Month: September 2006

Will churches’ changing funding priorities harm SBC mission work?

READ FULL AD HOC COMMITTEE REPORT HERE

To give or not to give–that isn’t the question.

The Cooperative Program has been Southern Baptists’ unified missions mechanism for more than 80 years as churches faithfully allocate funds for collaborative missionary efforts. But a rapid decline in the average portion churches give through CP raises the question of whether church priorities are changing.

In trying to reconcile Southern Baptist tradition with new missions strategies, many churches are now hedging the traditional norm of 10 percent through CP and asking instead: how much? Ultimately, the answer will likely determine whether Southern Baptist ministries stay on course in cooperatively funding a worldwide missions enterprise.

In an effort to learn how churches strike a balance in missions budgeting, the Southern Baptist Texan solicited the comments of Texas Southern Baptists in an online survey last month. The survey covered churches where traditional CP giving was the norm and others where CP and church-based missions were emphasized.

The respondents include pastors, missions leaders and laymen whose churches are among the several hundred in Texas that embraced the Acts 1:8 Challenge–the new Southern Baptist Convention initiative to assist congregations in implementing a comprehensive missions strategy involving their communities, region, continent and world.

The majority of churches interviewed average 50-150 in worship attendance and all consider themselves committed to local and international missions.

The Problem

As long-time Southern Baptists, most of the survey participants are recipients of comprehensive exposure to the logistics and scope of the Cooperative Program. Five of the churches are well over 100 years old while eight were formed between 1900 and 1950. Nine of the surveyed churches were formed between 1951 and 2000 while four are recent church plants.

In addition, 72 percent of respondents attended Southern Baptist churches as children, 60 percent participated in a missions education program like Royal Ambassadors, and 68 percent were educated at Southern Baptist seminaries. Despite familiarity with the SBC’s mission giving mechanism, some of these churches are effectively defunding the Cooperative Program as they shift resources to a direct missions strategy.

Figures from the Annual Church Profile (ACP) of Southern Baptist churches show congregations have consistently decreased undesignated Cooperative Program rates from 10.6 percent in 1984 to 6.7 percent in 2005. The trend of decreasing funding through the Cooperative Program is not isolated to a particular area or region. Across Texas most SBTC churches now average 7 percent in Cooperative Program giving, regardless if the congregation numbers 100 or 10,000.

Seventeen of the Acts 1:8 congregations are beyond that average level with seven of that group giving between 10 and 15 percent through CP. Four give between 2 and 6 percent through CP, and another five chose not to answer the question.

With the face of the typical Southern Baptist congregation changing from traditionally churched members to non-traditional and formerly unchurched, newer members lack knowledge of the Cooperative Program, one pastor observed. While his church gives more than 10 percent through CP, it can no longer be assumed that most members understand the Cooperative Program.

“That’s changing rapidly as many of our newer members don’t have a clue as to what the CP is or does.

With fewer Cooperative Program champions, this pastor finds “education and explanation are a continuing work.”

THE DANGER

As long as churches are seeking to fulfill the Great Commission, what is the danger? Does it matter if Southern Baptists choose to fund direct mission strategies over the Cooperative Program? According the “One Sacred Effort: The Cooperative Program of Southern Baptists,” a book by David Hankins and Chad Brand, great peril exists in abandoning the Cooperative Program altogether. The authors list several reasons for addressing the growing imbalance in missions giving.

“Some mission endeavors, while enthusiastic and well-intended, do not have a coherent plan for accomplishing their aims. They may not lack for enthusiasm, but they are not given to strategic planning or reliable reporting,” the authors write. “The Cooperative Program undergirds a thoughtful, coherent, intentional strategy for systematically reaching the goal. It has the advantage of ministries based on sound, baptistic theological premises with oversight by committed leaders who are accountable to the churches for the resources utilized, the goals attempted, and the results achieved.”

THE TRENDS

While a cooperative missions emphasis has been a historic characteristic of most Southern Baptist churches, more churches are looking for ways to fulfill all of the Acts 1:8 challenges that include:

>increasing missions involvement through preparation of mission teams;

>bringing mission awareness to the entire church body;

>praying for a worldwide vision;

>increasing support of CP and other SBC cooperative missions;

>participating in mission trips;

>telling the gospel story;

>sending members out as vocational missionaries; and

>multiplying efforts through church planting.

“We realize that we can’t do them all right away,” acknowledged Joshua Webb, student pastor at Calvary Baptist Church. “This will be a process of growing in the different areas and gradually accomplishing these goals.”

About 92 percent of the survey participants said they are involved in local mission projects such as intentional and servant evangelism, prayerwalking, food and clothing pantries, and job training. Church planting is also a priority for many survey participants. Most of the respondents are planting churches, financially support new plants in their association, partnering with a new church, or plan to incorporate church planting into their missions goals.

For state and international efforts, survey respondents encourage church members to personally encounter missions by offering them short-term trips, hosting missions conferences, signing up for vocational missions, and sponsoring training classes.

Calvary Baptist Church of Tyler designated a classroom as a missions conference center for missions education, complete with three computer stations for research and an area for prayer. Boyd Baptist Church in Bonham turned its annual Thanksgiving meal into a missions banquet to motivate members for involvement. To mobilize members for mission work and as an education conduit, Forestburg Baptist Church in Forestburg produces a missions handout for Wednesday evening services. The handout is replete with missions tidbits and prayer requests.

Additionally, the majority of the churches frequently host full-time and volunteer missionaries during worship services for a time of testimony and report.

“We continue being involved with prayer calendars, “Open Windows” missionary listings, having missionaries in our church speaking to small groups and the church family,” shared Tom Hawk, minister of church ministries at First Baptist Church of Silsbee. Being personally involved with missionaries builds a kindred spirit, he said.

