I write today to disabuse you all of the idea that defending the Cooperative Program means defending the status quo.
Yes, it is true that the Cooperative Program has been the premiere funding approach for the Southern Baptist Convention for nearly ninety years. Hegemony over the preponderance of a century certainly qualifies something to claim to be the status quo, at least in terms of its longevity. That being true, I suppose that I must (grudgingly) admit that in some technical sense the Cooperative Program is the status quo of the Southern Baptist Convention. But that’s only true in this limited, technical way, and it absolutely IS NOT true in any of the meaningful ways that people complain about it or eschew it.
The Cooperative Program is not a set a ministry priorities; it is simply a way to go about addressing ministry priorities, WHATEVER those priorities might be at a given time. Do Southern Baptists believe that a greater priority should be placed upon international missions rather than church planting in the Southland? If so, Southern Baptists can quickly adopt those new priorities without changing the Cooperative Program one bit. Do Southern Baptists believe that too much money gets recycled through NAMB and back to state conventions? If so, Southern Baptists can move to a system that recycles not one single penny, and can do so without changing anything whatsoever about the Cooperative Program.
In fact, dumping the Cooperative Program to change the status quo only makes sense with regard to opposing one and only one aspect of the status quo: If you don’t like the idea that churches cooperate with one another to do ministry, then by all means you ought to abandon the Cooperative Program entirely. Other than that, within the Cooperative Program approach you can pursue any ministry, reallocate any budget, or adopt any methodology that you can convince enough of your fellow churches and fellow pastors to adopt.
Bring on the changes! Make your proposals! Go to the floor of the SBC Annual Meeting! Attend your state convention meeting! Advocate tirelessly and fearlessly for the improvements you’d like to see. Whatever they are and however much adaptation they would require, I’m betting that almost none of it would actually require any changes at all in the Cooperative Program.
A funding approach that flexible deserves to be saved.