Saturday, January 5, 2008

On Stones and Glass Houses

FBC Farmersville gives to missions according to the traditional Southern Baptist pattern. Each month we tabulate our undesignated receipts for the month. We calculate 10% of that figure and write a monthly check to the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention to be distributed through the Cooperative Program. Every year at Christmas time, we set a goal for our Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. We place a collection of unlit Christmas lights at the front of the auditorium, lighting a portion of them each week to show our progress toward our goal. This year the generosity of the people at FBC Farmersville has yielded (as always) an amount greater than our goal and over $16,000 (I do not yet know the final amount). We also collect an amount toward the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering.

These days, many churches no longer give through the Cooperative Program in that manner. Also, many churches these days collect neither a Lottie Moon Christmas Offering nor an Annie Armstrong Easter Offering. Rather, they have pursued any number of alternative approaches to funding world evangelization. Some churches put flat amounts into their budgets for CP, LMCO, and AAEO. Other churches collect a consolidated missions offering, distributing their missions money according to a predetermined missions budget. Some churches adopt hybrids of these three methods (the traditional approach, the budget approach, and the combined offering approach).

Consider, for example, Emmanuel Baptist Church in Enid, OK. From 2001 through 2006, EBC gave a flat budgeted amount through the CP ($100,000 in 2001 and 2002, $105,000 in 2003 - 2006). For 2007, EBC gave a larger amount ($115,250). The 2007 CP gift represented just over 5% of undesignated receipts, an increase from the 2006 percentage (4.87%) but a decrease from the 2001-2006 average (6.80% with an anomalous outlying year in 2004 in which the budgeted figure amounted to wonders whether the ACP data is accurate for that year).

EBC's stats also suggest that the church has experimented with flat budget amounts for LMCO and AAEO. In 2001 and 2002, the respective amounts for LMCO and AAEO were $40,000 and $30,000. In 2003 and 2004, they were $42,000 and $31,500. In 2005 the church gave a commendable increase of $60,291 to the LMCO (looks to me like the kind of uneven figure that would represent either the collection of a traditional offering or a percentage assignment from the budget receipts). AAEO results for that year declined to $3,383, so that the total amount given to the missions offerings had actually declined by around $10,000. The years 2006 and 2007 witnessed a precipitous decline in LMCO giving, from $60,291 to $8,400 (2006) and $9,000 (2007). These round figures suggest a return to a budgeted amount (or perhaps a donor committed to raising the gifts to a particular figure). The AAEO offerings for 2006 and 2007 were $5,600 and $6,300.

Like many churches these days, EBC has pursued a significant level of missions giving outside the Cooperative Program and the missions offerings. Lately, these traditional vehicles have accounted for around a fifth of EBC's self-reported missions involvement. Below is the data table for Emmanuel Baptist Church, Enid.

Emmanuel Baptist Church, Enid, OK
Undes. Rcpts.
Tot. Msns.
2,212,115.00 111,250.00 5.03% 9,000.00 0.41% 6,300.00 0.28% 580,301.00 26.23%
2,156,442.00 105,000.00 4.87% 8,400.00 0.39% 5,600.00 0.26% 573,614.00 26.60%
1,912,782.00 105,000.00 5.49% 60,291.00 3.15% 3,383.00 0.18% 313,495.00 16.39%
750,000.00 105,000.00 14.00% 42,000.00 5.60% 31,500.00 4.20% 316,700.00 42.23%
2,013,524.00 100,000.00 5.21% 42,000.00 2.09% 31,500.00 1.56% 319,200.00 15.85%
1,907,221.00 100,000.00 5.24% 40,000.00 2.10% 30,000.00 1.57% 294,200.00 15.43%
1,672,420.00 100,000.00 5.98% 40,000.00 2.39% 30,000.00 1.79% 288,300.00 17.24%

Highview Baptist Church's statistics show the pattern of a church that collects a unified missions offering, distributing it to the various Southern Baptist missions causes according to a predetermined formula. For example, you might note in the table below that the ratio between the LMCO and the AAEO figures in 2001 and 2002 are the same. It looks like they were distributing the missions offering according to the same percentages those years.

Lottie Moon's idea was that each Southern Baptist church should emphasize and collect a special offering just for Foreign Missions around the time of Christmas, forwarding all of the proceeds to the Foreign Missions Board (now IMB). A century later, many of our churches no longer follow Lottie Moon's plan, apparently including both of these churches. Yet, the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering is one of those changeable methods, not one of those timeless principles. I believe that the LMCO is a method that still works; therefore, FBC Farmersville still collects a Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. The principle is to provide the needed funding for our global missionary efforts. If someone could demonstrate to me that some other method would result in greater IMB funding from FBC Farmersville, then I would gladly do the something else. Indeed, we tried the combined missions offering one year, but we quickly decided that we preferred the traditional method. Nevertheless, I do not fault either of these churches for departing from the traditional model. They are both supporting world missions, as Highview's table of data reveals.

