SBC Cooperative Program Giving Curmudgeons (Part 1)

by Mike Leake on October 24, 2012 · 55 comments

Recently Jon Acuff, of Stuff Christians Likeposted this sad picture on his site:

That is a photo of a voided check for $75.00.  It looks as if this curmudgeon was going to give 75 bucks to the church but decided that he’d void the check and keep his money because the drums were way too loud.

This might be a reasonable response at a movie theater or some other form of entertainment, but this is absolutely unacceptable for a church.  You do not give money to your church to reward them for entertaining you, helping you, or pleasing you.  You give money to your church so that as a collective group you can accomplish the work of the kingdom of God.

If this chap wants to complain about the loud drums then he should find some other means to do it.  Yes, sadly this is an excellent way to be heard.  This a tremendous way to make a point because churches depend on faithful givers to not only keep their doors open but to further the mission of the church.  But this guy has it backwards.  He thinks that the church is there to serve him; by that I mean that he believes that everyone gathers each week to watch the show and they pool their resources so that they can watch an even bigger show next week.  (Sadly, in some churches maybe this guy doesn’t have it so backwards after all).

I think about every pastor would be appalled by such a thing…but what about on a denominational level?

CP Curmudgeons

Part of the beauty of the Southern Baptist Convention is the Cooperative Program (CP).  The CP is a way that all SBC churches can pool together their resources for the sake of furthering the kingdom of Christ.  Whenever you give to an SBC church a good chunk of that money will go to the CP.  From there it will be used for international missions, state missions, local missions, seminaries, children’s homes, and a host of other SBC agencies.

The SBC is structured in such a way that every church is locally autonomous.  That means that seminaries, state officers, national officers, etc. do not have any authority in the local church.  The President of the SBC cannot tell any SBC church what to do.  It is quite frequently, and rightly, said that the SBC entities are in position to serve us—the local church.

What happens, then, when an SBC entity (that CP dollars go towards) “plays the drums too loud”?

If a local church, usually through the leadership of her pastor, believes that an entity is no longer serving them they can allot their giving in such a way that money will not be given to those entities.  This happened many times during the days of the Conservative Resurgence when local churches believed that some of the entities were promoting liberalism instead of the gospel.  Churches can become like the curmudgeon in the photo above and refuse to give money because they do not like the direction of the entity.

Of course within the SBC any church is free to give however they desire.  They can do whatever they want.  The question I am concerned with is whether or not they should.  Come back tomorrow morning and I will attempt to answer this question:

If an entity no longer serves the local church should they continue giving to that entity? SB

1 Bart Barber October 24, 2012 at 11:14 am

Mike,

I want our convention to witness a dramatic increase in Cooperative Program funding. We’re a 10% CP church. I’m a big CP fan. But, with no malice in my heart and with appreciation for your intention to promote CP Missions, I would like to offer a friendly critique.

I believe that it is neither compatible with our polity nor likely to be persuasive for us to speak, write, or act from the perspective that CP is a debt that churches rightfully owe and that those who withhold CP funding are being curmudgeonly. Rather, I think the better approach is to acknowledge that churches are not under obligation to give through the Cooperative Program but then to demonstrate for them all of the reasons why they should wish to do so freely.

It seems to me that one of the fundamental reasons why the latter approach is more appropriate is that my offerings as an individual truly are something that I owe to Christ, and that my church is the place to give them to Him. If I withhold them or misdirect them, I truly am being miserly. And so, there is no good analogy between an individual’s gifts to his church and a church’s gifts through the CP, since the individual is under obligation to give to the church, but the church is not under obligation to give through the CP.

2 Dave Miller October 24, 2012 at 11:37 am

I agree with your comments here, Bart. However, I am a little confused as to their intent. Were you implying that Mike was advocating the counterpoint to your point?

Mike evidences respect for both the CP (which I think is a genius, if somewhat endangered giving method). His point, as I understand it, is whether it is a good idea for churches to start withholding CP (or designating) when the “drums are too loud.”

I think Mike raises an excellent point, and I also think he would agree with your excellent point. My question is whether you were just making a point or countering something you saw in his post.

