Wednesday, June 6, 2007

I Support the Cooperative Program

At the Tuesday Morning session of last year's Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting in Greensboro, NC, I stood at Microphone #10 and uttered the only vocal address that I have ever given to the Southern Baptist Convention. The topic was not Private Prayer Language. Nor was it Evangelical Ecumenism. As far as I know, it had not a thing to do with Wade Burleson. I went to Greensboro and spoke passionate (controversial?) words about the Cooperative Program. I had longed and prayed for a Cooperative Program Report that would resuscitate Southern Baptist hearts to sacrificial CP giving while fairly highlighting both the role of churches and the role of state conventions in accomplishing this feat—it was important enough to me that I mustered the courage to speak haltingly in that cavernous hall about the Cooperative Program. A few months later, I embarked upon my first assignment for denominational service, a position on the SBTC Resolutions Committee. Normally, committee members don't speak of their individual writing assignments—the resolutions belong to the committee after they come out of the committee, and to the convention after they are passed—but I'm glad to confirm that my writing assignment for the committee was to prepare our resolution #8 On the Cooperative Program (see the text here). The Cooperative Program is important to me. Of course, many people say that the Cooperative Program is important to them. Many people claim to support the Cooperative Program. But what does that mean? Especially in a day when state conventions like the BGCT torture the meaning of the phrase to make it fit giving plans clearly outside the historical scope of the term (see an item from Wes Kenney, Mr. CP Blogger, here). As for me, when I say that I support the Cooperative Program, I want you to understand exactly what I mean:

  1. I mean sacrificial giving at the local church level. We're always going after the candidates with this question—maybe all of the bloggers ought to be required to tell us about their percentage of CP support. We give 10%. Wes…you CP stat guru, you…can you search out the percentages of the other bloggers? As far as I am concerned, it is no easier for our church to give 10% than it would be for the largest mega-church in the convention. In fact, I suspect it is harder. Fixed costs, you know. My personal opinion is expressed in the resolution I authored: "[I] believe sacrificial support of the Cooperative Program to constitute a significant and integral part of being Southern Baptist." Churches that give a 1% pittance to the CP are dangerously flirting, IMHO, with losing their Southern Baptistness. Many of my friends will disagree, but that's just the way I feel about it.
  2. I mean sacrifical giving at the state convention level. This is the #1 reason why I'm so proud to be affiliated with Jim Richards and the SBTC. Next year the SBTC will adopt a budget that keeps 10% less money for the SBTC than it forwards to the SBC for missions causes around the globe. Folks, that is unparalleled! Think of the effect that budget has when applied to the gifts of so many churches. In a previous post on the 1VP election, I highlighted the difference that Jim Richards's SBTC plan would make on a single church, Green Acres Baptist Church, in the BGCT. The BGCT's budget sends just 21% for the entire remainder of the world and keeps 79% in Texas. If Green Acres were to switch from BGCT to SBTC, they could send hundreds of thousands of dollars more to worldwide missions without spending another dollar—and that's just one church. I'm fine with GABC making the autonomous decision to stay in the BGCT. I'm just showing how drastically state-convention selfishness can offset local-church generosity, preventing missions money from making it to the places of greatest need around the world. I'm thankful to report that many states like my home state of Arkansas are taking steps to keep less, not more, and give more generously to worldwide causes. I applaud. I think that kind of progress is necessary to the ongoing health of the Cooperative Program.
  3. I mean doctrinal accountability from the recipients to the givers. Right out of college I pastored a small Oklahoma Baptist church. When I went there, they were giving a flat $100 each year to the IMB. They had become convinced that the BGCO was financially crooked and the SBC was theologically liberal. I begged and pleaded for two years, but only worked them up to a small percentage directed to the IMB alone. When churches are not certain that the agencies are doctrinally accountable to them, they stop giving. We have a great system of accountability in the Southern Baptist Convention. I will describe it in detail in a future post. Suffice it to say at this point that doctrinal accountability and CP generosity go hand-in-hand. Earlier this Spring (on the same outing that produced the infamous J. R. Graves cemetery photo), my brother-in-law and I located the spot where the 1925 SBC annual meeting convened. The Cook Convention Center covers the spot today (and I think we ought to have our 2025 meeting in the Cook Convention Center in Memphis to commemorate the anniversary). It is hallowed ground for Southern Baptists. That one meeting defined the modern SBC by creating the Cooperative Program and The Baptist Faith & Message. The BF&M is not a creed; it is a gentlemen's agreement. It represents a reassurance to the churches that the people who spend our CP money live up to a minimum doctrinal standard. Whenever that agreement is violated, lower CP giving will follow as night follows day. If our agencies adopt further guidelines and refuse to allow the convention any say in the matter, that state of affairs will also damage CP giving. Fortunately, that is not the case. All of our agencies remain accountable to the convention. The process of accountability with regard to the IMB policies is playing out even this year. We'll see what is the eventual conclusion of it all. I'll make this prediction—it will be precisely whatever the convention messengers want it to be. That's because our system works (and remember, I'll be posting more about that later).
Yes, I support the Cooperative Program, and my support for CP will influence my voting this year: I will vote for Jim Richards for 1VP because I support the Cooperative Program. Because of his strong role at SBTC, more dollars go into the SBC's CP coffers because of Jim Richards than because of any other person in the SBC. That is, his commitment to sacrificial giving at the state level results in vast sums of additional money going to the SBC CP. Nobody—nobody—NOBODY does more for the CP. A vote for the CP is a vote for Jim Richards.

