Archive for March, 2010

With all the talk, where are we being led?

March 29, 2010

“Do not, as some ungracious pastors do,
Show me the steep and thorny way to heaven,
Whiles, like a puff’d and reckless libertine,
Himself the primrose path of dalliance treads
And recks not his own rede.”

–Ophelia, Hamlet, Act I, Scene III

Much has been said in recent days about the preliminary report of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force. Les Puryear has recently criticized the addition of “Great Commission Giving” as an option of denominational support. Bart Barber had a three-part reflection on the report himself (part 1, part 2, part 3). Tom Ascol has both a post on his view on it, as well as the need for the underlying Resurgence. Baptist21 has a two-part review by Jed Coppenger. (Those cited above should take the link as evidence that I read you regularly!)

The question I would like to pose this week is: “But where is all of this talk leading us?” Are we being motivated to act out the Great Commission in our daily lives, in our church activities, and in our personal Acts 1:8 world?

Better yet, what leadership has arisen in response to this? As of today (March 29, 2010), only ONE candidate has been announced for the office of Convention president. He is noted in the Baptist Press article for reducing CP giving in order to directly give it to the IMB. While this is allowable (maybe even lauded) under the GCR recommendation…no opponent, no alternative, no other candidate has arisen.

This is paralleled (to some degree) by the ONE candidate for the office of SBC Pastor’s Conference president. He is noted of late for having been denounced by some as inappropriate for such esteem, to which the candidate has responded. In this situation, there appears to be an alternate candidate.

I wonder at (and fear the answer) the seeming contradiction here: both candidates lack “CP cred”…but only one has received a firestorm of criticism and open (unprecedented) opposition for his office. What tips the balance? Could it be something OTHER than CP credibility? If so, then is CP giving really all that important to us? And what becomes of the vision of giving reform, of fully supporting missions, and being sacrificial for the Lord….if we don’t act require any of that from our leaders?

A contemplation of one-track giving in the SBC

March 22, 2010

A post by Les Puryear (and the subsequent comment thread) got me to thinking about what would happen if we (the SBC) did only give through one method.

The assumption made (which probably bias the results!): the same amounts of money and the same patterns of giving would result if we all lock-step follow the one method. If you feel compelled by this post (“paying the thought forward”), please analyze if that would be not be true (i.e. as I say in Puryear’s comment thread, whether direct giving correlates to CP distribution by the states)

All page numbers from 2009 Book of Reports (the free-bound copy, not the one a part of the SBC Annual)

The cash flow:

States share of CP: $343,819,507 (p.5)

SBC share of CP: $204,385,592 (p.5, same as p.32)

Total designated gifts: $203,016,164 (p.32)

TOTAL money (CP/designated): $751,221,263


Scenario 1: states split 50/50, everyone gives only to CP

States share: $375,610,631 (+31,791,124)

IMB (50.00%): $187,805,315 (-56,392,179)
which translates to 1,139 FEWER missionaries
if states and SBC Operating contributes their surpluses, then only 811 fewer missionaries

NAMB (22.79%): $85,601,663 (-20,993,019)
which would be covered now by the states

SWBTS (4.80%): $18,029,310 (+8,090,751)
which translates to 934 students fully supported (pro-rated annual cost, p.82-83)

SBTS (4.80%): $18,029,310 (+8,115,241)
which translates to 629 students fully supported (pro-rated annual cost, p.82-83)

NOBTS (4.35%): $16,339,062 (+7,411,138)
which translates to 739 students fully supported (pro-rated annual cost, p.82-83)

SEBTS (4.31%): $16,188,818 (+7,271,598)
which translates to 655 students fully supported (pro-rated annual cost, p.82-83)

GGBTS (1.92%): $7,211,724 (+3,270,638)
which translates to 238 students fully supported (pro-rated annual cost, p.82-83)

MBTS (1.74%): $6,535,625 (+2,956,730)
which translates to 225 students fully supported (pro-rated annual cost, p.82-83)

Seminaries Total: +$37,116,096 (3,420 students fully supported)

HLA (0.24%): $901,465 (+409,741)

ERLC (1.65%): $6,197,575 (+2,681,788) = 76.3% increase

SBC Oper. (3.40%): $12,770,761 (+5,409,517)

Net effect: more money kept in America and fewer missionaries

Scenario 2: bypass states and follow CP distributions (give directly to Nashville)

States share: $0 — time to push that state missions offering!