3 Bart Barber October 24, 2012 at 11:53 am

I was countering something that I think is in the post. The point of the post seems to be a friendly scolding of people who stop giving through CP without having a good reason to stop giving through CP. But churches don’t have to justify not giving through CP; the SBC has to justify receiving CP funding. The post seems to me to put burden of proof on the wrong side of the equation, as though churches owe CP funding to the SBC.

Or, maybe this sinus infection has me feeling a bit curmudgeonly this morning, myself! ;-)

4 volfan007 October 24, 2012 at 11:59 am

Bart,

I thought you were the Church Curmudgeon….you’re not?

David

5 Bart Barber October 24, 2012 at 12:07 pm

I wish I were that funny.

6 Dave Miller October 24, 2012 at 12:05 pm

I’ve always assumed so, Vol.

I guess (as is normal in blogging) we read different things, Bart.

I think Mike raises a legitimate question. He is talking about churches that are already giving to the CP, and decide to give less because someone gets elected or something gets passed.

I agree with the thrust of your point – churches give what they decide to give and do not owe anything. I just don’t think Mike is talking about that.

His frame of reference is to churches that are considering lessening or withholding their CP offerings, and is asking what I consider to be a valid question – on what bases would that be valid?

7 Bart Barber October 24, 2012 at 12:13 pm

Mike’s post isn’t evil. It doesn’t make me angry. It isn’t a bad post.

Here’s what I would change about it: I’d say to churches, “Certainly, it is your responsibility before the Lord to pursue the Great Commission and to be the best steward you can be of the dollars that pass through your checking account. I understand that you believe that X makes the SBC less effective and makes you consider doing something else with your money. I would ask you, however, to consider Y and Z, which would be hurt by your reduced giving and which are important Great Commission ministries that would be difficult for you to replicate as well by other means.”

The difference, I guess, is that the post doesn’t make the kind of effort to show why churches should (continue to) give through the CP that ought to be present if the burden of proof is on the convention and not on the churches.

But, I just wanted to offer the one comment to give us all something to think about. I didn’t mean to turn it into a multi-comment thread of its own. I’m happy to leave it at this.

8 Mike Leake October 24, 2012 at 12:18 pm

Bart,

I really appreciate the addition that you are making to the post. I think what you are saying also needs to be said.

9 Mike Leake October 24, 2012 at 12:12 pm

Bart,

Thanks for your critique. The point is well taken. Allow me to try to explain my point a little more fully.

First, correct me if I am wrong on this…but isn’t the CP the entire point of being a Southern Baptist. I mean without CP giving (or partnering in some fashion) aren’t you really just a non-denominational church that isn’t cooperating in missions with other churches?

Second, I do believe that every church is free to give as they see fit. We aren’t a top down structure.

Third, I believe every individual believer is free to give to the Lord as he leads. (Though, I think it’s not a direct comparison to the individual and the individual church)

My point is not that churches owe CP funding to the SBC. But that if a church is part of the SBC the CP is part and parcel of what it means to be SBC. They ought to give freely and cheerfully. Just as the case in a local assembly. Just like with the “drums too loud” guy I think when a church doesn’t give to the CP for tertiary or even less than tertiary issues then it’s a heart issue. (I hope I make that point more clearly in part 2)

Thanks for the interaction though. I think you are making a really solid point.

10 Bart Barber October 24, 2012 at 12:19 pm

Mike,

I do not believe that the CP is the entire point of being a Southern Baptist. For the first half of the SBC’s existence there was no CP, nor anything like it. Obviously, there was (and is) something other than the CP that is the point of being a Southern Baptist.

If someone, out of base anger, chooses to keep missions money at home, then I agree with your analysis. However, if someone concludes that the Great Commission is served better by a different funding arrangement, then that isn’t a heart issue. And I think that only the Word of God may be a sharp enough instrument to divide between the two. If, in my estimation, somebody did something to make the CP a bad way to pursue the Great Commission, my decision to defund the CP would be BOTH a strategic decision AND something about which I would be angry. I would be angry that anyone had made the CP, for which I am so thankful, anything less than the best way to fund Great Commission work. So, differentiating between these two motives—emotion and strategy—can be difficult, I think, since the two can be and are often intricately intertwined.

