Savvy Southern Baptists, and that includes all who read, comment, or post here at Voices, know about Great Commission Giving, the new metric created by the Great Commission Resurgence group nine years ago.
GCG is supposed to be giving by a church “to any Baptist association, state convention, and to the causes of the Southern Baptist Convention.” It should include Cooperative Program, Lottie and Annie, all state convention special offerings, whatever the church gives to their association, and anything else given to SBC entities and causes of the SBC. Offering for The Gideons, Samaritan’s Purse, and Salvation Army don’t count, for example. Giving to SWBTS for stained glass windows, a care package for IMB overseas workers, and the like do count.
Who decides what counts? Your church does. You can count the cost of donuts served at your missions team meeting if you wish. You can count your pastor’s personal retreat where he thinks about missions if you want. Unlike Cooperative Program giving, the sums are not verifiable. You can make them up. But false numbers aren’t the big problem with GCG, as I will note below.
Here are the GCG totals for the SBC since this began to be reported. In millions of dollars:
Looks like a considerable decline since 2013, huh? $777 million (a very good number if you like numbers) down to under $600 million. I’m not thinking that from 2013 to 2017 Southern Baptist churches gave $183 million less to all Southern Baptist causes. No one can verify either number but consider that Lottie and Annie are at or near record levels every year and the Cooperative Program is flat or just slightly declining. Call GCT “fake data” and you will not be wrong.
The figures, however, are virtually meaningless for several reasons:
- Many Southern Baptists didn’t like the metric from the get-go. It was seen as diminishing the Cooperative Program. If pastors don’t like the number most have the ability to ignore requests for their church to compile and file it.
- Many Southern Baptists are confused by what GCG is supposed to include. Some add non-SBC expenses. Some pick a number out of the air. Some are generous in estimating it (a Southern Baptist ministerial tradition, btw) and some are overly stingy in compiling it.
- In a general sense, many of the Traditionalists objected to the metric. It’s a number, not a theological position but there has been a tribal divide over this.
- Some state conventions don’t ask their churches to report a GCG number. These include: Alabama, Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Southern Baptists of Texas.
- As with the Annual Church Profile as a whole, about 20% of churches don’t even report.
I judge, call it conjecture, that the first reason given above is the main problem with GCG.
I don’t see GCG as having much value as it is currently reported save for one important thing: it gives cover to nominees and appointees from low Cooperative Program giving churches. A low CP giving nominee can point to a large sum and percentage of GCG even if the church CP percentage is far below average. I am unaware of any of JD Greear’s appointments or nominations that fall into this category.
One might recall that the Great Commission Giving was created by a blue ribbon SBC group led by none other than Ronnie Floyd. Let’s see what he says about GCG now that he is CEO of the Executive Committee.
The data for 2018 will be reported prior to Birmingham. We will see what it says about GCG, then we can ignore it.
And, whatever happened to “Great Commission Baptists” anyway?