cooperative program

My thoughts on the 2010 KBC

For the past 7 Novembers I have been a North Carolina Baptist and I have attended the North Carolina Baptist Convention.  For at least 3 of those years I have had a conviction that the state convention keeps entirely too large an amount of cooperative program funds.  I have considered making an amendment from the floor to move toward a 50/50 split between the BSCNC and the SBC.  At one time I even consulted some friends about the best way to do this.  Ultimately I decided that the timing was not right for North Carolina. (At least not yet.) I am no longer a North Carolina Baptist.  I am now a Kentucky Baptist, and today I believe we made history.  (I guess Florida beat us to the punch, but only because their convention was last week.) Today we voted to move toward a 50/50 split between the KBC and SBC.  We voted to do so within 10 years.  This represents a 14% change.  Even more significant, there will be a 5% change in thisyear's budget.

This change in the way we fund the CP was a part of a report from the KBCs Great Commission Resurgence task force.  There were 4 recommendations as part of that report, and I expected that someone would make a motion to consider each part separately.  No one did so.  There was a motion offered to ignore the report, make a 1.5% change and thank the committee for existing, but it failed handily.  The discussion was remarkably civil.  I didn’t even hear groans or commentary from the crowd.  The recommendations passed with 2/3rds majority and I am proud.  I believe this was a great move for Kentucky Baptists.  It demonstrates real commitment and not just lip-service to taking the message of Christ to the nations.

Here are some other thoughts –

Today I served as a teller.  It was my first time serving in any capacity at a convention, and I was glad to do so.  Interestingly the ballots in my bucket twice were in conflict with the final tally.

You may notice that I share a name with the president of the convention.  Don Mathis was an excellent moderator and even if we were not related I would say so.

My former church, Mexico Baptist, was recognized for being number one in per-capita giving to the CP.

The body as a whole at the KBC is a much younger group than in North Carolina.  I was impressed with this. I think it shows a bright future for the convention.  People are always saying that the younger generation is not interested in identifying with the SBC.  But today gives me hope that that is not true.  Kevin Smith said today that if only gray-hairs are happy, then something is wrong.  I agree and I believe that many of the younger generations were happy.

If you missed the shiny shirts that the choir wore at today’s meeting, you really missed something.  I cannot do them justice with words.

The pastor’s conference last night was wonderful.  It featured 3 premier preachers, Johnny Hunt, Danny Akin, and Alistair Begg.

The youth ministers’ meeting was yesterday as well.  I was challenged to think about some stuff, and I appreciated each of the speakers.  (Especially because they kept it short)  It was definitely worth my time.  We had nothing like that in North Carolina.  I am grateful to Joe Ball for his leadership and his desire to see us fellowship as a group.

Thoughts on the GCR from a Southern Baptist Nobody

I have written before about how I am, in many ways, an average Southern Baptist in my 30s.  This year I will not be able to attend the convention and cast my vote.  Being average and not even a messenger - that makes me an SBC nobody.  So I thought I would make my thoughts toward the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force’s recommendations known here on my blog.  (Although honestly, I probably would have done that even if I was going to the convention) Before you read this article you can, and probably should, read the excellent summary of the issues and the debate by Trevin Wax. It is succinct, accurate and clear.

If I were able to attend the SBC in Orlando I would vote for the GCR and I would gladly do so in the current form.

I do not like the concept of “Great Commission giving” as a recognized category.  In fact I have a strong dislike for that category.  It seems to me that Great Commission giving if officially recognized, begins to promote a society model of giving.  (I wrote much more about this in this post)  Nevertheless, I would vote for the GCR recommendation.

It is probably unfair to quote Jerry Vines out of context on what was an excellent post, (so go read it yourself) but allow me to clip just one portion that describes my feelings:

If you want to be a part of the leadership, setting the course of the SBC, you should lead in financial commitment. A man in your local church probably won’t get placed on the finance committee if he designates $50,000 a year to the music ministry (maybe led by his son!), but only gives $500 annually to the church’s unified budget. He’s free to give his money that way. But, I doubt you would give him the opportunity to make decisions affecting how the bulk of the church’s money is used.

