SBC Cow Tippin’: In What Sense Does Giving to the Cooperative Program Matter?

“I hear the ‘moo’ of a Sacred Cow,” said Ted Traylor speaking of the suggestion that a nominated candidate for the SBC presidency have their church meet the ten percent threshold of CP giving. Since the news of First Baptist Church, Springdale, Arkansas Cooperative Program giving was released, the SBC elites have been on an a media blitz to defend Dr. Ronnie Floyd and his church’s giving towards missions.
Earlier this year, an Ad Hoc Cooperative Program Committee was formed which made the recommendation that elected state and national officers be a part of churches that give at least ten percent to the CP. This suggestion was an encouragement, not an obligation which gained the approval of the SBC Executive Committee. Traylor recognizes that his suggestion is “non binding” but warns that enacting this could surrender the principle of individual churches defining their sphere of involvement in missions. This principle of conserving self-determination concerns me for several reasons.
First, there is a historical precedent in the SBC where churches were known to faithfully give to the CP. Anthony Jordan of the Baptist Messenger of Oklahoma writes, “For nearly 75 years, our churches averaged giving more than 10 percent of undesignated receipts to mission through CP. Today, the average has slipped to under 7 percent.” Throughout the past 75 years, there have been many reasons why giving could have gone down, including depression, wars, and other economic crises. Secondly, lest we all forget, the majority of this time was before the conservative resurgence. So what has happened that in the most prosperous days of the SBC and our country giving to the CP has decreased? This leads to my second point.

Second, there is a present crisis of cooperation in the SBC. As Dr. Floyd has stated, many churches are now seeking for the “personalization of missions.” What this means is churches are doing missions more independently than ever before. With the recent boom of short-term mission trips and unprecedented opportunities to plant churches worldwide, churches are seeking to do the Great Commission on their own. Predominantly, only megachurches are able to pull this off due to the necessary resources required to accomplish such a task.
This is where the “self-determining” of an autonomous church comes in. Churches today are building their Great Commission emphasis around themselves. I have heard the mantra over and over again, such as “We go on x number of mission trips each year and have planted x number of churches on every continent in the world.” Some will say, “There is not a place where the sun sets where we are not doing missions.” Notice the reference point is that particular local church. If this self-congratulatory rationalization for the lack of cooperation is not enough, we cannot forget that all this must be financed in some form or fashion. Thus, the money which would normally go to the CP goes to the efforts of the local church. Implicit in this strategy is that the individual church can do it better and more efficiently than the IMB. This is what I call being missionally myopic.

The whole purpose of the CP was to pool resources together to do what one could not do on their own. Through the giving of the CP and the agency of the IMB, Southern Baptists have the largest missionary force in the world—yet the supply line to these missionaries is being undermined by the reallocation of resources to accomplish short-term missions to the neglect of long-term missionaries. We have mission conferences, mission trips, mission training, etc., but are often forgetting about our missionaries! We cooperate not out of obligation, but as a privilege and an overwhelming desire to serve one another in love. Hear what the Baptist Faith and Message has to say about this:

Christ’s people should, as occasion requires, organize such associations and conventions as may best secure cooperation for the great objects of the Kingdom of God. Such organizations have no authority over one another or over the churches. . . . Members of New Testament churches should cooperate with one another in carrying forward the missionary, educational, and benevolent ministries for the extension of Christ’s Kingdom.

Cooperation is voluntary true, but it is also expected, especially from our leaders. Inevitably, the nominations for the SBC presidency usually come from pastors of large megachurches, and it is interesting to see how committed they are to the CP and whether they believe that it is that big of a deal. Hear again some thoughts by Jordan:

Our greatest challenge is electing a man who has demonstrated a proven commitment to the Southern Baptist way of supporting missions. Many of the megachurch pastors have turned aside from cooperative missions in favor of direct or societal missions. They do missions, but they choose to do what their church can accomplish, rather than realizing the power of what we can achieve together. They have abandoned a tried and true axiom among us. We can do more together than we can do alone.

