Buried among the Baptist Press headlines last night, was a hint of trouble on the horizon for the Southern Baptist Convention.
No, it wasn’t some blogger mocking a famous preacher. No, it wasn’t a scuffle over missions policy or female preachers. The trouble was much closer to the heart of the SBC.
Cooperative Program receipts for the year were down .65 percent and combined giving for the year was down .87 percent . . . This is the first time in 15 years that both Cooperative Program and combined giving have not surpassed the previous year.
You can read more on Baptist Press, but I want to start a conversation about why this is happening and how the SBC will respond.
Why Is The Cooperative Program Down?
The drop 15 years ago is widely attributed to the loss of money from more moderate congregations. This year’s soft giving is attributed to the economy. That should be a no-brainer, and I think everyone can agree with Dr. Morris Chapman’s statements:
“I think it reflects the impact of the recent economic crunch that has hurt so many American families. But it is remarkable that, given the severe economic strain the country has experienced, gifts to national efforts through the Cooperative Program still topped the $200-million mark for the third year in a row and overall giving to national causes surpassed the $400-million benchmark for a second straight year.”
But is there something more organic happening here than just the economy? Here are some other factors that we should not miss.
- What about the harsh demographic trends and the graying of the SBC?
- What about the cultural move away from Southern Baptist style religion?
- What about all those shrinking churches that Dr. Frank Page said will close their doors by 2030?
- What about churches doing missions outside the Cooperative Program?
You can sort these issues out in the comment section, but I think there is a convergence of threats that will put the CP on the defensive for many years to come. The economy is certainly a factor, but there may be more mischief at work.
How Will The Executive Committee Respond
I appreciate the mild wording of this initial news release. This is a small drop, and possibly much better than denomination insiders were expecting. However, as the factors listed above continue to pressure the program, you should expect a more forceful response. Here are some steps I expect we’ll be seeing over the next few years:
- A new push for loyalty to the Cooperative Program
- Renewed calls for state conventions to pass on a higher percentage of their CP receipts
- More urgency surrounding our special offerings (i.e. Lottie & Annie)
- More aggressive fund raising by all denominational entities, especially Seminaries
- We will be forced to admit the diminished ability of the IMB to advance the Gospel due to funding constraints
What Do You Think?
Obviously, this is a conversation that is just getting started. But I would like to hear your feedback. Leave a comment below to join the conversation.
What Other SBC Voices Are Saying
- Moving Forward (CP allocation post) from SBC Today
- Cooperative Program Allocation from Tom Ascol
- I Support The Cooperative Program from Bart Barber
- You Make The Call (CP issues post) from SBC Impact
- Morris Chapman’s Website – no recent updates, but he might in the future
- Official Cooperative Program Website
- Wikipedia entry for Southern Baptist Convention