11 Mike Leake October 24, 2012 at 12:35 pm

Good point on the CP being after the SBC’s existence. What I was meaning was pooling together our resources for the sake of missions is the point of the SBC. Would you agree with that?

12 Bart Barber October 24, 2012 at 12:45 pm

Mike,

I do agree that the SBC exists “for the purpose of eliciting, combining, and directing the energies of the Baptist denomination of Christians for the propagation of the gospel.”

13 Coach October 25, 2012 at 5:47 am

“…that CP is a debt that churches rightfully owe and that those who withhold CP funding are being curmudgeonly. ”

Excellent statement Bart. Totally agree.

14 R. Richard Tribble, Jr. October 24, 2012 at 11:16 am

Mike,

Let’s consider another aspect of the voided check. Could it be that the individual had talked with the church leadership about the music and they failed to respond or even dismissed the individual? One thing the voided check did do was bring tot he attention of the leadership that their are disgruntled members.

Sadly I’ve seen too many young pastors come into older churches and force their ministry aspects alienating the older generation forgetting that they need ministering to too.

We have a church in my area, that everything about the church changed under a new pastor in the first 12 months. The older members were told they needed to move out of the way or get with the program. The morning service grew as young teenagers and 20 somethings began attending. The music moved from contemporary to hard rock. When the tithing members of the church complained they were told “this is the new church, get with it or hit the road.” The vast majority of the tithing members left and within 6 months the “NEW and THRIVING” church had no money to pay its bills and the church folded.

Sadly we’re seeing this repeated more and more as the older generation of believers are ostracized.

NOW, let’s consider the older generations concern about this music. For some they grew up, and continue to hold the belief that music with a rock n roll beat is akin to the devil and for others, like myself who have a hearing impairment find any loud sound, especially that of drums or bass extremely irritating.

Your blog comparing the voided check to the CP didn’t connect. I don’t lead churches to give through the CP in order to get something back; I lead them to give so that the whole can be more effective than the part.

I look forward to your answer but felt this perspective also needs to be considered – from an old man who is still planting churches.

15 Dave Miller October 24, 2012 at 11:42 am

You said, “We have a church in my area, that everything about the church changed under a new pastor in the first 12 months. ”

Therein is a HUGE problem in churches. Most of what I read in seminary didn’t sink it, but a piece of advice from a Shaller book did. He advised that we not try to make major changes in a church in our first 3 years.

If you aren’t staying for the long term, why make changes?
If you ARE staying long term, why not be patient?

Build trust. Minister. Serve. Build a sense of credibility and then people will follow you.

This doesn’t really answer your question, but your comment brought up one of my sources of frustration – pastors who come into a church and try to completely revise the church’s structure, program and personality without first building trust and credibility.

Mini-sermon over.

16 Ben Coleman October 24, 2012 at 1:26 pm

Would it appropriate to say that the latter pastors may be building their own kingdom more than they’re trying to build God’s Kingdom?

17 volfan007 October 24, 2012 at 11:26 am

Totally agree with you about too many Pastors and Churches seeking to entertain people to get a crowd, and too many people going to Church with the attitude of please me and entertain me. This is a sad reality in too many Churches in our land, today.

But, about giving to the CP, I’m like Bart. It’s not a debt that a Church owes. It’s not an obligation for a Church to do. Now, should a Church support mission work? Absolutely. But, in this day of Great Commission Giving, Churches are choosing to support missions in different ways. CP giving is not the only way a Church can support mission work, nor is it commanded in the Bible that SBC Churches must support the CP.

BTW, before anyone thinks that I’m anti-CP…I’m not. I have tried to get the Churches, which I’ve Pastored in the past, to give more. And, the Church, which I now Pastor, gives 20% of our offerings to the CP. I think the CP is the best way to support missionaries, although we’re starting to fund more individuals, here lately, to plant Churches, go on volunteer mission trips, etc. And, I dont think we’re being bad by spending more of our mission dollars in other ways.