Because of the relevancy of this year’s nomination, let’s take FBC Springdale for example. According to Ben Mayes, the church’s chief administration officer, for 2004-2005 fiscal year the church’s undesignated gifts totaled $11,952,137. The amount given to the CP was $32,000 which comes out to 0.27%. However, Mayes is quick to add that the church spent $2,648,000 in total support of missions and evangelism during that same time period. Now, you tell me, where is the emphasis being placed? On cooperation or conserving the “self-determination” of the local church?
In a recent interview by Baptist Press, Floyd said, “churches can and should do better” but “there was never mandated cooperation” or “scriptural basis for tithing to a denomination.” This is true, and the current recommendation is not a mandate nor an attempt to scripturally prove tithing to a denomination. Why does cooperation have to be shaded as an obligation, mandate, or requirement? I thought we cooperate and support one another because we want to, because we believe in working together. Is this not the spirit and example we should hope to have in the leader of the SBC?
Floyd said, “I want to do more, I’ve done more. We’ve been doing more and we will continue to do more.” What he said it true—they have done more, and looking at the previous years of giving, one can see where the CP was more of a priority than it is today. Floyd also said that CP is a “tool” and “vehicle” which “can be relevant only to the point of the convention re-imaging and reinventing itself to meet the needs of SBC churches and help them propagate the Gospel around the world.” I mean no disrespect, but what about the needs of the missionaries around the world (through IMB) and stateside (through NAMB)? Don’t their needs count too?
What I have heard in recent days is warnings against making some arbitrary rule about giving 10 percent to the CP and how it should not be the “sacred cow” of the SBC. What I am not hearing is a passion for cooperation and a desire to show exemplary giving and commitment to missions as structured through the Southern Baptist Convention. I hear what all the seminary presidents and megachurch pastors are saying in defense of Dr. Floyd, but I am concerned about what I am not hearing. Now to the third point.
Thirdly, there is the future direction of missions in the SBC which needs the leadership to chart the course and handle the storms which come our way. Just in the last year, both the IMB and NAMB have had their share of controversies, and the SBC needs a leader who is committed to missions within the SBC, not just their local church. We need a leader who has vision enough to see the big picture but principled enough to handle the transitional nuances or controversies which may arise as well. The president and the church which he pastors should be a model of cooperation while unifying churches around the work of missions, not encouraging them to do it on their own (which most simply cannot because of logistical and financial inadequacies). This example should also be seen in their giving. No, this is not an obligation or mandate but an expectation which assumes that a person’s commitment to something will be evidenced where it is lines up in their priorities and their pocketbooks.
Fundamentally, the Southern Baptist Convention exists for cooperation with one another for the purpose of the propagation of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the ends of the world. Southern Baptists for 81 years have done this together as each church and member has valued the importance of giving to the Cooperative Program. So in what sense does giving to the CP matter? It is not about a “golden number” or a church’s statistics on giving or their missional resume; it is about people and having a passion to reach them. We have over 6,000 of our own out there who have left their houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, and lands for the sake of Jesus and the gospel. Let’s not become spiritual cow-tippers. While the CP may not be SBC’s Sacred Cow, there is no reason to make it the Sacrificial Lamb either. Let’s remember that it is not about us—it’s about them.

Advertisements
Explore posts in the same categories: Southern Baptist Convention

7 Comments on “SBC Cow Tippin’: In What Sense Does Giving to the Cooperative Program Matter?”

  1. ScriptureSearcher Says:

    The “sacred cow” of the SBC has been the Cooperative Program since its adoption many years ago.

    The old cow “ain’t what she used to be” and the expected CP contributions of the local churches some of our presidents have served before being elected to national LEADERSHIP have been lowered but…..

    DENOMINATIONAL POLITICS continue!


  2. Perhaps the issue is not necessarily what Ronnie Floyd’s church gives to the CP, but rather, what kind of leadership is needed at the SBC. And I think it is damaging to the morale of our 40,000+ “cooperating” churches to have a president of the SBC who is pastor of a church that could but does not not strongly support the CP.

    There is nothing wrong with what Ronnie Floyd has led his church to do, but the question is, does it disqualify him from leading the rest of us by example – and I say yes it does. It doesn’t make him a bad pastor or a bad person. It just doesn’t make him the best choice for leader of the convention.

    We’re not talking about pastoring a church, we’re talking about the person who will be the great motivator and leader of our cooperating churches, who is to spur us on to good works and encourage us to “cooperate” in missions and evangelism. And the primary way that we cooperate is through the CP.

