Since no Southern Baptist church is forced to give to our wonderful, common, funding mechanism the Cooperative Program, how helpful is it to classify any church’s percentage CP giving as fully cooperative or less than fully cooperative and more of an indicator of societal giving? My view is that in isolation, using a church’s CP percentage as a measure of their cooperativeness or of their Southernbaptistness is ultimately harmful.
Randy Adams, the Executive Director of the SBC state convention known as the Northwest Baptist Convention, an area covering Oregon, Washington, and northern Idaho, is the latest to weigh in on current SBC matters with…
Who Should Lead Southern Baptists?
Neither Ken Hemphill nor J. D. Greear are mentioned in his article but it clearly points to the former as the one who should lead Southern Baptists. Fine. Denominational leaders may certainly endorse candidates obliquely or directly. I have no problem with that. But it is the principle of being “fully cooperative” that troubles me.
Who should lead Southern Baptists? Answer: those who fully support the Cooperative Program and have demonstrated their support through the percentage giving of the church they serve and lead.
How can a person effectively lead Southern Baptists if his church doesn’t support CP with a minimum of the 5.16 percent that the average church gives?
One road leads to the continuation of decline in CP missions giving and the continuation of the decline of the SBC (that is a subject for another article, but yes, we are in serious decline by most every measure). The other road will lead us to growth in our cooperative missions strategy.
Who fully supports the Cooperative Program? According to Randy Adam’s measure, not Ronnie Floyd or Steve Gaines, both of whose churches gave below the average CP percentage when elected. Add to those two the long list that starts with Adrian Rogers. If these did not “effectively lead Southern Baptists” perhaps their deficiences could be explained.
Adams writes elsewhere,
And by “develop strategies to grow CP,” I mean first and foremost, select our leaders from among the thousands who believe in and support CP.
Adams is a state convention leader and there is nothing new or unusual about a state leader promoting the CP in this manner even to the point of endorsing or suggesting candidates. State conventions depend on the CP for almost all of their revenues. If churches give less, states cut jobs. Odd, though, that a non-southern state convention leader would advocate such a bright line for defining churches as “fully cooperative” since the NWBC receives a significant portion of their reveneues from NAMB, which receives most of their revenues from societal giving, not CP giving and I’d bet than many of those Annie Armstrong gifts come from churches whose CP percentages put them in the not “fully cooperative” category.
Both Steve Gaines’ church and Ronnie Floyd’s church have given annual CP gifts of a million dollars. J. D. Greear’s church has given over a million dollars to the CP over the past two years. All three of these megachurches have a record of greatly increasing giving through the Cooperative Program, something to be commended. If there is a positive trend in CP giving, it may be the one demonstrated by Gaines, Floyd, and Greear – megachurches giving more. I haven’t seen data on it but anecdotal evidence looks positive. If there is some hidden profit that accrues to the CP by looking askance at large dollar CP giving churches, I’m not seeing what it is. Perhaps pastors and churches like these should be commended and emulated.
Maybe a better way to promote the Cooperative Program would be the way these two youngerish Southern Baptists do it:
Stop making the CP our goal. Quit judging faithfulness by one’s commitment to CP giving. The CP cannot be our goal. An ever growing commitment to the advancement of God’s kingdom must be. Drive that point home, and paint the picture of our cooperative efforts to advance Christ’s gospel, and watch as Southern Baptist’s giving follows that vision.
This was 2015. If pastor, former IMB missionary, and former denominational worker Micah Fries has changed his views I haven’t seen it.
If a church is evaluating or trimming their CP support, let’s not cajole, pressure, or shame them. That is not a winning strategy. My assessment is not a pragmatic or political calculation. It is a biblical and theological one. Christ promised to build his church, not our denomination. Let’s clean up our vocabulary, and use words like “please” and “thank you,” and shelve words like “should” and “must.” The Southern Baptist Convention agencies, and our state convention partners, serve the churches, not the other way around. As we serve them, they will support us.
This was Midwestern Seminary president Jason Allen in 2017. His words express a more attractive primary strategy for CP promotion in my view.
But I recognize that Adams is addressing SBC leaders, not churches. Unfortunately, churches get thrown under the “fully cooperative” bus in the process. Expressing a preference for a threshold percentage for SBC leaders is normal (I’ve done it myself, once saying 5% would be a good threshold for SBC leaders but then Bryant Wright was nominated, then the two million-a-year pastors, Floyd and Gaines, then Greear). If leaders like Floyd, Gaines, and Greear are to be dismissed and discarded on the basis of not being fully cooperative, I cannot think that the future of the CP is any brighter because of it. Churches like those of Floyd, Gaines, and Greear clearly demonstrate what we value as Southern Baptists – faithfulness to the Lord, energetic and aggressive evangelism, a desire for reaching the nations, and strong support of our cooperative ministries.
No dollar amount of CP gifts need be rewarded with the SBC presidency and no percentage amount need be rewarded either. I judge all candidates for the SBC presidency during my lifetime as being “fully cooperative.” Thank God for all of them.