IMB (50.00%): $375,610,631 (+131,413,136 from p.32)
which translates into 2,668 MORE missionaries!

NAMB (22.79%): $171,203,325 (+64,608,643)
which would cover only 18.8% of the states’ new need

SWBTS (4.80%): $36,058,621 (+26,120,062)
which translates to 2,947 students fully supported (pro-rated annual cost, p.82-83)

SBTS (4.80%): $36,058,621 (+26,144,552)
which translates to 2,026 students fully supported (pro-rated annual cost, p.82-83)

NOBTS (4.35%): $32,678,125 (+23,750,201)
which translates to 2,368 students fully supported (pro-rated annual cost, p.82-83)

SEBTS (4.31%): $32,377,636 (+23,460,416)
which translates to 2,113 students fully supported (pro-rated annual cost, p.82-83)

GGBTS (1.92%): $14,423,448 (+10,482,362)
which translates to 764 students fully supported (pro-rated annual cost, p.82-83)

MBTS (1.74%): $13,071,250 (+9,492,355)
which translates to 724 students fully supported (pro-rated annual cost, p.82-83)

Seminaries Total: +$119,449,948 (10,242 students fully supported), this also constitutes 34.7% of formerly states’ money

HLA (0.24%): $1,802,931 (+1,311,207)

ERLC (1.65%): $12,395,151 (+8,879,364) = 252.6% increase!

SBC Oper. (3.40%): 25,541,523 (+18,180,279)
which would cover only 5.3% of the states’ new need

Net effect: more missionaries, but severe cuts to state budgets/programs

Scenario 3: bypass states and follow designated distribution (give directly to entities = neo-societal)

States share: $0

IMB (69.95%): $525,479,273 (+281,281,778)
which translates into 5,680 MORE missionaries!

NAMB (29.56%): $222,061,005 (+115,466,323)
which would leave only 31.9% to cover the states’ new need (see below at SBC Oper.)

Seminaries combined (0.21%): $1,577,565 (-43,640,188)
which would cover only 44.1% of Midwestern Seminary’s income (the smallest of the 6)

HLA (0.0006%): $4,433 (-99.10% of budget) – inevitably closed down!

ERLC (0.07%): $525,855 (-2,989,932) = 85.0% DECREASE

SBC Oper. (0.20%): $1,502,443 (-5,858,801)
which could be covered by NAMB…(this year’s Convention at Alpharetta!)

Net effect: shuttering of many domestic ventures, including the state programs, in order to double the number of international missionaries

Perhaps the recommendation under Component #5 (p.27 of the GCRTF report), with some (obviously brillant!) modifications is so bad after all….

GCRTF Progress Report Component 5: Great Commission Giving

March 10, 2010

“Component #5: We believe in order for us to work together more faithfully and effectively towards the fulfillment of the Great Commission, we will ask Southern Baptists to reaffirm the Cooperative Program as our central means of supporting Great Commission ministries; but in addition, we will ask Southern Baptists to celebrate with our churches in their Great Commission Giving that goes directly through the Cooperative Program, as well as any designated gifts given to the causes of the Southern Baptist Convention, a state convention or a local association.”–Great Commission Resurgence Task Force Progress Report, p. 27

“Please understand clearly, we are not recommending any changes to the Cooperative Program but are reaffirming it as our central means of supporting the Great Commission ministries of the Southern Baptist Convention.”–Ronnie Floyd, Great Commission Resurgence Task Force Progress Report, p. 27

“[We] should acknowledge and appreciate [designated gifts as an] adjustment of nomenclature.”–J. Robert White, GCRTF Preliminary Report session

Because of a request from a fellow commentator (Louis at Praisegod Barebones), I have jumped to Component 5 to discuss what many see as the greatest weakness to the GCRTF report. In essence, a new term would be used in Southern Baptist life, Great Commission Giving, which would include both CP & designated gifts. Allow me to use the words of another commentator as a skeleton for my own response.