    Our church also goes on several mission trips each year and we have committed to send all of our graduating students overseas before they go to college if they are called to go, but we have not lessened our CP giving, we’ve given more to the budget so we can do both. Our pastor served as an IMB trustee for 20 years and each year he led us to both up our giving and our going, but neither at the expense of the other.

  3. Timmy Says:

    According to the statistics, FBC Srpingdale gave over $312,000 in 2004 and $32,000 in 2005. Now, there must be a reason why this occurred. I am not going to speculate but simply state that behind the numbers there is something that is not being said.

    Now how is the president of the denomination going to encourage SBC churches to cooperate and give to the CP? Will he say, “Do as I say, not as I do?” What kind of example are we setting here?

    As I stated in the article, what really bothers me is how these megachurches have such braggadocio to flaunt their statistics of how many short-term mission trips they go on every year, how many people they support on so many continents, etc. Juxtapose their stats next the IMB and you will see the difference between presevering “self-determination” of autonomous churches and preserving cooperation between giving churches. The overwhelming majority of churches in the SBC cannot do this, and I wonder if they feel inferior to their bigger sisters who have shown contempt to the CP and bypassed cooperation altogether.

    What FBC Springdale has done towards missions is not an anomaly. Large SBC churches are doing this all across our convention, and it is time that there be a leader and pastor among these churches to stand up, acknowledge the trend, and work towards cooperation and not think they are above or needless of it.

  4. Gene Says:

    In the early years of the resurgence, the excuse offered was that they were bypassing the CP, because their money went to fund programs and faculties of which they did not approve. In NC, because of this, we have four different funding formulas. Now, the question for FBCS and these other churches is quite simple: “If the resurgence has ended, then why are you not giving to the CP? Is there something else to which you object? Can you imagine what might happen if all the Founders churches colluded to fund only SBTS or dogeared their CP dollars to particular missionaries or faculty members at the seminaries with whom they agreed on every little thing? Chaos would ensue, and they’d fall under the discipline of the whole Convention, and rightly so.

    Also, just in case our friends from FBCS come back by as they did earlier this week (twice no less), I’d like to reiterate something. These are issues EVERY potential SBC presidential candidate must answer, and the problem with your church that Timmy is expressing does NOT come from a belief that you should be giving 10 percent or more (that is the Exec. Committee’s own yardstick, however); rather it is that you gave a dismal .27 percent. That requires some explaining. How does Pastor Floyd think that he represents a model for NT giving? I do not believe in “storehouse giving” (of a tithe), I believe in the concept of NT Giving. Under no measure can you consider this a model for either theology of giving.


  5. I’m in full agreement with you. I don’t feel like it should be one or the other if you are committed to the SBC – it’s both/and. And on the side of what your local church does – The call is to be obedient, not bigger and better. Again, the issue is – who can lead by word and deed.

    You are right – it is not an anomaly, it is unfortunate. As Mark Dever would say – “membership matters”. It ought to mean something to be a member of the SBC. Similar (not the same thing) to what it means to be a member of a church. How many of us have members in our churches who are large personalities in the world, but have no concern and no real commitment to the church. But when it comes time to vote on something – they sure do show up with their opinions and thoughts about how things oughta be – done their way.

    Another thing that seems very out of place to me – is all the self-talk going on. Once nominated – why does anyone need to say anything about themselves. Answer questions – be forthright – and then be quiet. – As I will do now.

  6. David Hewitt Says:

    Anyone catch this article?

    http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?ID=23284

    I’m curious what all THIS will bring to the table… especially given the book he has written (see linked article). Does anyone know of an online review of it somewhere that I can find?

  7. Timmy Says:

    David,

    According to Marty Duren, Page is going to address his position on Calvinism in the near future. Check out the comments section here:

    http://sbcoutpost.blogspot.com/2006/05/south-carolina-pastor-frank-page.html

    Also, Gene had some things to say in the same comment section as well. Like you I am wondering how this will all play out. Page is from Greensboro and it seems likely that the greatest concentration of votes will come from churches closest to the convention. I have heard that he is popular in SC and NC, so this could be a real alternative to Dr. Floyd. I guess we’ll find out in less than a month!


Comments are closed.


%d bloggers like this: