result, then the government would be as profitable as Apple — in fact, many times moreso.

      There is not direct correlation between the amount of money pushed into a system and the amount of product (in this case, missions) that come out the other end.

      For example: at one time Jimmy Swaggart Ministries collected roughly the same amount of money as the CP. Swaggart had one Bible School, a few orphanages, and a few assorted ministries.

      The CP on the other hand had numerous colleges and Bible Schools, hospitals (here and abroad), a large missionary force, etc., etc., etc. There simply was no comparison.

      Another example: I just watched Money Ball again. Great movie. Billy Bean in the fabulous 20-game streak season spent about $250K for a win whereas the Yankees spent $1.5 million for a win.

      You are obviously unaware of why it is we (Southern Baptist Forefathers and Foremothers) established the CP — it was to get “more bang for the buck.” That is to say, to spend the same amount of money but get a multiplicity of return.

      So, I’ll respectfully disagree that your proposition of spending the same amount of money equates to get the same mission impact.

  20. says

    Hey Dave, we believe we are seeing somewhat of a “rising tide” across the SBC in support of SBC missions and minstries, fueled by the Cooperative Program. Tom Eliff reports Southern Baptist missionaries, along with their overseas partners, planted over 28,000 churches and baptized almost 400,000 souls last year! In our state conventions there are nearly 2,000 college campuses being reached with the gospel by BCM’s and Collegiate Church Planters. NAMB is addressing the concerns of urbanization and globalization through a prioritized focus in the large cities of North America and Canada. The Send Cities initiatve and other church planting initiatives are what we do together and frankly will never be done alone by any single church, no matter its size. I think SBC pastors are highly motivated by these and other reports centered around SBC missions and ministries. I like what Jimmy Scroggins says about CP…”you might find someone who does church planting better than Southern Baptists, you might even find someone who does theological education better than Southern Baptists, and international missions, state missions, disaster relief, and on and on. BUT, (he says) at the end of the day, you won’t find anyone who does church planting, theological education, international missions, state missions, collegiate ministry and disaster relief better than Southern Baptists! This Florida pastor, who at one time said, “CP will have to compete for my missions dollars!” now says, my mission dollars go to the CP!

    Don’t get me wrong, I am convinced we have a really big challenge moving forward. Our challenge is to recapture the vision and committment of local pastors and congregations to the Cooperative Program as the most effective and efficient way to lay a foundation for pushing back darkness and penetrating lostness…fueling SBC missions and ministries! Blessings, Ashley

  21. Anthony Ball says

    I’d like to throw my two cents in here…

    I actually just spoke to college students at a Baptist university this morning. I’m pretty familiar with the whole “hip and cool” section of Christianity that is supposedly sweeping the nation and SBC life in particular (I’m only 25 myself!). My job is actually completely missions oriented (Missions Pastor) in a fairly large church (1,000+). I think that we do a great job of balancing a DIY approach to some of our missions, while giving a substantial amount to the CP and supporting about 9-10 IMB personnel through CP giving.

    I think it’s accurate to say that we ARE declining as an entity and denomination. So are others. But it’s false to say that denominations are bad. ALL things end up being a denomination, in some shape or form (don’t think Acts29 is a denomination?! You would be kidding yourself).

    I’ve seen several posts on here about “baggage” or what not, and various secondary disagreements being the reason the SBC is in decline. I’m a hardcore Southern Baptist myself, and I’d like to see us stick around for awhile. YES, I will grant that some of the SBC things are outdated, useless, or a waste… as in all organizations after 100+ years. Some people have not noticed the changes the IMB is making to be more user-friendly and local church-oriented. These are all good things!

    The problem lies (let’s be honest) with my generation and our sheer arrogance. Alcohol is an issue that drives us from a denomination? Please. If our generation would stop and study this issue Biblically and quit trying to ram “counter-Baptist” activity down everyone’s throat for just a second (among MANY other issues my generation declares as secondary but treats as primary), we would see there is room for error on the “hip and cool” side.

    The very fact that disunity exists can be a testimony to the diversity of God’s people. And yet it is the younger generation that wants to be different for the sake of being different, and difficult for the sake of being difficult. The younger generation will eventually lead. Before we get there, we need to drop the theological arrogance and get rid of the ministry celebrity-ism that is destroying our churches, dividing brother against brother, and pushing the world away from Christ.

    If we do that, we might just see that denominations, mission cooperatives, and a few associational strands might actually be a really effective way to take Christ to the world… if we would get over ourselves long enough to see the Body of Christ is bigger then just us.

  22. Jess Alford says

    I have always been a supporter of missions. As I think about missions my heart breaks, because I look at our own nation and see the harvest is plentious but the laborers are few. Why are we not reaching out to the lost in our own nation? I know many churches will say, we are doing all we can, but the fact is, it’s not getting done. We complain about sinful practices that are being made legal in this country, but nothing is being done to get folks to turn to Christ so that things can change. Baptisms are falling off every year. What is the answer?

