Pick a Number and Fix the Cooperative Program, Part One of Three

The magician says, “Pick a number—any number,” before identifying it and astonishing the crowd. Like the Cooperative Program itself, the trick is simple, marvelous and works like magic, but only if someone bravely decisive truly does pick a number, and lately, any Southern Baptist doing so has drawn heavy rounds of not so friendly fire.

When it comes to Cooperative Program funding, Southern Baptists need a little magic. The average church percentage of budget receipts forwarded through our Cooperative Program channels has decreased from over 10% twenty years ago to about 5.6% today. Our hands are cuffed, our legs are chained, and we flounder at the bottom of the tank, waiting for a Houdini-like escape. Fortunately, we have access to a tiny hidden key.

Indeed, if we are willing, we can escape our freefall, improve our funding, and get our missionaries out of Richmond and into the nations. However, it requires humility and denomination-wide commitment to cooperation. If Southern Baptists wish to perform the magic trick that will make this problem disappear, there is one and only one approach to which we must absolutely commit ourselves—regardless of the people offended, the strategies shelved or the accusations leveled. We must pick a number.

We must pick a number and clearly show it to every single Southern Baptist in the audience. It must be our denominational goal, our ideal, our objective standard by which the participation of every autonomous congregation may be measured—not a membership requirement, nor (the more I think about it) a litmus test for leadership, but merely our gold standard for the ideal cooperative Southern Baptist missions support level. Pick a number higher than our current average of 5.6%. Then encourage every church to give an amount at least as high as this specific, above average level.

Part One of this essay will demonstrate the need for a denomination-wide Cooperative Program Church Budget Percentage Goal and obliterate the charge that such a goal would in any way violate church autonomy. Part Two will advocate depersonalizing the issue so the very leaders essential to the goal’s success will not have to incriminate themselves and will disabuse us of the notion that mission dollars are to be set against mission percentages. Part Three will dismiss as non-cooperative two misguided efforts: appealing directly to churches for societal funding, and bypassing historic Cooperative Program channels intrinsic to the rising tide lifting all Southern Baptist boats.

Pick A Number

 I have supported the One Percent Challenge initiative at both of the churches I have served since its inception. In this plan, churches are encouraged simply to increase their percentage of undesignated gifts through the Cooperative Program incrementally by giving one percent more. Despite my unwavering support for it and my appreciation of its worthy intentions, the One Percent Challenge seriously fails the test when it comes to the cardinal rule of goal setting—a good goal is specific and measurable.

The One Percent Challenge frankly focuses merely on the general direction of our gifts. We want the arrow pointing up. Wherever you might find yourself, just do one percent more than you are right now. This approach not only fails to consider one’s starting point, but it also fails to establish the finish line, that point at which we have actually arrived at the goal. Hence, it is neither specific nor measurable. It is the very definition of a poorly defined goal. How can one be expected to hit a target that keeps moving?

Please consider that, with this and every goal, there is a point at which you no longer want someone to continue in the current direction. Hyperbolically, do you really want the church that is giving 99% through the Cooperative Program to commit themselves to giving 100% so that nothing at all is left for local ministries, church staff, building repair and the other financial obligations of ministry in the local church?

I would argue that Southern Baptists do not so much have a Missions Giving Goal as we have a Missions Giving Direction—we want more. But do we really want more from every single church? This assumes that not one single church in the convention is currently hitting the target of a healthy, appropriate missions giving percentage. But this is surely not the case. Frankly, I believe some churches (perhaps in the 15%-20% range) do not need to give a higher percentage through the Cooperative Program. While they might raise their designated offering goals for Annie and Lottie, there is a point at which one percent more from the church budget may very well not be God’s will at all.

As any person who has ever watched an episode of The Biggest Loser can tell you, the person with the greatest opportunity to achieve the most change relative to their own fixed starting point is the person who starts out the greatest distance away from the ideal. But a good goal does not merely look at one’s own starting point in an effort to bring about incremental change. With regard to weight loss, there is a clear target that is identified by things like measuring tapes, scales and Body Mass Indexes. There is a clearly defined and measurable point on that horizon when one has achieved the goal and should no longer be encouraged to continue in that direction. Only a sadist would stand before an anorexic and urge them to lose “just one more pound” on the basis that “all of us are cooperating in this effort to move in such a worthy direction.”

To put it simply, a good goal simply cannot be stated merely as a directional change from one’s starting point. It must also identify the target, the finish line, the specific and measurable point at which the desired result has been achieved. Such a goal would have for its purpose the provision to each church of a percentage against which they might measure themselves in order to determine how far away they are from fufilling their proportional share in supporting our cooperative work.

The ultimate question here should be: “If every church gave the same percentage of budget receipts through the Cooperative Program that mine does, would Southern Baptists possess the wherewithal necessary to support our denominational ministries at every level and release our grounded missionaries, sending them to the nations?”

This question takes seriously our belief stated in the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force Report that our “greatest stewardship of Great Commission investment and deployment is giving through the Cooperative Program,” and our call upon “Southern Baptists to recommit to the Cooperative Program as the central and preferred conduit of Great Commission funding, without which we would be left with no unified and cooperative strategy and commitment to the Great Commission task.”

The Autonomy Card

A lofty sounding excuse is sometimes offered to dismiss the setting of a specific and measurable Cooperative Program goal. Such a target, it is said, would “violate church autonomy,” telling churches what they must do and giving them a “denominational loyalty litmus test.” While this is not a violation of church autonomy in the least, such a reaction does at least prove that Southern Baptists are not immune to the modern tendency to bristle at any form of accountability. As an Army Colonel in our church recently shared in one of our discipleship classes, “The effective maximum range of an excuse is zero!”

First of all, let us dismiss this foolish notion that any denominational appeal regarding goals and standards represents some kind of affront to autonomy. Each church has the autonomy to make their own decisions. We are not hierarchical in the least, and goal setting by the denomination does not affect this absence of hierarchy. Every church has the autonomy to embrace denominational goals or reject them. In fact, local church autonomy extends even to each church’s decision about remaining in the Southern Baptist Convention itself. Churches may not like every denominational goal. Churches may not support every denominational goal. But churches do not lose their autonomy whenever a denominational goal or initiative is put in place.

Second, whenever we apply to the notion of a Denomination-wide Church Budget Cooperative Program Goal the argument that, “You can’t promote that goal since we are autonomous,” we invariably fail to realize that every other denominational initiative, goal, agenda, plan, recommendation, motion and resolution falls into this very same category as well. The Great Commission Reallocation of resources away from state missions and toward national and international missions? Autonomy! The desperately needed at the time yet totally forgotten since informal descriptor Great Commission Baptists? Autonomy! The One Percent Challenge itself? Autonomy! Everything in Southern Baptist life, from the names on our signs to the fried chicken at our potlucks to the Lottie Moon offerings at Christmas are totally subject to each local church and their willingness either to get on board with Southern Baptists or to do something else.

When I say the word “ten” your church does not lose autonomy. When I say the words “ten percent” your church still possesses autonomy. When I say the words, “If every Southern Baptist Church gave ten percent of its budget receipts through traditional Cooperative Program channels, we would have all the money we need to support our national and international ministries,” your church still possesses complete autonomy. When I say, “Let this in fact be our goal,” you still have not lost your autonomy. Even if the convention were to vote on this goal, and it were to pass, you would still have it.

You may not like such a goal. You may consider it offensive or insensitive. You may be insulted by it. You may be angry at the implication that you are not paying your fair share. You may not measure up to it. Neither do I! The church I serve contributed 7% last year and 8% this year through the Cooperative Program. Lord willing, we will increase to 9% next year and 10% the next. Yes, it’s a one percent challenge, but it has a target in mind, a specific and measurable goal of ten percent. I plead with you not to be so offended by your own shortcomings in reaching such a goal that you fail to view it as worthy. There really is a number out there, a percentage of all Southern Baptist undesignated receipts, that if evenly applied across the convention toward Cooperative Program causes, would result in adequately funding our mutual missions.