David

18 Dave Miller October 24, 2012 at 11:34 am

I think one of the great blessings of blogging is its ability to bring words like kerfuffle and curmudgeon into our dialog!

19 Ben Coleman October 24, 2012 at 1:28 pm

There are times I see a great need for a blog titled “Curmudgeons R Us”.

20 Jim Pemberton October 24, 2012 at 11:36 am

But the drums are the “way to loud”. I know. I sometimes run sound and I’m the guy turning them up. Actually, I use a decibel meter and shoot for an average in the upper 60s range for music. The fewest people complain in that range. It’s like temperature. There will always be someone complaining that it’s too hot or too cold. And older folks are often not who complain. Many of them like it a little louder because they have hearing problems.

In this case, it seems like they are complaining that the mix was bad. I don’t know if they were using live drums, but those are hard to mic and mix. If they haven’t been added with the right sound barriers and well miked you will have all kinds of problems and they can easily drown out the words.

Now, maybe it was a mis-stated complaint that there were drums at all. Regardless of their intent, it is a poor excuse for denying money. The fact that the voided check made it into the plate is an indication that perhaps they never intended to give the money in the first place, but only use a voided check to voice their dissatisfaction.

BTW, I don’t recall who I got this guy’s twitter reference from, but if you want a few chuckles regarding church curmudgeons, you should check out @ChurchCurmudgeon on twitter.

21 Ben Coleman October 24, 2012 at 1:31 pm

At my church, they ended up getting electric drums, as it was easier to control the volume that way (both in the congregation and in the choir – before that getting it right for the congregation often meant the drums were much to loud in the choir).

22 Dave Miller October 24, 2012 at 2:17 pm

Drummers almost uniformly HATE electric drums – at least those I know.

23 Ben Coleman October 24, 2012 at 2:28 pm

Well, evidently ours submitted to it for the purpose of improving the music (for both the congregation and the choir). Isn’t that what we’ve been talking about here lately, being willing to lay aside your own preferences for the sake of the rest of the congregation? It did mean that the drummers would play with headphones on, in order to get the proper feedback for their playing.

24 Dave Miller October 24, 2012 at 2:49 pm

Yep. Drums are the instrument most likely to cause trouble.

25 Dave Miller October 24, 2012 at 2:49 pm

That, and the flugelhorn.

26 Zack Stepp October 25, 2012 at 11:41 am

I, for one, am tired of the anti-flugelhornist agenda on this blog. Calvinism? Let’s pick at that tulip. Alcohol? Pour me a tall glass of controversy. KJV? We shalt dispute.

But the gentle flugelhorn? It’s the manatee of the instrument world. It hurts nobody.

27 Dave Miller October 25, 2012 at 12:52 pm

I guess some things, like flugelhornism, are just too controversial to discuss on blogs.

28 Daviss Woodbury October 25, 2012 at 12:56 pm

Chuck Mangione approves of this comment.

29 Ben Coleman October 25, 2012 at 1:19 pm

Actually, I’ve found the use of a saxophone in worship to be far more controversial than use of the flugelhorn (and, though some will not believe it, I have heard the saxophone used appropriately in worship music).

30 Dave Miller October 25, 2012 at 1:57 pm

Ben, we do not permit the saxophone in our church, because we have so many unmarried folks and our church takes a strong stand against premarital sax.

Sorry.

31 Jim Pemberton October 25, 2012 at 2:56 pm

“our church takes a strong stand against premarital sax. “

Amen!

And >whew< I should be glad my son's "girlfriend" only plays the clarinet.

32 Ben Coleman October 25, 2012 at 4:18 pm

In my old church in WV, the musician who got a real “talking to” was the guy who picked up the church’s shofar and proceeded to play “Sentimental Journey” on it. That was considered crossing the line.

33 Frank L. October 25, 2012 at 5:51 pm

Hijack!

Hey Ben, what city WV. I was born, raised and run out of WV.

