Is there a realistic “Third Way” Cooperative Program alternative? (by William Thornton)

William Thornton is the SBC Plodder.

Here are the two main choices SBC churches have in regard to the Cooperative Program: Give to it through the regular state convention channel or not give to it.

Almost all churches give to the Cooperative Program. In fact, and despite the incessant lamentation over the declining percentages given to the CP, the average church gives 5.5% of its undesignated offerings to the CP. While this may be about half of the percentage of a generation ago, it still is a mammoth common funding plan that generates almost half a billion dollars to our ministries. If we stop griping about what it used to be thirty years ago and consider that any church that chooses not to give to the CP is a very rare Baptist bird, we might have a better perspective for the future.

Churches have always had the option of designated giving and almost all churches give in this manner, chiefly through the two mission offerings, Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong. Many churches are diverting dollars formerly given through the CP to either or both of these offerings or to other SBC and non-SBC mission causes. By the end of the decade the two mission offerings will total more than the SBC part of the CP.

But, suppose for example that a church wants to keep their 5% Cooperative Program amount and that they don’t want to designate any of that percentage. Is there an alternative? Jon Akin at B21 says that there is and offers one in a recent article, CP: Another Way.

Akin rehearses the difficulty and slowness of state conventions moving to forward more of the CP dollar to the two mission boards and seminaries and smaller SBC entities. The fact is and the fact will remain that most of a CP dollar is kept within the state conventions, meaning that the legacy southern states that are so heavily populated by Southern Baptist churches also keep most of the mission money, about 61%. This is nothing new. State conventions have always kept most of the money. That’s the system.

The Great Commission Resurgence created a lot of noise and a little movement towards adjusting this 61% downwards toward a 50/50 Cooperative Program split. This has had incremental results partly because state convention insiders and executives consider that 50/50 really means 55/45 or even 60/40 (nothing much has changed since 2011 when I wrote the piece linked).

Here’s where Akin sees another way,

But, what if there was an alternative? What if a church genuinely values what the state convention is doing, wants to be a part of the process, wants to support its missions and ministries, but wants to move more quickly to 50/50 so more money gets to the nations? Is there an option for them? What if churches could give their CP dollars straight to the national convention and tell them to send 50% of my dollars to my state convention to help fund their mission efforts?

This alternative is possible and some churches already do this. The Executive Committee receives some funds directly from individuals and churches (in the low single digit percentages) and, presumably, they are able to direct these funds as the donor wishes.

I don’t think this to be a realistic alternative.

Forgive my pessimism but this, (a) it requires too much of an irregular process, and (b) there are more comfortable and less demanding alternatives. There’s nothing wrong with Akin’s suggestion but churches, I speculate, would feel a bit hesitant to send their checks around their state convention even if the state convention ended up with half of the church’s giving after it was first routed through Nashville. Add to that the ease and long habit of churches taking the two mission offerings. The easier alternative, one that has been practiced for decades and one that churches are inherently more comfortable with is for a church to decrease their CP percentage or amount by an amount that then is budgeted to Annie Armstrong, Lottie Moon, or other causes. The state convention will still keep their 60% or 65% but the church has effectively reduced the percentage by giving less.

What the Akin proposal clearly shows, though, is that there are many Southern Baptists who are loyal, who love the Cooperative Program, who love and support their state convention, but who feel that the CP process and allocation formulas do not reflect their priorities, nor the reality of the world’s Gospel needs in the 21st Century.

I get this general conclusion when I ask younger pastors about the Cooperative Program and their mission priorities. I’ve never had a thirtysomething pastor who said they believe that our state, Georgia, has a greater need for CP dollars that places in North America and the world beyond the Chattahoochee and Savannah rivers. Not once. Maybe I’m talking to the wrong thirtysomethings.

We could do the same thing Akin suggests in an easier fashion if state conventions would offer churches alternative giving plans. My state could offer two alternatives, a “traditional” plan that maintained the current split (about 60/40, the state keeping the 60%) but also a straight “50/50″ plan where that CP dollar is divided equally between the Georgia Baptist Convention and SBC causes (and the 50/50 would be straight, without any accounting funny business where money kept in Georgia is called “shared” ministries or other fuzzy labels). I think that this alternative would have an immediate market among churches and pastors and that many churches would adopt the 50/50 plan, thereby fully supporting the official CP while giving in better accord with their mission priorities.

I wouldn’t look for this, though, since the only result would be a decrease in state convention revenues. State convention decision makers would prefer to have the ability to dangle tiny, fractional percentage movements towards 50/50, since they are better in control of those decisions. The idea of giving a church a straight choice removes the state convention from being in control and is therefore an idea that is DOA…

…Unless there is a grassroots movement to storm the Baptist Bastille and demand liberte from the legacy keepers of the Cooperative Program.

Comments

  1. says

    How does this move for less money to the state conventions effect states that have not been traditional SBC strongholds? Can smaller states afford this? Or are the small rural states that are struggling just out of luck?

    • William Thornton says

      Each state convention, and the churches therein, makes their own decisions. There is no move to impose any percentage on any state. Our polity does not allow for that. Both Akin’s idea and mine are just possibilities tossed out for thinking.

      • volfan007 says

        William,

        And, I’m afraid that it’s all of those ideas….about how else to give….that’s leading our SBC back to a societal method of supporting missions and ministries. I really feel like that’s what’s driving CP giving down, now. Churches want to give their missions money to things that they can be more involved in….instead of sending it up to some impersonal, mission agency. And, it’ll be the full time missionaries, seminaries, and the different ministries of the states that will suffer…. the CP has done so much good for so long…..but, a lot of younger people seem to always want to build a better mousetrap, even though the old one was catching mice, left and right.

        David

  2. volfan007 says

    Also, in moving to this 50/50 split, the ministries of the state conventions take a hit. I’m on the board of the TN Bapt. Children’s Homes. I know how this move to a 50/50 split hurts a ministry that the state is doing. And, this is definitely a worthy ministry. We minister to children from terrible home life’s…..and, a whole lot of these kids get saved, and discipled while living at the Children’s Home. Also, we’ve just started a Foster Care program that involves the local Church…..the Church helps the couple, who is willing to do Foster Care, to take care of the children. So, we have kids living in the residential homes, and we’re helping to train, give guidance, and place children in foster care…into the homes of Christian people.

    Would you want to cause the Children’s Homes to not do this ministry? when we’re already hurting bad due to the economy, and the less giving to the CP?

    David

    • William Thornton says

      David, I love you man…you would make a good bureaucrat. The children’s homes in TN get less than 5% of the TBC $36.5m budget. Maybe if a crunch came in the volunteer state they would look at the other 95% of the budget. Reminds me of when republicans propose modest cuts. The Dems always say they will starve children.

      What’s wrong with churches having more choices or being aware of more choices for their autonomous dollars?

      • volfan007 says

        William,

        That 5% is huge for us, though, in helping us to pay all the bills to the ministry and Great Commission work of the Children’s Home.

        David

        • volfan007 says

          William,

          That 5% has already gone down a lot…due to less giving to the CP…. and, the economy has just hurt us bad….really bad. So, to even think of getting less would really and truly keep us from doing more to minister to these children.

          David

          • Adam Blosser says

            I don’t think William is discounting what you are saying about the importance of the children’s home. I think he is saying that there is still 95% that is going to other places, and much of that to things not nearly as important as the children’s home. The TBC probably should cut in other places if they lost some CP revenue, but you are probably right that the money to the children’s home would in fact get cut. If that is the case, it doesn’t mean the TBC can’t afford cuts. It means they likely need better priorities.

            Btw, I am not picking on the TBC. I expect my state convention is much more wasteful than the TBC.

    • says

      Vol-

      This is one of the issues with passing out dollars via percentages rather than actual dollars. To avoid these cuts, worthy organizations and entities in state conventions should put in place HARD budgets and then make cuts in other non-essential areas to meet them.

      For example, stop paying for cars for state convention employees, cut staff that are not working in non-essential areas, decentralize offices- allow people to work from home or house state convention personnel in churches throughout the service area of the convention rather than in central offices, etc.

      With so much free technology available that allows for collaboration there is less and less need for central offices and the expenses that come with them- utilities, building insurance, maintenance, upkeep, landscaping, etc. Think about how much money could be put into orphan care, disaster relief, etc if you didn’t have to worry about paying the light bill on office space.

      I think the future is to be found in flexibility and mobility. Money that right now is paying for items that are not needed, due to technology, can be used for Kingdom advance and expansion of ministries that are actually doing Kingdom work.

      This is NOT a shot at state Baptist workers, just an observation of how the world is changing and how those changes can and should change the way we work and organize.

      • volfan007 says

        Ryan,

        I can agree with you somewhat, except that I know that the Children’s Home has made a lot of cuts….a lot of cuts. The Children’s Homes has been cutting back, big time, for the past few years….to just try to keep things going. We’ve even started a new thing….Foster Care…to try to help these kids, without having to build more buildings, etc. We’re trying to place children into Christian homes, where their Church helps to take care of the children….and, the Children’s Homes places the kids, gives training to the Foster parents, gives guidance, and supervision, etc. This will be more cost effective than residential care, but of course, we’ll have to have a whole lot more people, who are willing to be Foster parents.

        Anyway, the point is….here in TN, I know that the Children’s Homes has been cutting back, big time, to try to make it, financially. And, I know that our State Convention has been cutting back, a whole lot, to try to save money and make it. And, I just don’t see how they can make anymore cuts….

        David

        • Tarheel says

          Maybe it’s time to consider, as many states have, if the children’s home is the best use of CP monies?

          • volfan007 says

            Tarheel,

            I just have to strongly disagree with you, there. The Children’s Home is reaching children from some of the most awful home lifes you can’t even imagine. They are winning these children to the Lord….discipling them….helping them finish school….be productive members of society…..and, a whole lot of these children end up being very active members of our Churches. Without the Children’s Home, most of these children would end up as drug addicts, sex offenders, drunks, child abusers, living on welfare, and many would probably end up in our prisons….and, maybe they would be the burglar, who breaks into your house, and steals you blind.

            Let me ask you something….why would the Children’s Home NOT be the best use of CP monies?

            David

          • Tarheel says

            Notice I said consider….

            Sure it’s a worthy and worthwhile ministry – But at the same time we gave realize that being a worthy ministry is not the ONLY criterion.

            My church has had to make hard choices regarding our above CP musicians expenditures – state conventions do too.

            Personally my wife and I have too.

            There’s only so much money to go around and we’re not the Feds so we. Ant print more or borrow from China.

          • Tarheel says

            *we have to realize – not gave realize

            *Above CP missions expenditures – not musicians expenditures.

            Lol

          • volfan007 says

            Tarheel,

            So, why should we cut out the Children’s Homes, just to send more money to NAMB? The Children’s Homes is reaching children…. fulfilling the Great Commission in winning children to Christ and discipling them. So, why should we cut money to the Children’s Homes just to get more money to NAMB?

            Also, keep in mind, that NAMB and IMB get huge amounts from the Annie and Lottie offerings, as well.

            David

          • Tarheel says

            Vol,

            What percentage does the Tenn. Convention keep when churches give to the CP?

          • Tarheel says

            Vol,

            “Also, keep in mind, that NAMB and IMB get huge amounts from the Annie and Lottie offerings, as well.”

            Yes, that’s true but the Tennessee children’s homes gets additional monies designated to them through the “Mother’s Day offerering”

            If thier in as dire straights as you contend….Maybe reducing to two or a single home might preserve the ministry and streamline the spending?

          • Volfan007 says

            Tarheel,

            Yea, we can cut down the amount of homes we have….and, there are 8 children in each one…so, yea, we can tell 8 children that they can stay with a drunken mom and her sexual pervert boyfriend.

