Clear as Mud: GCR Discussions (Part 1)

Portrait of a boy with the map of the world painted on his face.

Portrait of a boy with the map of the world painted on his face.

At the last SBC, 95% of Southern Baptists in attendance voted in favor of having a presidential appointed GCR task force. It was an exciting day by all accounts. Over the past several months many of us have followed with excitement and prayed with hope, as the GCR task force carried out its weighty task. Exactly what they’ll report and how their report will be received is yet to be seen.

In the meantime, we thought it would be helpful to talk a little about how things are going. It seems to us that one of the most critical and sensitive areas under examination has to do with the way our Cooperative Program dollars are split up and the way that people talk about the issues associated with this.

In most states, around 70 cents of every dollar given to the Cooperative Program stays in the state. The 70 cents funds all kinds of helpful and serious ministry in the respective state. The 30 cents that makes it beyond the borders of the state through the CP is divided up between the national entities, seminaries, mission boards, etc. This, of course, is coupled with special offerings for NAMB, the IMB, and other state offerings throughout the year.

Should We Change the Percentage of CP Dollars that Stay in State?

One of the key questions that many are asking is whether or not 70 cents out of every CP dollar should stay in state. On the one hand, there are people like Dr. Danny Akin who have argued that more CP money should go to support international missions and less should stay here. Though the GCR document later softened the language, Akin, one of its authors, writes, “our denominational structures have become bloated and bureaucratic at every level, from local associations to state conventions to the SBC itself. We believe our ministry effectiveness is being strangled by overlap and duplication, poor stewardship, and a disproportionate amount of Cooperative Program dollars being kept by the state conventions.” When Akin was later asked what the real motivation was behind his strong language and hope for a GCR, he answered simply, “It is about getting the gospel of Jesus Christ to the 6 plus billion people on planet earth.”

So, it would seem, Akin and those who agree with him would like to see less money staying in the states (especially those with a large number of churches in their state) and more going to effectively equip those attempting to reach unreached parts of America and, especially, those attempting to reach the unreached peoples of the world. Their perspective really makes sense when you think about a few statistics.

For instance, the Joshua Project says that there are 2.75 billion unreached/least reached people in the world. I know, I know, it’s hard to wrap your head around that number. I’ll just pick a few examples from the site. For instance, the Ansari people of India have a population of 9,726,000. How many evangelical Christians are there of the 9 million? None. That is, amongst a people that are twice the size of the people in the state of Kentucky there are no Christians. Zero. And, as you would guess, the Ansari people are not the exception.

The Uyghur people of China have a population of 10,760,000. They have zero evangelical witness at the moment. The Hui people of China have a population of 12,561,000. You’ll find no evangelical witness amongst these people as well. The Sunda people of Indonesia total 34,720,000. Of this number, 0.08% are evangelical Christians. The Somali people of Somalia have a total of 7,678,000 people. They too, have zero evangelical witness. Are you tracking with us? Needless to say, when the need for gospel witness around the globe is put into focus it is overwhelming. At the very least, it would seem that more resources should go towards reaching these completely unreached people than currently does. This seems especially true in light of the fact that the IMB has recently stopped sending certain types of missionaries because of a lack of resources to support them.

Should We Keep the Current CP Standards and Focus on Giving More?

On the other hand, there are people like those writing for the Kentucky Baptist State Convention who have argued that the states do not keep too much money in their state and that they are not bloated bureaucracies. Rather, state conventions are actually quite streamlined in their ministry efforts. In a recent article, entitled “State Conventions Stretched, not Bloated,” Robert Reeves wrote, “Here in Kentucky, even in the best of times, we only have about 75 full-time Mission Board employees to meet the needs of nearly 2,400 churches. Other part-time, contract or temporary workers are also used to help out but their roles are by budgetary necessity very limited.” In other words, this team is doing a lot with very little in order to help Kentucky churches reach the 4.5 million people that live in Kentucky. Reaching these people, Reeves argued in another article, should not be minimized or overlooked in favor of international efforts.

Reeves writes, “This lostness is not imagined. It has been documented in a variety of ways. According to research conducted by NAMB, some 251 million people in the United States and Canada — that’s three out of every four — are lost. Here in Kentucky, according to research conducted by the Barna Group on behalf of the KBC, nearly 1 million Kentuckians are unchurched with another 650,000 not committed to the church on whose roll their name appears. The Association of Religious Data Archives estimated that nearly 1.9 million of Kentucky’s 4 million population in 2000 had no affiliation with any religious group. No matter how you want to cut it or whose numbers you want to use, the point is that there is a great need for missions on our own continent and in our own country and state.”

Thus, for Reeves and others who would agree with him, Southern Baptists don’t need to rearrange the percentages of each dollar that stay in state and go beyond. Instead, Southern Baptists simply need to give more dollars. Commenting on the need for more money, Reeves states, “right now on average here in Kentucky, 93 cents of every undesignated dollar that a person puts into the offering plate, stays in the local community for local church operations, ministries and missions. That leaves 7 cents to be divided among the state conventions and Southern Baptist Convention for all of the other work that takes place across the nation and world. And where we’ve ended up in part with the GCR is a scramble for how best to divide up that 7 cents. At times it reminds me of football players trying to recover a fumble on a muddy field.”

There are a lot of folks that we could’ve chosen to represent these views. Hopefully, these examples provided a helpful description of two different ways that people are approaching a “GCR.” Although many times they use the same language, it seems that they mean something contrary to the other. This, obviously, makes discussions about the GCR clear as mud for many people. We’ll follow up with our take on these two options next.