34 Jim Pemberton October 24, 2012 at 4:05 pm

Electric drums are far easier to control. Dave is right that drummers hate them. Sound guys who care about the finished product hate them too.

We used electric drums for several years before switching to live drums a few years ago. And we only switched after extensive testing, experimentation, and bringing in a consultant. We have a sub mixer just for the drums with gates and compression on the necessary channels, and the drums are almost completely enclosed in plexiglass shields with acoustical panels for a roof. The drummer relies completely on the digital Aviom monitor system to hear what everyone else is doing and even has a closed-circuit TV to see our minister of music.

So it takes a lot of planning and careful execution, but the results can be worth it. Go to YouTube and search for “Western Avenue Baptist Church Its Christmas 2011 21 Holy Is the Name”. Hopefully it will be at the top of whatever list comes up. It’s an example of a drum-intensive rewrite of Holy, Holy, Holy that shows how live drums can be mixed well between softer sections and louder sections without being overbearing. The same song wouldn’t come off as well with electric drums.

35 Jeremy Parks October 24, 2012 at 5:09 pm

Loud? I don’t understand…

36 Dave Miller October 24, 2012 at 6:15 pm

Now that’s kinda funny.

37 dean October 24, 2012 at 11:38 am

I have led the churches I pastor to give money to NOBTS after Katrina – we got a thank you note every time we gave. We have given money to missionaries directly – we have received a thank you note every time we gave. Campus Crusaders for Christ – thank you note every time we gave. The list could go on for a while. I would appreciate gratitude from the SBC because we are under no obligation to give a dime to the CP. If the IMB were to fund missionaries who believe that Muslims do not need evangelizing because they too are God’s children we certainly would not have a problem cutting the funding. However, that decision would not be made lightly we are a 14.5% giver to the CP.

38 dean October 24, 2012 at 11:41 am

BTW, Mike, I did not answer if we should until I read your article tomorrow. Might have to eat my words?

39 Bruce H. October 24, 2012 at 11:45 am

The approach the curmudgeon was taking is the fleshly political approach. Using money that is not his to persuade the change of the loud drums is walking on dangerous ground. None of the money we have is ours. Not one penny. It is all God’s money and the following verse tells us that. Withholding the tithe and/or offering is simply robbing God. We are only stewards of God’s money that we work for. Odd concept from an earthly view, but better understood as a kingdom concept.

“Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings.” Malachi 3:8

We need to preach this principle so believers know how to direct their money to glorify the kingdom rather than using it to manipulate for personal desires.

BTW, I do not like loud drums either. I would have to make an appeal or find a new church to minister in.

40 Bob Cleveland October 24, 2012 at 12:24 pm

If the people don’t see that check they write to the church as money given to God, the church is probably beyond hope anyway. Same situation as if the church saw the people, rather than God, as their source of supply (and hence saw themselves as being in the people-pleasing business).

41 Bruce H. October 24, 2012 at 12:34 pm

Amen!

42 Dale Pugh October 24, 2012 at 12:38 pm

I only have my own anecdotal experience to rely on here, but it seems to me that a lack of missions education has contributed to a lack of commitment to the Cooperative Program. I realize that’s just one element of a bigger problem.
As a kid growing up in the SBC, I was consistently confronted with the great stories of our mission efforts around the world. I dare say that such is no longer the case in many of our churches. RA’s, GA’s, Mission Friends (and it’s predecessor Sunbeams) are not strongly promoted anymore. The WMU used to make sure that every mission offering was presented to our churches. That doesn’t seem to be the case anymore.
As a younger pastor, I didn’t see the need for these programs. We had so many things pulling our families in so many directions that they fell by the wayside. Now, at the risk of sounding curmudgeonly, I miss them. They kept our work at the forefront of our minds, and they gave us a strong reason for promoting the Cooperative Program.

43 Randall Cofield October 24, 2012 at 1:26 pm

In January of this year I was privileged to be called to pastor my current church. After a terribly divisive former pastor and an interim who tried to lead them out of the SBC (into Fundamentalism), the Church was in shambles, both spiritually and financially.