Steve Loggins, Director of Missions, North Jefferson Baptist Association, Alabama, wrote a scathing response to the GCRTF presentation, focusing at one point on Component 5:

“Component 5 is a big problem for me – I do not see how ‘celebrating designated giving’ is going to do anything but reduce support for the CP instead of enhancing it. If I am wrong, then I am wrong and I pray that Lord reveal this also to me – I do appreciate the gifts given to the association, to the state, to other mission causes – but if we put these along side of the CP as equal partners – then we will find that diamond of the CP will be lost in the setting of a host of other jewels – too numerous to count, for everyone has their own favorite mission enterprise.”

Rev. Loggins is correct in his cursory judgment…if the term is not defined correctly. If we indeed allow “gifts given to the association, to the state, [and] to other mission causes” to be counted as “equal partners” with CP, we are doomed to simply transfer our funds to a pseudo-societal model, much like the one we had before 1925. However, proper safeguards put into place should prevent this re-appropriation from taking place at too high a level. Will churches re-direct funds under a expanded definition? Yes, because they will have the liberty and the breadth to do so. Can we keep CP alive and even improve it? Yes, if we carefully determine how the money is considered as “equal” (more on this later).

“In fact, this is already part of the problem in the loss of CP giving which facilitates what we do as Southern Baptists.”–Steve Loggins

This would seem to be the case at first glance. Direct funding apart from CP is no doubt part of the problem of why CP is underfunded (poor stewardship by Baptists in the pews and churches are a large chunk, in my opinion). However, directed funding also keep our CP-supported entities alive.

The following data for the funding year 2007-2008 is taken from the 2009 Book of Reports, with page numbers indicated after each example. Direct contributions to Nashville for distribution through CP from individuals and churches makes up 3.09% of the CP budget (31). When distributed throught the CP allocations, that 6.3 million dollars constitutes anywhere from 0.84% (Southwestern) to 3.02% (ERLC) of an entity’s budget (20-26). Money from other sources (“designations”, “other gifts”, or “other sources”), make up anywhere from 1.47% (ERLC) to 22.67% (New Orleans) of the entity’s budget (20-26). By comparison, CP money allocated from the states’ contributions makes up 26.33% (Southwestern) to 94.83% (ERLC) of the entity’s budget (20-26).

In conclusion, we already give directly, either to get around uncooperative states (which I call support-with-dissent) or for direct one-entity funding, even before we expand the definition. We need to allow, maybe even encourage, direct giving, but be most careful not to revert to a societal, non-CP system in the process.

“We do not need to add more pieces to the pie – just enlarge the pie.”–Steve Loggins

I am loathe to re-hash old arguments of mine (so I will direct you to the post where I expressed them), but I will add two comments. The GCR will have to start with you and me and blue-haired grandma in the pew. If we do not give, whether societally, cooperatively, with the state, around the state, whatever, if we do not give, we will never fund the entities that we have commissioned to aid us in the Great Commission. We must “enlarge the pie” by emptying our wallets.

Secondly, we must encourage each church to feel free to autonomously give without encouraging them to undercut cooperative efforts. In consonance with the apostle Paul, set aside contributions for the good of the church, but also give to support common efforts.

The End of the Matter

What are our options?

1) We can refuse the recommendation:
This would preserve us from what many perceive is a watering-down (or at least, a putting on the back burner) of CP emphasis. However, it does not fix the underlying problem of poor stewardship at every level in our Convention. I then tacitly reject this option.

2) We can not define what “Great Commission Giving” and allow each church (association, state) determine it for themselves:
This would leave wide open the door to anemic CP giving and pseudo-societalism that Loggins (and I) fear. I actively oppose this option!