            BTW, I believe TN is still at a a 60/40split.

            David

          • Adam Blosser says

            Vol,

            The point remains that your rationale for keeping the TBC and SBC split at 60/40 is because anything less would hurt the children’s homes. That is only true if the children’s homes are less important to Tennessee Baptists than their other expenditures. As has been pointed out, the cuts could come from the 95% going to other things rather than the 5% going to the children’s homes.

        • Adam Blosser says

          Ryan said, “This is one of the issues with passing out dollars via percentages rather than actual dollars. To avoid these cuts, worthy organizations and entities in state conventions should put in place HARD budgets and then make cuts in other non-essential areas to meet them.”

          Vol, I really don’t think Ryan is advocating cutting the children’s home budget. It sounds to me like he is advocating cutting your exec’s CP funded car instead of the children’s home.

          FYI, I have no idea if your exec truly has a CP funded car. It is an example.

          • says

            Adam, that’s correct.

            And I don’t know which state conventions have cars for execs, or other perks. Some do and some don’t. I do know that there is waste in every bureaucracy. It creeps in quite accidentally and usually with the best of intentions.

            I do think the biggest issue at the state level is the centralization of offices. It made sense for many years because distance collaboration was difficult. It’s not the case any longer. Decentralization works for lots of large businesses. Why not for the church or denomination?

        • says

          Vol,

          My suggestion would be that the Children’s Home not cut back at all. That it have a fixed budget not based on percentage of gifts. I would suggest cutbacks in other areas that are not necessary- cars, expense accounts, selling property and decentralizing offices, etc.

          Pruning shouldn’t occur for ministries like the one you are talking about except as a last resort.

          Sorry that wasn’t clearer in my initial post.

          • volfan007 says

            Thank you, Ryan. The TN Baptist Children’s Homes is a great ministry, and I would just hate to see them cut anymore than the cuts they’ve already been experiencing. And, all the people wanting a 50/50 split in the state conventions need to understand that cutting back to 50/50 can really hurt some important ministries in the State Conventions.

            Also, I just want to tell everyone, out there, that our TN Baptist Convention has been cutting back, big time. They’ve reduced the state staff a whole lot, and did it in a gracious way. Also, we’ve sold that huge building in the expensive part of Nashville to build something smaller more out in the country where it doesn’t cost so much. I’m really proud of the TBC for all that they’ve been doing to cut costs….to get more money to the mission field and worthy ministries. We’ve got a gem in Randy Davis, our Ex. Dir.

            David

          • Dave Miller says

            That is one of the problems, though, Ryan, with our funding system. I’ve seen it in churches and I understand that it happens in conventions as well. We put more and more ministries (and mortgages, etc) “off-book” so that they are paid before missions percentages are divided.

            Of course, each convention gets to do whatever it decides to do, but if you are going to put a bunch of stuff off-book and then call it “50-50″ that is not really accurate.

            Let’s assume that a person decides to tithe. He makes 100,000 bucks (Worley’s take home pay at his church). So, a tithe would be 10k. But he then takes a number of items off-book. His mortgage. Groceries. Etc. He only tithes on everything else.

            He’s no longer really tithing, is he?

            State conventions can handle their finances any way they decide to. That is their right. But if they say, 50-50 or 60-40 or whatever, it is not accurate if they have a bunch of ministries off-book like that.

          • says

            Dave,

            You’re right and I agree that taking things off book when you are giving by percentage leads to an inaccurate representation of the actual percentage given. Truthfully, that’s why I have never liked the percentage pledge for churches. I get it for tithing as individuals, but churches are not called to tithe.

            I wonder (and this is totally just thinking out loud) what would happen if instead of leading churches to up their percentage, we just simply challenged churches to up their hard dollar giving? Annie and Lottie seem to get quite a bit of play with hard dollar goals. Why not the CP?

            Does anyone know- pardon my ignorance- where the idea of giving by percentage started in SBC life? I promise I listened to Dr. Faught at OBU in Baptist History but I can’t remember the reasoning for the life of me.

  3. volfan007 says

    Which brings me to something else that some of my friends and I have talked about….in private, of course. Is the SBC too big? Is it time to keep all the money at the state convention level, and send out our own missionaries? do our own theological training? Could we do better by NOT sending our money to some gigantic, overgrown, bureaucratic “agency,” which is far, far away from the local church?

    Have yall ever thought that maybe the state conventions could do better than the national convention? And, we would have more control over what happened to the money?

    Also, will this comment effectively keep me from ever serving on any other SBC Committees and boards?????? :)

    David

    • William Thornton says

      No. You couldn’t do your own theo edu and mission sending, unless you thought flooding Belize and other easy destinations was a good strategic move.

      I think that the reduction in CP percentages reflect some of your concerns.

      • volfan007 says

        I don’t know, William. It seems that the bigger things get, the more they don’t work right. When companies get huge, you start having things like less personal service, you start having to talk to people in Pakistan about any concerns you have about their product, and the manager in the local store is very limited to what he can truly decide to do without the Big Boys approval.

        Maybe it’s time to scale back….have NO national, SBC entities or leaders? And, let our State Conventions take care of it all. Maybe our State conventions could do the same thing that’s happening at the national level, and we could not have to pay some of the big salaries of the SBC entity heads and other leaders? Maybe our State Conventions could do all of those things, and it would be more personal…with more local Church involvement?

        David

        • William Thornton says

          Your state convention cannot possibly afford the structure which is needed to undergird missions work around the world, though they could put a couple of drops in the bucket.

          More later…I agree with you on SBC size and institutional inertia.

          • volfan007 says

            William,

            I’m not so sure about that. Our State Conventions could do what they could do. And, each State Convention working together could do a whole lot of mission work.

            David

          • Stephen says

            Would a collection of state agencies working independently be able to coordinate church planting the way that NAMB does with SendNA? The IMB, I believe, has the most full time missionaries of any organization – can a collection of state agencies working independently have the same efficiency in sending the gospel to all corners of the world?

            I think there is a reason why the US quickly shifted from away from a Confederation.

          • William Thornton says

            David, I’m in the choir when it comes to complaining about bureaucratic inertia, mammoth slow-moving institutions, and legacy commitments; however, state conventions could not possibly do as well as IMB. Why reinvent the wheel in regard to international missions. The IMB is huge and does a good job.

            Some of the larger churches do put their people in the difficult countries as workers, but they work with IMB to do so and sometimes utilize the IMB on a fee-for-service basis. It’s complicated.

            Church planting is something states do well, often in partnership with NAMB, though not in the same fashion as pre-Ezell. States are closer to target populations and ought to be more efficient in reaching them.

          • Volfan007 says

            Hey, I’m just asking questions and thinking out loud. I’m not the one cutting giving to the CP. My church gives 20 percent. And, I am not the one! Who is looking for different ways to give to missions.

            David

  4. says

    Here is my take from my perspective:
    1. Control is a key word in this discussion and will continue to be
    2. All branches of the SBC could do better (National, State, Assoc)
    3. As William and Akin point out, options already exist today and many are utilizing these. From what I am hearing, these options will continue and may take on different looks beyond the two presented in this post.
    4. The people in the pew below the age of 60 are struggling to find common ground with the SBC that would drive passion and involvement.
    5. Selling the CP to the younger generation is becoming more problematic.
    6. Our model needs adjusting – but doing so will be more than tricky
    7. Changes are coming on many fronts and they will continue

    There are NO easy answers in the SBC scenario.

  5. volfan007 says

    Also, what about the money given to the local Associations? I now that my Church gives 3% to our Association. Are Churches continuing to give to their local Associations? Or, is that going down, too?

    I had a DOM tell me, one time, that in 5 to 10 years, that either the local Association would be no more, or else the State Convention would be no more…..he didn’t see a need for both. What do you think?

    David

    • says

      In my home state because it is rural and not an SBC stronghold, the partnership between NAMB and the State Convention integral. With this push for states to partner 50-50 and the GCR it has caused our state to lose all or most of its DOMs.

    • William Thornton says

      The associations where I have pastored would have been just as well served by a part time DOM and no central office and office expenses. OTOH, a large association near me does a good job and provides value to churches. Perhaps we will see some consolidation of associations. This ain’t 1950 any more.

      • says

        “…provides value…”

        William, you have hit it with that phrase. And then again with “This ain’t 1950 any more.”

      • Volfan007 says

        The Association that I belong to is great. We have a wonderful fellowship, which is a blessing to my life. And, we cooperate in doing mission work together.

        David

        • says

          Volfan
          There are many associations like this. I have never understood why people like to always point out non functional assocs and DOMs when there are as many non functional churches and pastors as well as state offices and state workers

      • says

        William T
        As it relates to the quality of work size makes no difference. It is the quality of he DOM and staff if there is any. Some pastors are good others are not. Some DOMs are good others are not. Some state workers……

  6. William Thornton says

    NAMB, correctly in my view, changed its approach to funding DOMs around the country outside the South. We had areas where NAMB funded DOMs for years with little or no church planting results. Last I checked, NAMB’s funding was redirected away from that system and away from funding centralized state convention structures and staff and towards church planters and church planter catalysts who had goals for planting. Either it works or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t work, then we should not fund it and try something different.

    • says

      William T
      I was funded by HMB/NAMB for 20 years. Until 2011, I was not charged with church planting alone. Prior to that it was one 1/3 of my task. That means that 2/3 of my salary came from Assoc. Missions and 1/3 from Church Planting. Churches were started. In the States around Montana the rate of church planting has not increased since that model was changed to NAMB funded Strats or Cats. Structure changes accomplish nothing.

      I agree if what is in place now does not work it should be changed. Based on what I observe and hear from those involved it needs to be changed. More emphasis must be placed on CHURCHES planting churches in THEIR AREA with indigenous planters. Well structured “farm clubs” will accomplish this

  7. William Thornton says

    I would point David and others to the backdrop for this article: Akin and B21, influential among younger SBC pastors, who wish to support the CP but are searching for a manner to do this consistent with their church priorities. The idea that states keep most of a CP dollar (and I’m referencing not just the average among all states but the dollars which overwhelmingly stay in the legacy SBC states from Missouri around to Virginia, the south and border states.

    • William Thornton says

      …”The idea that states keep most of a CP dollar (and I’m referencing not just the average among all states but the dollars which overwhelmingly stay in the legacy SBC states from Missouri around to Virginia, the south and border states” does not reflect their priorities.

      • says

        Another key point – what are the priorities. If states go 50-50, the “Baptist College” scenario will be vanished along with some other things. This is not all bad, but it is more regional in scope when predicting and leading states to do certain things.

        It is why I think we have reached a moment of serious correction (needed) to chart a path of ministry and missions for the future that fits the present and future landscape.

        Problem though is that each level of the SBC is totally autonomous. Gonna be difficult to get any major change accomplished IMHO.

        • says

          My point is highlighting an understanding that many people have forgotten. When one looks at the 3 levels that make up the SBC, one quickly sees why we are not a denomination but a convention. When not even the convention meeting in session can force anything upon an entity, there is no mechanism to force a change on any of the 3 levels. There is no hierarchy and there are zero paths available to make a change stick. No entity can be controlled by the convention in session nor any other means. Every Association controls itself. Every state controls itself. And the national level controls nothing.

          The system is dramatically different from a denomination (for which I am grateful) and structured so that little change can occur (for which I am fearful).

  8. says

    Is there not an even simpler way than this?

    Do as we have long done with Association giving: let the church write another check. Make it 3 instead of 2–or use electronic giving.

    Rather than a church giving 5, 10, 20, or more to the CP, they can support the work of their association, their state, and the national SBC at the levels they feel appropriate. For the math-challenged, we could even offer suggestions: a church currently giving 10% through CP that wants 50/50 can give 5% to their state’s work, and 5% to the national work.

