Clear as Mud: GCR Discussions (Part 2)

world-face-medThe GCR and the Need for Clarity

Reeves is certainly right, GCR discussions are quite muddy. And there doesn’t seem to be any signs that things will change. So, where do we go from here? This answer, of course, is complicated. But, to throw in our two cents, we’ll offer one suggestion.

We think that the conversation will only advance with clarity. That is, we think the conversation will only advance in a way that is pleasing to Christ when all of the pertinent facts are communicated about the issue.  Nobody will fight against a Great Commission Resurgence (not many, at least). Come on, we’re all about the Great Commission. In the same way, nobody will fight against reaching the state of Kentucky for Christ. Yet, there will be great disagreement about the precise way there will be a Great Commission Resurgence and how Southern Baptists will reach the state of Kentucky for Christ. Right?

If we had to vote for or against keeping the same percentage of every dollar in the state of Kentucky as before based solely on the information provided by Reeves’ articles, we would probably vote in favor of it. But, if we heard about the great need in Kentucky while also hearing about the even greater need around the globe, we would undoubtedly vote to send a greater percentage of our money towards this greater need. Make sense? If Southern Baptists do not have clarity when they’re talking about this issue, then it will not be Southern Baptists who are deciding whether or not to vote for a Great Commission initiative. Instead, it will be those that are delivering the “facts” that will be deciding the issues, since they only report the “facts” that support their cause.

Let us be up front. We think that if Southern Baptists are given the opportunity to view all of the relevant facts, they will support giving a greater percentage of their CP dollars for international missions. We think Southern Baptists will struggle to find words to describe the greatness of the need around the unreached globe when they see all the numbers. It seems to us that when many hear that 93 cents of every dollar stays in the local church they will realize that this only highlights the fact that too much money is staying in the state, since the current allocation of CP funds would mean that around 97 or 98 cents out of every dollar stays in state. In light of all of this, we wonder whether people will think that giving more money to the CP is the best answer since only a small percentage will actually make it to the unreached peoples languishing without a Savior.

Whatever you think about all of this, the key point we’re trying to make is this. In order for the GCR discussion to move forward we all need to put the facts on the table, even the ones that might hurt our arguments. We need to be able to say to those who disagree with us that we think that higher percentages of our CP money should go to reaching the hundreds of millions of people around the globe who have little or no Christians, let alone churches or denominational structures, and less should stay here. Or, we need to be able to say that we understand that there will be a lower percentage of the dollars given going to the nations, but we need the money to support the efforts of the denominational leadership and thousands of churches to reach the millions of Kentuckians. That is, there needs to be Southern Baptists who say we know that there are billions of lost people outside of the states, many of whom do not have a single Christian in their midst, but we think that most of our CP dollars still need to stay in our state. When Southern Baptists have discussions like this, we think the Great Commission will actually be helped.

The Great Commission Resurgence is important. What comes of it is important. How we discuss the various options along the way is important. At Baptist21, we are very concerned and excited about the discussions we’re all having. We’re haunted by the unbelievably large amounts of lost people around the world, with little or no access to the gospel. We know that many others, on all sides of the GCR, are haunted by this as well. But when it comes to the GCR, like Reeves said, things remain a bit muddy.

Comments 0

  1. I agree that all the “facts” have to be on the table.

    In order to support the case that a greater percentage of money currently received by the states should be forwared to the executive committee for funding the agencies, at least three aspects of the issue have to be addressed:

    (a) The reason that funds sent to the seminaries, the IMB and/or the NAMB are a better investment than funds spent by state conventions,

    (b) A finding that funds currently spent by states for (a) evangelism, (b) youth camps, (c) schools and universities, (d) youth homes, etc. can be curtailed because either: (1) one or more of these ministries are not needed or “secondary” or (2) these activities can be supported by some other mechanism besides CP giving,

    (c) A finding that the current CP giving model for any given local congregation should stay in place. This is the model whereby individual churches where around 90% of the giving received by that congregation is kept “in house” and never is sent to either the state convention or to SBC agencies.

    Personally, I don’t think these issues can be investigated in isolation. Both (b) and (c) are must be included in any plan to beef up increased funding for the SBC-wide agencies.

    I have no idea what the task force might recommend. What ever they recommend has to be a “system solution” that takes into account all stakeholders. Also, whatever recommendation they bring up has to be broadly vetted well in advance of Orlando.