39 comments:

Anonymous said...

Bart,

Thank you for being a champion for the Cooperative Program! As an IMB missionary working in a level three security area, I can testify to the fact that every CP and Lotte Moon dollar that passes through my hands are accounted for because of the system in place and the multiply number of eyes involved in the process.

It saddens me when I learn of churches and states conventions that spend more on themselves than on the billions of people who have never heard the name of Jesus for the first time.

Blessings!
EA IMB M

Sean M. said...

Bart,

I agree with you wholeheartedly. Local and state works are important and should be funded, but not to the neglect of the rest of the world.

I'm not sure that 50-50 is even a good goal for the long term. I say that because each local Baptist church is already (hopefully) doing ministry in that state and pouring resources to local and state causes.

If you were to take all of the money spent by churches on local ministry, associational and area cooperation, and the individual giving to causes close to home AND add them to the CP portion kept by most state conventions- I think we would be ashamed at the disparity.

Sean

Bro. Robin said...

Bart

Let me say that our church is giving 10.5% this year. We were giving 10%, but I moved the church to increase its Coop giving .5% every other year until it reaches 15%. That may not sound sacrificial, but in approximately 9 years we will be supporting the SBC and her agencies with 15%, 5% more than what we did last year. Immanuel Baptist Church of Perkins Oklahoma does not give lip service to the Cooperative Program. We come through.

This is not bragging, I give all praise and glory to God for moving in our people to do this. BTW, the vote was unanimous.

One final thing, I have a wonderful church who is God led and Great Commission focus.

Alan Cross said...

Bart, just trying to follow your logic here:

Does this mean that a vote for David Rogers is a vote FOR MISSIONS, since he gave his life for missions by sacrificing everything and moving his family overseas to live among a foreign people?

I think that more than a few people would call foul if you used that type of logic by saying that Jim Richards clearly supports missions too, so it is not fair to act like David is the MISSIONS candidate, just because he is a missionary. In the same way, David is clearly a big supporter of the CP, since he receives all of his support from it, so I don't think that you can say that Richards is the CP candidate.

There are clearly other differences between the two. Trying to build off of the elections of last year and import their meaning into this year with less than completely accurate comparisons probably is not beneficial to anyone, least of all the candidates, who are both good men. Just some thoughts.

Benjamin S. Cole said...

Bart:

So much that you said here resonates with my own appreciation for the Cooperative Program.