In preparing from missions, three major factors contribute to a church’s level of mission involvement: pastoral leadership, continual emphasis and education, and action. “The way to prepare for missions is to do missions,” said Rod Minor, pastor of Anderson Mill Baptist Church in Austin. “If we waited until we’re prepared, we will still be waiting when Jesus comes back.”

Trends in mission giving are also reflective of the increasing hands-on approach many Texas churches are taking, with 72 percent of survey respondents indicating they would like to increase funding mission projects directly. Half that many would encourage increased giving through CP.

Only one of the respondents recommends decreased Cooperative Program funding.

To clarify intentions in the giving balance between the Cooperative Program and direct missions strategies, survey participants were asked a hypothetical question: How would you divide mission expenditures between the Cooperative Program and directly-funded mission project if you allocated 20 percent of you budget to missions?

Despite the trend of decreased giving through the Cooperative Program, barely half would split such a budget equally between CP and direct mission efforts. Well more than a third of the respondents indicated they would allocate 15 percent through the Cooperative Program and a few preferred to give 5 percent through CP and 15 percent to direct mission projects.

Difficulties often arise in allocating monies equally and consistently as Texas Baptist churches begin to multiply. Survey respondents said looking beyond personal needs, operating in areas saturated with churches, small church budgets, and the overall median age of church members all aggravate the funding dilemma.

One pastor said he strives to keep the Acts 1:8 challenge before his people, encouraging them to examine how increases in funding for local facility needs could affect commitments to missions funding.

Among those hit the hardest by the rigor of budgeting for missions and growth are new church plants.

“I would love for us to increase our giving,” said one church planter. “As a new church start with no one’s support, we live close to the bone and zero fat. But we still give through the Cooperative Program and missions.”

STRIKING A BALANCE

Preparing a church budget can often become a balancing act. But as churches grow, statistics indicate the gap between continued participation in the Cooperative Program and increasing participation in personal mission endeavors grows wider each year.

To help reverse lowering percentages in local church CP giving, the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee brought a recommendation to the 2006 SBC annual meeting encouraging tithing among believers and increasing proportional Cooperative Program gifts among Southern Baptist churches and state conventions.

The original recommendation asked churches to forward a specific 10 percent of undesignated receipts through the Cooperative Program. After much debate, that language was amended without reference to a specific target amount.

As an answer to the decline in Cooperative Program funding percentages, the recommendation called for churches to increase the CP percentages for five successive years beginning in 2007.

Many Texas churches already have a proportional system in place for Cooperative Program funding. As churches grow in size, some increase the percentage sent through the Cooperative Program as well. For some survey respondents, adjusting slowly to budgetary increases solves the problem of correctly dividing expenditures.

To ensure an increasing commitment through the Cooperative Program, one survey respondent shared that his church decided to increase giving by .25 percent each year. Another respondent indicated a yearly increase in Cooperative Program funding is kept separate from special mission offerings to guarantee growth in multiple missions giving areas.

“The challenge for us seems to be convincing all of the people that we must look beyond our local needs and raise our very limited giving to a percentage that will reflect out stated priorities,” said one respondent, striving to lead his church to balanced giving. “My goal is to see this reflected in our church by eventually designating 20 percent of our budget for missions, including giving through the Cooperative Program and support for mission trips by our members.”

Acknowledging the comprehensive scope of the Cooperative Program for all Southern Baptists, most survey participants cited specific examples of how they personally benefited from the unified giving plan. Examples of the effective nature of a unified giving strategy included references to church planting funds, subsidized seminary tuition, associational work, missions training and education, missionary support, vision casting, and “being part of a family that has world=wide impact.”

Jim Lamar of Arcadia First Baptist Church in Sante Fe, Texas described the unique blessing “of knowing that our charge to be his witnesses to the uttermost parts of the world is being fulfilled in part by our participation in the Cooperative Program.”

Furthermore, the cooperative strategy yields greater influence, he said. “We support the Cooperative Program because this is the most effective way we can support missionaries on the field. By ourselves we can send out four or five teams a year for one week or one month each. In cooperation with other Southern Baptist churches we can help keep thousands of missionaries on the field all year long.”

Rex Bland of Olive Branch Baptist Church in Axtell echoed that sentiment, stating: “It seems to be the most efficient and effective way, especially for smaller churches, to combine our financial contributions to make a concentrated global impact through support of the worldwide mission endeavor.” He added that his church benefits “by being able to participate through giving in the most worthwhile project on the planet.”

Bart Barber of First Baptist Church of Farmersville said: “The Cooperative Program reduces competition among SBC agencies for missions dollars,” a practice once common prior to 1925 when the Cooperative Program began. “It allows for a common-sense appropriation of funds and coordinated efforts among convention entities, and takes place in appropriate atmosphere of accountability to the churches.”

“The Cooperative Program supplements the tuition costs of our students in six Southern Baptist seminaries,” noted Morris Chapman, SBC Executive Committee president. “In fact, almost every pastor now living who went to a Southern Baptist seminary received an outstanding theological education at a fraction of the actual cost. The Cooperative Program makes it possible for us to raise our voices for religious liberty and a moral and ethical culture in America and beyond.

“I am praying that the heightened discussion of the Cooperative Program has created a moment of reflection in the heart of every Southern Baptist and that we shall find ourselves taking a fresh look at the worth of cooperative missions supported through the Cooperative Program.”

David Lino of Faith Family Church in Kingwood put it on a more personal level. Calling the Cooperative Program a unique, God-used strategic effort, he believes those who criticize loyalty through CP as well as folks who “just give it verbal allegiance” need to imagine what the Southern Baptist Convention would look like without it.

“Where would their churches be if there never had been a Cooperative Program?”

