This is a bit of a trick question and certainly a tricky question to answer. There has always been available to churches a manner by which they might bypass their state convention and give directly to the Executive Committee for distribution to the seminaries and mission boards and other entities receiving funds through the Cooperative Program Allocation Budget. The church sends directly to Nashville and the EC what would ordinarily be sent to the state as Cooperative Program money. While this is cooperative in the sense that it joins with other churches in funding SBC missions and education, it is not Cooperative Program and isn’t counted as such.
There is a big difference in the allocation of a church’s mission funds. Direct giving to the EC means that the church’s full amount is divided according to the SBC CP Allocation Budget: roughly 50% to IMB, 23% to NAMB, 22% divided among the six seminaries, 3% EC, and 2% ERLC. If sent to the state convention then about 60% would stay in the home state (varies by state but that’s the average), resulting in 20% IMB, 9% NAMB, 9% seminaries, smaller amounts to the others. Huge difference. But, if you cut out your state convention that’s not fully cooperative and, since it leaves out one key partner in the CP, the state convention, it might be preferable to the church but it isn’t Cooperative Program. The CP would collapse if churches chose this option.
So, how many churches have chosen to do this?
The latest SBC Annual lists 364 churches that sent money directly to the Executive Committee for distribution according to the CP Allocation Budget. The amount ranged from $42 from the North Broad Baptist Church in Rome, GA to $325,508.89 from Calvary Baptist Church in Beaumont, TX. Texas had 111 churches to do this; North Carolina, 45; Missouri, 33; Tennessee, 18; and Kentucky, 16. I suppose the reasons are varied. Some of these may have split their giving, contributing some CP dollars to the state convention and sending some directly to the EC.
This isn’t a popular method of SBC mission giving. The percentage of this type of direct giving is in the low single digits of total CP giving received by the EC and it hasn’t changed appreciably recedntly. It ought to be unpopular because the CP cannot survive in this fashion. But, churches may choose this route if they are displeased with how their mission dollars are handled by their state convention or if they simply wish for more to get to the SBC mission boards and seminaries. SBC churches are king when it comes to spending their money, sometimes they are king over the King of Kings in doing so, but, insofar as the denomination is concerned, churches choose and their choice cannot be criticized. They know how best to spend God’s money.
Here are the top ten churches in dollar amounts sent directly to the EC for distribution according to the CP Allocation Budget. I make no judgment about the propriety of doing it this way by these churches. No doubt they have their own reasons and, again, some of these may be splitting their “CP” dollars between state and EC. This is for the 2015-2016 fiscal year:
- Calvary Baptist, Beaumont, TX
- Carrolton First Baptist, Carrolton, TX
- Lakeview Baptist, Auburn, AL
- The Church at Brook Hills, Birmingham, AL
- Burnt Hickory Baptist, Powder Springs, GA
- Jersey Baptist, Pataskala, OH
- Fayetteville First Baptist, Fayetteville, GA
- Gonzales First Baptist, Gonzales, TX
- Fort Mill First Baptist, Fort Mill, SC
- Highland Crest Baptist, Green Bay, WI
State conventions have had a tough time recently. I’ve never given around my state convention because I was dissatisfied. I think many pastors and churches who think more of their mission dollars should get to the two mission boards put more emphasis on increasing the two big mission offerings, Lottie and Annie, than on increasing their CP giving. It’s an opportunity cost decision.
I suspect that a some of this direct giving is generated by the moderate/conservative conflicts in some states. The point I would leave on this is that (a) it isn’t very popular, only a few hundred of the almost 50 thousand SBC churches do this, (b) the rates haven’t changed, (c) the CP is preferable to this EC direct giving, and (d) churches should be persuaded, not cajoled, into increasing cooperative giving of all types.