But you've got to be kidding me? Jim Richards is responsible for sending more dollars into SBC coffers than any other Southern Baptist?

Were you aware that the BGCT and the SBC send equal amounts to the SBC every year? Were you aware that the BGCT sends more to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering every year?

You may need to look it up, but I think that Georgia sends more actual dollars into the SBC pipeline than any other state convention. I guess that makes Dr. White a better candidate for 1VP than Jim Richards.

Nevertheless, I support Jim Richards' decision to keep less money at the SBTC headquarters and send more money to Nashville. In fact, I've followed suit. Parkview is now sending more to the national convention than we send to SBTC.

I think many of the megachurch pastors are doing the same thing.

It is my goal to get SBTC to send 90% of its CP dollars to the national convention, and live on 10%. Don't you think that would really send more dollars into the SBC coffers?

I appreciate all you are doing to help lead SBTC to have less money and the SBC to have more.

Bart Barber said...

Thanks, Alan,

I do not mean to denigrate David, whom I like. Nor do I mean to denigrate Bellevue Baptist Church—I grew up in an area tremendously influenced by Bellevue and I believe it to be a great church.

Their 1.02% adds up to a lot of money.

I invite you to participate in our little informal blogger CP giving survey we have going on. What percentage does your church give through CP?

joerstewart said...

Mr. Cole:
I find it strangely odd you did not use your usual specificity and provide numbers for your church's giving. By the way, our church is now at 9% undesignated up from 4% when I arrived. We'll make 10% next year. Every one of our Bible studies supports an IMB or NAMB missionary individually. Our Faith Commitment offering up and above our regular giving will be distributed to missions as well.

joerstewart said...

Bart,
Your point is well taken. We applaud all state conventions that give to our missionaries sacrificially. All of them. The idea is to get each convention and church to follow the example set by the SBTC under the leadership of the SBTC. Rather than reducing their contribution over the years, they are increasing it. Praise the Lord! A larger percentage of money is getting where it needs to go.

Alan Cross said...

Bart,

My Bible says do not let one hand know what the other is doing. Parading our CP giving out in front of men so that everyone can check everyone else out and approve of them because they paid the appropriate dues into the CP is a bit suspect, don't you think? Are you saying that if our church's giving percentage is not as high as yours or Robin's that we don't support the CP or should not be listened to?

I can understand that type of criteria with an election to a national office, such as president of the SBC, but I don't think that we should start trying to find out everyone's CP giving. By the way, David Rogers is a missionary in Spain. Are you seriously questioning his support of the CP because his church, Bellevue, gives a small amount to the CP? What did they give when his father was pastor? Did you question his loyalty to the SBC then?

volfan007 said...

bart,

i agree with you brother. my church gives 20% to the cp, and we're glad to do it. i will also vote for a man who truly believes in the cp and supporting missionaries.

david

Tim Rogers said...

Brother Alan,

Interesting argument against telling what your church gives to CP. Something happened to me in a church one time. We believed that if you were going to be elected as a Deacon then we needed to make certain you were tithing. Therefore we began the process of getting that approved by the Deacon body and then the church. Before it went to the church it had to clear some huge hurdles with the Deacons. But we were able to place it before the church, much to the disagreement of a few Deacons. The church approved it and do you know what we found out when we checked? The Deacons that were saying, "the Bible says not the let the right hand know what the left hand is doing" were the ones not tithing.

I am not saying that your church does not give to the CP. However, I am saying that many that use that argument usually are the ones that are embarrassed by their churches lack of CP giving.

Oh, BTW, when I came in July, 2006 it was 1%. When the budget year came around I led them to increase CP giving to 7% and Associational giving to 3%.

Blessings,
Tim

gmay said...

