Last month two reports were given to the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee about the Cooperative Program. Both of them were positive in nature and emphasized the importance of Southern Baptists working together. There were nine recommendations for individuals, churches, state conventions and the SBC. Let me point those out and give you my take.
1. That we commend the Ad Hoc Committee for its excellent work and affirm this report as an outstanding plan for advancing stewardship and the Cooperative Program in the Southern Baptist Convention.
It is about time! Prior to 1979 conservative Southern Baptists were concerned about their CP dollars going to liberals and a bloated bureaucracy. The CP was criticized as a “sacred cow.” During and following the Conservative Resurgence and the restructuring of the bureaucracy in the 1990s, little has been said about the Cooperative Program. It is time to realize the Cooperative Program is the “sacred HOW.”
2. That every segment of SBC life be encouraged to reaffirm our commitment to biblical stewardship and to our cooperation in the Great Commission/Acts 1:8 mission.
There are two parts to this statement. The first deals with a unified enthusiasm to accomplish biblical stewardship and the Great Commission/Acts 1:8. From headquarters in the local church to the association, to the state convention and finally at the SBC, everyone must be on the same page for us to accomplish what God has set before us.
Secondly, there is a functional side. For over 125 years Southern Baptists viewed missions as something for the vocationally called. It was like the commercial showing a driver taking a car through a treacherous course and the voice over says, “Don’t try this yourself. Leave it to the professionals.” Giving was essentially the only way church members participated in missions.
Now, the trend is hands-on. Many in the church are going. Unfortunately, the trend is substituting going for giving. Missions is both Giving and Going.
3. That we strongly encourage each believer to tithe of his financial resources to his local church and encourage all Southern Baptist churches to adopt a missional mindset as they contribute at least 10 percent of their undesignated receipts through the Cooperative Program to local and global missions.
As a percentage, giving is at an all-time low among Baptists. The average is just a little over 2% of individual incomes. The average was over 3% during the Great Depression. Churches as recently as 1990 averaged giving 10% through the Cooperative Program. Today SBC churches are averaging less than 7% of their budget through the CP. What would the 3% difference make? The added funding would enable a significant strengthening of our efforts to reach the unreached people groups of the world.
Rather than set an arbitrary percentage, I would simply ask every SBTC church to consider what you are doing through the Cooperative Program and seek to increase participation.
4. That we encourage the election of state and national convention officers whose churches give at 10% of their undesignated receipts through the Cooperative Program.
Steve Swofford is pastor of the great First Baptist Church of Rockwall, Texas. He is the president of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. He is a wonderful model of leadership in Cooperative Program giving. His church gives 18 percent through the CP.
Bobby Welch is pastor at FBC, Daytona Beach, Fla., and is SBC president. His church gives 15 percent. Leaders like these show how God works through Going and Giving.
Again, rather than setting an arbitrary percentage, I think leaders should be those who are seeking to be more involved through the Cooperative Program on a consistent basis.
5. That each state convention have a plan for forwarding an increasing percentage of receipts to SBC mission causes through the Cooperative Program with the Cooperative Program Advance Plan being one possible model.
Space does not allow for an explanation of the Advance Plan, but it is simply an incremental increase of giving. Maybe something like the Advance Plan ought to be the model for churches and leaders.
I found it interesting that an arbitrary percentage was placed on churches and leaders but not on state conventions. Maybe a 50-50 allocation would be a good goal. The SBTC is the only state convention that has ever given away more than it retains in Cooperative Program operating budget funds.