3) We can create a series of offerings, akin to Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong, to supplement and emphasize direct entity giving:
This option has been proposed at one level by some, including Bart Barber (and myself). This is a reasonable option at first consideration, but would be a scheduling and promotion nightmare. Consider the following yearly schedule:

JAN–promote Southern Baptist History emphasis
FEB–Historical Archives Offering
MAR–promote North American missions
APR–Annie Armstrong Easter Offering
MAY–promote state and national coordination?!
JUN–ExComm Offering (during Convention?!)
JUL–promote our professors and future pastors
AUG–J.P. Boyce Seminaries Offering
SEP–promote standing firm on social issues
OCT–ERLC Watchman on the Wall Offering
NOV–promote International missions
DEC–Lottie Moon Easter Offering

…and we think giving to the two mission offerings is already too low! This model also has the genetic problem of societal giving: pew burnout. And for thsoe of us who are passionate about supporting the work of the Convention, will we have to rob from Annie to give to the seminary? I must reject this option.

4) We can move the CP distribution to the state…or preferably to the local church:
Each body of believers, under our polity, has the right to direct their gifts to the needs of their community and their various inter-church associations. The role of promotion by the states and the entities would be directed from the Executive Committee’s subcommittee on Convention budget to the budget committees of the churches. collection of funds would then be at each endpoint: state office and entity offices. However freeing and patently Baptist this seems, this option also runs the risk of societal giving itself with the overwhelming flood of pleas and the need for expanded back offices to produce and distribute those pleas. I oppose this option as well.

5) We can define giving in narrow terms and promote CP as the best of all modes:
The best option, in my opinion, is to create a two-tier system of giving. Money given through the CP route of state-to-national would remain in place. A new category, “directed giving”, wold be created to encompass all giving not through CP: Annie and Lottie offerings and direct entity contributions. The two categories would be combined for a bottom-line “Great Commission giving”, that would replace CP giving as the (for better or worse) standard for Convention support (i.e. in our discussions about candidates for trustee or officer positions).
To give the designation “teeth”, a consitutional amendment to modify Article III, section 2 to read:

2. One (1) additional messenger from each such church for every two hundred and fifty (250) members; or for each $250.00 paid to the work of the Convention through the Cooperative Program during the fiscal year preceding the annual meeting; or for each $500.00 paid to the work of the Convention through directed giving during the fiscal year preceding the annual meeting. (additions in bold)

This addition would privilege CP giving over directed giving, while also encouraging directed giving as legitimate for churches who desires to cut one or more participants out of their cooperation. (I know this is a somewhat anti-cooperative action, but I think it helps more than hurts. I am open for discussion and better ways of proceeding.)

Finally, giving to non-national, non-state efforts, such as church mission trips, would be excluded from consideration. This is due to the fact that a church might give $2500 to a team of three people to go to Africa (like my own church is doing this year) and under a broad/unqualified “Great Commission giving” definition, they would be able to maximize their allotment of Convention messengers (see Article III). In essence, we could all go to the Convention, fully enabled by the present status quo to vote on Convention matters, and not actually fund anything that the Convention does. We need a “narrow” definition that still allows for support-with-dissent,but prevents us from bringing to reality the fear of Loggins and others (myself included) of a bankrupt, yet fully “supported” Convention. I encourage support for this option.

We need to clarify the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force recommendation so that what is a good idea in principle will be one also in practice.

“Component #5: We believe in order for us to work together more faithfully and effectively towards

the fulfillment of the Great Commission, we will ask Southern Baptists to reaffirm the Cooperative

Program as our central means of supporting Great Commission ministries; but in addition, we will ask

Southern Baptists to celebrate with our churches in their Great Commission Giving that goes directly

through the Cooperative Program, as well as any designated gifts given to the causes of the Southern

Baptist Convention, a state convention or a local association.”–Great Commission Resurgence Task

Force Progress Report, p. 27

“Please understand clearly, we are not recommending any changes to the Cooperative Program but are

reaffirming it as our central means of supporting the Great Commission ministries of the Southern

Baptist Convention.”–Ronnie Floyd, Great Commission Resurgence Task Force Progress Report, p. 27

“[We] should acknowledge and appreciate [designated gifts as an] adjustment of nomenclature.”–J.