But the one thing we cannot truthfully say is this: “Denominational goals infringe upon church autonomy.” They simply don’t, and it’s time to stop being selective about which proposed denominational goals we claim to be a violation of our autonomy and which ones we don’t.

In Part Two, I separate Cooperative Program giving goals from leadership requirements and expose the fallacy of pitting missions dollars against missions percentages.


  1. Kevin says

    Rick…..I enjoy your writing and your perspectives. I would like to pose a question. If you could support 3 ministries with your money that would fully embrace your theology, soteriology, ecclesiology, etc, or 3 ministries that partially embrace these, but partially diverge or even contradict, which would you choose to fund? No one has a limitless bank account, so though this scenario is hypothetical, its implications are very much applicable to every church/individual.

    • Rick Patrick says

      First, thank you for your very kind words. I suppose in your hypothetical construct, it would be reasonable to support ministries that fully embrace my beliefs over those which partially embrace my beliefs.

      Believing as I do that the Cooperative Program is the greatest mechanism for funding Great Commission work, and because the work of Southern Baptists is something I can fully embrace, I wonder why the ten percent challenge is so controversial. I pray it can be strengthened, even as we work together to resolve the theological differences you mentioned that also deserve a measure of our attention.

      • Kevin says

        Follow up question to the hypothetical example—- If one believes that the world outside the United States would be a more worthy recipient of resources(ie money, personnel, etc), would it not be more consistent to give more directly to Lottie Moon rather than haveing only a portion go that route through the CP? Also, let’s say you have firm soteriological convictions, and only 2 of the 6 seminaries would embrace that same understanding of Scriptures. Would it not be more consistent to give directly to those 2, or whatever number it may be, rather than subsidizing those whom may diverge from your own understanding by giving to the CP? Hypothetically, if you believe that the majority of churches being planted through NAMB would not be of the type that you could support theologically or eccesiologically….(think ACTS 29, elder led, 5 pointers, etc or the opposite if you prefer…pastor led, free will of man, etc), would it be best to give more money to the CP to support these indirectly? Now this hypothetical example assumes that there are others ministries which an individual or church could support without reservation. Of course, this hypothetical is very much a non-hypothetical.

        • Rick Patrick says


          I have no doubt that SOME of the reduction in giving is churches voting with their dollars (a) against state conventions generally, (b) against seminaries whose theology is perceived to differ, and (c) against perceived bias in church planting at NAMB.

          However, I don’t think that explains the whole 4.4% shortfall. I think it may be a combination of lethargy, forgetfulness, lack of awareness, etc. I would think that if one really wanted to file a protest, they would be giving nothing at all.

          One way to check this is to see if the 5.6% is because a ton of people are holding at 10% and a significant number have gone to 0% or if the whole population has just sort of been sliding down—some to 9, some to 8, some to 7, etc.

  2. says

    Autonomy means we are FREE to cooperate.

    You are right many years ago 10% seemed to be the norm for which we would shoot. I do not ever recall hearing an entity “say” 10% should be our goal. Nevertheless in coffee shop conversation the 10% figure seem natural in our dialogue about the CP. I pastored for many years one church which gave 26% to the CP plus Association, Lottie, and Annie. Many churches exceeded the 10% figure. I am not sure what happened to change that.

  3. Tarheel says


    I agree with you here. I have long said that if a church can give 10% to the CP (and I admit that is a subjective percentage that I like, and would be willing to agree to a lower minimum to determine – lets say it – “friendly cooperation”) and they don’t they are not cooperating with the other churches in the convention toward our missions causes.

    No matter how much they designate to LM or AAEO or state missions offering, NAMB/IMB or whathaveyou, if a church can give the determined percentage and does not…then, IMO they are not working in concert with other convention churches as the CP envisions.

    As for the church autonomy arguments. I tire of them. In fact most of the time when I hear them lobbied it is not even about autonomy at all..as you illustrated above.

    I have always said that one reason I am a Southern Baptist is because of the CP (well that and having only attended SBC churches since conception, LOL). The CP is the best and greatest ideal for cooperative missions on the planet. If it were to work as it should with every cooperating church making equal sacrifice it would, I think, blow our minds what could be done in sending missionaries to the nations!

    • Tarheel says

      I am not sure why it is so controversial either….

      If a church only budgets to spend no more than 90% of what comes in offerings with the other 10% coming off the top to the CP…..then no matter the size of the budget it should work, right?

  4. William Thornton says

    I agree with you that it does not compromise any church’s autonomy to set a CP goal, establish a recommended minimum CP percentage, or encourage messengers to elect leaders from churches who give at least ten percent. This was the figure initially recommended for the latter task by the Ad Hoc CP Study Committee in 2006. Unfortunately, they were persuaded off of the figure.

    That said, it is my view that 10% is an unrealistic goal which reflects more nostalgia for the 20th century SBC of two generations ago than our present convention. Ten percent is DOA and has been DOA for decades. I would critique your proposal as follows:

    1. We have tried, informally, to guilt churches into giving 10% and it hasn’t worked. The moderates tried this in the early 1980s – didn’t work. We have put mega churches in the bullseye over their low single digit giving yet messengers still elect their pastors to be our presidents. It will happen once again this June when Ronnie Floyd is elected president.

    2. In your entire, very well thought out and constructed article you do not mention a single time that the CP is mainly a state convention program, that most of the revenues generated by doubling the percentage would be state convention revenues. It is quite clear that Southern Baptists are less interested in providing more funding to their state staffs and programs than they are in increasing funding to SBC entities, mainly the two misison boards. Look at it this way, promote a doubling of money to the CP and specifically state that most of that will never leave GA, AL, SC, NC, MS, TX, LA and the other legacy state conventions and see how many jump on board. I am not anti-state convention but rather pro-transparency in CP promotion.

    3. The CP is our grand funding mechanism and it is a great one that has accomplished much. It is sclerotic to the extreme, however, and does not allow for any substantive change in allocation formulas. We are funding the same percentages that we have almost forever. If we expect churches to catch a new vision for the CP and respond with more robust giving, we cannot expect merely to overlay the same program with new more robust goals. This is what you are doing and it merely repeats the CP promotions of the past, just louder and more boldly.

    I appreciate your always cogent thinking. If you were to run for some SBC office I would happily support you. But I don’t think you have a realistic plan here. Where I do think there is a realistic plan is in the convention arriving at a threshold percentage for our leaders. I doubt 10% is realistic but there should certainly be some floor percentage below which we think we should not draw our leadership and trustees.

    I look forward to your second part.

    • says

      Why is 10% unrealistic? What has changed in 20 or so years? My Grandfather’s tithe was 10%, my Dad’s tithe was 10%, my tithe is 10%, …well you get the point.

      I am not suggesting AT ALL that CP giving is a “tithe”. I am simply making a comparison. There are many reasons why, humanly speaking, the tithe should be less today, but it remains the same and blesses. I am naive enough to believe that God will bless a church that gives thru the CP and 10% is reasonable. It is just a matter of budgeting in both cases.

      Having said that your argument does ring true with several people.

      • William Thornton says

        I think it is unrealistic because of the steady decline over decades that has moved us from over ten to approaching five, that and the reality that I see absolutely nothing new about the CP that might persuade churches to stop decreasing and giving more.

        When I read someone using the term “tithe” instead of “10 percent” it’s tough not to conclude that they are making some degree of an equivalence between the Biblical tithe to the church and a tithe to the CP or whatever non-church entity. The same applies to a presumption of God’s greater blessing somehow on a church that gives 10% and God’s lesser blessing on a church that falls below 10%.