    Dave, you should have pointed out that churches can give what they want to missions.

      • cb scott says

        Yes.

        You can try to disguise that anyway you want to, but the decline in Baptisms in the SBC is empirical evidence of a decline of evangelism.

        Guys who serve as pastor to churches that never baptize anyone are not practicing evangelism. Say what you want. Defend it as you please, but it the fact is that churches that baptize no one year after year are not practicing evangelism, nor are the pastors who lead them.

          • cb scott says

            Chris Roberts,

            Conversions and baptisms are not in our hands, but we are to be faithful to the One in whose hands they are.

            If we are faithful to Him, conversions and baptisms will occur.

            Again, you or anyone else can try to disguise it as you or they may, but a decline in evangelism in the SBC is directly related to a decline in baptisms. The same is true for local churches.

          • says

            cb,

            I know this discussion has been had many times on this site, but where does the Bible promise conversions? I agree that if our evangelism is not showing any clear conversions it ought to cause some careful evaluation of what we are doing (or not doing), but it remains that there is no promise in Scripture that outreach will see a harvest. Such notions impose on Scripture that which God has not said. As such it is a human innovation and ought not be claimed.

          • cb scott says

            Chris Roberts,

            Please remember, you are the one who asked the original question in this thread. You asked, “Does a decline in baptisms necessarily imply a decline in evangelism?”

            I simply answered you. So do not try to make it appear that I am trying to shove something upon you or anyone else here.

            God’s Word, in many places, mandates our faithfulness to live the gospel and to share the gospel. Actually, the call for God’s people to share His Story and our faith in Him according to His Story is found in both the OT and the NT. It is easily found. Or maybe, it can be easily ignored if that is one’s desire, but I do not see how.

            Actually, we cannot truly live the gospel without sharing the gospel. People who quote Francis of Assisi as an excuse not to share the gospel are doing an injustice to the scriptural mandate to do so.

            Chris Roberts, it is a fact that when the gospel is shared by individuals who are living according to the gospel, other people, by God’s grace alone, are converted. They take up the cross and follow Jesus. In taking up the cross and following Jesus, those who have been converted are obedient to Christ and are baptized.

            It really is that simple. However, and for whatever reason, a great number of churches and the pastors who lead them, affiliated with the SBC have ceased to share the gospel in an accurate and consistent manner. Therefore, baptisms have declined.

            BTW, you used the term “outreach.” In general, I despise that term as it has been incorporated and developed as programing in the SBC. That term relates to me something that has hindered evangelism rather than enhanced it in Southern Baptist life.

          • says

            cb,

            I agree that “God’s Word, in many places, mandates our faithfulness to live the gospel and to share the gospel” and I don’t know too terribly many people who would disagree, though their agreement by words may not be matched by their agreement by obedience. Nonetheless, though the Bible mandates a clear, verbal witness of the gospel, the Bible does not guarantee a particular response or results. It is a fact that if we do not share, people will not be saved, but it is not a definite fact that if we are a faithful witness, we will see a rise in conversions. We cannot make that claim or guarantee. I will not believe it nor defend it unless you can show it to me in the Bible. Until then I will simply argue against it even as I call for people to be a more faithful witness.

          • Frank L. says

            Chris,

            Of course I will not be able to give you a verse to satisfy your skepticism. There is not verse guaranteeing a “one-to-one” ration of preaching to conversions.

            However, strongly implied in many verses, the Bible says that the Word is “powerful.” The very word for preaching, “keryma,” implies effectiveness, though again, not any particular percentage.

            Isaiah does proclaim rather clearly that the Word of God is effective and will “accomplish the purpose for which it is sent.

            Romans implies a direct correlation between “preaching” and people being saved (Romans 10).

            The problem is always going to be how many and how long because there is no such Scripture.

            If you are doing all you can and your heart literally breaks because nobody is getting saved, then I think you are on a good path.

            Again, your skepticism will always exceed any Scriptural attempt to show that God arm is not too short that He cannot save, or that preaching is effective.

        • Steve Lamb says

          The problem here is when we put our time-frame on it. If any here have taken the “Perspectives” class, you will recall the story of a lady who was working in a tribe in S. America for over 50 years. No baptisms or conversions at all during that time. It was 2 years after she died that they had the first conversion, and since then, the gospel has moved in a great way. (If I have the exact details incorrect, someone help me) Yes, her perseverance did see fruit, but I can imagine the commentary she got during the last 45 years.