Robert White, GCRTF Preliminary Report session

Because of a request from a fellow commentator (Louis at Praisegod Barebones

[http://praisegodbarebones.blogspot.com/2010/02/how-to-resurge.html]), I have jumped to Component 5

to discuss what many see as the greatest weakness to the GCRTF report. In essence, a new term would

be used in Southern Baptist life, Great Commission Giving, which would include both CP & designated

gifts. Allow me to use the words of another commentator as a skeleton for my own response.

Steve Loggins, Director of Missions, North Jefferson Baptist Association, Alabama, wrote a scathing

response to the GCRTF presentation

[http://noba-blog.blogspot.com/2010/03/observations-of-executive-committee.html], focusing at one

point on Component 5:

“Component 5 is a big problem for me – I do not see how ‘celebrating designated giving’ is going to

do anything but reduce support for the CP instead of enhancing it. If I am wrong, then I am wrong

and I pray that Lord reveal this also to me – I do appreciate the gifts given to the association, to

the state, to other mission causes – but if we put these along side of the CP as equal partners –

then we will find that diamond of the CP will be lost in the setting of a host of other jewels – too

numerous to count, for everyone has their own favorite mission enterprise.”

Rev. Loggins is correct in his cursory judgment…IF the term is not defined correctly. If we indeed

allow “gifts given to the association, to the state, [and] to other mission causes” to be counted as

“equal partners” with CP, we are doomed to simply transfer our funds to a pseudo-societal model,

much like the one we had before 1925. However, proper safeguards put into place should prevent this

re-appropriation from taking place at too high a level. Will churches re-direct funds under a

expanded definition? Yes, because they will have the liberty and the breadth to do so. CAn we keep

CP alive and even improve it? Yes, if we carefully determine how the money is considered as “equal”

(more on this later).

“In fact, this is already part of the problem in the loss of CP giving which facilitates what we do

as Southern Baptists.”–Steve Loggins

This would seem to be the case at first glance. Direct funding apart from CP is no doubt *part* of

the problem of why CP is underfunded (poor stewardship by Baptists in the pews and churches are a

large chunk, in my opinion). However, directed funding also keep our CP-supported entities alive.

The following data for the funding year 2007-2008 is taken from the 2009 Book of Reports, with page

numbers indicated after each example. Direct contributions to Nashville for distribution through CP

from individuals and churches makes up 3.09% of the CP budget (31). When distributed throught the CP

allocations, that 6.3 million dollars constitutes anywhere from 0.84% (Southwestern) to 3.02% (ERLC)

of an entity’s budget. Money from other sources (“designations”, “other gifts”, or “other sources”),

make up anywhere from 1.47% (ERLC) to 22.67% (New Orleans) of the entity’s budget. By comparison, CP

money allocated from the states’ contributions makes up 26.33% (Southwestern) to 94.83% (ERLC) of

the entity’s budget.

In conclusion, we already give directly, either to get around uncooperative states or for direct,

one-entity funding, even before we expand the definition. We need to allow, maybe even encourage,

direct giving, but be most careful not to revert to a societal, non-CP system in the process.

“We do not need to add more pieces to the pie – just enlarge the pie.”–Steve Loggins

I am loathe to re-hash old arguments of mine (so I will direct you to the poat where I expressed

them), but I will add two comments. The GCR will have to start with you and me and blue-haired

grandma in the pew. If we do not give, whether societally, cooperatively, with the state, around the

state, whatever, if we do not give, we will *never* fund the entities that we have commissioned to

aid us in the Great Commission. We must “enlarge the pie” by emptying our wallets.

Secondly, we must encourage each church to feel free to autonomously give *without* encouraging them

to undercut cooperative efforts. In consonance with the apostle Paul, set aside contributions for

the good of the church [http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans+15:26&version=NIV], but

also give to support common efforts.

[http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2%20Corinthians%209:1-7&version=NIV]

The End of the Matter

What are our options?