So why would I vote for the recommendation even though I don't like the category of GC Giving?  because other than that, I support the recommendation.  I generally think the restructuring is a good thing.  I believe that the  restructuring is designed to put the priority of the denomination in the right place - on missions and seeing the nations come to Christ

Those are my thoughts on the recommendation.  As far as an actual Great Commission resurgence goes, there is but one way to see that happen.  Churches must do the will of God.  We are a convention of churches and if we are to see the nations come to Christ we need to see our neighbors come to Christ.

I’m not going to be there, but I will once again reiterate my suggestion.  Somebody should make the following motion-

Nobody can speak about the GCR (on the platform or from the floor) unless they share the gospel with three people between now and the time of the meeting in Orlando.  That way we’ll emphasize evangelism in spite of ourselves.

How do we keep speakers accountable?  We give em Dr. Reid style witnessing reports which they have to turn- in to the page at the microphone before speaking.

Convention Commentary from an Average Southern Baptist

When I got home yesterday I read that Morris Chapman has announced his resignation as the head of the executive committee.  I was not shocked by this news.  Nor, I expect, was anyone else.  The real news in my mind comes as this story is added to the events of the past few months.  Chapman’s resignation combined with that of  Rankin and the ouster of Hammond means that there are 3 SBC entities with no top leader. Because of the state of the convention I thought I’d share my thoughts

In many ways I am the average under 35 Southern Baptist minister.  I have been in ministry for 12 years all in small churches.  I am seminary educated.  I have no ambition to ever preach the convention sermon, but I do want to see the Southern Baptist Convention be the best it can be. All I want is to bring glory to God in whatever position He puts me.

I obviously am a blogger, but I don’t have a wide reading.  I probably never will.  Even so, I don’t feel disenfranchised.  In fact I feel very welcome within my convention.  It’s even possible that because I’m one of the 15% of non-grey-hairs at the convention that my voice gets heard a little more.

Now that I have established my averageness as a young Southern Baptist.  I’d like to offer some commentary.

First, I don’t want to dismiss the hand of God in our entities.  As I think about individuals, I don’t want to assume that anything other than the will of God is involved in their decisions.

It seems that the takeaway from looking at the state of our convention is this: change is coming, like it or not.  The fact is, soon we will have different people in charge of both mission boards and the executive committee.

I recall Daniel Akin saying that electing the GCR task force will one day be seen as a watershed event.  At this point that is still a question mark.  The work of that body is yet to be seen. (and you can read my thoughts here) To me it seems that the real beginning of change was the 2006 convention in Greensboro.  That year the convention spoke pretty clearly about its feelings toward the status quo.  I believe that at that point many convention goers were beginning to feel disenfranchised.  The reason it worked out as it did is, I suppose, unfortunate for Ronnie Floyd.  People were feeling that the god-ol-boy network was in full force and their options were not real options.  The vote was less of a vote against Ronnie Floyd as it was a vote for the Cooperative Program.  I believe that the average Southern Baptist (e.g. me) knows that the CP is the tool that has allowed us to become the world’s greatest mission sending organization.  The candidate Ronnie Floyd, with his church's very low CP giving, demonstrated that maybe the good-ol-boy network had the network in mind rather than what is best for the convention.

I don’t want that to sound overly cynical.  In reality I don’t believe there was some grand conspiracy to control everything in the convention.  But I do believe that people who hold influence trust their own judgment more than the convention at large.  So they simply put forth a candidate and hoped for a rubber stamp.  When that didn’t come in 06, it sent a message.

So what is the takeaway from all this.  There will be new leadership in the NAMB, the IMB, and the executive committee.  (And Rainer has only been at Lifeway about 4 years)  And so, regardless of the recommendations that come from the Great Commission task force, change is coming to our convention.

Tomorrow - My Prayer for the convention

As always, I welcome your thoughts.