Biblical fidelity is the key reason Steve Dorman cited for giving to the Cooperative Program. The pastor of First Baptist Church, Brownsville, explained, “A consequence of the Conservtive Resurgence in our convention over the last 27 years has been the added attention to the biblical fidelity of each of our Cooperative Program entities and their personnel. We can now give confidently to the CP and know that our money is going to support ministries and personnel that are tied to the Bible. There is accountability.”

Decision time

Can there be any doubt that Southern Baptists have come to a crossroads in support for our cooperative ministries? Without a change in our attitude toward missions, the Southern Baptist Convention will be diminished in ways none of us will find to be an improvement.

It is an attitude toward missions we are discussing, not just one about the how or who of missions support. The path leading toward highly personalized and locally controlled missions has the potential to dissipate the effectiveness of our corporate work. The more traditional path of CP missions has enabled growth and strategic thoroughness in our denominational work. Yes, some churches can do both well. Not all do so and in the balancing act of church budgeting one thing must take precedence over others. It seems observable that the rise of locally controlled mission projects has been at the expense of a more comprehensive missions strategy.

In a nutshell, we’re becoming independent churches with benefits. As the giving trend for an average SBC church drops into the 5 percent range the benefits will fade.

Seminary education will become too expensive and the institutions may become so dependent on other funding channels that their accountability to the denomination becomes more nominal. Scholarships will be inadequate to the need of students who need training so that they have to leave or take 10 years to finish a degree. As a result, the trend toward staff ministers with no theological training will become more pronounced?as will the trend toward pastors trained by other faith traditions.

Southern Baptist missionaries will fall further behind the goal of reaching the world with the gospel. We will once again have a situation where missionaries are called and appointed but unable to go because the funds aren’t there. The last time this happened it startled us. It can happen again. No local initiatives in partnership missions can make up for the absence of resident missionaries. Even these volunteer trips will become more difficult and rare as host missionaries are overburdened and fewer in number.

As our infrastructure ages we’ll one day have a national disaster that Southern Baptists cannot address in a coordinated manner. The difference will be evident for volunteers and victims if not to the rest of us.

Southern Baptists, all evangelicals, will face increasing opposition from an anti-Christian culture. As CP ministries lose ground, our educational and advocacy ministry at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission will be overrun. Our denomination will be absent from significant debates regarding religious freedom in the U.S. We’ll be an army without scouts.

It takes little imagination to see these changes in our future. In fact, that future is not far off. Either our commitment to cooperation will be revitalized or we will see changes like these and worse in the next decade. Jim Richards said back in June that we will face a crisis within the next 20 years. I think he was being optimistic by half, assuming things go as they have for the past 20 years.

Those who read this probably care about these ministries. Many who don’t will not be convinced by anything short of an e-mail from their favorite anti-denominational guru. A crossroads is often a parting of the ways. Sadly, this one will be just that.

Of course, God doesn’t need money. The SBC is a body made up of churches that make decisions, under him, regarding what they will bless and what they will not. If churches decide that denominational structure is not worth their support, whether their decision is led of God or not, the structure will collapse.

The SBC is not a thing that stands or falls without regard to the will of its affiliated churches. It is us. The ministry we nurture or neglect is our ministry. Any of us of an age to lead anything or preach to anyone are now responsible for how we affected the health of the institutions we hand off to our children.

Friends, the story is good, the information is available in any medium you prefer, and the cause is worthy of your support. If your people or your children don’t know what Cooperative Program means, or that your church is Southern Baptist to begin with, why?

Oldest Baptist church in Texas still standing tall, looking to future




NACOGDOCHES?The old oak tree is now a stump, but the church it provided cover for as early as 1832 is still standing tall and looking forward.

Old North Baptist Church of Nacogdoches, which affiliated with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention last month, turned 168 years old in May. That an active congregation still exists serves as a testament to perseverance in the face of troubled times.

Beginning with secret prayer meetings in what was Mexican territory, Old North Church has seen slavery and the Civil War, the end of slavery and Reconstruction, the Great Depression and oil strikes, segregation and the civil rights movement.

Church members say they are praying the church’s historic labor in the gospel continues far into the future. “We don’t want it to become a landmark,” said church secretary and treasurer Callene Murdock, a 20-year church member. She said the congregation of fewer than 20 people is well aware that they need to draw new members to keep the songs and sermons flowing from the pulpit each Sunday.

Murdock said she realizes younger people and their families tend to be drawn to larger churches with their many programs and contemporary music.

“We don’t exactly do that,” she said of the congregation that meets in the 154-year-old white, wood-frame building. They still sing the hymns as old as the building and listen to preaching which, Murdock said, is some of the best she has heard in her life.

“He is the most wonderful preacher I’ve heard,” she said of Pastor C.T. “Bro. Pete” McGuire. “He is a fabulous preacher.” She said the 77-year-old pastor’s knowledge of Scripture and the way he imparts it to the congregation is inspiring. “We’re hoping through him the church will grow.”

McGuire was traveling and could not be interviewed but his wife, Betty, enthusiastically sang the praises of the church to which they have belonged for two years. “It looks like an old church in the wild wood,” she said, recalling the old hymn. And the people, she said, “are precious.”

Regarding their new affiliation with the SBTC, McGuire said she and her husband have wanted to join with the convention since its inception but have not had the opportunity until taking on the pastorate of Old North Baptist Church.

“We were active with the [Conservative] Resurgence,” she said in reference to the theological struggles that took place in the Southern Baptist Convention in the late 20th century. After meeting this year with area pastors and an SBTC ministry associate, the congregation voted to affiliate. McGuire said, “The people are happy to be in.”

The Old North story is one of pioneering faith and endurance. While Texas was still under Mexican rule, those wanting to settle in the territory had to proclaim allegiance to Mexico and the Catholic Church.

