Dr. Hillard has led the churches he served to give generously and sacrificially to the Cooperative Program. He has a passion for partnership missions and for reaching unreached peoples with the gospel of Jesus Christ. As he has shared his thoughts with me, I invited him to present them in a post here at SBCVoices. Dr. Hillard currently serves as Director of Missional Coordination for the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana.
Southern Baptists are among the greatest people on Earth. We have accomplished much in this world. We have done more good than any other faith group in history. For nearly three decades, I have been committed, invested, and a glad partner with other Southern Baptists. I have been privileged and blessed to serve through the local church, association, state convention, and Southern Baptist Convention. My experience has been broad and has greatly enriched my life.
Yet, I am becoming deeply concerned over some things appearing on the horizon. We are being led down a slippery slope of drastically redefining what it means to be a cooperating Southern Baptist. The ability to cooperate in Kingdom advance is the Biblical model.
The Cooperative Program is truly a God-send, and the primary tool of the greatest missiological movement the world has ever known. We are better together; we accomplish more as a group than we can accomplish alone. Why do we see churches and ministries working in isolation?
If we don’t stop our drift, the ecclesiological footprint of Southern Baptists, will become less apparent. We can avoid this awful tragedy by becoming more intentional in our efforts of cooperating in Kingdom advance I would like to offer three suggestions to the Southern Baptist Convention.
- Stop Recognizing Great Commission Giving.
The spirit of cooperation among Southern Baptists has slipped to the point that for the first time in Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) history, dating back to 1929 when a unified national budget was first proposed, designated receipts topped Cooperative Program gifts distributed by the SBC Executive Committee for the last three years running (https://www.baptistmessenger.com/designated-receipts-top-cp-gifts-the-sbc-ship-of-state-is-in-peril).
Churches have always been free to support projects they feel strongly about. The church I currently am a member of does this and so does many other strong mission minded congregation. We give 13% through the CP and have also partnered in church planting, and in several international settings. We recognize though that the chief way we partner with other Southern Baptists is our giving through the CP.
Of course, Kingdom work happens apart from the CP but the CP is the best vehicle we have to work together. The philosophy of celebrating societal or designated giving will be the death of us. The category “Great Commission Giving” celebrates and encourages what is done in isolation instead of together. Does that make sense in a Spirit of unity and cooperation? Doesn’t it seem arrogant and prideful to demonstrate that we don’t need the help of others? Yes, and yes.
- Elect Stronger Examples of Sacrificial Giving through the CP.
A great disconnect exists between many leaders paraded in front of us and those who make up the majority membership of our Southern Baptist churches. I would never want to attack the character of anyone, but many among smaller and medium-sized churches, which make up the overwhelming majority of the SBC, are becoming wearied with the elected and appointed leaders in strategic positions.
Too often, these leaders give only token amounts to that which has always defined what a “Cooperating Southern Baptist Church” looks like.
Here is the question I ponder; “do we have the right to expect that those representing us should cooperate sacrificially through Convention causes?” It is my opinion that we should never award the mantle of leadership to someone who gives well below the national average of giving through the CP. The national average of CP giving is somewhere between 5.5-6%. Why would we even consider someone who gives 2-3% through the Cooperative Program? That is not strong enough, not by a longshot.
We need to start demanding more from anyone who wants to lead.
- Raise the Bar as to the Expectation of Healthy Cooperation.
I have really appreciated the conversation the 1% CP Challenge has brought. It has been healthy for the Convention, and has shined a needed light on mission and ministry fueled through the Cooperative Program. If you have brought your church through the 1% Challenge, we are grateful for your leadership.
However, I am a dreamer. Can you imagine with me what we could do in Kingdom advance if every church in the SBC gave at least 10% through the CP? WOW, what resources we would have. If there were more 10%ers there wouldn’t be a need for an IMB draw down of nearly 1100 missionaries. There wouldn’t be a need to let off the gas pedal of church planting because of lack of funding. We would have a surplus instead of a shortfall!
I don’t know, perhaps I am off base. And it could be that I’m alone in how I view things. But, I have really thought about it and don’t think so. Surely there are others, who see a tremendous disconnect between what our leaders are saying and what they are doing.
Here is the question I want to ask; “Is it time for rank and file Southern Baptists to define the kinds of leaders we want?” Should there be a stronger expectation for someone to be elected to positions like convention presidents, agency heads and trustees within Southern Baptist life?
I am concerned and thinking…