Improving Cooperative Program Giving

Yesterday I promised that I would write about how my church, as small as it is, gives so generously to the Cooperative Program. Here is a bit of context before I begin.  LaGrange Park Baptist Church is a small church.  We average less than 100 in Sunday school.  We are in an association of 100 churches.  In our association, there are a couple of churches that are literally 10 times our size .  Last year we led the NSRBA in giving to Annie Armstrong and were close to the top in Lottie Moon giving.  We give 11% of all undesignated gifts to the CP.  (I just realized that this entire paragraph would be gibberish if a non-Southern-Baptist read it.)

What is the key to this giving?  I believe it begins with our pastor.  All preachers say they are committed to missions, but our pastor demonstrates it.  His home plays host to missionaries when a home is needed.  One of his children served as a US/C-2 missionary, another was a NAMB employee for a number of years.  He regularly participates in short-term missions and makes no secret of the fact that he hopes to be able to do mission work after retirement. His view is that if you are not willing to go on missions, the least you can do is to give.

As in all churches, our WMU does a wonderful job of keeping prayer for missions in the forefront.  We have adopted a people group and regularly hear updates about them.

Yesterday I said that one of the reasons I believe mission giving has fragmented in many churches is that the vision of accomplishing smaller tasks is easier to see.  How can you motivate people to give to a Lottie Moon goal that last year was $170 million?  By putting a reachable church goal before the people.  Our church goal is posted all over the church.  In the sanctuary we chart our progress toward that goal.

Probably the most important factor in our church is the fact that we let people know the good their money does.  We show the promotional videos, we participate in mission studies, and we read the missionary moments produced by the mission boards.  Whenever missionaries are available they speak in our church.  There have been at least 10 missionary speakers in our church over the last 4 years. (More if you count military chaplains.)

This was produced to show the many things a gift to LPBC does

As for the 11% we give to the CP.  We make it known what a gift to our church does.  This may again come back to the pastor, but his view is that if we ask our people to tithe, the least the church can do is to tithe.  (We also give 5% of our undesignated offerings to the NSRBA.)  When, a few years ago, the state convention introduced their 3 years to add 1% initiative, we just added one percent on the next budget.

People in our church know how the cooperative program works.  They may not have percentages memorized, but they certainly understand the concepts.  They know what their giving does.  And that I believe is the key.

Any of you from my church feel free to chime in and tell me what I left out.

Cooperative Program?

Before I get to the actual point of this post I need to be clear about something.  I do not intend this as a polemic.  I am not writing to unite myself with any movement or to denigrate any movement.  I am merely writing about a trend I see that I am not quite certain how I feel about.  Also, I hinted at my feelings on this topic with a post at Christmas. In 1925 the Southern Baptist Convention put in place the cooperative program (CP).  This simple and brilliant concept has allowed us to become the greatest mission sending organization on the world with about 11,000 Southern Baptist missionaries.  It has made the Southern Baptist Convention the third largest relief organization in the US.  It funds 6 theological seminaries providing solid conservative theological education, and it funds countless other ministries done through state Baptist conventions.

The beauty of the cooperative program is that we can do so much more as a group of cooperating churches than any of us can do alone.  Who has not heard the story of an independent Baptist missionary who had to leave the field and find new funding after his sponsoring church split or simply changed leadership?

Are there problems with the CP?  Sure.  Alvin Reid said it well in his blog:

The Cooperative Program still matters. But simply giving because one is "supposed to" has passed. Momentum is gaining for real accountability and much more effective stewardship. I meet no one who wants to take away from the support of missionaries or the training of ministers. But I meet plenty who say something like these words from one of the brightest young men I know: "In the Conservative Resurgence, many pastors and churches expressed frustration when their giving supported liberal professors in our schools. Now, many I know have the same frustration over giving to a bureaucracy that wastes precious money that could be more focused on the gospel." I remember as a young minister thinking that if the average person in the pew knew some things being taught in our colleges and seminaries, they would want a revolution. Recently, one of the most recognized leaders of our time commented that if the average Southern Baptist knew how every penny of their money was being spent, they too would want a revolution. The category has changed, but the sentiment of dissent is the same.