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Southern Baptists’ ‘missional’ focus must include cooperative funding, strategy report says

READ FULL AD HOC COMMITTEE REPORT HERE

“Missional” is a popular new term in some Southern Baptist churches describing an attitude of obedience to sharing the gospel around the world. And yet the concept is nothing new to the 161-year-old Southern Baptist Convention, according to the first line of the final report from the Ad Hoc Committee on the Cooperative Program.

“Southern Baptists have always been a missional people,” the report states.

While messengers to the annual meeting overwhelmingly adopted the report of five strategies to maintain this mindset, a lively discussion ensued over what makes a church cooperative.

“The Cooperative Program was implemented to give each Southern Baptist a way to be a part of reaching the world for Christ through their local church. Sadly, we too often have allowed our focus to become ingrown and diverted from our evangelistic responsibility,” the 29-page report states.

That conclusion was drawn by the committee of eight state convention executive directors representing Oklahoma, Arizona, Georgia, South Carolina, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Florida. They joined with two SBC Executive Committee representatives to address the rapid decline in the average portion given by local Southern Baptist churches to Southern Baptist missions through the convention’s longtime funding channel, known as the Cooperative Program or CP.

Apart from its bumpy start during the Great Depression, the Cooperative Program enjoyed 50 years of steady growth not only in dollars, but in reputation in the eyes of the churches, according to Chad Brand and David Hankins, authors of the newly released “One Sacred Effort.”

From the early 1930s until the mid 1980s, gifts from local churches grew from $2.4 million to $325.4 million. The percentage of churches’ aggregate undesignated receipts given through CP was consistently in the 10.5 to 11 percent range, the authors observed.

But in 1984, while the total dollars continued to grow, reaching $522 million in 2005, and the percentage of churches giving through CP remained remarkably high at 95 percent, the average portion that churches contributed began to sharply decline–from 10.6 percent in 1984 to 6.99 percent in 2004. The portion dropped further to a 6.7 percent average last year.

In a survey of SBTC churches responding to the Annual Church Profile, the TEXAN determined that the size of the church is not as significant a factor as some might assume. The study was limited to a little more than half of SBTC churches since only 76 percent completed last year’s ACP report and another 20 percent failed to include details of either undesignated giving or CP allocations.

Of those churches studied, the TEXAN found that congregations with fewer than 1,000 resident members averaged 7.4 percent in the amount of undesignated receipts set aside for the Cooperative Program–nearly a percentage point higher than the norm for all SBC churches.

Churches with between 700 and 900 members reported an even higher average level of 9.2 percent. Even when SBTC churches grow to several thousand resident members, the CP average is 8.65 percent.

A decline occurs with a 6.7 percent average for churches in the 3,000 and 3,999 range, 4.3 percent for those between 5,000 and 9,999 members. Once over 10,000 resident members, the CP average falls to near 1 percent. The overall average among SBTC churches analyzed is 7 percent.

Analyzing the nearly 20-year downward trend in the average percentage given through CP among SBC churches, Hankins said it represents a 33 percent reduction in a relatively short time.

“A random review seems to indicate the decline in percentage giving is occurring in all varieties of churches –large and small, city and rural. Many who gave double-digit percentages have reduced to single digits, and many who gave modest percentages have reduced them further.”

Had all Southern Baptist churches maintained the long-standing trend of giving 10 percent or more of their undesignated receipts for the CP-funded Southern Baptist ministries around the world, an additional $250 million could have been invested, the authors said.

Many churches seem to assume they give generously through CP when tens of thousands of dollars are raised annually for the seasonal Lottie Moon Christmas and Annie Armstrong Easter offerings. But those are designated gifts limited to funding mission endeavors of the North American Mission Board and International Mission Board. When churches prioritize mission offerings to the neglect of CP, other SBC ministries take a hit, including six theological seminaries where ministers are trained, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and relief for widowed ministers.

One participant in a TEXAN survey of CP and missions giving indicated CP support at a level four times what ACP figures reported the church gave. Most likely the church included seasonal offerings as CP funding. In other cases, churches have moved from a budgeted CP percentage, preferring a lump sum instead. As the church grows, that line item isn’t likely to grow with it.

Suggesting a theme of “Imagine What More We Could Do” to carry Southern Baptists into a new future of reaching people, the report related: “We must quantify this into goals for new missionaries on the field at state, national, and international levels and into new people groups which could have a witness. We must set bold, challenging goals that will grip the hearts, imaginations, and pocketbooks of Southern Baptists with a bold attempt to carry the gospel to the entire world in our generation.”

The ad hoc committee’s report as endorsed by the Executive Committee and eventually the messengers meeting in Greensboro las June 13 declared, “this bold vision must come from our SBC leaders at both state and national levels and be cast in such a compelling way that it becomes a part of the heart and purpose of our members, pastors, and churches throughout the Convention.”

The authors also argue that the Cooperative Program is comprehensive, a benefit over the spasmodic, isolated, and competitive efforts of smaller missions efforts.

“As useful as short-term mission trips are, a caution is in order. Congregations must remember that the local church partnership mission trip is not a substitute for the Cooperative Program. It’s a supplement to it. If churches are not careful, they will allow their interest in one particular isolated mission field to consume all their time and resources to the neglect of the rest of the world.”

“Without the ongoing mission strategy supported by the Cooperative Program, the short-term trips would not be effective or, in many cases, even possible,” the authors conclude, as many sort-term groups work in conjunction with CP-supported personnel overseas.

Five strategies provide the framework for steps being encouraged in the report, addressing biblical stewardship, CP as a foundational strategy for fulfilling Acts 1:8, consistency in CP promotion, growing the next generation of CP advocates, and use of volunteer mission trips to demonstrate the impact of the Cooperative Program.

STRATEGY 1—Develop biblical financial stewards.