    I don’t know what the solution is that the task force should recommend. I think the biggest potential for increased funding for missions is to look at what each of the 41,000 SBC churches does. This is where 90% of the potential for action is. Arguing about whether state “x” sends on 40% or 60% on to the exec committee is “lost in the weeds” by comparison.

    Roger Simpson

  2. I did poor editing on paragraph (c) in my previous comment. It should read as follows:

    (c) A finding that the current CP giving model for any given local congregation should stay in place. This is the model whereby around 90% of the giving received by that congregation is kept “in house” and never is sent to either the state convention or to SBC agencies.


  3. Thanks so much for your posts. You are exactly right in that we all need to gather as much information as possible and pray for the Lord’s leading to give us a collective wisdom about how He would want us to use the resources He provides. I know we all want to be the very best stewards of God’s blessings, whether that is on the church, association, state or national level.

    I hope none of us sees the GCR discussion as a competition or that we end up with an approach that cannibalizes one set of important ministries for another set. I firmly believe that God will provide the resources for all that He wants us to do if we will trust Him.

    These days I just can’t get away from the story of the feeding of the 5,000. I sometimes wonder if we are being like the disciples and seeing that we have only a few loaves and fishes instead of perceiving that we are in the presence of the Master who can multiply meager resources to the point that there are baskets of leftovers.

    I am praying for the Lord to increase my faith in this area.

  4. Roger,

    Thanks for your comments and thoughts. I am very interested by the cases you think need to be made.

    Let me try to answer your concerns:

    (a) One Reason funds sent to national causes are a better investment: greater NEED for church planting/mission in other areas of the US than classic SBC strongholds and especially in the world where there are so many lost people. This case has been made. There are 70 million people in Turkey and less than 3,000 believers, and we have almost that many baptist churches in a state like Kentucky that has 4 million people.

    (b) I think this is the wrong question. I am interested to understand why you don’t think a case needs to be made for the current structure in place? The state conventions (and national entities for that matter) need to be constantly making the case for their existence, not asking someone else to make a case, certainly not the church (see c)! The Church is the body that Christ died for and commissioned not agencies or conventions.

    Why is “evangelism” or “youth camp” the state conventions task? Why isn’t that given to the churches? I understand that churches must cooperate to have a college/university, but certainly evangelism, especially in the South, doesn’t need to be done by an evangelism director when there are thousands of churches!

    We need a new paradigm that is local church-centered.

    (c) Again, in my opinion the wrong question. Why is the local church being asked to justify it’s practice and you are not asking the state conventions to justify theirs? Local church should be primary not the convention! We believe in local church autonomy. Plus, it’s their money anyways. The State Convention is just handling it for them. Plus, based on this analysis why does any $ go to state conventions when about 97% of ALL $ given in a local church goes to ministry in that state. Why keep the other 7% when the churches are already spending 90% on ministry in that state?

    Now, let me agree with you. More money should be sent on by the local churches, but before we discuss that we need to think thru our theology and Ecclesiology. Either the church is primary or it isn’t.

    Again, we need a new paradigm… I think younger baptists are calling for that new paradigm and already putting it into practice where they can.

    I agree that recommendations from the task force will have to take into account all stakeholders but any time there is change in an organization there will be some stakeholders who are unhappy and there will be some who have to adapt.

    I don’t agree that looking at what states do with CP allocation is lost in the weeds. There is a LOT of money there. It is interesting that in this debate people will use percentage arguments where it helps them and downplay percentage arguments where it doesn’t help them… Again, why is it that the churches should be looked at and argued about but not the states?


  5. Robert,

    I appreciate your words and encouragement. Certainly I hope to have greater faith in this area as well.

    I do want to say that in these discussions I think we can discuss the possibility of stopping or lessening some important ministries in favor of greater kingdom advance without saying that a person wants to cannibalize a ministry. I don’t think the issue is between important and non-important here, but rather good & best/greatest need.