Highview Baptist Church, Louisville, KY
Undes. Rcpts.
Tot. Msns.
---Not Yet Reported---
5,082,133.00 167,917.00 3.30% 0.00 0.00% 0.00 0.00% 726,185.00 14.29%
4,185,873.00 175,183.00 4.19% 32,470.00 0.78% 6,958.00 0.17% 579,781.00 13.85%
3,843,663.00 153,500.00 3.99% 4,096.00 0.11% 1,050.00 0.03% 384,030.00 9.99%
3,475,634.00 152,664.00 4.39% 7,222.00 0.21% 1,896.00 0.05% 327,374.00 9.42%
3,105,191.00 151,333.00 4.87% 57,163.00 1.84% 15,243.00 0.49% 638,373.00 20.56%
2,920,309.00 146,000.00 5.00% 67,733.00 2.32% 18,062.00 0.62% 352,328.00 12.06%

Highview's data for 2007 has not yet appeared on the ACP data site. After very little effort on my part, however, I was able to obtain a copy of Highview's 2008 missions plan. They have entitled their plan "Millions for Missions." I like it already, just from the title. A close-up look at their plan reveals what their ACP data suggested—they collect a unified missions offering. Their goals for 2008 are impressive. The data is in PDF format, and I don't know of a quick and easy way to move that over into an HTML table, so I'll just give you the highlights manually.

Millions to Missions
Local Missions
National Missions
International Missions
Cooperative Program
Lottie Moon

Under the International Missions area, I broke out their Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon line items to show you the kind of commitment this church has made to SBC missions—half a million dollars! Another $150,000 goes to Southern Baptist church plants in places like Philadelphia and New York City.

Personally, I favor the traditional method. I recommend it to Emmanuel Enid, Highview Louisville, and everyone else. Our 10% to CP has served FBC Farmersville well for years. Collecting a Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and an Annie Armstrong Easter Offering works well for us. Other churches do it another way. I think that we would all get more money to the mission field if we all followed the traditional approach, but I am thankful for the money that both of these churches send to missions. Although my much smaller church reported more money to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering in 2006 than either of these churches, I have no desire to sling stones in either of their directions. I think that all three of our churches want to see every knee bow and hear every tongue confess, and all three of our churches are hard at work about it in our own way. In most categories of the ACP, both of these churches leave FBC Farmersville way back in the dust. Look at our numbers long enough, and you'll see that we have plenty of weaknesses. That's why I'm not going to hurl any stones in these ACP number wars. I certainly recommend the same course of action to Wade Burleson.

As a final comment, allow me to take a stab at suggesting how we should employ CP statistics in evaluating candidates for service to the SBC at any level.

We ought to ask the question, "How much credit/blame should candidate X get for church Y's CP giving?" My church has a great CP-giving record. I'll tell you right off the bat, I don't deserve much credit for it. FBC Farmersville has been faithfully supporting the Cooperative Program for a long time—long before I showed up here nine years ago. I'll take some credit for having no desire to lead the church away from strong CP support, but that's as far as it goes. Current SBC President Frank Page also pastors a church with stellar CP giving. He deserves less credit than I do—under his watch Taylors has reduced its CP giving. Nevertheless, I'm betting that he might have enough clout there to have reduced it even more, and he deserves credit for his restraint in lowering CP giving while at Taylors. I once led a church that gave zero through the CP. I fought it for the two years that I served there, and then I left. I deserved absolutely none of the blame whatsoever for that church's lack of CP support. Current SBC Vice President Jim Richards is the architect of the Southern Baptist of Texas Convention's phenomenal and sacrificial CP budget, so he deserves an enormous amount of credit for what SBTC does. Show me a pastor who went to a church that was giving very little to CP when he came, but is giving 10% now, and I'll show you someone who is likely a CP champion.

The only way that Southern Baptist Theological Seminary gets money from Highview Baptist Church is through the Cooperative Program, as far as I can tell. From that fact alone, I can promise you that the Southern's president is a voice in favor of strong CP support within the membership of Highview. Let no one imply otherwise, especially unless one has done the basic research to support such an accusation.


Anonymous said...

Let me start by saying I enjoy your blog and I'm with you on nearly all your stuff.

Now for the critique...

Why the analysis of Wade Burleson's church? It seems that your post would have just as much validity and everyone would have understood the counterpoint to Wade's post today about Mohler if you had either not used his church as an example or chose a different church.

I would assume (and I know what happens when I assume) that you received your data from the Southern Baptist Directory Service. If you did, are you sure you were able to check the yes box next to "I have read and understand the Southern Baptist Directory Services Data Protection Agreement and agree to abide by the terms of the agreement."