Southern Baptist leaders recognize that a church’s stewardship begins with individual members giving of at least a tithe of their income. A report by Empty Tomb Inc., a Christian research and service organization, observed that the average church member in America gave just 2.6 percent of income to his church.

Ken Hemphill’s new book, “Making Change,” was recommended as a resource to teach biblical stewardship that leads to financial freedom.

The report also called for this priority to be a part of church planting at all levels, asking the North American Mission Board to require a level of CP participation for church plants supported with CP funds. Currently, church starts receiving NAMB support are required to give to the Cooperative Program, preferably at a level of 10- percent. While a NAMB spokesman said the portion given is considered a local matter, state convention partners monitor compliance of church starts.

The rate of compliance by SBTC-funded church starts is 100 percent, according to SBTC Missions Director Robby Partain. “We cease funding for plants that aren’t giving to CP. I would say that five to six percent of undesignated tithes and offerings is a typical CP contribution for our plants.”

STRATEGY 2—Reposition the Cooperative Program as Southern Baptists’ foundational strategy for fulfilling Acts 1:8 through our local churches.

Through existing and newly piloted events, the report calls on SBC leaders to demonstrate the impact of CP in fulfilling the Great Commission, helping churches see the importance of SBC cooperative efforts while imagining “what more we can do as these efforts are multiplied.”

That message is one that will be taken to those preparing for ministry tin SBC seminaries, helping them understand why Southern Baptists have chosen a cooperative method, rather than a societal method, of supporting kingdom work beyond the local church.

STRATEGY 3—Create, coordinate, implement, and maintain consistency in Cooperative Program promotion.

The report echoed recommendations of the Task Force on Cooperation to select leaders at all levels of Southern Baptist life who champion the Cooperative Program. State conventions were challenged to increase the portion of CP gifts they send beyond their states after using a portion for missions and ministries within their borders. The percentage forwarded to the SBC is determined by a vote of messengers during each state convention’s annual meeting.

Many state conventions are working toward a 50/50 allocation of the CP gifts they receive from churches: 50 percent to stay in the state and 50 percent for SBC causes. The Southern Baptist of Texas Convention, with nearly 1,800 churches, allocated 53 percent of its CP gifts through the SBC this year. In contrast, the older Baptist General Convention of Texas allocated 21 percent through worldwide causes in 2005.

On the national level, some churches expressed frustration with the priorities of their state convention by giving directly to SBC ministries, mailing CP checks straight to Nashville for distribution the SBC causes.

That number grew from 91 churches in 1997-1998 to a high of 266 in 2000-2001. But the number routing their CP around state conventions has steadily declined, with 176 choosing that path last year. Of that number are 31 SBTC-affiliated churches.

When some messengers to the Greensboro meeting bristled at the original language encouraging churches to give at least 10 percent of their receipts to support world evangelization through the Cooperative Program, others questioned what message is being delivered when SBC presidents typically come from churches with poor levels of CP support.

Ultimately, the reference to a 10 percent goal was removed from the report put before the convention in June, though messengers gave 50.48 percent of their votes to the candidate who has demonstrated strong CP support at all of the churches he has led.

Newly elected president Frank Page is pastor of First Baptist Church in Taylors, S.C., where 12.44 percent of undesignated receipts go through the Cooperative Program.

Supporters of the two other candidates whose churches reported allocating 1.85 and 4.47 percent of undesignated receipts to CP defended their commitments to missions by praising the extensive ministry each church had in carrying the gospel around the world with Southern Baptist partners.

In an interview with Florida Baptist Witness Editor James A. Smith Sr., Page said it’s possible for a church to demonstrate strong support of Southern Baptist missions through giving to the Cooperative Program while also not neglecting its duty of its own “personalized” missions.

“I believe you can do both well. At Taylors First Baptist we have seen an example of strong support of the Cooperative Program at the same time as a tremendously effective, locally initiated mission works on three levels … local, national and international,” Page said.

“I believe in strong, sacrificial giving to the Cooperative Program as a moral imperative because of the support we should give to our missionaries and entities. I cannot say I’m a Southern Baptist and give a paltry sum to the Cooperative Program,” he said.

Page expressed his objection to any percentage becoming a mark of cooperation and for participation.

“The question for me was, does your church give sacrificially to the Cooperative Program? Does it give in such a way as to show a missional mindset?”

While calling it “bad theology” to assert that churches can and should tithe, “I do believe 10 percent indicates a serious commitment” to missions, Page said.

That priority was reflected in the priority of this year’s Committee on Nominations at the SBC, recommending a slate of new trustees from church that give an average of more than 9 percent of their budgets through the Cooperative Program. Among the current turstees from Texas, the average level of CP giving is 5.7 percent.

“I believe there needs to be some accountability of the people who serve our convention in making great efforts to support CP,” said a West Texas pastor completing an online survey of Acts 1:8 churches.

His thoughts were echoed by another surveyed pastor who shared his concern that “for far too long our most visual, prominent leaders” have claimed CP is important “whereas they themselves have been leading their churches to see CP as insignificant.” Ultimately, he said, “They seem more preoccupied in building their own churches than the kingdom of God.”

STRATEGY 4—Develop an ongoing process that integrates CP education in families and throughout the fiber of Southern Baptist life and grows the next generation of CP advocates.

Data gathered from the Woman’s Missionary Union, the International Mission Board and the TEXAN find a higher level of support for Cooperative Program giving among churches with missions education classes.

Groups like Girls in Action and Royal Ambassadors have been squeezed out at many Southern Baptist churches as they struggle with fewer hours given to instructing children. Some congregations have moved toward Team Kid or AWANA programs that include an element of missions awareness, though not the focus of the curriculum.

“We have mission education because if we don’t teach this generation, who will?” asked Raymond Edge, pastor of First Baptist Church of Bastrop.