    That would also provide a way to ditch the “shared ministries” number, because you would no longer have those “shared ministries.”

    (The idea there is that the state can count the money spent by state people to advance national causes as “national money.” For example, someone promoting the seminaries or IMB is doing the work of the national entity, so their costs count as national costs. Too many times, that is taken far too loosely in its interpretation.)

    If the church is passionate about maintaining state legacy ministries, they will maintain their current level of giving through state work. If they are dissatisfied and want more to IMB, then this makes that easy. It will also drive the conversation to actually happen, as churches would have to work into their budget planning how to divide what has been going through the state’s system of allocation.

    This, rather than adding another administrative task–sorting gifts according to giving plan–might be a smoother answer. It retains the authority of the church to determine its own giving plan, and frees a church up to do as it is led.

    You’d need to modify Article 3 again to reflect that SBC messengers would be based on national giving, and the states would likely do the same, so that messengers to the state conventions are based on what is given through their programs.

    • says

      The problem with these changes is that the smaller churches are the ones who need the benefits of the association and state convention while the larger churches do not. Unfortunately it seems that what it driving these changes is that the larger churches are wanting to bypass the state or associations because they do receive as great a benefit. This however hurts the smaller churches who need the help the larger churches give by helping to maintain the association and state conventions.

      • says

        Fundamentally, though, many of the larger churches are already designated around this–note our new SBC President, who raised his CP percentage to 5! 5 whole percent after cutting it deeply back in the late 80s/early 90s and justifying, even when he received more votes losing the election for SBC President than he got when he won it this year, that CP wasn’t really their main missions funding.

        Most bigger churches give right past state, and even right past the national CP system–their CP giving is a low, token amount (5% or less) and then there are large gifts and partnership fundings with NAMB, IMB, and a seminary (there was, and perhaps still is, an extension center for Southern in NW Arkansas, open only by invitation through Cross Church, an example of that partnership funding for seminaries).

        Why not go wholly into what William is saying: if you don’t want to fund your state convention, then don’t fund it.

        Yes, smaller churches need their state conventions, especially if the state is not dysfunctional. And some of you talk about your states like dysfunctional would be an improvement! We need them, and we need the partnership that is all of us working together for the sake of the Gospel.

        But it’s wearying to hear the complaints that folks don’t want to be forced to fund stuff they don’t want. If you don’t want to partner with smaller churches to reach your state, then you don’t–and let’s change the system where it quits requiring you to. I would rather my small church (excuse me, “Smaller membership church” to be SBC-correct in terms) partner with other churches that actually want to, rather than talking to a pastor to seek advice and help to accomplish something and he’s too big and important to help–after all, he can hire help, or if he calls Lifeway or NAMB, they actually help rather than tell him that he’s “not strategically a good use of resources.”

        I’m at the point that the larger churches don’t want to help, then far be it from me to keep forcing them to help. I’d rather have a smaller fellowship of churches that are willing participants.

  9. Roger Simpson says

    I’m pretty much a free market guy. I don’t think the market will support six separate SBC seminaries over the next decades. I won’t be around in 20 years to see if my prediction is right or wrong but I think that due to consolidation or closure we will only have 4 seminaries by the year 2035.

    I have not done this but if you take the current rate of change in student enrollment and project it forward this could give a clue as to the growth (or non-growth) of various schools that might give us an idea of the future trajectory.

    Another problem is that our whole denomination is shrinking so it might not be possible to support six SBC schools. Also, it seems to me, that in recent decades we are observing that conservative evangelical schools — such as Mid America and Liberty — are moving into some of the space that once was occupied by SBC schools.

    The bottom line of my thinking is that “free market” mechanisms will work to keep our agencies “mean and lean”. There will continue to be some turbulence between what happens at the associational, state, and SBC wide levels.

    Roger Simpson Oklahoma City OK

    • William Thornton says

      Six seminaries seems excessive in 2014, especially for a slightly declining convention but I wouldn’t be optimistic about consolidation or closure. The seminaries have a dedicated portion of the CP which will never be reduced due to the power of their constituents and alumni. They also have the ability to raise tuition along with a sizable pool from which to solicit and receive gifts. I see all six sailing along for decades.

      • Chris Roberts says

        “I see all six sailing along for decades.”

        Then you haven’t been paying attention. Everyone knows Mohler is going to close the other seminaries and consolidate all SBC education in one Calvinistic school. One or two of the other seminary campuses will remain in use, but as satellite campuses of Southern where Mohler’s visage will be broadcast from 3d terminals throughout the school.

        • Dale Pugh says

          I would anticipate, then, that there will be a “Hunger Games” approach to graduation? “May the odds be ever in your favor!”

      • Stephen says

        Chris is being sarcastic but I don’t think he’s far off. Even today 6 seminaries are not sufficient in themselves, and the leadership knows it. Instead, we are seeing seminary level education offered online anywhere you have a computer with a video card. There are also enough extension centers spread that a large percentage of people living in the South are within a couple hours’ drive of face to face classroom opportunities as well, and more and more local churches are partnering up to offer a limited number of classes with qualified instructors.

        • William Thornton says

          Evidently, I have a greater faith than you in institutional self-preservation and turf protection. Institutional trustees and administrators are loath to relinquish power over jobs, real estate and budgets. I see the six seminaries attempting to expand their individual educational footprints (undergrad schools, online learning, “soft” specialty programs like SWBTS’ homemaking). If there are areas where the six are consolidating functions, I’d like to hear about it. I see no seminary funerals anywhere on the horizon. I do see pressure for greater funding and note the stray motion offered in Baltimore that online enrollment be factored into the FTE count used for CP purposes.

          • Dale Pugh says

            That’s one of the reasons for Golden Gate’s recent move. Jeff Iorg and the trustees are looking to the future, and I applaud them for their bold move, while at the same time mourning the loss of Strawberry Point. It is bittersweet. If any of the seminaries would have the guts to make such a decision, though, it would be GGBTS. They aren’t as bound by tradition and history as are the seminaries of the South.

          • William Thornton says

            …and they will get a fabulous amount of money to work with from the sale of property. This was altogether predictable. Dangle a comparable price at any of the other five seminaries and see how bold they get. I’m not being critical, just noting a critical factor in the move.

        • says

          William T is correct (june 21 8:18) re. turf protection. In addition I am not sure but what smaller seminaries is not better. Back in the dark ages I took Hebrew 1 with 76 other students under Dr. Garland. I acknowledge this is unusual, and also due to his popularity. However I think my principle is valid: smaller classes make for better learning.
          Of course cost i.e. student/dollar ratio is a factor for SB. More seminaries equal smaller classes

  10. says

    I think we miss the point. The issue is not the entity. The issue is the health and quality of work done by the entity. We accomplish nothing by transferring money to a unhealthy state convention in hopes that something will change.

    Basically the structure is not that bad. There simply must be more accountability as it relates to productivity. Shape it up, clean it up, eliminate the waste and incapable people hold them accountable and entities will produce.

  11. Mark Mitchell says

    We are certainly not going to do an end run around our state convention and we certainly are not going to do less in our own state. The average church is giving what it can and it will be a long wait to hold out for more from them. Our concern should be for our own back yard first.

      • says

        How?
        “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”
        The great Commission starts in ones own backyard.

        • Mark Mitchell says

          That is right the Great Commission starts in our own backyard and is our first and primary responsibility.

          • says

            Mark

            “first and primary”

            No so. Even if one accepts the erroneous geographical interpretation of this passage it still is not our first and primary, it would be one of our responsibilities.

            There is no exegetical way to understand this command as a starting point and continuing to expand. The verb governs all of the areas.

            The Matt verses says “all nations” No concept of a starting point and expanding.

        • says

          Parson
          You are assuming the ‘WMU’ interpretation of Acts 1:8. which is erroneous. It is not an ever widening circle geographically. The division are people groups i.e. Jews (Jerusalem, Judea) Samaritans (Samaria) and Gentiles (uttermost). It is the intent of Jesus in this utterance to help us understand that our mission is Global. We must remember that He was speaking to Jews who by nature would restrict the gospel to the Jew. Not so says Jesus, it is for all races .

          Thjs mistake is made because as SB we are program an strategy oriented. This is not a missions strategy. It is an evangelistic command.

        • Stephen says

          Taking Acts 1:8 literally…the Great Commission actually ends in the backyard of those who don’t live in Judea or Samaria, i.e., us. (It also ends in the backyard of many unreached people groups who don’t live within a day’s journey to a Christian or a church).

          • says

            Stephen
            “Back year” not being a Biblical term, I am not sure how you are defining same. Elaborate please, concept sounds interesting.

    • William Thornton says

      I’d like to think that most of us would consider 61 cents on every CP dollar spent in our southern back yards, inthe states already heavily populated with SBC churches, to be not just sufficient but excessive in the light of the billions elsewhere with little or no Gospel witness.

      Akin’s suggestion of a route to move this percentage down slightly from 61 to 50 seems very modest…but we know that baptists at every level protect their budgets and find sufficient reasons for explaining why their slice of the pie should not be cut thinner. Fortunately, the local church is king and can decide independently how to prioritize their mission spending.

  12. Mark Mitchell says

    It is so. The actual language is “as you go”. As you go to the store, as you go to the school, as you go where ever it is you are going. I cannot be all over the world. I can be right here. I live in NM. This state is 95% lost. It is a tough mission field. The majority of our money needs to stay right here. Especially since NAMB has basically pulled out all of its previous efforts and placed erroneous and extreme standards on any potential church planting catalyst. Give all of that the majority of our money needs to stay right here in NM and our efforts doubled.

  13. Mark Mitchell says

    Further, since Dr. Floyd, (the great divider) has in the past asserted that anyone who did not support the GCR in the way he wanted it does not care about the great commission, is not the President there is a lack of confidence in how things will get handled. I do not trust him, do not care for him, and will not support any agenda he may have. He is mean spirited and a divider.

    • says

      Mark
      For discussion let’s say you are correct in your evaluation of NAMB and Floyd. Poor performance of entities and leaders does not justify disobeying the command to go to the “Gentiles”.

  14. parsonsmike says

    D.L.,
    I think you are not seeing the big picture.
    Other countries, ones where we used to send missionaries to, are now sending missionaries to us.

    Once we, as the USA, were a ‘Christian’ nation, with Christian viewpoints in our cultures, while now we are more pagan.

    So today, here in our backyards, we have many people unexposed to the Gospel. Maybe not in remote rural places, but in our larger towns and cities, there is a huge populace who know little of the true Gospel.

    It is negligent not to start with our unsaved neighbors while we seek to witness for Jesus across the globe.

    Paul did not start in Spain and then work his way back to Jerusalem. The church started in Jerusalem and sent missionaries out from there, never forgetting the need at home. The need was so great that Paul collected from the gentile churches to help it.

    And Paul would go out a distance and come back.
    Then he went out again, this time further, And then he was sent to Rome.

    • William Thornton says

      This is a rationale for spending all of our money and effort here…forever…since America will never be completely reached. I would offer that the level of exposure to the Gospel is vastly greater here in any area one might look, than in vast swaths of the world and among huge populations.

      Our present level of spending keeps almost all of our money here. The percentage would be well up in the 90th percentile. The more cogent argument would be that this is excessive. That is the big picture.

    • says

      Parsons

      I say the same thing I said to Mike. The decline of our nation does not justify disobedience to the Bible. True, I may not see the “Big Picture”, but that is irrelevant. It is realy pretty simple. The bible says “go” so we “go”. this is not rocket science.

      Anytime we try to rationalize the teaching of scripture we will get into trouble. Rationalization is the mid-wife of “Liberal”

      • says

        William and D.L.,
        I said that the Great Commission starts here at home.
        To read that as meaning it ends at home is a mistake.