Ben, are you praising the BGCT or indicting them? They should send more money to Lottie Moon they have three times as many churches as the SBTC. If your facts are accurate that the SBTC and the BGCT give the same amounts to the SBC, what an indictment on the BGCT. Oh, and if it weren't for those BGCT churches who designate their offerings to go to the SBC as a worldwide cause, the amounts given by the BGCT would be even smaller. A step toward the BGCT is a step away from the cooperative program. Leaders have repeatedly encouraged Texas Baptist to give $0 toward SBC causes. Remeber, cooperative program in the BGCT means something distinctly different than cooperative program in many other state conventions.

Folk Theology said...

Bart,

It seems to me that your logic would lead a person to vote for David since he is being nominated by David Dykes and Green Acres. Green Acres is number one in cooperative giving.

Jim's position doesn't give to the cooperative program. It keeps money from it.

Rick

Bart Barber said...

A man in our church and dear friend committed suicide this morning. This will be my last interaction today on the blog.

Alan, typing cannot convey sincerity, I know. I grew up in the shadow of Bellevue. As I said before, Bellevue's 1.0% or so adds up to a lot more CP support than I'll ever be able to give. I am not trying to denigrate David or Bellevue.

I'm just trying to point out my personal passion regarding the CP, and I'm trying to point out my personal excitement for something bold and new that Jim Richards is doing for CP effectiveness.

For whomever is so inclined, I would greatly appreciate your prayers.

Bart Barber said...

On the way back out the door...

I promise to resume posting either late tonight or tomorrow morning.

About the situation here: He was 90. They had both been sick lately. They were about to move into a nursing home. I was really worried about her—in my visits and calls I've focused on her. She shows her emotions and she's been really upset. The thought that he might be close to doing something like this never crossed my mind...

Someday I'll ask him what was going on.

The Ford Files said...

Wow, you'll be in my prayers today, Bart!

joerstewart said...

Tim:
The comments are strangely silent about CP giving. The gentlemen protest too much, me thinks.

Bart:
I'm doing a funeral for a lost man this afternoon. Romans 8 is a great place to share for someone who committed suicide.

sbc pastor said...

Bart,

My heart goes out to you, and my prayers go up for you. God bless!!!

In Christ,
JLG

Bro. Robin said...

Bart


May the Lord bless you with mercy, tenderness, and wisdom as you minister in this situation.

God Bless

Alan Cross said...

Bart,

You are in my prayers, as is this family. I am so sorry. There is often no way that we can know what others are thinking or what kind of pain they are going through. I praise God for His mercy during these types of things.

Alan Cross said...

Tim and Joe,

Sorry, I've been out of the office today. I understand what you are saying about trying to hide behind Scripture or protesting. Our church's CP numbers are very healthy, I assure you, and I would be proud to announce them here or in any SBC environment. But, that is the problem: I would be announcing them out of pride and to prove a point and establish an argument. I am not saying that anyone else is doing that, but I know that I would. I have already judged others in my heart when I have seen their CP numbers. I've already had to repent of comparing myself or our church to others. My question is, where is the benefit in that? How are we not feeding the flesh by comparing our CP numbers? Do you want to compare baptisms next? How about member to baptism ratios, or member to CP monies given ratios? What about your rank in your association or state where you line up in all these things? We get all these numbers from our local assocation or state convention so that we can see how well we are doing compared to others. I guess that is done so that it will encourage some to give or do more and it will shame others to get with the program. That all seems a long way away from being compelled by the Holy Spirit. Doesn't He know what each church should do? Let's follow Him and bless one another as we make the decisions that are God's decisions for each church.

And, should I assume that all who are touting Dr. Richard's CP record voted for Frank Page last year on that basis?

R. L. Vaughn said...

Brother Bart -- may God bless you and especially this family you've mentioned.

Anonymous said...

Bart,

Your friends may also want to know about the interview with Mac Brunson on Peter Lumpkins blog:

http://www.peterlumpkins.typepad.com/

Matt Brady said...

Alan,

Sharing CP percentages is not always about pride. When one sees God's faithful provision to others who give sacrificially, it is an encouragement to do the same. I remember many an inspiring tithing testimony that has encouraged me to give more sacrificially. Perhaps if you shared what God is doing in your church, it would inspire other pastors to lead their churches to give more sacrificially as well.