Page noted a “failure on the part of the denominationalists to truly show the Cooperative Program as an object of worth, as an object of value,” adding, “we can no longer and will no longer as a convention respond to denominationalists screaming, give more, give more. … We must be shown where the money is going.”

Spreading that message through the traditional channels of Southern Baptist literature, prayer meetings, and seminary classrooms may be insufficient. When churches discover new uses for traditional meeting times, the missionary prayer calendar is often abandoned along with prayer meeting.

The Ad Hoc Committee encouraged interactive websites, cutting-edge educational and promotional training material and resources at every age level, integration of CP education at seminaries, and email database to provide regular CP updates and targeted lessons for specific groups and cultures.

STRATEGY 5—Use volunteer mission trips to demonstrate the impact of CP.

Committee members believe firsthand experience on a CP-funded mission field encourages further support. In his recently released book, “To the Ends of the Earth,” IMB President Jerry Rankin said the IMB is discovering ways to give churches “personalized ownership of the missions task and partnership involvement with missionaries in reaching people around the world.”

Concerned that Southern Baptist churches are gravitating more than ever to support parachurch and independent mission organizations, Rankin calls for personalization instead of generic support, partnership instead of exclusive control and passion as the motivation instead of program promotion.

Two years ago the IMB’s trustee chairman challenged regional leaders to imagine what could be accomplished if funds were unlimited.

“Working with our Great Commission Christian partners, we can reach all people groups numbering more than 100,000 with the gospel, and we can do it in years, not decades,” Tom Hatley of Rogers, Ark., said. “God has provided the resources, the technology and the ability to travel. We are at a point of opportunity never before seen.

That level of commitment would require a 60 percent increase in funding, he noted.

To review the complete report of the Ad oc Cooperative Program Committee is available on SBTC’s website at sbtexas.com.

Prepare for ‘Grace Giving’

Tithing has always been a practice in my life. When I was a child my parents taught me to put 10 percent of my allowance and any birthday or special money in the envelope to be given during Sunday School. I checked the appropriate boxes showing my Bible reading and studied lesson. I put the amount on the outside of the envelope. This was a practice I continued through my teen years. When I started to work and earned a little spending money, I tithed my paycheck even though I was a lost church member.

After being saved and called to preach while still a teenager, I continued the practice of tithing. Attending a Baptist school, I got into the usual debates about whether the tithe was a legalistic demand or the beginning steps of obedience. There really wasn’t much struggle for me. Either way, tithing had its place. If it was a legalistic demand, how much more should we give under grace? If it was expected of us to tithe as Christians, then stewardship pushes me to answer for the other 90 percent. Some of the 90 percent should surely be given to the Lord. My final position came down as an old-fashioned “storehouse” tither, who believed in grace giving.

June and I have practiced tithing and grace giving all of our married life. We have given more than 10 percent every year. I don’t say this boasting. I am ashamed I haven’t given more than 11, 12 or 13 percent. All the clichés are right: “You can’t out-give God,” “Do you want ‘net’ blessings or ‘gross’ blessings?” (This is about deciding on tithing your net or gross income).

Sadly, Southern Baptists have fallen down on their stewardship. Because of money-grabbing preachers, ministry scandals and fear of running the seekers away, many do not preach on tithing and giving. The local church often struggles. Mission giving through the Cooperative Program has declined in real dollars for years.

Now is the time for action. Materials and speakers are available from the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and the SBC to help you and your local church. Teach the doctrine of stewardship again. The theme of the 2006 SBTC annual meeting is “Grace Giving” with the Scripture emphasis of 2 Corinthians 8-9. It is very timely that the SBTC is addressing this vital issue. Each session will highlight various aspects of giving: leadership in giving, discipleship in giving, partnership in giving, and worship through giving.

Today I was told the convention hotel is already booked for the annual meeting of SBTC messengers. We are scurrying around to expand our auxiliary hotels to accommodate the increase in demand. Praise the Lord! Southern Baptists in Texas are excited about coming together for fellowship, worship and business. There is still room for you. Make your reservations now. Pray for the power of God to fall upon us as we seek his face for revival and renewal.

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Missions education rebounds at Texas church




FORESTBURG?It used to be called “Missions Night”?a staple of many Southern Baptist churches’ foreign missions emphasizes. But it is a new concept to the members of Forestburg Baptist Church and they are literally eating up the information presented to them each month.

Pastor Stewart Holloway said in 2005 his congregation committed to being an “Acts 1:8 church” but had no idea how to enact that challenge. Located north of Fort Worth, the community doesn’t have a large multi-national population, Holloway said, so their emphasis on foreign missions was needed.

A brainstorming session resulted in the creation of a church-wide fellowship held each month to spotlight a different region of the world and its people. The facts about the region would feed mind, body, and soul.

The result: Each month a meal is prepared featuring courses from a specific people group. The

first meal, Holloway said, was Chinese in recognition of the summer mission work one of their college students had done in China. Church volunteers have cooked up samples of Greek, Native American, Mexican, Italian, Irish, Jewish and even All-American (hamburgers) meals. Holloway joked that if they were to feature fares from the local community the main dish would be barbecue.

Members are charged for the meals, with the money initially going to reimburse the cooks for their costs. But one volunteer, instead of submitting receipts, asked that the ticket money be given directly to the church’s missions offering. And that, Holloway said, has become the standard.

On average, 40-50 people attend the dinner meetings. Following the meal, Holloway speaks on the mission work in that particular region and distributes a prayer guide informing members on how they can continually pray for the mission work there.

The pastor and his wife, both from Louisiana, will prepare the September meal, Cajun food. Funds raised will go to the Southern Baptist Convention’s Adopt-A-Church initiative in Louisiana. The October meal, he added, will feature a New England flavor as a mission team from the church reports on their trip to Vermont.