        Going INCLUDES going next door as well to the ends of the earth.

        Is everyone of us called to go to Africa?
        Or to S. America?
        Or Asia?

        Or are we all called to be preachers?
        Or teachers?
        Or song leaders?

        It is a team effort.
        Not everyone throws the ball, or is assigned to block the linebacker.

        Now let us use mark’s example.
        I do not know if it is true that 95% of NM is lost, but lets say it is.

        If God has called him and his church to bring the Gospel to these lost people with 100% of their resources, who are you two guys to call his obedience to God , disobedience?

        Is Pharisaical the opposite of Liberal?

        BTW, my church gives 10% to missions as well as sending out and/or supporting our own missionary trips to Africa and S. America. We also provide a missionary house to allow overseas missionaries to have a place to stay while on furlough.

        Each of us, both as individuals and individual churches, have a part to play in the GC. We all aren’t left arms, or right eyes.

        peace,
        mike

  15. andy says

    So it sounds like the only likely scenario is that most churches continue at present CP levels or (more likely) lowere CP levels. This will likely not hurt the IMB much, since many of these churches will increase their IMB giving. However, it means that none of the proposed ideas for increasing cp percentages will work…the only way to increase cp going giving is church planting and churches growing…Best case scenario is to have more churches, and bigger churches giving their 2-5% to the CP. I don’t see any other method working realistically.

  16. Nate says

    VolFan:

    Help me understand why you think that the State can’t provide alternatives? Any organizations that is dependent upon others for their money should always try to keep those donating to them happy. Furthermore, it is in the best interests of the State (or the Local Assoc) to make sure their suppliers are informed.

    We are a small church that gives over 10% to the CP through the State Convention. We have discontinued our giving to the Local Assoc. because they continually show no concern for any questions we have of their practices, or what our church considers wasteful spending, (junk mail/postage being the most egregious, in my opinion). However, the State is seemingly becoming more expectant of the money we give and almost never thinking to reach out to their donors.

    Quite frankly, as a bi-vocational pastor (of which, my ilk seems to be growing), the amount of money we give to the CP (not counting Annie or Lottie) could be used to pay my healthcare and thus, allow me to become full-time. I have not pushed that to the Finance or Personnel Cmtg, but I think you can see where my thoughts are going.

    I am a big fan of the CP, and have pushed my church to increase our giving to the CP by 1% every year, even though our budget has not increased in the 5+ years I have been the pastor.

    So, I don’t think the State should simply ASSUME they deserve support. And I think the State should ASSUME they need to be in contact with their donors (esp. their smaller ones) because we are probably the largest pct of their support, as the mega-churches are probably holding their money far more tightly that us smaller churches.

    Reform is needed and I think William has a point and I think the State(s) should pay attention. I am highly considering in the next month (when our Finance cmtg. meets for next year’s budget) to suggest a piece-meal giving plan that will ensure that certain entities don’t get any money and that our congregation will be able to know where their giving dollars are being spent. It would be in the State’s best interest to be more interested in its donors than they are currently, even if our church’s donation is merely only in the tens of thousands.

    • volfan007 says

      Nate,

      My point is this…..giving like you’re suggesting will sound the death knell for the CP. The SBC will turn back into a societal giving method, once again….like we used to be, before the CP.

      But, if that’s the way everyone in the SBC wants it….then, ok. Every Church will just start deciding on which missionaries, ministries, and seminaries that they’ll give to, and which ones they won’t.

      The CP has worked for years and years….supporting a whole lot of missionaries, ministries, and seminaries, etc. Why ditch it?

      David

      • Andy says

        I don’t think most of us are saying the CP is going away, or even needs to. We’re saying the percentages are NOT going to go up, and might keep going down…So states will need to adjust to this reality…whether we like it or not, whether the churches are thinking correctly about it or not. The states with wise leaders will do as nate said, and listen to their churches, set proirities, and communicate clearly with their churches.

        I don’t know what Nate means when he says he wants to “ensure certain entities don’t get any money.”

        …But churches DO want to know where their money is going, and it seems recently states have not done a good job at communicating that.

        • volfan007 says

          Andy,

          My point is…and I’m not the only one saying this….that such thinking as Nate’s will lead to an end to the CP. Effectively, it will lead to a more societal approach. In fact, it’s already hurting the CP a whole lot…. because, a lot of Churches are giving their money to missions in different ways, already.

          If we continue that path, the CP will go away, or just be a shell of i’s former self….an unrecognizable shell of it’s former self.

          But again, if that’s how everyone wants to do it, then let’s do it that way. My Church can start picking out what missions and ministries and seminaries to support with our 20% giving to the CP.

          David

        • William Thornton says

          Nate, do you mind my asking in what sense do you not know where your CP money is going? And what entities do you feel do not deserve your church’s money, and why.

      • Nate says

        David, why will it sound the death knell. I didn’t state that I would not continue to give to certain entities, nor did I say that I would quit giving to Lottie or Annie (which, other than our seminaries, are the most “national” of our CP giving). What it might do is actually get the State Conventions to not actually assume they can act without recourse, which, I understand, is my fault to a degree, because I don’t attend the meetings, although being bi-vocational doesn’t give me much.

        Personally I would prefer much more online access and understanding of what is going on, perhaps even being able to attend meetings online (which, in this day and age, is not difficult to pull off).

        • volfan007 says

          Nate,

          Societal giving is what all of this is leading to….that’s why it sounds the death knell to the CP. Instead of giving cooperatively…pulling all of our missions dollars together….we all start giving to the specific things that we want to give to….thus, the CP dies.

          David

          • Nate says

            David,

            I totally disagree. Again, I didn’t say I would quit giving to National Entities (IMB, NAMB, and the Seminaries). This is our best and most cooperative effort, in my opinion. As I already stated to William, I am not going to give money to the ERLC anymore so that one person can lobby according to his own whims and not according to the consensus of our members.

            Further, at the State Level, I wouldn’t completely avoid giving money, but they would get their own pct. of our church’s giving and not what they deem best. That doesn’t imply in the least that I want to quit giving to the State altogether, although, I do think the State should make a better effort to keep churches like mine involved in the process.

            And yes, I also need to get more involved in the process.

          • volfan007 says

            Nate,

            I’m not saying that your Church would quit giving to the SBC entities. That’s not what I’m saying when I say that it will be the death knell of the CP.

            When you and others start talking about giving to the SBC Entities directly….picking out which ones you’ll give to, and which ones you want give to….and giving what you choose to the state convention…..and, if a lot of people do the same thing as yall…. then there will be no more CP, or at least, it won’t do much.

            CP, or cooperative program giving, is all of us giving our mission dollars to the state convention, who then divvies it out to each entity as the state conventions vote to do.

            David

            PS. Just curious….which seminary do you want to give to? and why?

          • Nate says

            David,

            I want to give to all the seminary’s equally. And, while I hear what you’re saying (from the way it’s always been scenario), I still will have to disagree that it will be to the detriment of the CP as a whole if I decide to give 70% to the state and 30% to the entities of our church’s choice, or vice versa. Right now, the State gets that decision and I think my church can make better choices. I also think that it might make the State take a look at the way things have always been and realize they may need to change a few things. All I’ve done is changed the decision making of my CP dollars, I haven’t sent a penny less to the CP.

            Also, as I said about the ERLC, I am not giving money to one man’s lobbying decisions, and if some of the other entities become dictatorial, I would re-think my commitment to them as well.

      • Nate says

        William,

        The ERLC for one. I don’t think our money should be paying for lobbyists.

        • Nate says

          And, I might add lobbyists who give their own opinion on the issues and not the consensus of the membership of our churches.

          • andy says

            If you give ANY money to your state convention through the CP, you are in fact giving to the ERLC… And if you cease giving to the state convention to avoid the ERLC, you are in fact ceasing to give to the CP…no matter how much you send to national entities…That’s just the way it works.

          • Nate says

            Not true Andy. I can also piecemeal my giving to the State, only supporting the things the State is doing that I agree with, which is no different than what I’m suggesting with the National.

            And as I’ve said multiple times, if my church is giving 10+ pct of our budget to the various National entities and State initiatives we support, we are still contributing to the Cooperative Program. The Cooperative Program IS NOT the State Determining what cooperation and money allotments should be. IT IS churches coming together to support missions, education of pastors, and other various things.

          • volfan007 says

            Nate,

            I really think that you’re understanding of the CP is wrong. I’m not trying to be ugly or snarky, here, but you’re missing the whole point of the CP.

            David

          • says

            I don’t often agree with David, but when I do it means the stars are aligning, they are singing Frozen songs in H-E-HockeySticks, and of course that we are right on this given topic. Sorry but Nate, you are indeed wrong.

            The Coopretive program is the name given to the concept that expressly and intentionally goes against piecemeal giving It was started to avoid all the seminaries, and all the entities from having to send their own emissaries from going to all the churches and asking for donations. Instead all donations get funded to once source, the state Convnetions, from there they get sent to the national level SBC into a fund that is distributed (by formula) to all the entities. Again the very concept of the CP is to do away with piecemeal giving.

            If you are not giving to the CP fund with the state, if you are giving directly to specific entities, you are not participating in the CP. You are supporting individual causes. Now, that may be good, or it may not be. But it is not CP giving.

          • Dave Miller says

            Lo and behold, I think David is right here. The concept of the CP is based on pooled resources. We give to missions through the CP and it is then divided up into various entities. That division is decided by the state. Then the national SBC decides its allocations.

            To give directly is still missions, but it is not CP missions.

          • Nate says

            Sorry fellas, but I’ll have to stand opposed to you all. When the CP started it didn’t include all the Ancillary things (like the ERLC, for example that wasn’t founded until 1968) that it includes now. There has been so much bureaucracy since its inception that you can’t say it’s identical to its concept, therefore I can’t change my church’s methodology of giving to it. That’s the beauty of being an autonomous Baptist church. We have every right to give in a piecemeal fashion. If the State doesn’t like it or the National Convention doesn’t like it, I doubt seriously they are going to turn down our 10+ pct. But hey, if they want to, then let them contact us.

          • William Thornton says

            I think the point is that the CP is that market basket of entities that we agree to fund jointly with one check. If for conscience or other reasons your church cannot do this, fine.

            I’m a fairly informed CP observer and critic but I think the value of the cooperative methodology of funding our stuff outweighs most individual critics who a a given time dislike one or more recipients. I would encourage any SBC church or pastor to weigh the overall benefit of the system against his or their particular complaint.

            Churches have clearly indicated a preference for personally directing more of their mission giving and putting less in the CP basket of ministries; however, let’s not overlook that the CP still gets 5.5% of every church’s undesignated receipts. This is a mammoth cooperative funding stream.

          • William Thornton says

            Nate, I’m not quite following how your church gives. Do you make CP gifts but negatively designate, do you send your state a check and specify individual amounts for each entity, or what?

          • Nate says

            Let’s just make sure that I have been perfectly clear. I have never said that my church wants to withhold our almost 11% simply because we do not agree with the way that money is being allocated. What I am saying is that we (our church) will be the determining factor in where the 11% goes, what pct will go to the State and what remainder will go the National Convention. Furthermore, we (our church) will decide which particular ministries in the State and the National Conventions get their portion of that 11%. That is well within our rights and gives us the ability to fund the ministries we agree with.

            Again, I have never said we are going to withhold our 11%, which is a far larger pct that the average church, by a mile. However, if the State wants to fund an entity we disagree with (ERLC has been my example), we have every right to disseminate the portion we give to the State to their various ministries and the same for the National.