1) We can refuse the recommendation:
This would preserve us from what many perceive is a watering-down (or at least, a putting on the

back burner) of CP emphasis. However, it does not fix the underlying problem of poor stewardship at

every level in our Convention. *I then tacitly reject this option.*

2) We can not define what “Great Commission Giving” and allow each church (association, state)

determine it for themselves:
This would leave wide open the door to anemic CP giving and pseudo-societalism that Loggins (and I)

fear. *I actively oppose this option!*

3) We can create a series of offerings, akin to Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong, to supplement and

emphasize direct entity giving:
This option has been proposed at one level by some, including Bart Barber

[http://praisegodbarebones.blogspot.com/2008/09/southern-baptist-convention-im-pc.html] (and myself

[https://adubhigg.wordpress.com/2009/01/03/the-seminaries-are-in-troublesbc-people-to-the-rescue/]).

This is a reasonable prima facia option, but would be a scheduling and promotion nightmare. Consider

the following yearly schedule:
JAN–promote Southern Baptist History emphasis
FEB–Historical Archives Offering
MAR–promote North American missions
APR–Annie Armstrong Easter Offering
MAY–promote state and national coordination?
JUN–ExComm Offering (during Convention?!)
JUL–promote our professors and future pastors
AUG–J.P. Boyce Seminaries Offering
SEP–promote standing firm on social issues
OCT–ERLC Offering
NOV–promote International missions
DEC–Lottie Moon Easter Offering
…and we think giving to the two mission offerings is already too low! This model also has the

genetic problem of societal giving: pew burnout. And for thsoe of us who are passionate about

supporting the work of the Convention, will we have to rob from Annie to give to the seminary? *I

must reject this option.*

4) We can move the CP distribution to the state…or preferably to the local church:
Each body of believers, under our polity, has the right to direct their gifts to the needs of their

community and their various inter-church associations. The role of promotion by the states and the

entities would be directed from the Executive Committee’s subcommittee on Convention budget to the

budget committees of the churches. collection of funds would then be at each endpoint: state office

and entity offices. However freeing and patently Baptist this seems, this option also runs the risk

of societal giving itself with the overwhelming flood of pleas and the need for expanded back

offices to produce and distribute those pleas. *I oppose this option as well.*

5) We can define giving in narrow terms and promote CP as the best of all modes:
The best option, in my opinion, is to create a two-tier system of giving. Money given through the CP

route of state-to-national would remain in place. A new category, “directed giving”, wold be created

to encompass all giving not through CP: Annie and Lottie offerings and direct entity contributions.

The two categories would be combined for a bottom-line “Great Commission giving”, that would replace

CP giving as the (for better or worse) standard for Convention support (i.e. in our discussions

about candidates for trustee or officer positions).
To give the designation “teeth”, a consitutional amendment to modify Article III, section 2

[http://www.sbc.net/aboutus/legal/constitution.asp] to read:

2. One (1) additional messenger from each such church for every two hundred and fifty (250) members;

or for each $250.00 paid to the work of the Convention *through the Cooperative Program* during the

fiscal year preceding the annual meeting*; or for each $500.00 paid to the work of the Convention

through directed giving during the fiscal year preceding the annual meeting*.

This addition would privilege CP giving over directed giving, while also encouraging directed giving

as legitimate for churches who desires to cut one or more participants out of their cooperation. (I

know this is a somewhat anti-cooperative action, but I think it helps more than hurts. I am open for

discussion and better ways of proceeding.)

Finally, giving to non-national, non-state efforts, such as church mission trips, would be excluded

from consideration. This is due to the fact that a church might give $2500 to a team of three people

to go to Africa (like my own church is doing this year) and under a broad/unqualified “Great

Commission giving” definition, they would be able to maximize their allotment of Convention

messengers (see Article III [http://www.sbc.net/aboutus/legal/constitution.asp]). In essence, we

could all go to the Convention, fully enabled by the present status quo to vote on Convention

matters, and not actually fund anything that the Convention does. We need a “narrow” definition that

still allows for support-with-dissent,but prevents us from bringing to reality the fear of Loggins

and others (myself included) of a bankrupt, yet fully “supported” Convention. *I encourage support

for this option.