        • says


          You have chosen to ignore my disclaimer, it is even in caps. When I say that 10% giving to the CP is NOT NOT a tithe I am saying it is not a tithe. To say that it tough not to conclude otherwise is a logical absurdity at best and simply ignoring the facts at worst.

          I am saying: (1) the Biblical tithe for individual Christians is 10%. When one makes a commitment to that God will bless. (2) When a church makes a commitment to give a percentage to CP (REGARDLESS OF THE PERCENT) God will bless (3) Ten percent CP giving is not unrealistic, it is basic budgeting. I am saying no more nor no less.

          • says

            To accept the decades of decline as irreversible is defeatism. Identify why the decline, make necessary changes, and challenge churches. God’s people will come through. They once gave 10%, why can they not do t again.

          • William Thornton says

            Recognizing decades of decline is not defeatism. It is reality.

            I’m with you on identifying the causes and making necessary changes. I’ve just concluded that the attitudes toward the allocation formulas and state/national split are so rigid as to stymie any substantial change. The Great Commission Resurgence is one example of that and the excruciatingly slow movement of states towards relinquishing any portion of their traditional share is another.

            If you can find examples that demonstrate otherwise, I’m all ears.

    • says

      William Thornton said “I am all ears”

      William your assessment is on target about the allocations and certainly the CR took 20 or more years. Concerning evidence to the contrary, several states have already voted to move toward a 50/50 split and SBs being what we are as it relates to jumping on a band wagon if something is popular I predict that many more states will follow suit.

      I do not disagree with most of what you have said, but I still think we have hope. Let’s don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.

      • William Thornton says

        You might read my humble blog sbcplodder for a lot of this. I am a CP supporter. Also, the 50/50 split is a rather timid move for reasons I give there.

  5. Andy says

    “When I say the words, “If every Southern Baptist Church gave ten percent of its budget receipts through traditional Cooperative Program channels, we would have all the money we need to support our national and international ministries,” your church still possesses complete autonomy. When I say, “Let this in fact be our goal,” you still have not lost your autonomy. Even if the convention were to vote on this goal, and it were to pass, you would still have it.”

    Great reminder!

    However, I suppose I am less optomistic about the magic fix. I tend to suspect that if we voted next annual meeting to call for a 10% goal (or 8%, or whatever), some churches would embrace it, some would agree tenatively and perhaps increase from 5 to 7%, and some churches would continue their trend of less CP giving to directly support Lottie, Annie, a certain seminary close to their church, and other non-sbc ministries.

    I think that many churches are simpy unhappy with the way CP monies are distributed, whether it be because their State conventino takes the lions share of the money, or because they have no idea how much SBC Entity employees make …Such churches will not respond to a simple goal-setting initiative.

    • Rick Patrick says

      I guess I question the REASON churches are not giving like we used to give. I’m not sure it’s the state- national split. I think perhaps we just took our eyes off the ball. If we tell our people in the pews what their fair share would be, I think they’ll respond. As giving improves, I think we will see states being more generous with that split.

      • andy says

        I suppose I think much of the decreased cp giving is due to dissatisfaction with how cp is dispbursed…state convention %s are only a part of that…and not really the real issue anyway, if churches don’t think their state conventions are doing good work, that would lead them to bypass them. If they think they would rather have 20,000 of their SBC money going to international missions, they may not want to let their state, and other SBC entities take 17-18k of it. Right or wrong, I think that’s how people are thinking now.

        • says

          You raise a salient point. In addition I do not think we can discount the fact that we elected men during the CR to convention presidency who gave two or less percent to the CP. Struggling churches who see this wonder why they should sacrifice. Before this the 10% figure was a prominent advocation. After this not so much.

        • Rick Patrick says

          I have never heard a single layperson concerned about the state-national split issue. I have heard a good many pastors and denominational workers mention it—but not all.

          Was this concept not at the heart of the GCR initiative? And where has that really taken us? Maybe we’re making this harder than it needs to be. If we stop fighting for our piece of the pie and simply bake more pie, there can be enough to go around for everyone.

          Personally, I think enough equals ten percent of all SBC church budget offerings. If we hit that goal, I don’t think the state vs. national struggle becomes nearly so crucial.

          • William Thornton says

            Do you recognize that you are repeating the usual CPA promotion approach of simply asking churches to keep less and give more? This has not worked in at least 35 years. What makes you think it would work now?

          • Rick Patrick says

            Isn’t it more like twenty years? Anyway, I think our rank and file Baptist laity do not realize the impact that the reduction in CP giving from 10% to 5.6% has had upon the SBC. Our missionaries are grounded, stuck here instead of reaching the nations. We have stopped doing what is necessary—10% through the CP.

            Southern Baptists are a pragmatic people. Tell them what we need from each church and they will fry chicken and save pennies and cut costs and sell barbecue. Rich wives will aggravate their rich husbands. Fishing boats will be sold and missionaries will be sent. But we really, really do have to tell them what is expected of them. And frankly, we’re stuck not even being able to tell their pastors.

      • William Thornton says

        You have introduced a new concept here, that of a church’s “fair share.” Since this presumes some calibration of responsibilities and duties towards our entities, perhaps you could explain how a “fair share” is 10% and not 5%, or 15%.

        States have varied their split with the SBC very little over the decades. The state/national split has been between 61% and 65% for the period I have been in the active ministry, about 35 years. I see little history to suggest that states will suddenly be willing to substantially change this pattern.

        • Rick Patrick says

          I arrive at a “fair share” by calculating the amount of money it will take to fully fund our ministries at the state, national and international level, ultimately leading to the commissioning of the missionaries that are currently “grounded” in Richmond—or wherever they live.

          These are trained, called Southern Baptist missionaries ready to go except for the lack of funding. But I am asking not for a direct IMB gift only to send these missionaries overseas. That’s not working, and it neglects the fact that our state and national ministries are important too. See, I want to fund EVERYBODY not just a SELECT FEW. Think of it as GENERAL vs. PARTICULAR APPROPRIATION.

          Figure out that number, divide it by the number of Southern Baptists, and ask churches to give proportionally. Frankly, I believe that ten percent CP giving would get the job done. We’re only 4.4% down.

          • Tarheel says

            Lol! Got to admit that is one creative way to bring soteriology into the discussion Rick good job I give you kudos. Lol.

          • says

            You are right. It is within our grasp. I know I will be accused of being naive and maybe I am, but experience tells me that when challenged, God’s people will respond. I see it too often in Montana.

  6. Tarheel says

    I think all state conventions should be at least 50/50 in redistribution to the SBC Cooperative program. .

    This would bring about the transparency you speak of. No, William?

    I think states keeping 60-70% is ridiculous…and I likewise think that any state that offers churches “giving plans” to the state convention that actually funnel money to the BWA, CBF, are acting ridiculously as well.

    Let the churches who want to contribute to these organizations do so individually but it should not count in any way toward their CP giving and should not be funneled through SB state conventions.

    • says

      As far as the 50/50 split between state and national on the CP money–

      We keep talking about that, but then the state conventions operate just like the national one: whoever shows up and votes is who directs the spending. So, since the people who are voting on the budgets don’t really believe in a 50/50 split, it doesn’t happen. Just like the messengers to the SBC don’t beleive in a floor percentage, or any other ideal item that comes up in blogs, because we elect people who are below what we claim to be important. We affirm trustee decisions by not asking questions.

      People in pews and church business meetings may be voting with dollars on these issues, but messengers to state conventions and the SBC are doing the same thing in the same way. It won’t be changing any time soon by the looks of things, either.

      • Tarheel says

        I see your point about those who show up vote….but I’m not sure you can blame all that on the people…the stare conv. Powers that be never talk about a. 50/50 much less bring a budget like so to be voted on….