        • Steve Lamb says

          As I ruminated I this, I had to ask myself the following question. 2 Peter tells us that Noah was a preacher of righteousness. How many were saved due to his ministry? I would imagine over the many years it took to build the ark that thousands of people came and asked him what in the world he was doing and I believe he witnessed to them. Contrast this with Jonah, who preached a crummy message and had a crummy attitude, but look how God used it.

        • Jess Alford says

          Frank L,

          You mentoned a verse, here is a possibility, Let your light so shine before men that they will see your good works and glorify your Father which is in Heaven. Frank if you notice they will glorify God. It will take a bright shine but the Bible said they will.

          • Frank L. says

            Jess. That’s a good verse. I forgot about it. Light always scatters darkness. Light always overcomes.

  23. Pastor Harold says

    I think the discussion between Chris Roberts and others under Jess Alford’s post as well as Frank L’s response to my post sum up why the CP is declining.

    There is this continuation of CP talking points that I have heard for 37 years. Low baptisms equal low efforts; We are lazy and need to do/give more. This is the greatest missionary system in the world; Why do anything else? ect ect… We even have graph charts to track CP dollars per baptism year to year. We hear tear jerking story after tear jerking story of how the money put in a SBC offering plate has changed lives around the world. And it has.

    However, when someone younger than you questions the system or does not share your affection to the system many view them as immature, flighty, ignorant, arrogant, and without respect for there elder statesmen. We are younger and to some degree those descriptions are true, but we do have a high view of Scripture and seek it to guide us. You can take credit for this! You fought for it and we grew up under it! When we look to the Word and at the bureaucracy of the SBC we have questions. Who wouldn’t? So when questions arise, show us the Text and correct us. Please, stop telling us statistics, stories of yesteryear, and how many generations of your family were in the SBC . If your answer is “We have always done it this way” then YOU always will. Will Rogers said “When riding in front of the herd, look back once in while and make sure the are following.”

    • cb scott says

      Pastor Harold,

      Chris Roberts asked the following question:

      “Does a decline in baptisms necessarily imply a decline in evangelism?”

      I do not see wherein that question has anything to do with age, the past history of the SBC, the CP, or any denomination, religious structure, socio-economics, modernity, or post modernity.

      The question was simple. The answer is simple. The answer is: Yes, a decline in baptisms is related to a decline in evangelism.

      You can try to disguise that anyway you want to, but the decline in Baptisms is empirical evidence of a decline of evangelism.

      Guys who serve as pastor to churches that never baptize anyone are not practicing evangelism. Say what you want. Defend it as you please, but it the fact is that churches that baptize no one year after year are not practicing evangelism, nor are the pastors who lead them.

      Youth or old age has nothing to do with it.

    • Pastor Harold says

      Forgive me CB. That was an improper response.

      How does it help the cause to restate the same answer without any scriptural support? Someone brought up Noah, how does he fit into your theory?

      The same goes for the CP, our plans, strategies and ideas are great but Scripture is supreme. We don’t need more regurgitated theories and data.

      • cb scott says

        Pastor Harold,

        What does the CP have to do with the question Chris Roberts posed or the answer given?

        Again, the question was:

        “Does a decline in baptisms necessarily imply a decline in evangelism?”

        Again, the answer is: Yes.

        The existence or the non-existence of the CP does not have a bearing on the question or the answer.

        Before there was a CP or an SBC, if biblical evangelism occurred, Christ has saved people. Those saved people upon being taught of the mandate for converts to be baptized have been baptized. This has been from the beginning of the Church age. It shall be so until the end.

        It has nothing to do with age. There are old believers who do not practice biblical evangelism. There are young believers who do not practice biblical evangelism.

        There is sufficient, empirical evidence to boldly state, that if we are faithful to practice biblical evangelism, conversions will occur and baptisms will follow. How many conversions will occur and how many baptisms will follow is in the hands of Sovereign God.

        Our calling is to be faithful. The consequences of our faithfulness is in the hands of God.

  24. Bill Clark says

    One other factor you can add to the list (sort of the 1st cousin to the issue of Younger, hipper Baptist churches hiding Baptist even in their name) is the general, growing indifference to denominational identity in general. As a younger pastor, I can say that I am very happy to be Southern Baptist, but I have no motivation to champion people to be Southern Baptist, but to be IN CHRIST, especially as the number of “nones” in America has risen to 1 in 5. I sometimes feel like my denomination cares more about CP than trying to truly network with me to help me do my part, leading my church to advance the gospel. Your article is well-put, sobering, and accurate. I just think my generation no longer sees the CP as enough of a cause to champion. My church gives 10% to CP. we will continue to do so. But I understand why churches are losing motivation to do so. The good news: I think there is a better way to do all this, and perhaps we as a denomination will fall on our faces before The Lord and hear His voice and follow His lead to a new and better way to cooperate fiscally and physically to carry out the Great Commission at home and abroad.

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