I agree with the need for much better stewardship of the funds.  I'm especially talking to you, BSCNC.  Only 37 cents of every dollar goes out of the state.  Really; is that the best you can do?  I would strongly support a motion to move the BSCNC to a 50/50 split.  I would even consider making that motion from the floor if I had the proper help and encouragement.  (Sorry, I got a little distracted there)

Churchill famously said "democracy is the worst form of Government except all those other forms that have been tried."  This is very much how I feel about the CP.  Even though there are some problems, it is the best method of funding missions.

Having said all of that, there is a trend I have noticed in the last few years.  This trend is the fragmentation of giving.  I see it most in new church plants, but it can be seen in other places as well.  Most new church plants have missions giving at the forefront of their plans.  However, it seems that very often this giving is in the form of specific projects.  Some have goals of planting a certain number of other churches, some say that they will accomplish some project in a place where the gospel is not known, or they will build church buildings in places where believers need the financial support.  All these are things that the CP does, but these will be done through some avenue specific to the particular project.

I know that churches have to have other mission projects besides just the CP.  Recently I attended a meeting in which we talked about a specific ministry project in Bihar India.  This project is part of a partnership with NC Baptist Men and the Transforming India Movement.  I believe in this ministry and will be proud to support it.  I think it likely that our VBS offering will go to this ministry.  (Hopefully our VBS students will be able to drill a well in Bihar.)

Does this make me a hypocrite?  Again, I know that churches have to have other mission projects besides just the CP.  Virtually all local ministries fit this category.  The problem is when they are done as a replacement to the CP.  I am not even saying that these other projects are not worthy or good, but when they replace CP giving we all become less effective.  Why does this fragmentation make us less effective?  Because regardless of where missions funds go, there will be a need for administration.  The more fragmented the giving becomes, the more administration is needed.

One of the things I learned from Baptist history is that one of the reasons our Southern Baptist ancestors separated themselves was a rejection of the mission society model.  The society model was inefficient and overly fragmented.  I do not know why our churches would willingly return to this.

I have one theory on the cause.  I believe it is an easier vision to cast to say, let's raise $5,000 to provide 2 clean-water wells in India, than to say let's give $5,000 to the LMCO when it's unclear exactly what that money will do.  People wonder when Lottie will ever be paid off.  The goal in this type of giving is less clear and more nebulous.  There is no denying that people work harder toward a goal that is reachable.  (Tomorrow I will write about how my church, as small as it is, gives so generously to the CP)

I support church planting but I believe we can plant more churches through the CP.

I support missions giving but I believe we can support more missionaries through the CP.

I would like to hear from some of you whose churches practice this.  Do you think I am wrong?  Is my theory about vision wrong?  Am I just too old-school and beholden to the cooperative program because of how cheap my M.Div was?

A Few More Thoughts on the SBC President

In my previous post I asked people to lobby me for their candidate for SBC president. As I have thought about this I realize that many of my readers need a bit of a lesson in Southern Baptist polity.

I think the first thing to establish is that the president of the Southern Baptist Convention is largely a figurehead position. What I mean by that is that the SBC itself is not so much a denomination as a collection of independent churches. No president of the convention or Associational Director Of Missions has any actual power over any church. Our statement of faith the BFM 2000 is just that; a statement of faith. We join ourselves together because we hold common beliefs not because of any hierarchy. Our associational DOM has no authority over the 96 churches of the NSRBA. The convention president is the same. He has no real power.

So what does the president do and why even bother going to the convention at all? The president is moderator of the convention, he appoints the committee on committees, and he serves largely as a spokesman for all Southern Baptists to the media.

Let’s look at each of these duties and deal with them separately with the 6 candidates in mind.

First, the SBC president serves as moderator over the convention. This is a 2-day per year job. (In execution, though surely there is a lot of prep work that must be done.) Based on my knowledge of the candidates any of them would be fine in this position. There is a parliamentarian on hand to keep whoever it is straight on the details. It may well be that some of the candidates are a bit more in love with the sound of their own voice than others ;) but the sheer amount of business that must be carried out in two days makes it necessary that the president keep things moving. The position of moderator concludes with the convention sermon, they all have different skills in this regard, but hopefully any of them would be well-prepared and ready to bring God’s word to the convention.