    • William Thornton says

      No. That wouldn’t end the practice that states utilize to arrive at a 50/50 split. Since states agreed to promote, collect, and forward receipts to Nashville for the CP, they take a certain portion of CP revenues off the table when it comes to figuring the split. The way this works out is that my state would claim to “share every dollar equally” with the national entities while keeping over 60% of every CP dollar in state. They just considered 20% to be “shared ministries” leaving a supposedly equal split of 40/40. Every dollar of the 20% “shared ministries” was kept and spent in state.

      States rightly claim that this practice is approved by the SBC; however, this accounting presentation technique I have long called mildly deceptive. Some states are moving toward a 50/50 split but what they really mean by that is a 55/45 split.

      The folks in the pews don’t really understand or care about the accounting. When explaining where their CP dollar goes, the best practice is to plainly state what part stays in state, what part goes to Nashville and what parts end up at NAMB and IMB and the seminaries.

      I’ve written a good bit on this. Most pastors don’t understand this, I speculate.

      • says

        William said: “most pastors don’t understand this”
        William you are correct. Either this or they don’t care. I favor the 50-50 spit. The pastor is the key, an obvious statement but allow me to use it. Understanding the allocations is not rocket science. If a pastor would visually display where the dollars go, so that the folks in the pew would realize how much change out of every dollar actually goes to foreign missions, they would react. When they see the amount of money that goes to pay for state staff automobiles and how much reaches foreign soil the layman would be moved to action.

        What do people see in the promotion vids, a country in Africa or a church planter with six kids. That is what folks think they are giving to. Again when people see where the money goes, things will change.

      • Bill Mac says

        I was suddenly struck by the irony of our little church giving 10% to the CP for years to support seminarians who would never consider serving at our little church at the edge of nowhere. Sorry, just a little frustration leaking through there.

  7. Dave Miller says

    Rick, good article.

    Not to pick out one flaw in the article, but you said, “We are not connectional in the least, and goal setting by the denomination does not affect this absence of connectionalism.”

    Either you misstated that or I’m confused. We are not hierarchical, but we ARE connectional. My church is connected to the BCI and to the SBC, but neither organization has authority over the other.

    Doesn’t “connectionalism” speak to the loose affiliation that we as Baptists DO have – in opposition to hierarchical or authoritarian structures?

  8. says

    Concerning the 50/50 split. Churches now give a percentage to the Association and a percentage to the CP. It could follow that churches could give a percentage to the State and a percentage to the national entities. Would that be a good or bad idea?

    • William Thornton says

      This is a bad idea if you mean dissolving the pooling of gifts into a cooperative ministry fund, e.g., the Cooperative Program. It would eliminate the CP.

      If you mean that states could give churches options as to the split, that is an idea that has value in my view and one that is practiced in some states, mainly as a result of competing state conventions in a given state.

      • says

        I am talking about three budget line items in the church budget each with a percentage. (1) a percentage to the association (2) a percentage to the state for state work, nothing going toNashville (3) a percentage going to Nashville for national entities with money staying in national entity ministries, Foreign, Home, seminaries, etc.

        As it is now the churches send to the state. The state forwards a percentage to Nashville for distributional. In the case of NAMB some of that money goes back into the state from whence it came in the form of state cooperative agreements. Money given to a particular state goes to NAMB and the same money goes back to the state in the form of church planting money for example. In all that shuffle there is a lot of paper work and lot of administrative salaries that have nothing to do with planting churches.

        AgainI am not advocating but it would (1)save administrative dollars (2) allow the local church to support the entity (associate, state, or national) as they deem important. This is still the CP.

        • William Thornton says

          This would end the Cooperative Program by eliminating any joint promotion and allocation.

          • says

            Perhaps as we know it. It would not end the CP because the CP is much more that just money. We have now State cooperative agreements between NAMB and each individual state. None are the same, each agreement is different. This same method could work using the funding arrangement I have outlined with the same amount of promotion and allocation sharing.

            Again I am not suggesting this. But we are in a decline and unless some major changes are made we will revert almost totally to the societal method and that would be tragic IMO. The societal method is attractive to some because they view it as giving them more control over their money. Each church having the three tier method gives more control to the church.

          • William Thornton says

            We cannot “revert” to a societal method because we never left it.

            I don’t share your pessimism about the CP. 5.6% of every church undesignated dollar is a huge cooperative funding engine.

          • says

            “Revert” was a poor word choice. You are correct we were never totally societal. However, in our history that method was used in part by many of our churches. You responded to the “slip” and ignored my point which is still valid. We have more churches picking and choosing how they give than ever before. That can lead to the societal approach. Many maga churches in the SBC are just that now.

            While 5.6% may be good, 10% is twice as good.

  9. John Wylie says

    I guess I take a little different view than several posters here do. If a church is giving faithfully to the Annie Armstrong and Lottie Moon offerings they are cooperating. With all the waste that goes on in the CP I would be hard pressed to lead my church to give a significant percentage to the CP. Quite frankly, we spend too much money on buildings and support staff to suit me. Sorry but I don’t count the janitor at the Baptist building as missions.

        • William Thornton says

          No. You cannot look at the allocation budget and label the SBC operating budget as the percentage that is considered “administrative costs.” The SBC operating budget is the portion that goes to the Executive Committee. Most of what could be seen as CP administrative expenses are found in the state conventions.

          • John Wylie says

            It doesn’t matter if it is on a State of Federal level it’s still CP giving and a lot of money is wasted. By the way, I don’t count the janitor at the seminary as missions either.

          • Tarheel says

            John, less than 3% is spent on administrative costs….through the CP.

            Of course once it’s given to the entity there’s adnin costs there…but that’s true of your direct IMB giving as well. No?

          • John Wylie says

            Yes it is true of the IMB as well and of the seminaries that’s why the 3% claim is bogus. The only way you could determine true admin costs is to get that from all of the entities supported. By the time a dollar actually gets to a missionary it’s been cut several times.

          • John Wylie says

            And State funding is CP so you have to figure that in as well. The SBC is a juggernaut that all to get back to foreign and home missions and trimming the fat.

          • Tarheel says

            True, but it still gets cut and “wasted” if you give directly….no?

            The only way to ensure that 100% gets to missionary untouched is to give directly to a missionary…. Then you’re your own missionary sending agency…

          • William Thornton says

            Tarheel, states specifically claim far more than 3% admin cost. Using that figure is completely wrong.

          • John Wylie says

            Yes Tarheel it does still get cut, but it gets cuts less. I for one think the SBC needs to get out of the business of doing anything but Foreign and Home missions. Let other ministries (seminaries, youth camps, etc…) appeal directly to the churches.

          • Tarheel says

            LMO and AAEO do not 100% go to fund missionaries…

            Also, whether admin costs are mission work related or not is not really vn a question….

            BTW, don’t you think we need infrastructure (and to use your example janitors and maintenence persons to maintain that infrastructure) to train and send missionaries?

          • John Wylie says


            I’m not against seminaries, but I would like to ask a question, could a person without a masters degree (gasp) actually be qualified to do mission work? Could the local church possibly be used as a training ground for missionaries and pastors?

          • John Wylie says


            I’m sorry the whole (gasp) thing was sarcastic and stupid on my part. Sorry brother.

          • Tarheel says

            William, it’s true with Nashville money….only 3% is designated admin costs the rest goes to entities…who, as I’ve said have thier admin costs – but also like I’ve said – those entity admin costs/expenditures aren’t reduced because a church skipped the CP.

            My point is that if one thinks imb or namb has too much admin cost on the expense side of the ledger….giving directly to them by designated offering does nothing to change that.

          • John Wylie says

            You’re right it does nothing to change the admin costs of the IMB for the NAMB but it does by pass the admin cost of the CP before it gets around to being allocated to the IMB and NAMB.