            So, if you are going to say that the State doesn’t want our money because they don’t get to piecemeal it the way they want, or the National doesn’t want our money because we don’t want to support certain entities, then that only proves their desire to be the final arbiter, which our church has every right to disagree with. We could take our money elsewhere, but we don’t. They are getting the same total amount, they shouldn’t complain.

          • Adam Blosser says

            No one is questioning your church’s autonomy. Nor has anyone said that what you are doing is inherently wrong. All that has been said is that it isn’t CP giving, which it isn’t

          • Nate says

            And I keep coming back with Adam, that the CP, historically, is a moving target and will continue to be because only a few people are in control, and the only method of trying to steer them in a different direction is what I am proposing. Or, at least, that is the opinion of our church.

          • William Thornton says

            So, Nate, how do you plan to give? I’m curious about how you plan to exercise your church’s autonomy.

          • Nate says

            We will sit down and look at the various ministries that the State funds and give whatever pct of our 11% to the particular ministries we want to support. We will ask that they respect that. We can send the remainder to the National Entities fairly easily and will tell the State that we are wanting to handle it that way. If they refuse, we will send checks to specific ministries we want to support. We will see what they have to say. Should be an interesting conversation, to say the least.

          • William Thornton says

            Actually, the CP at the national level is about as sclerotic as can be. The major components and proportions are very rigid. The states are only slightly less rigid but have to change quickly when revenues drop; hence, rapid job elimination because there’s no money.

            There have been and always will be a small number of pastors and churches who find serious issues with some recipients. State and national leaders understand and respect this but such behavior is seldom much of a motivation to change. The broader picture is the decline of the overall percentage.

          • volfan007 says

            Nate,

            I will agree with what everyone has been telling you. What yall are doing is not really CP giving. I’m also not saying that yall are wrong, or bad, for giving like yall do. I mean, I’m thankful that yall give to help support ministries and missions. But, it is NOT CP giving. What yall are doing is Societal giving…..picking out specific ministries and missions that yall want to support.
            And, if everyone starts doing that, then that will be the end of the CP.

            David

          • William Thornton says

            So, you want to fully designate? Fine. It’s your church’s money. I think my state has a method to handle that.

            If I were one of your church leaders, I’d want to support my pastor and listen to his views on our church’s mission giving. I might have a private conversation and point put that the church has had half a dozen or so different pastors in the past 30 years and it makes it difficult for most members to understand if every pastor insisted on his specific giving preferences.

            If I were a state convention exec, I’d say that at whatever level your church supports SC ministries, we are grateful and will serve your church in whatever way we can.

          • Nate says

            “And, if everyone starts doing that, then that will be the end of the CP”

            Or David, it might lead to a refining of the CP. Again, the CP should be more concerned with the churches that are giving 1, 2, or 3% and not our church which is giving 11%. What is worse, my piecemeal-ing our 11% or us withholding funds and only giving 3%, which many churches are doing to express their dissatisfaction?

          • volfan007 says

            Nate,

            Again, your Church can do whatever they feel led to do. And, amen for all the giving yall give to help with missions. Yall giving 11% of your budget to missions is wonderful. BUT…once again… giving like your Church gives is NOT CP giving. It’s just not.

            David

  17. Rick Patrick says

    Methinks the so-called “Legacy States” have been treated like wicked stepchildren by the Great Cash Reallocation advocates. Most of these state conventions PRECEDE the national convention. They are not the children, but the parents of the SBC.

    When I was a child, I was grateful for the allowance my father gave me. It never occurred to me to go directly to his employer and ask for my cut first.

    No other Southern Baptist group is charged with the responsibility of reaching Alabama for Christ than the Alabama convention. We give generously and faithfully toward national and worldwide ministries. In fact, we lead much larger state conventions in such efforts. But we should not be made to feel guilty for wanting to continue our strong emphasis in successfully reaching out to the lost right here in Alabama.

    I want to reach the lost wherever they can be found. If $100 in Alabama reaches three souls and $100 in New York reaches one, I want plenty of money–plenty of money, I tell you–to stay right here in Alabama. And my reason for wanting this is to better fulfill the Great Commission by reaching more souls for Christ–again, wherever they can be found.

    Do I ALSO want to reach new work areas and unreached people groups? OF COURSE! But someone will have to show me the verse in Leviticus that says 50/50 is Great Commission compliant while 60/40 is selfish. I don’t buy it.

    • volfan007 says

      Rick,

      To piggyback on your comment….also, there’s a whole bunch of people moving into the South, right now….and, have been for years. They’re coming from the North and from the West. It astounds me how many people I find when I’m out visiting people, who are from Connecticut, or Michigan, or Oregon, who are now living in Tennessee. It amazes me. And, they just moved, here, to retire…no family ties….no history of living in the South…just wanted to move somewhere warmer to retire. Also, there has been a huge number of Hispanics moving into the South.

      So, maybe the States need to keep more money….to reach all of these people moving into the Southern states?

      David

      • volfan007 says

        PS. I just want to add that I’m thrilled for the Mexicans, who moved to Greenfield, and opened a Mexican Restaurant. It’s a good one, too.

    • Dave Miller says

      I sure hope most Southern Baptists don’t share your “keep the money for ourselves” attitude, Rick and Vol.

      There are SBC churches on every corner in the places I’ve lived and visited in the South. The churches themselves ought, it seems, to be able to do the ministry to these people.

      The SBC needs to focus its missions money where there are fewer churches and less witness.

      But I’m afraid your attitudes may be winning the day. Iowa Baptists will certainly suffer for it, but there’s not much we can do about it.

      • Rick Patrick says

        I never said anything about ourselves, Dave. Do you really think money invested to reach Judea or Samaria is the same as money kept in Jerusalem? It’s not for ourselves. It’s for others. Lost others. Going to hell others. They live in Alabama too. The more we reach in Alabama, the more resources we will be able to send elsewhere. The rising tide lifts all the boats in the harbor. It makes little sense to cripple funding in growth areas and divert it to stagnant areas where gospel seeds are scarcely flourishing. I truly believe that if our churches are giving properly, a 60/40 split can actually result in greater giving to new work areas than a 50/50 split. In other words, Iowa is better off getting 40% of a whole bunch than 50% of a little bit. This is not selfishness, Dave. I want us to reach all people everywhere.

        • Rick Patrick says

          Quick illustration to show what I mean… Right now, churches average 6% CP giving, so your desired 50/50 split yields 3% for the SBC. Assuming proper 10% CP giving, my acceptable 60/40 split yields 4% for the SBC.

          I know this sounds like Common Core Math, but 40% is greater than 50% WHEN Southern Baptists get back to our 10% standard. Last year, our church moved from 7 to 8. This year, we are moving from 8 to 9.

          • Adam Blosser says

            haha…and assuming “proper” 10% CP giving, a 50/50 split yields 5% for the SBC. 3%<4%<5%

          • Rick Patrick says

            Adam,

            Obviously we agree on the ordering of numbers. The key issue I am attempting to identify is this: there is a certain place along the percentage line at which investing more money in new work areas and less money in established work areas is actually to the detriment of both, since it cripples the continued expansion of the funding source, which is clearly found in the established work states.

            For some reason, people assume that point must be 50/50. Perhaps it seems fair, for whatever reason, but it is nonetheless arbitrary. It may actually be true that a 60/40 split so strengthens and grows the churches in the established states that it will actually result in increased giving to new work states.

            If this idea sounds a bit like Supply Side Economics, please forgive me. I have always been a hopelessly committed Ronald Reagan fan. I’m ready for it to be “Morning Again” in the SBC.

          • William Thornton says

            Rick said with a certain amount of insight: “It may actually be true that a 60/40 split so strengthens and grows the churches in the established states that it will actually result in increased giving to new work states.”

            However…this concept has been tested for the past several generations. 60/40 has not demonstrated that devoting that proportion of resources in established states results in strengthened churches. There is this record to contend with of less baptisms, reduced CP giving, and plateaued or declining churches.

            Those who have watched states and their consuming of 60+% of the CP dollar recognize a good degree of legacy, institutionalized spending priorities which have long been decoupled from results. States may demonstrate otherwise going forward and I hope they do, but have not done so to this point.

          • volfan007 says

            Let me just say, again, reluctantly, I might add, because I don’t want anyone thinking that I’m anti missions, or something, but my Church gives 20% to the CP….3% to the Association….we give large amounts to Lottie and Annie, especially for a Church our size. We also pay 100% for our people to go on our mission trips to Honduras and Cincinnati. And, we also give to other missions…..so, I just want everyone to know that my Church and I believe strongly in missions.

            Just wanted that known, as we go thru this discussion….after saying the things I’ve said, and hearing some of the responses of others.

            DAvid

        • Dave Miller says

          I remember a lady saying, “Why do we go on mission trips when there are still people to reach here in Sioux City?”

          Of course, there is always the logic that we need to reach home first.

          However, you are conflating two things. Most associations in the South have more churches, more members and higher budgets than our entire state convention.

          Can we not assume that the CHURCHES of the states like Alabama can reach their towns and cities?

          We are talking about MISSIONS money – money meant to expand the church. Wouldn’t that be better spent where there are not churches who can do the work?

          Shouldn’t we be looking to expand work where it is not already established?

          Again, I simply hope your attitude does not prevail.

          • Rick Patrick says

            And I hope you do not look down upon those who believe that simple Robin Hood economics does not actually result in more practical mission money on the field. Yes, I want to expand work where it is not already established. We have the same goal, just different ideas about the method that will best accomplish it.

            No, we cannot assume the CHURCHES can do local AND state missions when the funding sources for those state missions were previously through the state conventions. Yes, the churches do LOCAL missions, but the STATES were doing STATE missions. If the NATIONAL missions causes takes money from the STATES, then the STATES have to come up with the shortfall somewhere. It is called passing the buck.

          • Dave Miller says

            Robin Hood missions? Really?

            Wow.

            Again, we in the New Work states hope that the majority of Baptists view our attempts to plant churches and do work outside the deep South as a spiritual investment. We hope most do not see us as missions money “Robin Hoods” or some kind of drain on the much-superior work (as it seems you think in your comments) of those in Alabama and other Deep South states.

          • Rick Patrick says

            Double Wow! I never said Alabama missions was superior to Iowa missions. You put those words in my mouth, friend. But I sure don’t consider Alabama missions *inferior* to Iowa missions either. I want to fund *both* of them. I want to reach lost people everywhere. That’s not “keeping money for ourselves.”

            But recipients of generous gifts should be grateful, not greedy for more. I want Alabama to pay for missions in Alabama and also to pay for missions in Iowa. In return, I only want Iowa to focus on Iowa. We *ARE* committed to missions giving in the support of the new work areas. It is truly a low blow to insinuate otherwise.

            However, at the same time, lost people in Alabama matter just as much to me as lost people in Iowa. We need to plant churches in both states. Alabamians should not stop doing cooperative missions endeavors to reach Alabama just because we are also involved in cooperative missions endeavors to reach Iowa.

            And no, I don’t just mean using our local church resources to reach Alabama while using cooperative funding to reach Iowa. I believe in using cooperative funding to reach both.

            The “Robin Hood” approach is just shorthand for “taking from the rich states to pay the poor states,” a strategy I am in agreement with up to a certain point. All I’m trying to say is that it is not in anyone’s interest to so cripple the old work states in their own church planting efforts that we “rob Peter to pay Paul” and stop aggressively penetrating lostness in the areas where we expect future funding for all missions endeavors to originate.

            You may disagree with the logic of my approach all you want, but please don’t suggest that my motive is selfish or that I’m trying to hurt Iowa or other new work states in any way. I don’t believe that weaker missions support in Alabama makes for stronger missions support in Iowa. We don’t need to compete for these funds. We are better off strongly supporting both state conventions and national work in the new states.

