I want to be clear. This is not a post about any particular candidate for any particular office within the SBC. In writing this piece, I am not intending to call into question the Cooperative Program giving of any particular SBC church. But this seems to be a discussion worth having. How much is enough? 10%? 5%? Does it even matter? What if a church does all of their giving through Nashville and little to none of it through their state convention? Since not all state conventions are created equal, does it matter what state the church is located in?
As you can see, I have a lot of questions. I’m not sure I have as many answers. But here are some thoughts on the issue. Then I want to hear from you.
1. Cooperative Program giving matters.
The church I pastor gives 10% of our undesignated receipts to the Cooperative Program. I wish all SBC churches would commit to giving 10%. Just imagine the ministry we could do if 44,000 Southern Baptist churches began combining 10% of their undesignated receipts for missions and theological education. We wouldn’t be bringing missionaries home. We’d be rushing to get more missionaries trained and out into the harvest fields.
I don’t know the history of the 10% figure as it relates to CP giving. Perhaps someone else can enlighten us all. It probably has its roots in the concept of the tithe. I certainly don’t have a chapter and verse saying, “Thou shalt give 10% of your undesignated receipts to the Cooperative Program,” but I think it’s a good benchmark and would encourage all Southern Baptist churches to consider moving in that direction.
With that being said, I don’t have a specific percentage that I am looking for in SBC officer candidates. If I committed to only voting for people from churches that give at least 10%, I’d be sitting out most officer elections. I know that the mega churches typically give more dollars but a smaller percentage. I know that our officers are typically elected from our larger churches. Thus, our officers often come from churches that give a lower percentage to the CP than the average SBC church. I would like to see this trend reversed by those who aspire to leadership in the SBC leading their churches to support the SBC financially at a greater level.
2. CP giving matters whether the candidate is a pastor or a layman.
I realize that the pastor is best positioned to lead the church to increase its giving to the Cooperative Program. But the Southern Baptist Convention is a convention of congregational churches. That may look different in each of our churches, but a church that does not give a certain amount of decision making authority to the congregation is not truly Southern Baptist.
This means that laypeople have the ability to influence their churches in this regard. Speak with the pastor about your desire to see the church increase its support of the Cooperative Program. Volunteer to serve on the church’s Stewardship Committee and make your case. There are ways to advocate for the CP as a layman. Those who seek elected office within the SBC should have already demonstrated this kind of leadership and commitment to the SBC in their churches.
3. CP giving is not the ONLY thing that matters.
It’s not even the only giving metric that matters. Like it or not, the convention adopted the recommendations presented by the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force. Those recommendations included a category of giving known as Great Commission Giving. While the church I pastor gives through the Cooperative Program by sending our receipts first to our state convention, I do not necessarily begrudge churches that decide they cannot in good conscience give to their state convention for whatever reason.
Aside from finances, there are a myriad of other factors that I consider when deciding on a candidate for an SBC office. I don’t have a grid by which I assess each candidate to make sure they meet my minimum standards in every area, but I do inform myself on the candidates before casting my vote. I want to know about the candidate himself. I want to know about his church. I want to know about his past denominational service. I want to know about his vision for the convention. All of these things come into play when I am making my decision.
4. Candidates open themselves to scrutiny when they decide to run.
We should not scrutinize candidates in a way that is uncharitable. We are talking about brothers and sisters in Christ. We are talking about churches. And we should be thankful for every dime given by Southern Baptist Churches to Southern Baptist causes whether that is done through the Cooperative Program, Great Commission Giving, or whatever other kind of giving you can come up with. But it shouldn’t be off limits for us to talk about these things. Otherwise, our elections are simply a popularity contest.
It’s an exciting time in Southern Baptist life. The convention is fast approaching. Nominations are being announced. And in about a month, we will have a new slate of officers to lead us over the next year. What are you looking for as you prepare to cast your ballot in Phoenix?