    • Rick Patrick says

      Possessing the spiritual gift of administration, I am a bit concerned that it is actually on trial here. The fact is, every denomination has such expenses. Every church, every Christian school, and every seminary has a janitor—even on the mission field—which can be next door, your town, your state, your nation or the entire world. Paying for Southern Baptist janitors is simply part of paying for the whole enterprise.

      Do you do this at church? “I’m going to pay for the entire budget EXCEPT for the JANITOR because I want more of my money to go to missions and ministries.” If you designate for the Outreach Minister, somebody else simply has to designate for the janitor. You’re not “creating new money for missions” by withholding it from the costs of infrastructure.

      I think it’s very naive to assume that no denominational infrastructure is needed. I think I once read that in the Air Force it takes, like, forty people on the ground to keep one pilot in the air. Granted, for a denomination like ours, the missionaries are the pilots, but we still have to pay everyone else.

      I actually appreciate the work of our state convention. They help me regularly in ministry because situations I go through once they have dealt with a hundred times through other congregations. I believe they have a legitimate denominational role and deserve adequate funding—even as we increase ALL funding to get those missionaries to the field.

      • William Thornton says

        Aha, a pastor who loves administration…rare bird.

        Rick, you present the standard argument for the CP, i.e., that it funds our entire structure, which is necessary to our work. But then you promote it by singling out unfunded overseas missionaries.

        I have no quarrel with my state convention but do recognize that when funds were increasing, they never failed to find ways to create new staff positions and programs, keeping money in state. If you are administratively gifted and astute, you recognize the inherent institutional motivation for organizations to expand. Religious organizations are no less subject to this than secular ones. The CP in a sense enables and promotes this and the only antidote is the decision of churches to evaluate funding alternatives and choose what they see as the better routes for their missions money. I think this point is unarguable in SBC life based on the past few decades.

      • says

        We must have administration cost. The only way to eliminate it is to put all the money in a bucket and have each missionary file by and take out what they need. Of course the bucket would be an administrative expense. :-)

        Serious, the expense could be cleaned up with a little effort and common sense. Example the Church Planter. A State sends money to Nashville a portion reaches NAMB. The State now wants a Church Planter. The State applies to NAMB, much activity, paper work, etc. and NAMB says “Yes” and sends the same money back to the State. However many salaries are paid plus other expenses to process that procedure. If an established state wants 10 church planters in 2015, they should keep the money for 10 planters and not send it in then ask for it back.

    • says


      I agree. The emphasis should be more money leaving the state. That will help some. My observation is that there is more waste at the state level than national.

      I still think three line items in church budgets is a feasible idea: Association, State, and National. Let the church decide, it is their money.

  10. Christiane says

    missions are not about ‘the money’,
    but people WILL put their money where their hearts are . . .

  11. Andy says

    A few more thoughts based on my own church’s experience:

    1: I’m not sure what effect the election of leaders from low-percentage churches has on the rank&file SBC church and its giving. I do know that for my 200 person church, setting a % for SBC President’s churches would have zero effect on our CP giving, partly because we know nobody from our church is ever going to be elected.

    2. Our church has, over the course of the last several years, intentionally and significantly decreased both its local association giving, and its CP (which we view as mostly state funds) giving, while significantly increasing its Lottie Moon (IMB) giving (we put Lottie in the budget for a significant amount…in addition to the xmas offering)………This came after several years attempted involvement with both our association and the state at various levels, and simply being dissatisfied that our money was being put to good use. For us, no SBC resolution would make us reverse this decision.

    • William Thornton says

      Your #2 above is an example of the trend I see in SBC life.

      I would prefer not to say that funding for state conventions and associations is “not being put to good use” but would say that our evaluation of priorities for our church’s mission dollars has led us to funding decisions that puts more emphasis on better uses.

      • Andy says

        I’m not saying they don’t do any good work, because I know they do. I am saying that, right or wrong, it was our church leadership’s PERCEPTION that the amount of good work was not enough to justify our church sending 60-70% of our SBC giving to the state as opposed to sending most of it directly to the IMB.

  12. Peaches says

    The funding mechanisms of the CP are absolutely an issue with laypeople. I are one.
    My church’s mission committee tried to figure out how much of our CP gifts ended up funding which ministries. After months of frustration, they gave up and re-directed money to the mission boards directly. We have not ended CP giving but have trimmed it.
    I was not part of that process but I am very familiar with the men who were. They are competent, Godly men of good faith who were sincerely trying to figure out the answer. Just like Rick’s article the convention talked about funding missionaries and serving children but the reality was that most of the money went to the state convention. Once we got them past pictures of smiling children in India to actual numbers the reality was clear. Too much CP giving ends up in the state convention. This is a particular problem since we are a large southern state, not Iowa or Montana.
    Our church is a mission minded church. Not even the pastor could get the church off of it’s 20% mission giving goals ( not that he tries mind you). But, the support for CP is much thinner than the support for missions.. The more knowledgeable and involved the lay people are, it seems the less enthusiastic they are about CP giving. Outdated funding formulas and lack of transparency do not make for enthusiastic support.

    • William Thornton says

      You said: “The more knowledgeable and involved the lay people are, it seems the less enthusiastic they are about CP giving. Outdated funding formulas and lack of transparency do not make for enthusiastic support.”

      I agree with every word here, and have said so for years. While this is not to say that state convention executives are deliberately deceptive or disingenuous, the method by which CP budgets are presented are not transparent. I will admit that I have seen some improvement in this area in the last few years.

    • says

      I am a supporter of the concept of the CP, but I fear that you are totally right in every point. Note I said “concept” of the CP. My hope would be that we can change the reality to which you have alluded.

  13. William Thornton says

    Rick appeals above in a couple of places for CP increases that would enable the many people we have who are ready to be sent to various mission fields but who are having to wait because of a lack of IMB funds to send them.

    I think this illustrates what many see as a flaw in the CP. International missions is seen as the great motivation for churches to support the CP but nothing is said about 80% of every CP dollar that is bled off before one dollar gets to the IMB where it can be used to send that missionary overseas.

    Sure, I recognize that state conventions and seminaries do important work and that a general funding scheme is advantageous for the grand market basket of our ministries and entities, but it makes little sense to decry lack of funding for international missions and propose a solution that gives two dimes out of a dollar to fix it.

    The success of CP promotion depends to some degree on average churches and pastors NOT understanding how much of their CP dollar goes to the IMB and NAMB. It was noteworthy a few years ago that Bryant Wright said that when his church leadership understood CP allocation, that IMB and NAMB together got less than a third of a CP dollar, they found that their mission goals were met by more direct mission giving than by more CP giving. It’s tough to argue against that conclusion.

    • John Wylie says

      But you don’t have to increase CP giving to facilitate more missionaries going to the field, that could be accomplished by giving more to Lottie Moon.

    • Tarheel says

      Perhaps we could offer churches an option to skip thier state convention and send CP money directly to Nashville.

      It seems that much if this (as William and peaches) are pointing out that the state conventions are perceived as not being a place where the CP monies are not wisely used. Reality or not it’s the perception.

      If a church/pastor are happy with the way their state convention does its work and appropiates to Nashville then it’s all good.

      So why not allow those churches to skip the state and send thier (whatever percent) straight to Nashville?

      • John Wylie says


        Churches can already do that, all they have to do is send their offerings directly to Nashville. But if that is Kosher then what is wrong with churches by passing everything and giving to Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong?

      • andy says

        I believe they already can do this…I’m just not sure if it is “counted” as CP giving.

        • Tarheel says

          Because only giving to LM and AAEO ignores other entities that need funding.

          It’s like if people in your church said “I dont like the way the (ministry A) _ ministry spends money, and I favor (ministry B) so I’m not giving to the general fund…I’m giving directly to ministry B.