If you got the information from some SBC published annual, my apologies for thinking otherwise.

Keep up the good work. I'm one of those younger leaders trying to figure out if the SBC is still worth the fight.

Brent L. Williams

Bart Barber said...

Hi, Brent, and thanks for your readership. Thanks also for the critique. Good ones of those always strengthen us one way or the other.

1. Why Burleson's church? I asked in a post at his blog. He did not object. His church illustrates the fixed-budget-amount approach. His critique of Highview makes his stats fair game. All of these points, considered together, are why I included his statistics.

2. Have I violated the SBDS user agreement? I don't think so. My use of the data (as a part of the process of choosing our next SBC president) certainly falls within the ministry and business of the SBC and all of our churches. This is, I assume (taking the same risk that you have so aptly acknowledged!), precisely the same kind of use that enables Baptist Press to report on Highview's numbers, my local association to report numbers in the associational newsletter, and Wade to blog about Highview's numbers in the first place. If I were using the data to sell it to spammers or market Olan Mills directories, then I would be in trouble.

cameron coyle said...

In light of the comparison you've drawn, I'd say it's fair game to ask Bro Burleson why a member of a church that gives 3% to the CP is not qualified to serve the SBC as president, but a pastor of a church that gives 5% is qualified to serve as a trustee of the IMB.

His criticism is completely indefensible IMHO, and, might I dare even say, hypocritical.

Personally, I'd say both churches should be commended for their past support of the CP, and encouraged to continue and expand their support of God's work, both through the CP and through the other ministries of their church. I'd also add that neither Burleson nor Mohler should be disqualified from service because of their respective church's CP numbers.

Interesting, don't you think, as to who is narrowing the parameters now?

Ron Phillips, Sr. said...


How dare you blog an article with supporting facts that contradicts an apocryphal blog of dubious research to the North. :) Seriously, you make excellent points regarding missions giving.

This is nothing but an attempt to fabricate an issue to try and keep the SBC from electing Dr. Mohler as President.

One other issue, will someone please put forth a motion that clearly puts their prevaricate idea that the Garner motion was a motion that the BFM is to be used as a maximal statement of faith.

Ron P. said...


I realize communication is a two way street and sometimes I do not communicate well. You state in your comment to Brent Williams that I have given 'a critique of Highview' regarding her CP giving.

I have reviewed my post and I sure can't see where you could interpret I am critiquing the church. Could you point out to me where I have done so because I would like to correct the poor communication?

My point is that the President of the Southern Baptist Convention needs to demonstrate consistent leadership in Cooperative Program giving. I realize that Al is not the Senior Pastor, but I do believe he is considered a 'teaching pastor.' My church's 5% giving to CP I believe should disqualify me from seeking the Presidency of the SBC, so I am not asking for a standard that I am unwilling to accept myself.

But I will also not criticize my church - just like I do not critiize Highview. Both congregations seem to demonstrate a love and passion for missions - both in traditional methods and non-traditional methods. I KNOW my church is mission minded and I assume Highview is as well.

Finally, I also agree with you that mistakes can be made on the report, as it seems a few were made regarding the statistics from our church. Nevertheless, I think the discussion is a good one.

Regarding serving on the IMB as a trustee, I made it very clear that our church gave only 5% before I was nominated - and I did not seek the position. We are increasing our CP giving as a church, and I should be saving the Convention money this year as I will be paying my own way to meetings.

Bart Barber said...


You have characterized Highview's support of SBC missions causes as non-exemplary, you have not only stated but have also emphasized in boldfaced type that Highview gave nothing to LMCO or AAEO (recent investigations suggest that the ACP may technically be in error at that point), and you have done it all to suggest that, because of Highview's giving plan, Al Mohler is not qualified to serve as SBC President.

I doubt that the people of Highview would construe your comments as the awarding of a blue ribbon.

Bart Barber said...


I should add that I do not believe that your church's record of giving to missions disqualify you either from serving as an IMB trustee or from serving as president of the SBC.

And again, kudos on the 97 professions of faith. said...

Bart, I commend you for your research. A couple of questions and I believe you may very well put to rest any concerns I have on this subject...

In 2006 and 2007 there were no reported contributions from Highland, Al Mohler's church, to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering. In addition, $167,917 (3.3%) was given to the Cooperative Program in 2006 with nothing yet reported for 2007.

However, Highland has expressed their intention to increase Cooperative Program giving to $400,000 in 2008 and they have said they will give $100,000 to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering in 2008?

Is that correct?

If so, I would be very interested in the answer to three questions:

(1). Is this the first time the Millions to Missions campaign has been used, or was it used in 2006 and 2007?