  6. Post

    Thanks for the interaction gentlemen. I basically concur with what Jon wrote. Roger, while you raise a complex issue with point (c), I think all of this comes down to the types of stats that I provided in my first part. With tens of millions of people around the world with no Christians in their midst (let alone “ministries”, churches, or denominational structures), how we can continue to keep most of our money in state is hard to understand. So, I guess, each person that is part of a completely unreached people group around the world serves as a reason for sending more money to the IMB. Whether or not some of our many ministries are able to be sustained with such a move, seems less important than doing what it takes to reach a the first person of an unreached people group (which might result in others coming to Christ, which might result in a church, which might result in other churches, which might result in a group of churches partnering together, which might result in a number of ministries…). I’m not trying to be over the top, But I think that when we really think about the current state of the world and the gospel and all that entails, it’s hard to make a case for keeping more money here. Don’t you agree?

    Robert, I appreciate your heart for ministry brother. I do hope all of this leads to greater faithfulness on the part of all of us. I’m consistently haunted about all of this personally. I do think though that we may disagree a bit about how this GCR thing should take place. For instance, you said that you hope that the GCR doesn’t end up “cannibalizing” one set of important ministries for another set. Does this mean that you’d say that the GCR cannibalized the Kentucky State Convention if, in the end, this all led to a higher percentage of every CP dollar going overseas to reach people who have absolutely never heard about Jesus and not staying in the state where there is plenty of opportunity to hear about Jesus? Surely not. Regardless, using a word like that kind of makes the options unclear. Like I said, the way we frame this debate is important. Who would want to “cannibalize” anything, much less ministries?

    Like you, I pray for more faith. But, I don’t think the story of the feeding of the 5,000 quite fits as it is. I think, rather, we are more like a situation where Jesus has provided more than enough food for the 5,000, but we, however well-intentioned, have taken all of it and used it on about 50 people. We all have food in our pockets and were putting food in their pockets (which they throw on the ground), all while the rest of the folks go hungry. What we’re saying is that, perhaps, when Jesus comes and holds us accountable for what we’ve done with what he’s given us, he’ll have wished that we did a little more cannibalizing.

    Thanks for your comments men. May God make us more faithful

  7. Jon:

    Thanks for coming back to me and with your questions.

    First, I am NOT taking the position that I know what the GCR should recommend or will recommend.

    All I’m saying is this: There are a number of various stakeholders in the SBC. Whatever, recommendations the task force comes up with has to be vetted by all stakeholders. For better or worse “state conventions” and “local churches” are stakeholders that are going to weigh in because they are part of the SBC family and are going to be voting up or down in Orlando on whatever the task force recommends.

    Also, I am NOT taking the position that whatever the “status quo” is relative to the state conventions and/or local churches is “etched in stone for all time”. All I’m saying is this: To the extent that the GCR task force makes recommendations that affect state convention funding and/or local church giving plans then I believe part of the work of the task force is that they need to reach out and come to a common understanding prior to Orlando with as many stakeholders as possible.

    Let me pick up on your thread of reasoning. Let’s say that the task force suggests some change to the CP formula which reduces funding to state convention ministries. Let’s say as you suggest that there are alternative funding mechanisms that can be developed for ministries such as youth camps — such as the Falls Creek camp we have here in Oklahoma. If this is the case then at some point between now and Orlando there is going to have to be “buy in” on this. There is going to have to be a 60%, 70%, 80%, or 90% “buy in”. Otherwise, the task force recommendations are not going to pass.

    I am not an apologist for the state conventions. All I’m saying is that to the extent that one or more ministries — that because of historical “coincidence” happen to be handled by the states — are moved elsewhere this has to be vetted ahead of Orlando.

    Here is my “lost in the weeds” argument. Say Joe Baptist gives a tithe to his local First Baptist church. He makes $50,000 a year. He gives $5,000 to his local church. The church passes on $500 to the state convention via CP funds. Let’s say the state keeps half. The state sends $250 to Nashville and the IMB receives $125. Let’s say the state increases its percentage from 50% to 70%. In that case the state sends $350 to Nashville and the IMB receives $175. I think the local church by boosting its CP giving (or its equivalent) from 10% to 14% [as an example] is going to have a MUCH LARGER impact on spreading the Great Commission.

    Jon, I am not trying to put words in your mouth but I think your are saying “why can’t the local churches be more missionary minded and thus obviate the need for some of the stuff that the state conventions are currently doing?” This is my whole point. The raising of funds and the spending of funds between (a) the local churches, (b) the state conventions, and (c) the SBC wide agencies are all inter-twined.