          • Dave Miller says

            You said, “If $100 in Alabama reaches three souls and $100 in New York reaches one, I want plenty of money–plenty of money, I tell you–to stay right here in Alabama.”

            The implication is that Alabama is better at reaching people than New York (a new work state such as I live in) is, or that Alabama missions yield greater results or whatever.

            You said, “It makes little sense to cripple funding in growth areas and divert it to stagnant areas where gospel seeds are scarcely flourishing.”

            How is that not an implication that non-South areas are somehow stagnant. Yes, the work is hard here. We are strangers as “Southern Baptists.” Yes, I’ve felt your withering derision for the nickname – one which I wish we used up here. But work in Iowa is not like work in Alabama or South Carolina or whatever. But that does not justify descriptions like “stagnant.”

            You used the term “Robin Hood” – implying that we were somehow taking unjustly what is rightly yours.

            As a leader in a new work state, I repeat – I hope that most Southern Baptists do not share your attitudes, those that you expressed here.

          • Dave Miller says

            I understand that you say you want to fund all missions.

            But several of your statements showed a sarcastic disdain for new work/non-South missions and ministry that bothered me a lot.

          • says

            Rick…You are wrong, Dave is right.

            How’s that for a simple statement. But let me unpack this to prove (our) point.

            The state of Alabama, sits at 52,419 square miles large. As of 2000, the ABC had 3,148 churches. I will assume that in the 14 previous years, that there were more plants rather than closings, so this number “should” be larger, but I will use it. Do a little math, and that comes to an average of over 1 church per 16 square miles. In 2000 those 3148 churches had 1,380,121 members, and with a state that has 4,833,722 citizens, that comes to over 25% of the state claims to be members of a SBC church.

            Now Iowa is actually larger than alabama physically at 56,272 square miles. But only has around 123 churches (per last published count). That is 1 church in 457 square miles. The BCI has 10,000 worshipers (100 per church average…not bad), which with the Population of Iowa around 3,090,416, means .003% of Iowans claim to be Southern Baptist.

            Lets put this in perspective, there are SBC churches that are larger then the entire population of Iowa Baptists. In my state of Missouri, (and I wager in Alabama too), there are associations that have more churches than Iowa does as a Convention. And the math proves there are thousands of more people in Iowa that have not darkened the steps of a SBC affiliated church, than there are in Alabama.

            So yes, more SBC money should be going to places like Iowa, or the Dakotas, or Minnesota/Wisconsin, or Kansas/Nebraska, or any number of other state conventions that are outside of the “old south”.

          • Dave Miller says

            SVM, the strategy of 60-40 vs 50-50 is one that can be argued. My concern is a disdainful attitude toward new work states that came through in several of Rick’s comments.

          • Rick Patrick says

            Dave,

            You have totally misunderstood my heart and intent in your interpretation of every single one of the three statements you quoted. To clarify:

            1. Misunderstanding One
            The fact that we are reaching more people in the Bible belt than in new work areas is not an indictment of your effectiveness or ministries, just a reality of life in that it is harder to reach people in the new work areas. That’s all. It’s not an insult. It’s a sympathetic view of your challenges outside the Bible Belt.

            2. Misunderstanding Two
            Once again, the Bible Belt grows our largest churches and reaches more people because of fewer barriers. I don’t want to abandon our intentional efforts to reach new work areas. Replace the word “stagnant” with “slower growing” and you catch my drift. It’s not an insult concerning your ministries. It’s an observation regarding degree of difficulty in terms of the field.

            3. Misunderstanding Three
            I did not mean for the “Robin Hood” metaphor to imply that the GCR was “stealing” from the state conventions what was rightfully theirs–although it is indeed rightfully theirs to choose with complete autonomy how they feel the Lord would have them spend it.

            My primary point, which is being ignored as you claim falsely that I have a poor attitude toward new work missions simply because I disagree with the GCR approach to it, is that I prefer an approach that is a WIN-WIN–more to state conventions AND more to new work areas, rather than a WIN-LOSE–less to state conventions and more to new work areas.

            I may disagree with the GCR. I don’t think it has worked. I think it may be fundamentally flawed. But I DO INDEED want to support reaching new work states. My biggest concern with you, Dave Miller, is your repeated claim that you hope others don’t share my *attitude* toward new work states.

            Brother, you may not want them to share my *strategic approach* but you should absolutely want them to share my *attitude* because my attitude is to do everything we can in the more prosperous old work states to get the greatest amount of money possible to the new work states to reach people for Christ.

            We may have different road maps, but we have the same goal. And our attitudes and motives are both right and good and Christ honoring.

          • Dave Miller says

            The problem with online communication is that I cannot hear your tone, but only see your words.

            I inferred a disdainful attitude toward non-South work (or, perhaps, a sense of Alabaman superiority?). That rankled me.

            If you say that was not your intent, I will accept that and am glad to hear it.

          • Adam Blosser says

            Rick, you said, “I did not mean for the “Robin Hood” metaphor to imply that the GCR was “stealing” from the state conventions what was rightfully theirs–although it is indeed rightfully theirs to choose with complete autonomy how they feel the Lord would have them spend it.”

            Let’s be clear. State conventions do not have any money except that which is given to them. What many of us are saying is that we do not give to the CP so our state convention can keep 60+ percent and send only 30-40 percent on to the SBC. I understand that you do want 60 percent of your church’s CP giving to go to the state convention and only 40 percent to the SBC. Many of us prefer a distribution plan that looks more like 50/50. Frankly, I would be happy for 60/40 distribution to be inverted. Some of that is because I am not pleased with direction of my state convention.

    • William Thornton says

      The point is that many SBCers, Akin for one, me for another, have looked at the allocation formulas and percentages and feel they do not reflect neither 21st century reality nor personal and church priorities. Akin is looking for a giving methodology that fully supports the CP in his state but more reflects his priorities. I judged his plan to be unrealistic, though I generally agree with his thinking.

      There is indeed no biblical imperative for 50/50 giving, neither is there any that establishes 60% as a legacy state convention birthright. While we both may promote the preferability of our percentages, in the open market of SBC ideas, I see yours as losing market share; hence, declining CP percentages.

      I’ll give you this. No level of SBC life has been forced to make more drastic adjustments the last five years as have the legacy state conventions.

      …and I’ll criticize you for this (in a congenial way, of course). State conventions don’t give the seminaries or mission boards anything. Churches do the giving. State conventions have nothing to give.

      • says

        In the case of Akin, there’s of course some other background issues at play. Akin’s not the biggest supporter of his state convention for theological/political reasons. Namely, his beef is with TBC’s continued support of Carson-Newman. See his “Disturbing Trends” series from last year.

        I do wonder about the longevity of something like the Cooperative Program in our changing religious marketplace. Churches are increasingly looking to fund their passion – which is more of an individualistic-driven societal approach and an approach that means giving outside of the denomination.

        I do wonder what the influence/impact of nondenominational evangelicalism has been on denominational evangelicals (e.g. SBC) in terms of giving. The culture that surrounds us is an influence.

        • Dave Miller says

          Individualism is the heart of the problem. It goes along with the megachurchization of the church. Churches of thousands with budgets measured in tens of millions have the capability of doing a lot themselves and tend to be loath to give it to the control of another – a denomination or organization.

  18. says

    When international giving is considered, it should be remembered that half of our national Cooperative Program giving goes to the International Mission Board.
    Roughly one quarter to the North American Mission Board.
    And that does not count the huge amounts given to them through Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong.
    We can always give more, but Southern Baptists are giving huge amounts to missions.

    Also, that does not include the mission work in each state.
    And without state missions, there will be no churches to give to national and international missions.
    Mission work is mission work whether it is in Alabama, Texas, or in the uttermost parts of the world.
    David R. Brumbelow

    • William Thornton says

      Explanatory note here, and one that David B. is well aware of but most in the pew are not: Half *of the 39% of CP gifts by churches* goes to IMB, yielding about two dimes on the CP dollar to IMB. This is not an insignificant notation to make. Not everyone lives and breathes all this inside-SBC baseball stuff.

    • says

      William,
      It can be misleading to say only two dimes from each CP dollar go to the IMB.
      That may be true, but there are a lot of other factors to consider.
      The CP was never intended to just get money to the international mission field.

      http://gulfcoastpastor.blogspot.com/2012/01/cooperative-program-not-intended-to.html

      One could also say only 2 cents (or 5 cents) of every dollar to the budget offering of your local church gets to the International Mission Board.
      I doubt if many pastors would want people always emphasizing that to the congregation.
      But there are other factors to consider.
      Like your dollar is supporting all the ministries of the local church.
      And for those who want to designate their money to the IMB, they can do so during the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.

      Most things can be presented in a very positive, or very negative light. We need to consider both sides.
      David R. Brumbelow

      • volfan007 says

        To piggyback on what David B. just said….would any of you, Pastors, want your people to designate all of their giving, rather than just giving to the general fund, each week? How long would your Church last, if everyone started designating all of their giving?

        David

        • andy says

          I think another parallel is that IF they feel that the church is not using money wisely, they may decide to take their giving elsewhere…if I as a leader don’t address their concerns in a way that gives them a desire to support the church as a whole, I should not be surprised by decreased giving. Sermons about how everybody needs to tithe are probably not the most effective solution.

          • Volfan007 says

            And yet, the command of The Lord is to bring our offerings to the church each week…..smh at the thought of the Teaching of the Bible not being good enough for people to be committed to give their tithes and offerings to their church…..smh.

          • Adam Blosser says

            I guess the discussion of whether the tithe is actually command for NT Christians is a discussion for another day.

            I do not support designating around and to certain ministries of the church. However, I do understand where Andy is coming from. Giving people a vision for what their money given is doing is much more effective than simply saying, “Give!” Btw, I preach and teach that believers should give generously and sacrificially to the work of God’s church.

      • William Thornton says

        Telling only part of the truth can indeed be misleading, which is why I often question how state conventions put “International Missions” in 50pt type in CP promotion and their 60+% state expenses in mice type. I’m exaggerating of course but state leaders know that IMB is the key fundraising component for the whole CP.

        I concluded long ago that many states go to some trouble so that the reality of their keeping 60+% in state is difficult to see. The whole system of “shared ministries” and other made up budget terminology should be ditched. Let the states simply state what they do in kingdom work within their stares and be proud of it.

  19. William Thornton says

    Rick, I love an optimist but 10% is dead, gone, kaput, deep sixed, never to return.

    We went through the GCR process and one result was that state conventions were moved to reduce their percentages. We can argue about the process and the wisdom of that but that was a clear result.

    For people like Jon Akin who appreciate and support their state convention but believe that the movement towards 50/50 is too slow, what do you suggest? His whole “third way” was a methodology for churches to move to the 50/50 quickly.

    Do we view a church who says 60% is too much but 50% is OK as disloyal? Should states offer a take-it-or-leave-it percentage and if churches work around that pronounce them non-cooperative? If a church gives below 10% are they second class?

    • Volfan007 says

      We should leave the percentage and amount given to the autonomy of each church. Doing otherwise would not be good for the state conventions or the SBC…either one.

  20. Bart Barber says

    I’m always looking for new frontiers in blogging. Tonight I’m going to see whether I can offend at least three different constituencies represented by bloggers in this comment thread. I think I can do it!

    1. We sell the CP and the SBC with international missionaries. Period. I say that as someone who serves on a seminary trustee board and who believes in the importance of our seminaries, but I know that people in the pews support the CP because of the international missionaries. That’s just indisputable, I think. In fact, when people ask me why we send what we send to the seminaries, I ask them who is going to provide theological training to our missionaries without saddling them with debt that would prevent them from serving as missionaries (and I also mention that their pastors need somewhere to go to school). We have to remember how we sell the CP when we discuss how we’re going to prioritize the allocations, or we run the risk of making people feel like they’ve been the victims of a bait-and-switch. I haven’t seen many CP-promotion pieces that start out by saying, “Now the majority of your money will never leave this state.” If we aren’t comfortable telling our people about that right up-front, that ought to give us pause about the arrangement.