Second, the SBC president nominates the committee on committees. Once upon a time, this was probably the most significant part of the job. Now that the convention as a whole is solidly conservative, and full of inerrentists, most likely all of the candidates would appoint all conservatives to this position. (An aside: I am thankful to God for those who figured out the significance of this and led to the conservative resurgence.)

Third, the convention president largely serves as spokesman and ambassador to the media for the entire denomination. It would be impossible to be a spokesman for the entire group of millions of Southern Baptists. As I stated earlier, we are a very independent group, and only joined because we choose to cooperate. This part of the job is significant because the media does not understand the nature of our convention. So we need an apt spokesperson. I have heard Frank Page say repeatedly that he was approached by all the major presidential candidates and asked for an endorsement. There are many other people who to some degree speak on behalf of Southern Baptists. That is essentially Richard Land’s job description, and to a large degree Al Mohler does the same thing. But there will never be a true replacement for the SBC president. This is the part of the job where the candidates truly begin to separate themselves. This is also one of the reasons that the megachurch pastors have a leg up on the field in most cases.

At this point, for me, the election is down to Frank Cox, Johnny Hunt, and Avery Willis, in no particular order. You basically have one more day to lobby me for your candidate, or disagree with my analysis in the comments. Feel free to do so.

Also as a bonus, here are links to the candidates interviews with Baptist Press

Frank Cox

Johnny Hunt

Avery Willis

Les Puryear

Bill Wagner

Wiley Drake

Am I the Key Vote?

One of the major concerns we hear about in Southern Baptist life is the lack of “young leaders.”

You often read that people under age 40 feel somehow alienated by the processes of the SBC. I am under 35, and seminary educated, but I don’t feel either jaded or disenfranchised with the processes of the SBC.

I have no idea what all the commentators mean by “leader” but I’m pretty sure I don’t qualify on that front. I’m the youth minister at a small church, and I have no ambition to ever preach the convention sermon, but I do want to see the Southern Baptist Convention be the best it can be. I obviously am a blogger, (hopefully the stigma from that label is gone now) and I read a handful of SBC blogs. Some I agree with, some I don’t. I would very much like to one day earn my PhD and my readers already know I want to be a certified apologetics instructor. It would be great to have a bunch of readers on my blog, but this blog is too often about fishing to ever catch on in a big way. So, surely I am not a “leader.” All I want is to bring glory to God in whatever position He puts me. And if that means being a youth minister to 10 kids, then hopefully I can help them to grow closer to Christ and have an impact on their world.

Despite not being a “young leader” I believe I am the very person that many people are concerned about. As an under 35, seminary educated, Southern Baptist, I am interested in what happens, and deeply concerned with the baptism decline. I hope this doesn’t sound arrogant, really I just believe I fit the mold. I’m sure there are many like me.

I will be attending the Southern Baptist Convention in Indianapolis, and I can honestly say that I do not know who I will be voting for for president. There are 6 candidates. (<update>I am only seriously considering 3 </update>of them.) I am genuinely undecided. This is your opportunity to lobby for my vote. Use the comments to convince me that your choice for SBC president is the one who will best lead the convention.

Here are some things you may want to know about me before you begin your defense. Some of this is a repeat.

  • I am a blogger
  • I read many of the SBC blogs
  • I am not a 5-point Calvinist
  • I am not afraid of the 5-pointers (i.e. I don’t believe they are going to destroy the convention)
  • I admire all of the candidates for president
  • I admire some of them more than others ;-)
  • I can see nothing but evil coming from consuming alcohol
  • I really like the BFM 2000
  • I do not think megachurch pastors as presidents are bad for the convention
  • I do not think you have a to be a megachurch pastor to be a great convention president
  • I believe the cooperative program is the best funding device ever conceived for evangelizing the world
  • I believe that almost every state convention keeps too much CP funds (I’m talking to you BSCNC)
  • I believe that money sent directly to the SBC should count as CP giving (see the above item)
  • Did I mention that I believe consuming alcohol is pretty much indefensible
  • I am very disturbed by the baptism decline
  • I believe that the baptism turnaround will happen on the church level not the convention level
  • I am concerned about regenerate church membership. We should be honest about the size of our churches and convention

Let the lobbying begin