    If there is a case to be made for “rolling back” some of the ministries from the state level to “informal groups” of cooperating local congregations then that is a case that has to be on the table. For example, maybe the local churches should fund youth camps and children’s homes directly leaving state conventions out of the picture — I believe that is what you are implying. To the extent that that financial re-alignment away from the states is implicit in accepting the task force recommendations then it is incumbant on the task force lay this out and show why this makes sense.

    I’m one person who is keeping my “ears on the rail”. I’m waiting to hear what the task force might recommend. I have an open mind. Our current direction is not hacking it so obviously we need to change.

  8. Many of us agree with Dr. Mohler’s call for theological triage. What this GCR conversation is largely about seems to be ministerial triage. Of all the good things we can do with our money, what way seems to best extend God’s kingdom? Over the years, I think we (personally and denominationally) have accumulated a lot of things we think are “needs.” We don’t need our own youth camps, retreat centers, ethics and religious liberty commissions, etc. Having gone to one, I don’t think we even need denominational colleges. I don’t need Guidestone printing books that seminarians get for free at chapel and never read. I’m not trying to be mean here, just forthright.

    One of my principles in life is, “get EVERYTHING itemized.” Always know what you’re paying for. That is responsibility with resources, IMO. That’s why I prefer to keep cooperation at a local association level. It is great to talk about “putting all the date on the table,” but, with state and national, the average brain can’t handle all the data. We need to simplify if local churches are really gonna provide accountability and if we are going to stir our people to giving toward God’s mission.

    A good example of local cooperation is the Jefferson Street Baptist Center, which reaches out to Louisville’s homeless with practical mercy and a real gospel message. The Long Run Baptist Association provides a lot of funding for Jeff Street. A local association like this is small enough for members to know each other, so piety, and not just charisma, can be an element of influence. It’s close enough, so a pastor or leader can reasonably be expected to attend regular meetings. It’s limited enough, so most churches should have somebody who can follow up on details and provide real accountability to a ministry like Jeff Street.

    That said, there are certain things a local association cannot do, like fund seminaries and run foreign missions. For reasons y’all have already said, I’m willing to give up my itemization rule for those tasks. I don’t expect to pour over financial reports for each of the seminaries.

    But I’d like to hear some other comments on what are the “essential functions” of the SBC and/or state conventions that we must preserve.

  9. Warren:

    Maybe you have put a sharp lens on what others are hinting at.

    Namely, that some are anticipating that the task force will identify activities that the states are doing that are not “essential” and therefore can be eliminated or offloaded to an autonomous group and supported by user fees or some other type of non-CP funding.

    I’m open to such an argument. There is a precident for this. Some decades ago some of the state conventions sold off the hospitals they used to own and operate.

    I am not sure this is extensible to youth camps and children’s homes but I’m open to listening to the argument.

    As it relates to education, I really don’t know if states should turn loose the colleges or not. In a similar vein, I don’t know if the six SBC seminaries should be spun off or not. I think the burden of proof that the schools should be spun off is going to have to be on the shoulders of those making such a proposal.

    I went to a non-SBC seminary so I guess I’d hard pressed to say that the six SBC schools are “indispensible”. But I’d have to hear a convincing case that the schools should be become totally self-supporting. I’d want to know if the savings that accrued due to not supporting them directly via CP dollars wouldn’t end up being sent to the schools anyway in terms of higher tuition or user fees. If so then where is the net benefit?

    The argument also goes to youth camps. Even if we spun them off wouldn’t churches still send their students to these camps and pay the freight?

    If the task force envisions recommending actions along the lines that we are discussing then I think they are going to have to “start yesterday” to get out to the grassroots and share their plans.

    We aren’t talking about Lifeway here because they operate without any CP funding. I guess what is bubbling up here is that some feel that this model should be extended to more stuff in the SBC stable.

  10. Roger,

    Thanks for the response. Let me try to address some of this.

    You may be right about vetting by stakeholders and the need to get buy-in for the vote at the SBC. However, my hope is that ALL SBCers will be more concerned about reaching the unreached of the world than they are about their stakes! If not this convention is not worth saving or worrying about its future b/c we will all be self-focused rather than Great Commission focused.

    For the recommendations to pass they need to be recommendations that the majority of Southern Baptists agree with. It’s as simple as that. All Southern Baptists are stakeholders in this, even Joe Baptist. In fact, Joe Baptists in the pew are the major stakeholders NOT denominational employees who are to serve the churches. If the recommendations reflect the direction that Southern Baptist churches think we need to go then they’ll pass. If they don’t then they won’t.