After operating at a monthly deficit for almost two years, giving is up and the Lord is slowly but graciously turning the ship….but due to deficits the church ceased giving to the CP two years ago.

Immediately upon my arrival I began trying to foster a heart for missions in the church, the CP and SB missions being at the center of my appeal. Now the church mourns their lack of involvement, but is happily on the verge of being able to commit a percentage of our offerings to the CP.

I grounded my exhortations in the following principles:

1. The church is commanded to carry the Gospel to the nations

2. Ultimately, it is an unimaginable privilege to participate with God in His Kingdom’s work.

3. Let us remember: We are commanded to be good stewards of that with which God blesses us.

4. In the end, there exists no more efficient way to advance the Kingdom than through CP giving….none.

5. Practically, therefore, it is both our great privilege and obligation to give to the CP.

Don’t like the drums too loud? Don’t like Calvinists or Glossolalists? Don’t like Al Mohler or Jason Allen or Danny Akin? Give me a break…

Perhaps some should consider that both curmudgeons and their beloved kerfuffles will be notably absent in Heaven…

44 Dave Miller October 24, 2012 at 2:08 pm

Because of God’s grace, there will be many earthly curmudgeons in glory. By then, though, their fleshly curmudgeonliness and kerfuffle-loving ways will be lost in the glory of God!

45 Allen October 24, 2012 at 3:54 pm

Our church gives 19% to CP. I used to feel like this was a great thing. Now I see that most of our church feels like they have all that they should for missions simply because so much of our church budget goes to missions. The church also needs to go not just give.

46 Dave Miller October 24, 2012 at 4:14 pm

Here’s one thing no one has considered. If the guy was going to void the check anyway, why not write it for a bigger amount, so as to really get the attention of the church!

47 Mike Leake October 24, 2012 at 4:24 pm

That would have really gotten the attention, wouldn’t it. I’m guessing that the guy filled out his usual offering. Sat through the worship part, fuming about the loudness of the drums. Then voided it out and stuck it in the plate when it came by before the preacher gave his sermon.

I doubt it was premeditated.

48 Randall Cofield October 24, 2012 at 5:47 pm

Let me repost the five principles I offered for giving to the CP. I did this kinda tongue-in-cheek, but I don’t think anyone caught it:

1. The church is commanded to carry the Gospel to the nations

2. Ultimately, it is an unimaginable privilege to participate with God in His Kingdom’s work.

3. Let us remember: We are commanded to be good stewards of that with which God blesses us.

4. In the end, there exists no more efficient way to advance the Kingdom than through CP giving….none.

5. Practically, therefore, it is both our great privilege and obligation to give to the CP.

Bwaaahaaaahaaaahaaaa….

49 Scott Shaver October 31, 2012 at 1:14 pm

I may be a curmudgeon myself but I have no problem with this guy’s voided check method of getting a point across to the leadership of his church. The atmosphere of entertainment may be the very thing he’s emphasizing as undesirable. Sadly, you can’t tell the difference between a movie theatre, a Branson musical, a mosh-pit or a worship service in a lot of local churches these days. This may be the guy’s way of saying he’s tired of catering to a narcissistic culture.

50 Dave Miller October 31, 2012 at 1:18 pm

You don’t think there is a more mature way of handling this? It just seems petty to cancel a check.

51 Scott Shaver October 31, 2012 at 2:50 pm

I guess that depends on what your particular definition of “mature” happens to be. I’ve seen some pretty “immature” tactics employed by controlling pastors and church leaders. Could be a case of turnabout is fair play.

52 Dave Miller October 31, 2012 at 3:03 pm

I guess I will just never see “turnabout is fair play” as a biblical response to any provocation.

53 Scott Shaver October 31, 2012 at 3:36 pm

That may be very well be true, but not everyone in the world sees things from your unique perspective (biblical or otherwise). Just saying that circumstances may have produced an environment in which this individual’s decision to withhold his money is to him every bit as biblical as your perspective or mine.

54 Mike Leake October 31, 2012 at 1:26 pm

I don’t see a ton of passive aggressive prophets in the Scriptures.

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