(2). Who made the decision to set the amounts for CP giving and Lottie Moon giving through the Millions to Missions campaign for 2008 (the church, the staff, the elders, etc. . . ), and is it always reported to the church at the beginning of the year what Highland intends to give to the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon offerings, and as with all SBC churches when it comes for year end reports then the actual amount given through the traditional CP and Lottie Moon offerings is factually reported on the ACP data site?

If the Millions to Missions campaign is new and unique, and if Highland will truly give for the first time in their history $400,000 to Cooperative Program and $100,000 to Lottie Moon, representing a whopping 133% increase to CP and a whopping 100,000% increase to LM, then the emphasis on the Cooperative Program giving of Presidential candidates seems to be working, and Highland and Al Mohler both are to be commended.

Since you seem to love this kind of research I am sure the answers to these questions will not be difficult to obtain. I am looking forward to keeping track of the 2008 CP and Lottie Moon numbers because I believe it could represent, if accurate, the highest percentage increase to these two offerings in the history of the SBC, and I think our convention (and my church) needs to understand how they did it so we can replicate it.



Bart Barber said...


It being a Saturday, my research is stalled for the moment. Yet I anticipate that one of three things will happen...

1. Christ will return this weekend, in which case I doubt either you or I will think to ask anyone about such mundane things.

2. I will not live to see Monday, in which case I'll see you when you get there.

3. I'll be able to answer all of your questions in a subsequent post that I have already planned for Monday.

Bart Barber said...

Well, it being 8:00 PM on Saturday, in a couple of hours I'm going to have to start trying to figure out what to preach about tomorrow. ;-)

I'll catch you all later.

Paul said...

So far only one of Wade's three concerns is being addressed and for me it is the weakest of the three since it is the one Al Mohler has the least direct influence on.

I certainly commend Dr. Mohler for what he's done for SBTS but I can think of at least a hundred better candidates for President of the SBC than an entity head, be it Dr. Mohler or Dr. Rankin and I really wonder what most would think if it were Dr. Rankin that were being nominated - and apparently seeking the nomination.

Perhaps that will be coming Tuesday. ;)

Tim Rogers said...

Brother Bart,

Thank you for the in depth research. Your talent for taking difficult tasks concerning numbers and making them appear simple is overwhelming.

I look forward to your upcoming post.

Brother Paul,

I am not understanding how one can express concern that an entity pres is being nominated especially since the history of the SBC reveals that it has happened before. Also, If my memory serves me well Dr. Duke McCall was nominated in the 80's and we certainly did not hear this kind of rhetoric.


Bart Barber said...

Howdy, Paul,

Indeed, if you hang around this blog long enough, you'll note my style for dealing with things facet by facet over multiple posts.

Upside: Each topic gets exhaustive treatment.

Downside: Sometimes I get so many threads going that it is hard to bring them all through to completion.

I promise to deal with each of Bro. Burleson's objections in time. We've got six months ahead of us.

Ron Phillips, Sr. said...


The CP giving of Al Mohler's home church is a specious issue (IMHO) and one that the antagonists have given a lot of importance to. They have set the tone of their attacks. Therefore, I think Bart is correct in his approach - deal with each attack one by one in a thorough manner.

Make no mistake about it, this is all about attacking Dr. Mohler because of his EXCELLENT address to the SBC Convention in San Antonio last summer. A speech that the Convention overwhelmingly cheered and supported. I fully expect to see posts over the next six months attacking SBTS, Mrs. Mohler, his dog (if he has one) and the parsing of each and every syllable of every word he has ever spoken or written.

Ron P.

volfan007 said...

ron p.,

you're probably right....sadly.


there you go again...making sense and writing facts mixed with sound reasoning and much truth. how could you do such a thing?

from your local, scary, fundie, narrow minded, bigotted, boundary narrowing, member of the he-men women haters club. :)

Paul said...


I can express my concerns because those concerns have been consistent. I've never voted for an entity head to serve as President of the SBC. I understand that there is historical precedent. There is also historical precedent in electing American Presidents who were slave owners but that doesn't mean that I either think it is a good idea or one that should be repeated.

In the secular business world no one would even be questioning whether or not there was a conflict of interest. This would simply serve as the very definition of such a conflict. That we have overlooked these conflicts in the past does not mean that we must do so again, nor that it was or is a good idea.

Paul said...

Ron P.,

That's interesting. I would think that I would be considered one of the "antagonists" to which you refer yet I have openly stated here that I think the CP giving issue is largely irrelevant.

BTW, is there something about Dr. Mohler's wife and dog that we need to know about? ;) Nah. I doubt it.

Paul said...

Hello, Bart. Or is Howdy, or Hey Ya'll more appropriate? :D

I assumed as much and look forward to what you have to say.