    Now, let me address some of the things you bring up about a possible change to the CP formula.

    1) I don’t think that I suggested alternative funding mechanisms for youth camps. I asked why is that the job of the State Convention? Can’t local churches figure out how to do their own youth camps? Plus, I’ll just be bluntly honest here, if it comes down to telling missionaries to stay home b/c of a lack of funds or telling our youth they can’t go to camp I’m gonna disappoint the youth!

    2) I appreciate you walking thru the percentages with Joe Baptist’s money. Here is part of my issue. While it may look like from your comparison that if we change the % only 50 more $ will make it to the mission field, there “are” (at least as it is stated) 16 million Joe Baptists. Regardless of the precise number, there’s a LOT of money in those weeds that could send more missionaries and is being tied up in the states. I think sending more missionaries is what the GCR is all about and that’s what I want to be a part of.

    3) Again it comes down to our theology. Is the local church primary or the state convention? If it is the local church then state conventions should NOT say that the churches need to get their act together with more giving before the state conventions get their act together with percentages. David Hankins has said that if every SBC church gave 10% to CP he could “guarantee” the conventions would send on 50%. First of all that is ludicrous b/c he can’t guarantee what autonomous entities will do. Second, that betrays an attitude that sees the church as serving the convention rather than the convention serving the church. I do think churches should give a higher percentage so we can send more missionaries. BUT I also KNOW that one of the reasons churches aren’t sending a higher % is b/c they don’t like the % breakdown. At least that is true of my church. If the conventions would send more of the churches’ money to the foreign missions then I think the churches would send more. But churches are going to remain reluctant to give when they feel like the budgets of state or national conventions don’t reflect the priority of mission.

    What I am saying is that while state conventions do a lot of good things, many of these things do not need to be done by the state conventions. Rather, these are things that have been given to the churches. Evangelism is given to the church. Church planting is given to the church. If a church wants to send their kids to youth camp then send them or do your own (lots of churches do their own). ALL I’m saying is that if it comes down to sending a bunch of American teens to youth camp who already have access to the gospel or sending more missionaries to unreached people groups then I say send the missionaries. I hope that’s where most SBCers are.

    Whatever recommendations the task force makes I’m sure they will lay out why they make sense and why they are best for the kingdom and why they will get more missionaries to the foreign fields.


  11. Warren,

    I very much appreciate you being forthright. I am very interested in your approach to all of this and would like to ask a few questions.

    1. I think you’ve made a good case for some things that we do that just don’t need to be done. For the most part I agree. You also said that you prefer to keep it at the local assoc level. Are there things that local assoc do that don’t need to be done?

    2. I can tell how much you like the camaraderie of Long Run and the piety of those you have gotten to know from there. Is it not possible to be influenced by piety on a greater level than the local association and it not be all charisma? There are some “charismatic” leaders in the national convention who are very pious.

    3. I am unclear on the last thing you said about itemization. Are you saying that you prefer the local level and concentrate most of your involvement there b/c of the accountability of it but b/c of the limitations of local assoc will be involved in giving to seminaries and missions?

    Here is my basic opinion on your last question, though I won’t be exhaustive here. I think these are the “essentials” for the SBC, but all should be done by local churches who are being served by the convention:

    1. Foreign Missions
    2. Church Planting
    3. Ministerial Education
    4. Compassion Ministries (children’s homes, disaster relief on big scale, etc.)

    IMO anything outside of these we should say no to as good things but not the best things for us to do. If local churches feel strongly about other things then let them do them, fund them, etc. SBC started for the purpose of propagating the gospel. I think we should focus on that.

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  13. I’ll throw my hat in and say that what Jon and Jed are proposing is exactly what is needed. We need to get our priorities in order as a convention, and priority #’s 1 and 2 are foreign missions and church planting. But I also agree with Roger and think that we should have a plan in place that can be recommended to the convention concerning what to do with those ministries that are lower on our priority list like youth camps, etc. Are we going to recommend that we just shut them down, or are we recommending that local associations be more involved in *local* ministry and take charge of such ministries? With either of these options it would benefit all of us to have a specific plan in place to recommend to the convention in Orlando.


