Great Commission Giving was intended to be a metric that lumped all SBC giving, Cooperative Program and societal, into one sum for each church. The latest figure for GCG was $646,017,306. That’s a pretty good sum and being the veteran braggers that we SBCers are, it’s a good figure to toss out there. But it is a flawed statistic. Consider the following.
Baptist Press reported on the giving record of the church pastored by the announced nominee for First Vice President.
For 2016 — the last year for which data is available from the SBC’s Annual Church Profile — New Seasons classified $127,737 as Great Commission Giving, 16.5 percent of the church’s undesignated receipts. Included in that figure are community feeding and clothing ministries, at least two church plants, mission work in Africa and support of a school in the Philippines, the church said.
By convention action in 2011, the SBC defined Great Commission Giving as comprising “contributions to any Baptist association, Baptist state convention, and causes and entities of the Southern Baptist Convention.”
According to the SBC definition of GCG, it looks like a good bit of the church’s reported GCG is not actually GCG but just general missions, SBC and non-SBC. It’s easy to be confused about what should go into this category and what should not and I make no judgment about how the church arrived at the figure. Any category like GCG where there are decisions to be made about what should be included and what shouldn’t is bound to be handled in different ways by different churches and pastors.
In theory it’s quite simple. GCG is the sum of all giving by a church to SBC causes: Cooperative Program, Lottie Moon, Annie Armstrong, Global Hunger, association, various state convention offerings, direct gifts to any SBC or state convention entity, etc. Generally, gifts like CP and the mission offerings are sent through one’s state convention which can verify the figures apart from what a church lists on the Annual Church Profile. This is why every church’s CP giving can be checked. Either their state received the checks or they did not. There is no way to verify GCG. The GCG total is what the church puts on the ACP and that represents whatever giving that the church wants to put there; hence, confusing situations like the one above. No church has to explain or justify that figure .
As an aggregate sum for SBC churches, GCG is virtually worthless. State conventions in Alabama, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas (SBTC) do not even ask churches for a GCG total. These four state conventions have in the neighborhood of 20% of all SBC churches and total receipts. It’s tough to get any kind of usable figure when the reports leave out one-fifth of the churches.
The total of the most recent CP + Annie + Lottie giving by churches comes to more than the $646m reported as GCG (although the reporting periods are slightly askew). Clearly, there’s more GCG than is reported, even with some churches incorrectly adding in figures in that are non-SBC.
Is it helpful in the way in which the Great Commission Task Force intended it to be? Maybe, sometimes. Maybe not at other times.
If the goal is to provide a figure that can be used of candidates and nominees for SBC offices, then maybe it has some use. If the goal is to provide a useful figure for all SBC giving, it falls short. My own view is that I’d like to know GCG for the church of any candidate, entity head, trustee nominee and such. Too bad it is sometimes difficult to come up with a valid figure.
We have this dual funding system, cooperative and societal, and have had it for almost a century. The only way to know how much a church is doing to partner in support of SBC entities is to arrive at a sum that should be the Great Commission Giving total.
Here’s what the GCR Final Report said,
We call upon all Southern Baptists to celebrate every dollar given by faithful Southern Baptists as part of Great Commission Giving, including designated gifts given to any Baptist association, state convention, and to the causes of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Now that is a worthy goal whether we have any usable Great Commission Giving figures or not.
One of the most puzzling things about GCG is the fact that it has generated so much criticism. Opponents of the category seem to believe that reporting all SBC giving by a church is harmful to the Cooperative Program. Perhaps critics believe that Southern Baptists shouldn’t be allowed to know what an individual church gives to Southern Baptist causes. We’re all adults. I think SBC messengers can manage with the knowledge of what a candidate’s church gives in GCG. It shouldn’t be up to a select few to filter what the hoi polloi has access to.