William Thornton is the SBC Plodder – this is the third in a series of posts that will go up fairly rapid-fire. That’s because I got busy today and didn’t set them to post when I should have.
Bah humbug! Bad news all around…but…here’s my list of the top good news stories for SBCers in 2014:
1. Lottie Moon hits record total, $154.1 million.
Southern Baptists may be giving less to the Cooperative Program and less of their disposable income to churches and mission causes, SBC entities may be mired in retrenchment mode because of flat or declining giving, but the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions is at its highest level ever (but I am not allowing anyone to recalculate this in real dollars, adjusted for inflation, so as not to rain on good news).
2. Messengers elect a president who has greatly increased his church’s Cooperative Program giving.
OK, so Ronnie Floyd’s church is still below the average percentage and Baptist Press didn’t report what that percentage was but he did lead his church to give substantially more to the CP than in earlier years. The CP has no chance of any increases if messengers elect leaders who show no interest in supporting it and most megachurches are not heavy CP supporters. This year, the election of a megachurch pastor was a positive move relative to the Cooperative Program.
3. Our housing allowance is safe from federal constitutional challenges.
At least it is safe for now, the previous federal district court’s ruling that it was unconstitutional having been overturned on appeal.
4. IMB trustees show a willingness to embrace the 21st century.
With the election of thirty-six year old David Platt as the new IMB leader, replacing his seventy-year-old predecessor, trustees demonstrate that they recognize that some new thinking is in order for our flagship institution. Younger Southern Baptists are encouraged thereby.
5. Southern Baptist leaders and entities recognize mental illness as a grave problem.
The SBC, it’s leaders and entities, have been AWOL on the serious business of mental illness among us. While leadership cannot force change at the local church level, at least there has been a steady stream of sensible initiatives from our folks. Regretfully, this has come as a result of the suicides of two children of high profile SBC leaders.
6. At various levels, the SBC is showing engagement on racial issues.
The response to racial turmoil of Ferguson, Missouri and of the death of Michael Brown in New York has generated sensible commentary from our leaders and mostly civil and profitable discussion among us. This is a change and is good news.
7. NAMB’s church planting initiative, Send North America, is continuing to thrive.
While some critics snipe about it, SNA is engaging large numbers of younger Southern Baptists who are interested in church planting and large numbers of SBC churches who wish to partner in planting churches in North America. One is hard-pressed to name any other national SBC initiative that shows success.
8. Great Commission Giving is up.
Southern Baptist churches gave $777 million in Great Commission Giving for 2012-2013, an increase of $23 millions from the previous reporting period. GCG is the aggregate of giving to all SBC causes. Although these figures are somewhat soft in that churches self-report as they choose, any increase is good news. Critics of GCG will have to explain why it is not good to give to SBC causes and why such should not be celebrated.
9. The key Cooperative Program percentage increased.
That would be the percentage of undesignated church offering plate dollars given to the CP. We moved up ever so slightly from 5.414% to 5.5%. This makes two years straight there was a tiny, tiny increase. Frank Page concludes that the CP has reached its “nadir”. An increase of 0.086% isn’t much…but it’s something.
10. Average SBC clergy salaries are up.
The 2014 LifeWay Compensation Study revealed that total “package” compensation for senior pastors was up 1.8% from 2012. Not much but up is up and not down…has to be good news. Senior pastors are advised to thank God for this and not to complain that the average pay for non-senior pastor staff positions were up by a good bit more than for senior pastors.