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Missions education still useful, churches say




With X-Box, I-Pod, and Blackberry vying for the attention of today’s kids, some churches have left traditional missions education behind or replaced it with more “hip” alternatives. Others have replaced missions education for programs such as AWANA?a discipleship program with little missions education.

But some SBTC churches have found that traditional mission education programs, such as Royal Ambassadors, Girls in Action, and Mission Friends can still reach kids and excite them about mission opportunities worldwide and at home.

At Cedar Bayou Baptist Church in Baytown, RAs and GAs are a tradition.

“I think it’s been a part of this church for a long time,” said Pastor Mark Brousard. “The men have a heart for working with RAs and the women have a heart for teaching GAs. They want to pass it on. It is engrained in them.”

Brousard believes the Cooperative Program has benefited from mission education in the church. “I think it does help,” he said. “The church has been here since 1943 and they have carried that on.”

Carrying on in an established group is new RA leader Chad Bixler of First Baptist Church in Rusk. He leads a year-round group of approximately 20 boys in grades 1-5 and he believes RAs plays an important role in mission education, as well as promoting involvement in the Cooperative Program.

“Most people only see what’s in their little circle,” Bixler said. “RAs show that it is more than just what you have to do here.”

Bixler began working with RAs as a helper before being approached to take over the program last June. He jumped at the chance. “I’m sold on it,” he said.

Encouraging a life-long love of missions is the goal of Forest Hills Baptist Church in Sequin.

“We begin presenting the challenge and excitement of sharing Christ with others at an early age, praying that the enthusiasm will grow throughout the lifetime of each child,” said Pastor Mitch Kolenovsky.

The church uses a combination of mission activities, including Kids on Mission material produced by the International Mission Board and Lifeway VBS mission material to teach missions to children from kindergarten through sixth grade.

Forest Hills has seen significantly increased awareness of mission giving thanks to its kids’ missions ed program.

“Our Kid’s Klub collects and sells aluminum cans and takes up an offering each week during their mission study time. All of the proceeds go toward various mission projects. This year our VBS offering for missions was over $1,100,” Kolenovsky said.

At First Baptist Church of Bastrop, RAs, GAs, and Mission Friends comprise one of two major programs offered for children, Pastor Raymond Edge said.

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Missionary: World has come to Texas; includes Muslims who need Jesus

The world has come to Texas.

That fact has not been lost on the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, which is sponsoring a series of “SENT” missions conferences designed to equip laypeople for gospel work at home and abroad. The next conference is scheduled Oct. 6-7 in Grapevine.

An ever-burgeoning immigration to the United States has brought the world’s people groups into Texas businesses, workplaces, and neighborhoods. Reaching internationals is no longer something only foreign missionaries do.

One of the most timely aspects of the conference will be a Friday evening session on how to engage Muslims in spiritual conversation, said Tiffany Smith, SBTC missions mobilization associate.

In recent years Southern Baptists’ International Mission Board and North American Mission Board have recognized the international mission field has come to America. In May 2005 IMB representatives met with pastors, associational leaders, and laypeople from around Texas to introduce techniques overseas missionaries use with specific people groups. Those applications are now being used to reach first- and second-generation Texas immigrants, including Muslims, Smith explained.

Jesus’ commission from Acts 1:8 to begin witnessing in Jerusalem can end up reaching the ends of the earth with a phone call, text message or e-mail.

Raised on the foreign mission field where his parents witnessed among a predominantly Muslim population, *George Adidas said at eight years of age God gave him a heart for reaching Islamic people. A short stint on the mission field as an adult with the IMB International Service Corps solidified that call and today he is using what he has learned from his upbringing and IMB training to teach others how to share the gospel with Muslims.

Adidas spoke at the first SENT Conference in Austin last April and will give another presentation and field questions at the October event.

His predecessors have seen the mission field move from the lands abroad to the homes next door. And that, Adidas said, is where he feels called to witness. During his mission work, Adidas worked as an English as a Second Language teacher in a large European mosque and would, under the guise of teaching English, use Bible stories in the process.

The most important thing a Christian can do, Adidas said, is to become friends with those Muslims in their lives?men becoming brothers and women becoming sisters. It is within the bonds of that relationship of trust that the channels of honest communication are opened, he said.

Because Islam is a works-based religion, Adidas said Muslims “will try to be more Christlike” than the Christians trying to reach them. That is why it is important to have a true servant’s attitude when witnessing, emphasizing the fact that Christians serve out of a love for God and people, not out of a sense of duty alone.

Another key element of witnessing to Muslims, Adidas said, is being a good listener. It is in the listening that the Christian can begin to formulate questions to pose. Adidas recalled a time when a Muslim friend lost his job. While listening to his friend tell of his concerns, Adidas knew he was in the middle of a witnessing opportunity. The discussion soon turned to prayer.

Adidas’s friend stated he was faithful in praying the mandatory number of times each day and Adidas shared that he prays to God without ceasing. He noted that all Christians are children of God?a concept with which his friend was not familiar, he said.

Questions, Adidas said, can flow from the teachings of the Quran to the truths of the Bible, a technique called the Camel Strategy. Such an approach draws Muslims from statements noted in the Quran (Adidas said the Quran mentions Jesus and the Bible numerous times) to the ultimate truths of God’s word. It was a simple question that led an Imam to faith in Christ.

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A partnership of righteousness in ministry

A friend tells of an old preacher who told him that young pastors are susceptible to “girls, gold, and glory.” He then quipped that old preachers are more likely to fall for “glory, gold, and girls.” We’d be hard pressed to find a ruined pastor who couldn’t trace his demise to one of these temptations. It’s never funny; it’s always a tragedy and a loss for us all.

Some people just love stories of “ministerial misconduct.” Sure, when someone like former pastor Terry Hornbuckle of Arlington is convicted of three rapes, it’s news. I understand that. More common are stories about a quarrel between church members–rancorous, probably tragic, but hardly of general interest. Fair or not, the pastor (authority, power, maleness) usually fares badly in the public judgment of these squabbles.