          Problem is that if too many people start doing that…you potentially can’t pay the light or water bill so no ministry is able to function well.

          • Andy says

            I think you’ve revealed a similarity that goes deep.

            If a church member decides the overall church ministry is not worth supporting, or that the way money is used is so murky that they can’t even find out how much money goes where…then they perhaps SHOULD address it with the leadership, and perhaps go so far as to take their membership and money elsewhere, if there are serious problems. A serious mistrust that keeps one from supporting the full ministry of their own local church is not a good thing…It could reveal a bitter attitude in the church member…but it might also simply reveal real problems with the way the church is run.

            I think that’s the point that many churches/pastors are at. They truly believe that while certain things the SBC does are valuable, others are not. Some people think the ERLC should be shut down…some think their states waste a lot of money….some have serious problems with the fact that nobody knows how much SBC Executives make.

            However, I don’t think that a church supporting certain ministries cannot be compared apples to apples with a church member who doesn’t support their churches general ministries. Entities vs individuals never correlates perfectly.

  14. Rick Patrick says

    My goal in trumpeting CP promotion is a unified, across-the-board Southern Baptist budget. I think, for the most part, that our state conventions, seminaries, children’s homes, colleges, and other mutual work is very important. Of course, I also support our North American and International missionaries, but I don’t believe that our recent laser focus upon them—to the exclusion of the rest of our denominational machinery—has resolved anything at all.

    Theoretically, if a certain number of churches Robin Hooded funds away from state ministries in favor of national and international ministries, then another group of churches would simply hike their giving directly to state ministries in order to fund everyone.

    It would not really change the amounts given, just the sources of these amounts. Instead of twenty churches giving proportionally to all SBC causes, ten would give exclusively to IMB/NAMB and ten would give exclusively to state/seminary/children’s homes/schools and so on.

    I guess I look at it this way—all the bills have to be paid, so instead of fussing about which groups we want to pay, let’s just ALL pay ALL of them, and do so generously enough that they are all adequately funded. To me, this is the true meaning of cooperation.

    I really don’t understand the animosity toward the state conventions. Maybe they need to be tweaked a little, but let’s not cut them off at the knees.

    • Rick Patrick says

      * By unified, across the board SBC budget, I simply mean that every church would give, say, ten percent through the CP, and this money would be distributed to ALL SBC agencies and entities in Jerusalem (25%), Judea (25%), Samaria (25%) and the ends of the earth (25%).

      Practically, that would look like this:
      Jerusalem and Judea: 50% for the state
      Samaria: 25% for America and Canada
      Uttermost: 25% for the entire world

      The actual CP allocation numbers in my state vary just slightly:
      State: 51.0%
      Nation: 24.5%
      World: 24.5%

      • Adam Blosser says

        I guess that is part of the problem. Not all state conventions are created equal. I am very unhappy with the direction of my state convention. They are in bed with the CBF and BWA. The giving plans that my state convention provides stink. Even the best plan keeps sixty some percent in state and sends thirty some percent to the SBC. Thankfully they also allow a customized plan. We give 50% of our CP giving to the state and 50% to the SBC.

    • says

      In my less emotional moments I agree with all you have said. We have a system that has fielded the largest most efficient mission program in Protestant church history, warts and all. You are right. Lets’ take care of the warts. Can that be done?

      With all my griping I owe everything I have and am to SB. I went to a world class seminary for $50 per semester, plus books. Can’t beat that at WalMart.

  15. Tarheel says

    John said;

    “I’m not against seminaries, but I would like to ask a question, could a person without a masters degree (gasp) actually be qualified to do mission work? Could the local church possibly be used as a training ground for missionaries and pastors?”

    That’s a whole ‘nother post and I suspect we’d find lots of agreement there!

    Btw, I’m totally good with sarcasm…in fact I speak it fluently. 😉

  16. William Thornton says

    I join Rick in his last comment (the one with a background) in supporting the CP as our unified giving plan. We cannot exist as we do without it. I differ with him on goals, targets, and the future of the CP.

    I also think Rick to be somewhat uninformed about the CP, particularly the giving data of the last few decades. State conventions have lost considerable funding, proportionately far more than the entities, primarily because of (a) the declining percentages, and (b) the economic meltdown. Rick posits that if churches bypass the CP to give more directly to the mission boards that other churches would recognize this and give more to the state conventions so that they could maintain their work. Notably, this hasn’t happened. States have severely cut their budgets and staff. No churches have stepped up to help them avoid this.

    The general trend of churches giving more to LM and AA and less to the CP is significant. Because of this, in a few years more funds will flow directly to those two entites than to Nashville through the CP.

    I love a good display of symmetry but Rick’s Jerusalem, Judea/Samaria, uttermost divisions are completely artificial and do not reflect giving proportionate to gospel needs in our world. The idea that legacy state conventions (his in AL, and mine in GA, and the others) deserved half of all CP revenues while the billions of lost people in the rest of the world gets half of that is upside down.

    But I really appreciate Rick’s aspirational view of the CP. I just wish he would temper it a bit with reality. We are not going back to a mid-20th century 10% support of the CP.

    • Adam Blosser says

      “The general trend of churches giving more to LM and AA and less to the CP is significant.”

      Are churches putting LMCO and AAEO in their budgets? Is that what is causing this? Are they diverting CP funds to the mission boards through these special offerings?

      The church I pastor gives more to the LMCO and AAEO combined than to the CP. This is not because we budgeted for that to happen. It is because we give 10% of undesignated receipts to the CP, and our members’ voluntary giving to LMCO and AAEO exceeds 10% of our undesignated receipts.

  17. Peaches says

    I don’t think the folks in the pew would be ok with 50% of their CP giving staying in the state. Not in my church and not in my state. 25% might be ok. So would 20%. The lack of transparency is a key problem that hinders CP giving.

  18. says

    I hear this from our people in the pews and I hear it from other Pastors and Church members – “we want our monies going to missions not staying home and spent on whims.”

    One of the major reasons for the drop IMHO is the advent of more options for missions and connectivity to the more options. We live in a generation that wants “hands on” instead of being content with just sending our money. The under 50 church members are not sold on CP and yet are involved in many different ministries and missions.

    The CP issues are a mixed bag to say the least!

  19. says

    Our missions team gets over a dozen requests for our Missions budget giving every year. Local, State, and other. Lottie wins every time! But the rest is getting more difficult with each passing day!

    Being the “gatekeeper” is getting tough! :-)

  20. Rick Patrick says

    Okay, so are you all saying if state conventions were to lay off even more people until their budgets were only 25% of the total CP giving formula, you would then support the percentages so strongly that you would be willing to give 10% through the CP? Or would you still just designate around the state convention, no matter the giving formula split?

    Here’s the reason I ask. Currently, the 50% state cut out of 5.6% average CP giving yields 2.8% of undesignated church budget funds for the state. Using your hypothetical ideal split of 25% and my hypothetical ideal goal of 10%, a 25% state cut out of 10% average CP giving would yield 2.5% of undesignated church budget funds for the state.

    Perhaps the states could afford to absorb the “hit” involved in going from 2.8% to 2.5%. In exchange, we would all be rowing happily in the same direction again—you know, cooperating.

    • William Thornton says

      Remember, states now keep over 60%, not 50%.

      I think expecting states to give up half of their revenues is unrealistic and I haven’t suggested that. With the current split, a 5% CP level is realistic.

      As I said earlier, the CP offers little opportunity for significant adjustment, so I’m not optimistic about any changes being made other than incremental and cosmetic ones.

      In a hundred or so comments here, most all of the issues relative to the CP have been raised and there is little consensus about doing anything which indicates to me that churches will continue to evaluate mission alternatives and nothing about the CP tells me that it will compare more favorably than it has for all these decades of decline.