    2. The multiple levels and perceived redundancy of the legacy SBC system (e.g., money goes from the state convention to the EC, to NAMB, then back to the state convention), from what my peers tell me, are things that DIScourage them from giving through the CP. They perceive the system as being something that siphons away money that is bound for the international missionaries (see #1 above). Some of that has changed and is changing. Those changes are painful, but I believe that they are necessary in order to build and maintain a high level of confidence in the CP among Southern Baptists.

    3. David B, I’m sorry, but there would still be Baptist churches in Texas if there were no state conventions at all. And that comes from someone who serves on the board of a state convention and has a powerful belief in state convention ministry. But I believe MORE in the ministry of the local church. Local churches create state conventions, not vice-versa.

    4. Rick, I am a HUGE believer in your “rising tide” theory, but I fear that it may work the other way around. Since declining CP levels historically occurred BEFORE the push to move to a 50/50 state/SBC split, I think it is difficult to support the idea that greater investment in the state conventions will result in more robust support of the Cooperative Program. Move more toward the 50/50 and churches may be encouraged to give more through the CP. I know that would be the case with at least some of the churches in the SBC. For the state conventions, 50% of 10% is 5%, but 60% of 6% is only 4%. The case you have to make with some evidence is the idea that greater investments in state convention work results in increasing CP receipts as a percentage of church budgets. Which approach makes the tide rise? Whichever one demonstrably takes us back to 10% CP giving at the local church level is the one that I would support. But, again, declining church gifts started before state conventions began to move toward 50/50.

    5. Dave, I think we ought to be making investment in new work areas, but those investments ought to be time-limited and keyed to tangible results. Every collection of Baptists in a state ought to have the state convention that they can afford to fund, unless we have strong, numerically defensible reason to believe that a momentary investment today will make the state convention able to fund itself better in the near future. In other words, state convention planting ought to be like church planting: A temporary investment that yields results in a defined timespan or is left to fend for itself so that the funds can be invested in something else that might actually work. The point is well-taken that in some pioneer areas very high sums of money are being spent per soul saved or church member added. I’m not saying that about Iowa (I don’t know your stats); I’m just saying that these are metrics that matter. I am opposed to Southern Baptist entitlements. Jesus is entitled to the money. Whoever can demonstrate that he is accomplishing more for Jesus with it ought to get the more of it.

    6. Much of the very important work of the Southern Baptist Convention happens at the STATE convention level. Disaster Relief is a state-convention ministry. Intentional-interim / transitional-pastor ministries often come from the state convention. Training opportunities come from the state convention. Another thing that is harder to pin down but no less important is this: State conventions identify and train leadership from which the SBC benefits. Apart from the actual floor of the annual business meeting, most of the work of the SBC is explicitly tied to the state conventions (for example, EC members, entity board members, committee members, etc., are often apportioned by state). No one should miss the fact that it is VERY, VERY difficult for the SBC to be healthier than her state conventions are. Although we do not have much formal connectionalism, we have a very profound informal connectionalism in our convention between the national and the state levels.

    7. One unmentioned difficulty here is the fact that the Conservative Resurgence is not exactly a completed project in all of the state conventions. BDW touched upon this. That’s a HUGE part of this in so many ways. David Worley, a lot of the people who want to cut state convention funding aren’t looking to defund children’s homes; they are looking to defund liberal universities that aren’t very conservative, aren’t very Baptist, and aren’t playing that much of a role in the larger Great Commission ministries of the Southern Baptist Convention. I’m not saying that all state-convention-supported colleges and universities fit that bill, but I am saying that some of them do.

    OK, if I failed to offend anyone, let me know, and I’ll give it another try. :-)

    • Dave Miller says

      Actually, Bart, that is a big discussion here in Iowa. We are working hard to get away from the entitlement mentality.

      That has actually been the result of the changes at NAMB (many of which have been confusing, frustrating, bewildering, etc). We have had to realize that our we have no right to demand that the SBC fund us in perpetuity if we are not getting the job done.

      That does in no way offend me. It is actually a point of emphasis among the leadership in Iowa.

      The SBC has every right to demand that Iowa and other new work states use their money wisely and effectively in ministry and church planting.

      The SBC is foolish, in my opinion, if it does not make a priority of expanding SBC work outside the borders of the Baptist kingdom in the Deep South. I’m not sure if Rick’s assertion that Baptist dollars in Alabama reach 3 people for every 1 person reached in New York is accurate. I suspect it is not. But I think we need to focus our pooled $ on international missions, ethnic missions and church planting, and missions/ministries outside the Deep South.

      • Dave Miller says

        Let me emphasize what my previous comment said in the last paragraph.

        The pooled missions money of the SBC needs to be disproportionately directed to funding:

        1) International Missions.
        2) Ethnic mission/ministries/church planting here in the USA.
        3) Establishing effective ministries in areas where the SBC is not currently well-represented, funded and culturally established.

        Again, the SBC can never tell churches or conventions what to give. But we can emphasize taking the gospel beyond the borders of our current kingdom.

    • William Thornton says

      These are good points…been making them for years.

      A discussion of CP percentages always devolves into a discussion of state convention spending, since that’s where the money goes. If we started from scratch today with both the CP and state conventions’ how would we think the money should be divided? Would we not think that a straight 50% for a legacy SC was very generous? I think so.

  21. volfan007 says

    I just want to say that I’m for missions. I’m also for the best way to do missions. I want to see people get saved in China, Ghana, Nigeria, Romania, and Argentina, as much as I wanna see people in TN get saved. I’m also for helping the children of our state to be saved and taken care of, and the disaster relief ministry is one of the best things going….and, we don’t need to take away the money that funds these great things.

    Not Offended,

    David Worley :)

    • Nate says

      David,

      I agree with exactly what you said. I don’t think what I have been proposing in my comments and our interactions would hinder much of any of these items.

      I also don’t disagree with Bart’s assertion that we are only as strong as our State Conventions. That is why I think the State should not be taking its churches for granted and, at least in my state (which I would prefer not to name), I don’t see that happening.

      I am resolved to make a greater effort at connecting with the State. I pray that things (even my bad attitude) will change with this greater effort.

  22. Louis says

    Our church has been doing our own version of this since we were founded in 1992.

    We give some money directly to the SBC which is all distributed in accordance with the SBC Cooperative Progam allocation budget.

    We do not “designate” or want to return to a societal method of giving.

    We like the SBC’s program and the Cooperative Program Allocation budget.

    We give to the work of the convention, as required by the SBC consitution and bylaws, and are, therefore, a church “in friendly cooperation” with the SBC.

    Many churches are doing this. If you look at the SBC Book of reports, it reports the contribution totals to the SBC from states. You will see one called “churches”, which are churches that give money directly to the SBC. There many churches doing this, and the total is significant.

    We started doing this over 20 years ago. This simply reflects the heartbeat of our people – the national and international missions strategy of the SBC.

    We give money to the State also in the regular way.

    We have a relatively new executive director in our state. He is a great guy. But that will not cause us to increase our contribution to the state.

    We are going to continue to give as we have, and it ends up being more than a 50/50 split.

    We have full participation in the SBC. We usually send several messengers to the convention, we have had people serve on the boards of SBC entities etc.

    Freedom is a key here.

    Churches should fund what reflects their priorities.

    • volfan007 says

      Louis,

      Of course, Churches should be free. Baptists are all about a Free Church! And, the autonomy of each Church should be celebrated, rather than condemned. BUT, if we’re talking about CP giving…..well….

      David

    • William Thornton says

      Louis, the amounts of money given directly to the Executive Committee is around 2%, 2.2% for the most recent month ($16.8 million total, only $374,000 direct from churches and individuals). There have always been churches and individuals that do this. I don’t see that this is highly significant and hasn’t changed much over the years.

  23. Louis says

    William:

    The most recent Book of Reports that I can find on line (given out at the New Orleans Convention – showing gifts for 2010-2011), p. 29, shows “Churches” gave direclty to the SBC $5,075,886.41.

    That makes Church contributions the 14th largest state contributing to the SBC. Just shy of all the contributions from Missouri. Arkansas, Kentucky and Lousiana gave about $8 million each that year.

    You must be looking at the next line “Miscellaneous/Individual” contributions? Those are in the $400,000 range.

    Please take a look and let me know what you think.

    Thanks.

    • William Thornton says

      Your figure is correct, for the year. The percentage would be in the low single digits. Churches and individuals have this option but it’s not what I would call a significant factor.

      The Xcomm reports monthly. I just picked the latest monthly report, May 2014. Project that for 12 months and you get the $5m or so.

  24. Louis says

    David:

    It really doesn’t matter to our church what some people want to call it.

    It goes into the big SBC pot for distribution according to the “Cooperative Program Allocation Budget” and it qualifies the church to be in friendly cooperation with the convention.

    Shouldn’t these gifts be celebrated as gifts to the SBC Cooperative Program allocation budget?

    It’s o.k. by me if people don’t want to call them “Cooperative Program” gifts, but the reason is because they don’t help the state – not because they don’t help the SBC. They actually help the SBC more, don’t they?

    I thought that was the point of William’s post – that churches wanting to get more money to the SBC could give directly to the SBC.

    I was showing the Churches have been doing this in a significant way for a while – before the whole GCR – 50/50 thing.

  25. Louis says

    David and William:

    Here is an interesting question I have for you both.

    If you could have your ideal scenario, would you want the SBC consitution and bylaws re-written to say that to be in friendly cooperation with the SBC, churches would have to give to the Cooperative Program?

    I am not trying to fuss at you.

    But I am trying to understand if you believe that the SBC constitution and bylaws that allow for churches to give directly to the convention, and thus be classified as being in friendly cooperation, is an inconsistency or weakness that allows churches to relate to the SBC in giving without giving to the states?

    Also, if you agree with the consitution and bylaws as historically written, do you believe that churches who give to the convention directly, rather than through the states, should be identified as doing so? And if so, why?

    Do you believe that members from those churches are just as qualified as members who give through the states to sit on boards or to be hired by SBC agencies?

    I am not trying to play “gotcha” or pin you down, but I am trying to understand if either of you believe that loyalty to a state convention is really required concomittant with loyalty to the SBC for a church to be a consistent and truly loyal supporter of SBC work.

    And I am trying to understand if you do believe that way, what actions would your recommend to encourage churches to give through the states – either a stick or carrot approach?

    • William Thornton says

      The current amendment to the membership article includes the words “Cooperative Program” but doesn’t require a church to give through the CP. Makes sense that the national SBC not demand that to be in friendly cooperation a church has to give to a state convention.

      As for this article, the point I am making by relaying an idea Jon Akin put up is that there are those who want to support the CP but just not at the split in their state; hence, a backwards 50/50 split from the X Comm to that state convention. I think that system to be unrealistic but would note that it is an example of someone wanting to be fully supportive of the CP but with states to keeping less.

      I don’t care what churches are identified as doing what but those that give to the state convention have that reported (and those that do not would have the absence of that reported should they have a nominee for a state or national position).

      Hey, we are autonomous churches. No one tells any of us what to do. Give as you feel led. I’m not among the crowd that thinks heaping derision and guilt on a church for their giving plan is profitable or helpful. But I do think all churches should support the Cooperative Program.

    • volfan007 says

      Louis,

      I’m not saying that your Church is not in friendly cooperation with the SBC, because of the way yall give. And, of course, if that’s the way your Church wants to give, then fine. I’m sure the SBC will take your money, and they need it. And, I’m not for trying to make a church give to the state convention, in order to be in friendly cooperation.