In any case, all of us and our churches take a hit when a pastor and church fall out with one another. When the charges against a pastor are criminal, it’s even worse.

Danny Akin’s Baptist Press column, “Cultivate integrity in ministry,” is a good treatment of what we should be as church or ministry leaders. He said it better than I could so I’ll let you read that for yourself. It’s definitely something we should say to ourselves in front of our congregations. It’s also something our congregations should hold us to.

I’d like to approach the matter of ministry train wrecks from the other direction. What is the responsibility of churches in examining, calling, and working with a pastor?

If the pastor has a heavy stewardship for the ministry of a church, and he does, it doesn’t mean that other church members are without responsibility for successes and failures in ministry.

In Baptist churches, calling a pastor is a matter of both candidate and congregation discerning the will of God. Both parties talk to God and both parties should agree before a man becomes pastor. In addition to the theological and methodological questions we normally ask, we should look into a couple of more mundane things when considering a candidate.

>A credit check: You’re unlikely to call a pastor who’s in it for the money. In fact, it is very common for ministry families to be living on the edge of not enough. The point of a credit check is to determine if he has serious financial problems that will become part of his ministry in your church. Also, a man who has a pattern of unpaid debts is either a poor manager of his own affairs or has an integrity problem. It’s worth asking and worth discussing with him if you see something that raises questions.

>A criminal background check: You’ll do it for your nursery workers (you should at least), so why not for your pastor? Ministry in most churches involves a lot of time and work done in solitude. This requires trust. The church takes on some liability for the actions of its pastor. It is certain that your pastor is an important keeper of your church’s reputation. Check it out. Very few men will mind.

Consider also that most pastors are checking your church out. Your growth pattern, former pastors, neighborhood, and giving are going to interest him as he considers what he might expect of ministry there. Asking some basic questions of him is not an insult. It is due diligence. I can think of some cases where these steps might have headed off tragic events in the life of a church.

Once your pastor is in place, consider the unnecessary burdens and risks you might be putting on him. Dr. Akin is right in saying that pastors should stay away from the church’s money, for example. For their part, churches should neither expect him to take on accounting or check-writing duties for the church nor allow him to do it if he volunteers. Both parties have to say “yes” before this problem becomes even potential.

Churches should also make some kind of allowance for the pastor’s need to minister to the women in the congregation. Other church leaders can provide cover and accountability for the pastor so as to safeguard his reputation and that of those he visits, counsels, or works alongside.

Don’t put your pastor in a situation of working alone at church with a female secretary or visiting/counseling alone with female church members. Provide people to accompany him or be on site when this will accommodate ministry above suspicion or reproach.

Pastors in small, single staff churches and in very large churches find it easy to become isolated in ministry. Some notorious situations, as well as some little-known ministry meltdowns were aggravated, even enabled, by isolation that became secret sin. Churches either know or should know when this becomes possible.

No pastor sets out to fail. Churches can help him avoid the temptations of ministry. Integrity is a partnership between all members of the body of Christ. Your sister churches and your brothers and sisters in Christ depend on your ministry maintaining a high level of wisdom and innocence.

Crossover Austin includes 5K ‘Race Against Time’




AUSTIN?It’s not the typical Southern Baptist outreach. No potluck or barbecue will be served?at least not until participants cross the finish line in a Kids K or a competitive 5K race.

After a weeklong series of evangelistic church meetings leading up to “Crossover Austin,” the first SBTC Race Against Time will be held at Anderson Mill Baptist Church in Austin Nov. 11 prior to the SBTC annual meeting Nov. 13-14. The race proceeds will benefit HIV/AIDS patients.

“The pastors in the Austin area put their heads together and decided they wanted to do something a little different, which in addition to having door-to-door visitation and having some revivals, they wanted also to have a 5K race. Austin is such a sports and athletics-centered community,” said Jack Harris, SBTC personal and event evangelism associate. “There are races in Austin all the time. They thought this would be a good way to get lost people in the community to come to an event where they could hear the gospel presented.”

Last year in Amarillo, SBTC messengers, ministry staff and dozens of Amarillo-area Baptists dispersed in groups of two and three to canvass neighborhoods. This year, there will be the usual door-to-door outreach led by Austin-area churches in the early afternoon. But not before the race, which will be an officially timed event that Austin recreation officials will help coordinate, Harris said. After the 5K, the gospel will be shared and SBTC disaster relief volunteers will serve food and drink.

Also, for five consecutive nights beginning Sunday, Nov. 5, Crossover rallies will be held at Austin-area churches featuring retired Florida pastor and SBC immediate past president Bobby Welch, Harris said.

Welch is the creator of the FAITH evangelism training, which many churches have successfully used to help lead non-Christian attenders and others to Christ. Welch will share the gospel and encourage believers to participate in the Saturday Crossover events, Harris said.

The site of the race, Anderson Mill Baptist Church, is at 10633 Lake Creek Parkway. The Kids K Run will begin at 9 a.m. followed by the 5K at 9:30 a.m. Awards will be given to male and female winners in each five-year age segment. Pre-registration for the Kids K is $10 and $20 for the 5K; the day of the race registration is $15 and $25, respectively.

Pre-registration will be available at active.com, a national sports events Web site that is partnered with ESPN.com.

The following Crossover rallies with Bobby Welch are scheduled as follows:

6 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 5, Anderson Mill Baptist Church, 10633 Lake Creek Parkway, 512-258-5843. The pastor is Rod Minor.

7 p.m., Monday, Nov. 6, Andice Baptist Church, 6570 FM 970, Florence, Texas, 254-793-2557. James Tisdel is the pastor.

7 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 7, Oak Meadows Baptist <st1:P