  21. Peaches says

    My church would. In fact, my church did, until it started trying to sort through the “funding formulas”.

    We are talking about moving jobs…Fewer jobs at the state conventions more at the mission boards. Being an employer is not our job. Reaching the nations is. When this conversation turns to who wins and who loses, or how painful change is or hurt feelings many people just tune out. Talk about mission and purpose and you will find support. Money follows vision.

    • says

      Peaches said “money follows vision”

      I like that. I would add “money follows strategy”. Many states either do not have or have not communicated a strategy for accomplishing their task. In fact most laymen (dare I say many pastors) do not really understand the purpose for the state convention.

      In defense of both State conventions and Associations we can now get on the internet much of what was supplied by these entities.

      • Rick Patrick says

        Personally, I rely greatly on state convention personnel and their expertise in advising and equipping my ministry. In just the past few weeks, I have consulted with a state newspaper editor, the convention president, a conference center executive director, an advisor regarding ministry financial issues and a consultant for church construction work.

        I must strongly disagree that I could simply find on the internet what I receive from the people at our state convention trained to assist over 3,000 Alabama Baptist Churches. Apparently, those whose state conventions are not providing much in the way of value no longer see the need for one. But from where I sit, their work is worth every penny.

        • says

          I do not doubt what you say. I am sure many states are like that. Note I said “much” of what we get is on internet. I was referring to training events and such. There is much information that is helpful in developing a church program on the internet.

          Rick I am not down on State and Association entities. I have served on both and continue to serve as a DOM. This thread is dealing mainly with the split. Hence it is a financial discussion. I am not sure that the way we do things at the Associational and State level is the most economic. Take for example training sessions. Ten’s of thousands of dollars are spent on church planting and other training events. These are put on the internet and the same information can be gained at home at no cost. There is a fellowship component to consider I realize. However I feel that we can and should spend mission dollars more wisely. That is my only point.

      • Andy says

        D.L. SAID: “In fact most laymen (dare I say many pastors) do not really understand the purpose for the state convention.”


  22. volfan007 says

    What will the State Conventions do with the ministries they now support, if they continue to give more and more to the SBC? The TN Baptist Convention supports the work with abused and neglected children at the TN Baptist Children’s Homes; TN Bapt. Adult Homes(helps mentally challenged people); church starts; Union University and Carson Newman University; and some other ministries across the state of TN. How are these ministries gonna be able to continue to function, if they send more and more money to the SBC?


    • says

      You raise for me the most important point. We cannot allow these ministries to suffer. However, I think the issue at this point is waste. We spend money that needs not be spent because we can do things with technology more cost effective. I am confident that if a state convention would employ experts in time and motion studies, cost effectiveness, etc. we could streamline our operation, be just as efficient, and have ample money for ministries.

    • Tarheel says

      Been doing some thinking…

      I would argue that perhaps state and national might consider that they are doing too much. If they cannot fund ministries off of 50% of the money that all the SBC churches send to the coop program….then perhaps they are spread too thin. Example – Might the Paying of numerous execs. (on state and convention level) big salaries to administrate a bloated bureaucracy might have a bearing on how willing churches are to contribute to what is supposed to be a money pooling endeavor so that more missionaries can be sent to the nations?

      I think the issue with many state conventions and to a lesser extent (I think) the national convention is the same as it is with the federal govt. Perhaps the crux of the problem is not a cash flow problem as it is a spending and bloated scope of convention work problem?

      To further my line of thought here an important distinction should be made relating to several comments made in this and other CP threads, IMO…

      Associations, state conventions, or the SBC itself does (should) not plant churches…churches are to plant churches. These conventions and associations should be about helping and training the churches that task…not doing it for the churches.

      I also contend that perhaps the convention/Namb/Imb does (should not) not have the ultimate say in the sending missionaries…rather churches should…and the these entities should be more focused on training and helping churches do that.

      Someone mentioned earlier (in a negative way, sorry can’t remember who said it) something about the idea that an SBC church would commission, approve, and at least partially directly fund (putting some dough where their mouth is) a missionary only to have them rejected by one of the mission boards. I have no issue with an added layer of accountability in the missionaries we send out that idea is a good thing…..but rejection of a church approved/approved/commissioned missionary by the SBC mission boards should be a rarity and not the norm.

      If we truly believe in church autonomy and centrality of the local church as we so doggedly contend (often only when it suits us or our argument though)…then why on earth would the entities of the convention be able to reject a duly commissioned missionary from a local church based on a subjective and often extra biblical set of standards that they impose?

      Churches might then be more willing to send cooperative monies to the convention if the convention(s) only did what they are supposed to do and were limited to existing only to assist churches in carrying out the great commission and not being the place where we send our money for them to do it.

      Might a refocusing on these types issues save some money AND increase CP giving?

      • says

        Concerning the first part of you post, you have hit, I think, on a major problem. We need to be more efficient in our cost analysis. Note my comment concerning cost analysis. We can be much more cost effective than we are.

        • Tarheel says


          Another example…

          Should state conventions really be in the business of directing, administrating and funding (albeit worthwhile and important) children and adult homes, colleges, etc?

          Cant those things operate on tuition and fees (if appropriate – sure you don’t charge orphans to live there) charitable contributions and specific churches?

          They are good and worthwhile ministries…but should the state conventions be doing that…isn’t that again…the role of the church?

          Perhaps we have fallen prey to the idea that our churches can “farm out” these responsibilities we have been given by God to the state conventions and the government?

          have we become content in sending our money away someplace else to do what we should be doing within our churches?

          Missionaries are different I think. We have a whole world to blanket and no church can do that on their own…so pooling together for the express and sole reason of sending missionaries is supposed to be what the CP is all about…but as others have pointed out in this thread it has become about much more…

          The more I think about it, the more I think we need define what the conventions are supposed to be and have them do only that and then I think financial issues will take care of themselves.

          State conventions…primarily helping, training, funding churches work together to do church planting statewide so that the various churches can accomplish more. Secondarily they can help churches in other ways carry our the work of the ministry.

          National convention..primarily helping, training, funding churches to work together in sending missionaries around the world (and the the “nation communities” that have nestled in North America) and secondarily helping the state conventions and individual churches in other ways carry out the work of the ministry.

          God has called churches not entities to do the work of the ministry and gospel in the world. Partnering to do more corporately is one thing….but have we generally become too dependent on the associations and conventions to do what we as the local churches ought to be doing?

          • says

            Generally speaking I think we are talking academically in that I really don’f foresee any drastic change from what we are doing.
            (1) As far as the homes go I think we might find a more efficient way of doing this. I don’t think we should get out of the business but a serious look at options would be in order. As you remember there was a time we were in the hospital business until that became prohibitive.

            (2) Colleges are good IMO, but does every state need one or more than one.

            (3) Church planting agreed, churches plant churches.

            (4) Missionaries–we need an agency for these IMO.

            (5) State staff helping churches–this is nice but again the cost IMO does not warrant the product. This should be assigned to associations because they are closer to the church and action. I know the needs of my churches more than state staff simply because they cannot get around to them as often as I can.

            (6) I say again I support state conventions, I served on a state staff. My main emphasis is that we need to approach the state convention like a business with proper cost effect analysis and trim the fat. We will have more money and just as much efficiency. When churches see we are serious about this they will give.

          • Tarheel says

            Yea, I know.

            After all we baptists don’t like change…and what we are doing is working so well…lets just keep doing it exactly as we are doing it. 😉

      • William Thornton says

        You are woefully short sighted here. There are 47k SBC churches. Some of these churches would appoint missionaries who are clueless, uneducated, and inept. Some would duly appoint individuals with multiple divorces and other issues. You get the picture.