      I’m just simply trying to tell Nate and you that once a Church starts designating it’s giving, then that’s not really the CP, anymore. That’s the only point I was trying to make.

      David

  26. William Thornton says

    Frankly, I never thought a topic like this would push 200 comments. I find it interesting to listen to what others say on the subject and how they seek to lead their church. I’d think that SBC leaders and state convention leaders would like to hear this as well.

  27. Louis says

    Thanks, William. I feel as you do about what churches should do.

    We do give money to the state. It’s just not our only line of giving.

    Did you check out the “Churches” category? I think I have that right, but if I am wrong, please let me know. I don’t want to say something that is wrong.

    Appreciate your thoughts and comments.

  28. William Thornton says

    I think my 7:38 comment explained the direct gifts to the Xcomm by churches and individuals.

  29. Bart Barber says

    The Cooperative Program is more than a funding channel; it is also a model of decision-making for missions. The idea (as opposed to the society method) is that churches deliberate with one another to set funding priorities and then we all give to support them. That means that the CP Allocation Budget is going to wind up satisfying all of us at some level but satisfying virtually none of us 100%. We’ve all had to compromise and negotiate to get the allocations that we have.

    That’s the basic question at-play right now. It’s not about funding; it’s about how we make decisions together and cooperate in our work. The basic question is not “Which funding program do I like?” Rather, it is, “Why should I make compromises in the funding priorities for missions when my church can control its own funding by means of designation and accomplish precisely the priorities that we have as an individual church?”

    Well, what’s the answer to that question?

    I think it comes down to this: Whenever we make it all the way to an individual-church-driven set of funding priorities (that is, to the society method where each church directs its own giving), the net result is that the entity budgets will be set in local church business meetings (for those of you whose churches are still Baptist) rather than in state convention and SBC annual meetings. That may sound ideal to you—returning control back to the local church’s meetings. But there’s a catch.

    Rather than having a small staff to go to the annual meetings that determine their destinies, the entities are now in a position where they have to persuade 42,000 churches in their individual business meetings to decide at which levels to support them. For decades Southern Baptists have been able to take appropriate pride in the fact that nearly none of our funding is spent upon advertising and fundraising. That will go straight out the window. Our entities will spend more and more money upon the raising of more and more money.

    Now, there are circumstances in which I’d be just fine with that. If the adopted budgets are 30% out of line with the priorities of the average SBC church and the fundraising apparatus will only steal away 15% of the money in order to chase more money, then maybe that’s a good deal. But if the adopted budgets are only 5% out of line with your priorities and you’re initiating a system that will result in 15% of your donations going to fundraising, then isn’t that a bad deal for everyone (except for the fundraisers)?

    It especially seems like a bad deal to me when you consider that an investment of a few thousand dollars each year would send messengers from your church to the annual meetings where you could change the budgets to line up with your priorities. And here’s what I think is dishonorable about some of what happens as SBC churches divert money away from the CP: Why would you “vote” with your church pocketbook before bothering at all to try to vote through our deliberative process at the annual meeting? I’m, frankly, not that sympathetic with the person who complains about the state convention’s treatment of CP funding but who has never attended a state convention annual meeting.

    But I digress. The point I was trying to make, I’ll reiterate: The Cooperative Program is not just the funding stream; it is also the commitment to this decision-making model by which, rather than being determined to choose our own idiosyncratic path, we agree to negotiate with one another as sister churches the best set of priorities upon which we all can agree. We then commit our combined support to that plan.

    • volfan007 says

      The money quote from Bart’s comment: “For decades Southern Baptists have been able to take appropriate pride in the fact that nearly none of our funding is spent upon advertising and fundraising. That will go straight out the window. Our entities will spend more and more money upon the raising of more and more money.”

      And folks, that’s what’s been so grand about the CP. Missionaries stay on the field, rather than coming home to try to raise more money….and, this also applies to other ministries and seminaries….spending mucho time in a lot of Churches to try to raise money. And, we’ll have more reps from seminaries, Bapt. schools, missionaries, etc. wanting to come to our Churches to speak and try to raise money. And then, the popular mission destinations will get more funding than the “not so romantic and exciting places.” And, the more charismatic the missionary, then the more money he’ll be able to raise for his mission work, while some ole, faithful introvert won’t have half as much.

      But, if everyone wants to go back to societal method of giving, then so be it…..just understand what you’re asking for.

      • William Thornton says

        “…nearly none of our funding is spent upon advertising and fundraising.”

        Well, state conventions do claim millions in “shared” expenses that they spend on promotion of the CP for the national entities. But I take the point anyway about advertising.

  30. William Thornton says

    The CP is easy to promote in one’s church because it makes sense. It has always made very good sense to cooperate and to support many things out of a single funding pool. And it makes sense for entities to have some stability in their funding stream, to be free for the most part from having to think about direct appeals to tens of thousands of donors.

    That said, the stability and permanence of the program (handwringing about percentages notwithstanding, it is the rare SBC church that doesn’t include the CP in their budget) work against it in that it is virtually impossible for the churches to change the allocation formula. We can have lofty thoughts about decision making processes but the CP is quite rigid. At the state level a grassroots push to reduce percentages kept by a state convention can be minimized in the long haul by the oligarchy of leaders, employees, employee wannabes, and influential insiders who dominate the state convention machinery and decision making. One notes that there is no possibility in any of the states that keep 60+% of a CP dollar of moving below 50%. With the “shared” expenses accounting, we are talking about a small shift of 5-10% of a CP dollar.

    On the national level, one might as well forget about any significant adjustment to the allocation formula. We had this Great Commission Resurgence eruption through which virtually nothing changed except NAMB being motivated to control their own budget.

    As a pastor, I love the CP. It just makes good sense on several levels. It’s an easy sell to the congregation, even to critics who get a burr in their saddle about one of the seminaries or the latest complaint du jour. But I also recognize that my church’s only option to make adjustments in the light of our own priorities is to put more emphasis on money for IMB and NAMB and reduce CP percentages accordingly. There is virtually no way to get significantly more money to the mission boards. It makes more sense to do this than to push for an increase to the CP percentage. A church who thinks their legacy state convention is underfunded and understaffed may see priorities differently. So be it.

    While I would generally agree with Bart about the CP being a decision making process, it is one in which churches have limited influence. This leads a few churches to make the entire set of funding decisions locally but most churches see a much easier route to accomplishing their goals and fulfilling their priorities by lowering their CP percentage and exercising direct control over a greater proportion of their own church’s giving.

    • Bart Barber says

      I disagree. I disagree entirely (although not angrily). It is true that no ONE church can change the formula (nor should it be able to do so), but if enough other churches agree with you, you can change the CP budgeting in any way that you like. Now, that does mean…

      1. Doing the work of making your case to other churches,

      2. Organizing those churches to make the change, and

      3. Implementing the change with that organized group of churches behind you.

      It is through this process that the CP came to be as it is. It takes work to accomplish, and that’s risky work (since it may just be that not very many people agree with your precise set of priorities, so your work would be for naught if that is the case), but once the work is done you’ve had a lot more impact (if you’ve changed the budget of an entire state or of the entire SBC) than you could possibly have by altering the giving patterns of a single church, even if it were the most mega of megas.

      It’s simply not “virtually impossible for the churches to change the allocation formula.” The procedure for doing so is transparent and simple. It takes time. It takes work. Most worthwhile things do.

      • William Thornton says

        Then all you need to do is point to some successes in churches working to change the allocation formula. It is virtually impossible. There are too many powerful interests who would spill Baptist blood to protect their budgets and power.

        Prove me wrong. I’ll be happy about it.

        • Bart Barber says

          Well, your challenge presumes that a majority of the churches favors some particular reallocation. Perhaps things stand as they do because that is not the case?

          All I really have to do to prove it is direct you to the constitutions and bylaws of the various entities. It’s simple math. “Not enough people agree with me” or “I’d rather not go to that much trouble” are not the same thing as “It is virtually impossible.”

        • Bart Barber says

          In fact, if there’s anything that this very comment thread probably proves, it’s that there is no consensus for change. The opinions between the post and the various interlocutors in the thread have been all over the map.

          • William Thornton says

            I love an optimist, especially an idealistic optimist.

            While appreciate a pure democratic process one that allows any goofball to make a motion at the annual meeting (and several always do) and potentially effect change ad hoc from the floor, the fact that this is never done reflects a number of things. We might presume that most churches (meaning most church messengers who happen to be at the annual meeting) don’t want them. We might also presume that the perceived futility of effecting major changes and the frustration caused by some parliamentary actions discourages efforts for the same.

            But you get to be right in pointing to the lofty ideals of the SBC constitution. We meet. We vote. Little guys can initiate changes that move mountains. It is not impossible.

            I get to be right in regard to the reality on the ground. Such is not going to happen. Too many jobs and future jobs at stake. Too much power at stake. Too much money at stake. Sclerotic is the word for it.

            We can both be right…and churches need not even listen to the conversation. They have been indicating less CP satisfaction with their budgets for a generation and a half now.

          • Bart Barber says

            When my Dad worked for our congressman, he designed a survey that he used to poll the constituency. The front of the page polled people about whether they thought the government was run well, whether they thought the taxation level was too high or too low, whether they thought government spending was too high or too low. The consensus was that taxes were too high, spending was out of control, and the government needed to get things under control.

            Everyone wanted change.

            The back of the page asked: “Which of the following programs would you like for the government to cut?” All of the programs selected for this portion of the survey were programs used by people in the district. When their nebulous idea of change encountered the specifics, things were different.

            In a similar way, everyone hates Congress, but everyone loves his or her congressman or congresswoman.

            It’s not enough to show that there is some measure of dissatisfaction with the status quo. It is not enough to get people stirred up AGAINST something. To make change happen, you have to propose an alternative that can gain popular support.

            I applaud Akin for trying to do just that. I don’t think I support his alternative, but I recognize and appreciate the kind of leadership that puts something on the table. That’s the kind of thing that stands a chance.

            When the time comes that someone actually proposes something concrete and obtains the support of the churches behind it, then STOPPING change will be virtually impossible.

            My point is simply this: My plan, your plan, Rick’s plan, Dave’s plan—whatever plan other than the plan that we have—simply does not have the support of many Southern Baptist churches. We don’t win the day because we are a tiny minority. Sure, perhaps all of us would say, “The current plan can be improved!” But that level of agreement is insignificant. Until we can say, “And we all agree that it can be approved IN THIS SPECIFIC WAY,” we’re not going to succeed in making any changes. But we don’t all agree on the specifics. And neither to Southern Baptists.

            The specific, detailed plan that has the largest level of support among Southern Baptists is…

            …the one we have in place right now.

          • Tarheel says

            Wait, did I do that right…that’s what I get for using a stupid tennis analogy. LOL

            What I mean is…Game over…Barber wins!

          • Andy says

            Well, since it’s world cup season now, it should be:

            “GOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLL! ….Match!

  31. William Thornton says

    A vote recognizing the status quo…I get that. The interesting thing about this discussion, where I have concluded that the SBC national allocation plan is virtually impossible to change due to entrenched interests and Bart maintains that is quite simple and easy if one gets enough people, is this – we both end up at the same place. The CP allocation formula is a fixed CP factor.

    Give that the CP is a legacy brand that has lost about half of its market share during the 30+ year period of my active pastoral ministry! any formula change that might make it more attractive and regain market share is unlikely at the national level. Given that the state conventions are making the slightest of incremental changes, I don’t see any change in the program going forward that has a likelihood of making it more appealing.

    If the product is static what else is there that might reverse the decline? I’d be interested in hearing who might offer something on this. For now the CP percentage has stopped declining. I’m guessing that leaders would be happy to take the 5.5% as a guaranteed return for future years.