I think Jim Richards' leadership at the SBTC will serve as a great inspiration for other state conventions to to follow suit.

Alan Cross said...

Thank you, Matt. I appreciate your perspective and you are right. I just know that at this point of the controversy, when I am challenged to provide CP percentages for some reason, part of me would really like to, not to give glory to God, but to prove to anyone who would raise doubts that we are doing our fair share. I see nothing praiseworthy in getting into a spitting contest on this issue.

Another time, and you would be exactly right. If we were truly talking about what you are suggesting, then those types of testimonies are wonderful. In this environment, it seems apparent to me the purpose of this type of reporting. Perhaps I am wrong. Again, I do not call into question anyone else who has provided numbers - I am only stating what my motivation would be at this point and I know that it would not be good.

joerstewart said...

Alan:
I know it's not out of arrogant pride I posted my numbers. If we follow this line of logic then you should really protest how David Rogers announcement was handled. I've seen no squeamishiness at all from many about what David Dykes did. Seems like a double standard to me. Many get hammered for talking about Dykes numbers but no one says anything about how that played out. Explanation?

Ben Cole is never reluctant to throw out the numbers of Dr. Patterson. He's even released his own personal salary information. It's a simple question. How much does his church give to the CP?

joerstewart said...

I agreed with the logic of the Page vote. It's why I think he won. I was unable to attend the SBC last year because of extenuating circumstances.

Alan Cross said...

Joe,

I'm not judging anyone else. I don't know why people do what they do. I said that if I posted my church's numbers, it would be out of pride to prove something and win an argument, or to show everyone that I am part of the club. I have no idea why anyone else would do it - that is between them and God. I can only answer for myself.

Winning Truth w/Tim Guthrie said...

Guys,
A simple look at the giving plans of the SBTC and BGCT reveal that this post has hit the nail on the head and that some do not want this getting out.

CP giving does count and is important!

TG

selahV said...

Bart and others: for years my husband pastored in churches that gave very generously to the CP. I for one heard all the arguements about how we should decrease it so we could pay our pastor more (us). My husband went through two churches without retirement or insurance. Not because they couldn't afford it, but because they didn't see the need for it. My husband never allowed the CP to be decreased. I have learned so much about the CP giving from these blogs. I have been enlightened about how little of the money is going to missions abroad. But I've always thought a good portion went to our colleges and seminaries (which thrills me) and to new church starts (which thrills me more).
For over 8 years I have been very apathetic toward the CP. Mostly because of the liberal views I saw being pressed years earlier. I never really believed we'd have a conservative voice in our convention again. I don't know much about Dr. Patterson other than he was one of the leaders of the Conservative Resurgence. I am so glad he is who he is and has done what he's done for the SBC.

I don't believe Ben Cole's rants, tirades or ramblings in his personal vendetta against Dr. Patterson. I am ashamed of them.

I am so proud of Dr. Barber for his loyalty towards the CP but for the SBC specifically. I am so encouraged by everyone's desire to make greater use of the CP dollars for missions overseas. (even Ben's...if his words are authentic)

My apathy has changed in the past few months to a desire to give more and encourage others to give more. I want to know more.

Thank you Bart for sharing what you have. I encourage everyone to read the interview of Mac Brunson's with Peter Lumpkins at http://peterlumpkins.typepad.com I was so glad I read it. To have such a fine man nominating a fine man of God, fills my heart to the brim. Oh how I love being a Southern Baptist. SelahV

selahV said...

Bro. Bart: May God's grace be multiplied a thousand times over to you as you try to minister, console, comfort and make sense of this terrible tragedy. I'm so sorry for the loss of your friendship with this gentleman. May your church surround you with their love. And may you see the Sovereign hand of God in all the days ahead. selahV

Anonymous said...

This post is very ironic - in the early days of the takeover, it was the moderate churches that screamed loudest about the CP, the fundy churches who had thier pastors elected president said, dont worry about it. My how times have changed.