        If we are to pool our funds then there has to be some common standard. There is already a route for larger churches to work with the IMB on something like a fee for service basis in order to put their own people on the field but not have them go through the IMB process.

        This is a longstanding area of difficulty in the SBC…goes all the way back to 1845.

        • says

          This thread is getting long and somewhat complicated to follow. I am not disagreeing with you at all but I have lost what your “shortsighted” point referenced. Please elaborate.

          If I understand what you are saying I agree completely regarding missionary appointment, selection etc. This would seem to require a set standard that cannot be found with too many hands in the pudding.

          IMO those few churches that can fully fund a missionary should still cooperate with the rest of us by giving to the CP. Don’t ask me why, because I do not have an answer. It just seems like the right thing to do.

          • Tarheel says

            I’m pretty sure he is calling me shortsighted there, DL.

            I’d ask for some elaboration as well.

          • William Thornton says

            Shortsighted was for tarheel’s suggestion that missionaries duly commissioned by a local church should receive automatic support from IMB or NAMB. I explained why this is shortsighted.

            Nothing personal…if anything can be personal to an anonymous commenter.

          • Tarheel says

            Lol…even posters who use pseudonyms are persons …. But that aside.

            That’s not exactly what I said. I said the extra layer of accountability is good in principle but I lamented the extrabiblical/out of the scope of the BFM preclusion’s that are placed on otherwise qualified applicants…

          • says

            There is a lot to be said on both sides of that issue. I have no strong opinion either way. However, I think it would be nice if an appointees home church was a part of the commissioning service. When I was commissioned in 1993 it was a highlight of my life. I was proud of be a part of that ministry. It would have been nice if my home church which ordained me or whatever could have been invited to be a significant part of the service. As a secondary, it would be a whopper of a CP promotion.

          • John Wylie says

            I for one consider requiring imb missionaries to have a masters degree is ridiculous.

          • Tarheel says

            John, that’s one of the requirements to which I refer.

            I think many Godly and qualified SBC missionaries are turned away for that reason.

          • John Wylie says


            Don’t me wrong, I am for all of us being as educated as we possibly can be, but I think Southern Baptists are too enamored with credentials. Just because a man doesn’t have a MDiv doesn’t mean that he isn’t educated.

          • says


            Although I do have a Masters, I tend to agree that it should not be a unilateral rule. I understand the argument, and I think that it is generally a good idea. However, as you have pointed out good men can be turned away because they lack such. Billy Graham would not qualify. One of our most celebrated pastors living today would not qualify, because he has not been to the seminary. Every person is an individual and should be treated as such IMO.

          • says

            Yes we are. John mentioned “enamored with credentials”. That has given rise to an area of our SB culture that IMO lacks a great deal of integrity, namely degree mills. For a man to get a “Doctor’s” degree from these degree mill places is an insult to every man who labored long and hard for a legitimate terminal degree. I lived next door to a man in seminary who was in the doctoral program and I became acutely aware of the long hours and hard work.

          • William Thornton says

            Need a new topic here.

            There are many routes to appointment by our IMB that do not require a masters degree or an MDiv.

          • Tarheel says

            Um read it again guys … To be a career missionary one must have completed 30 hours of graduate work.

            Apprentice can do it with. 12 hours but that’s temporary appointments and with limited ministry opportunity.

          • Tarheel says

            Also, according to that document…lets say a person went to bible college and got a undergrad degree in Biblical studies then went to grad school and got a masters degree in business…in order to be considered for a career missionary he must FIRST take at least 20 hours of Seminary classes (of course its implied at one of the SBC seminaries).

            While we are on the topic…we are asking young (or older people) to attend undergrad, and at least some seminary before going on the field and at the same time saying that they can only have 1500 in unsecured debt (including student loans).

            Aren’t we at least seemingly if not in reality limiting career missionary ministry essentially to the highly educated and the moderately wealthy by these standards?

            These are some of the objections I hear from people in my church about the CP….that our (and other churches) are giving lots and lots of money and good people are getting rejected or having to wait till they are 35 or 40 or older and have paid off all student loans. (then I am pretty sure there is a caution about introducing older children on the field.

          • Adam Blosser says

            I object to your suggestion that the debt and education requirements are incompatible. However, I expect we will just be wasting our time by having that argument.

            I want to go a different route. Please answer these questions.

            Do you think the debt requirement is a good thing?

            The only objection you gave to the education requirement was the debt requirement. If the debt issue was taken out of the equation, would you support 30 hours of seminary training as a requirement for missionary appointment with the IMB?

            The educational requirements as outlined in the link are really not unreasonable. 30 hours? That is 1 year of full time post-bachelors study.

            “Also, according to that document…lets say a person went to bible college and got a undergrad degree in Biblical studies then went to grad school and got a masters degree in business…in order to be considered for a career missionary he must FIRST take at least 20 hours of Seminary classes (of course its implied at one of the SBC seminaries).”

            That scenario is not possible. What school accepts students for their master’s program in business that graduated with a biblical studies degree? The reverse is possible. The student who got a bachelor’s degree in business can then go to seminary and do the required 30 hours for appointment.

          • Tarheel says


            “Dependent children must be under the age of 13 at the time of starting service with us.”

            It is completely possible that by the time a person who is not either wealthy or somehow had his college and seminary paid for gets his loans paid off he will have children nearing 13…the several year application process ends up working against those people.

          • John Wylie says

            30 graduate hours before you can go to the mission field is absolutely unreasonable. I for one think that requiring even an undergraduate degree is unreasonable. Men who have gone through the diploma program at the seminary would not qualify.

        • Tarheel says

          You’re right about the undergrad bible and grad business….lets say he double majored in bible and business…or got a undergrad degree in business with a minor in biblical studies. Then goes to grad school and gets a masters in business admin.

          After which he feels called to career missions….

          FYI – It takes many people years to pay off loans if they are not somehow getting it paid for by parents, being an RA in undergrad or having a rich uncle or some other way. It is completely possible that a person take 10-12 years to pay off both undergrad and graduate loans. Especially when coupled with being married and mortgage and other expenses.

          If said individual has a child at 25 then his child will be nearing the “under 13″ prohibition.

    • says

      You are correct but…the two colleges are willing to go it alone in regards to money in the state of Tennessee. And at that point, we see the two sides of this discussion while overlooking a third – the people in the pew are not buying into the CP idea as a whole. And when the Pastor begins to sell the ideas of the CP – the eyes wander and the brain checks out.

      • Tarheel says

        This is what I am getting at.

        What if we were able to explain simply by saying…

        “We and other SBC churches send 10% of the undesignated money we collect in the plates each week to the state and national conventions so that they can help our church plant more churches and send even more missionaries around the world. that’s it. That is all they do.”

        Course in order to say that our churches need to be directly involved in church planting and missionary sending. 😉

        I think one reason the LMCO and the AAEO do so well as the case for it is simple.

        “All of this money goes directly to put missionaries in the field.”

        Our people buy into that pretty easily.

    • William Thornton says

      David, our state like most lost many millions in funding and cut many, many staffers. Ask the average church if they noticed any difference.

      Dave needs a topic that asks for commenters to assess their state convention budgets. I’d be curious as to the opinion of folks here. One flaw in the CP is that it guarantees a large funding stream to states with little real evaluation or accountability. When the CP went up, states always had more staff positions and programs that sucked up the additional funds.

      I value my state convention for a few critical needs and appreciate that they help on these ways.

      • says


        This is my point. The economic downturn was not an intentional cost effective analysis, but it did force one. I dare say that nothing of real significance was lost in most states unless one considers staff retreats in Hawaii a significant need.

        I am not begrudging state staff a good time, they work hard and deserve appreciation, but when the churches see that and then are told to increase by 1% it does not ring authentic. And yes, I have had some nice trips on the CP dime, but just sayin…