By the way, our BGCT church gives 10% and we designate our giving to the historic 63 - 37 split.

The BGCT does much good in the state of Texas, disaster relief, Buckner, many colleges etc. If the SBTC had as many ministries as does the BGCT, they would not be able to give 55% to nashville

Jim champion

peter lumpkins said...

Dear Alan,

We applaud you for your personal numbers you want to keep to yourself, though you make sure we know they are healthy. My question is, is that not potentially just as prideful an affirmation --my Church is healthy but yours may not be--as saying we give 10% but you give 5%?

Also, you affirm: "I am not saying that anyone else is doing that [sharing out of pride], but I know that I would... My question is, where is the benefit... How are we not feeding the flesh by comparing... That all seems a long way away from being compelled by the Holy Spirit...Let's follow Him..."

Alan, do you not see that, while you say you "don't judge anybody else" for doing the numbers, you quickly preach them all a sermon on "no benefit" and "feeding the flesh" stating presumbly that stating numbers is a "long way" from being "compelled" by the Spirit and "following" Him.

Hence, what are we to make of this? Are we all here judged by the above--including Dr. Richards--because we dare speak numbers?

Grace. With that, I am...

Peter

Alan Cross said...

Peter,

If that is what you got from my comments, then I miscommunicated. That seems to happen a lot between us. I did not mean to come on here with a self righteous rant blasting everyone for speaking about numbers. I just think that having comparisons between churches or individuals on this level, without knowing the whole story, can be problematic if there are complicating factors.

I specifically tried to say that if I answered the challenge it would be because I was wanting to prove something to someone, not to give glory to God. I was speaking for MYSELF, no one else. In other environments, I would be happy to talk about what we have done. It would be a praise. This is quite an adversarial time, so I know that my motives are not right. I only shared that our giving was healthy to assure you that I had nothing to hide.

Anyway, I will say it again: I do not project my motives onto anyone else. If it seems that I have done that, I apologize. I DO, however, think that this type of discussion, especially in relation to calling Jim Richards THE CP candidate is not the most accurate way to look at it, just as it is not most accurate to say that David Rogers is THE MISSIONS candidate.

Whether you believe me or not in what I am trying to say is entirely up to you. I do not condemn anyone else for speaking about numbers. I just don't want to get into spitting contests with people to prove my or my church's worth.

joerstewart said...

Alan:
Thanks for your gracious spirit. I do disagree with you. I do not desire to be cantakerous. I still wonder where the ubiquitous Ben Cole is. He's strangely silent.

joerstewart said...

Jim:
I don't think there's much historic about a 63/37 split (now a 45/55 split is historic),and imho there's always good causes that can divert giving away from missions.

Tim Rogers said...

Brother Jim,

In NC we have a 67/33 split and it is called Plan A. If you give to this plan, the 33% goes straight to the ExCom for the normal distribution, according to the '25 agreement. That agreement, put in place when the CP was implemented, merely is an agreement between the SBC and the state conventions allowing the conventions to be a collecting agent for the SBC. The funds, according to the understanding of the agreement, come to the ExCom from the state conventions for the ExCom to divide according to the SBC's decisions.

Can you tell me if the historic giving plan of the BGCT has the distribution of the state convention going to the ExCom for their distribution according to the directives of the SBC?

Blessings,
Tim

Anonymous said...

Tim

As far as I know, yes it does. That is our understanding when we fill out the form each year

Jim

selahV said...

Alan: I hear your tone. I really do. Peter, he's just being honest and speaking for himself. I think he is sincere. At least that is the way I've read his statement from the beginning. Also, I think posting of CP giving in the convention time has always played a part in helping people decide who is the candidate best suited to lead the convention. Since Alan isn't in the race, I see no reason to know his giving. But I'm very impressed and encouraged by others who've shared theirs. And I don't think they are boasting. We have nothing to boast about save the Lord Jesus Christ.

Just my female two-cents worth. selahV