  14. Roger and Jon, thanks for your considerations and insights and letting me participate. I have more questions than suggestions


    1) Yes, local associations (& churches) do sometimes prioritize things that are less important or effective. But I think noting these and changing them (at a grassroots level) is more doable when you’re dealing with a smaller org. that has limited responsibilities.

    2) I agree that many of our current leaders seem to have both charisma and piety, but it’s harder to guarantee when you are multiple relationships removed (i.e. you trust your pastor who’s friends with a denominational employee who works under a supervisor who’s actually met denominational leader A and seen how he treats his wife and kids, at least on one occasion).

    3) As far as itemization, I lean toward local cooperation (where necessary) b/c a church leader could conceivably know every association employee (responsibilities, pay grade, “results”, etc.) and (when reviewing the budget) every line item (why are gas reimbursments totaling $30,000? maybe it’s justifiable, maybe it’s not). That said, a local association can’t sponsor a seminary. We can’t efficiently support enough missionaries to justify the sort of support personnel that could really aid their work. A national cooperation is helpful for that.

    I am in agreement with your four tentative “essentials” and your comment at the end.

  15. It is a false dichotomy to pit the work and resource needs of state conventions or national conventions against the local church. Conventions are conventions “of churches.” They were created by churches for mutual missions work. Why should a convention sponsor a youth camp? Because churches want a youth camp and none can provide one by itself. The International Mission Board, which seems to be the only church-created national entity that merits support, is itself an agency, combining the resources of many churches that cannot send missionaries individually. Agencies are local church centered because they are local church created. Only the largest of Southern Baptist churche support missionaries directly on the field. What would you have the other 40,000 churches do who want to support missionaries, but could not if only “local churches” can be the center of ministry?

  16. Norman,
    I don’t think anyone is doing what you suggest, i.e. pitting the conventions against the local church. Obviously if churches want to do much on a larger scale they need to work together through these organizations. Rather, at least what I am saying and what I think Jon and Jed are saying is that the local churches that make up our convention should prioritize the many ‘agencies’ or ‘ministries’ to which we give our money. The necessity of having our CP money go to a youth camp is, at least in my opinion, much less than the necessity of having our CP money go to foreign missions.


  17. Norman,

    I appreciate you jumping into this discussion. Let me try to work thru some of the things you raise.

    I apologize b/c it looks like I’ve been unclear. I am not trying to pit the work/needs of entities against the local church. I think we NEED convention agencies to do more things together than we could do apart. Specifically as I mentioned above there are 4 things we need entities for: 1) Missions 2) Church Planting 3) Training Ministers and 4) Compassion Ministries…However, I do want all of these things to be tied to the local church and not the entities doing ministry for the churches. I think churches should send missionaries, and the IMB should serve the churches in doing that. I think churches should plant churches and NAMB/State Conventions should serve the churches in doing that. I think churches should train pastors and the seminaries should serve the churches in doing that. I think churches should minister compassionately, and the entities should serve them in doing that.

    As far as I can tell that’s what the SBC was intended to be from the beginning. We are NOT calling for a blowing up of cooperation. We are trying to call us back to our roots, the primacy of the local church and the good of churches cooperating together.

    I agree with what you said that “conventions are conventions ‘of churches.'” Agencies are local church centered because they are local church created. I agree with that b/c I think it is true, but I only think it is true in 2 ways: 1) historically 2) theologically. The area I’m concerned about is not origin or rhetoric, but rather practice. I don’t think the SBC operates this way any more. I think the agencies say send us your people and resources and we will do the work for you. To be fair I think in part that happened b/c many local churches failed to be/do what God called them to be/do, so someone picked up the slack. But, it needs to return to a centering on the local church.

    I think you are wrong about churches putting on a youth camp. Another thing is there are plenty of churches that do their own youth camp. Many churches and not just churches of a certain size can provide a youth camp for their kids. Or, a group of churches can come together and put one on. There are many things that state conventions are doing that can be done solely by local church. We don’t need state conventions doing sunday school training, evangelism training, etc.

    As I see it there are at least two problems with saying that the things state conventions are doing now is as a result of what the churches want.

    First, I don’t believe the majority of local churches know what their money is being used for. Why do I say that? Experience! I’ve walked thru with at least 3 congregations how the CP works, and when I have finished telling how much money stays in the state in each instance there was anger in the crowd and two questions: 1) What do they do with all of that money? 2) Why isn’t more going to the mission field?!

    Second, many who do know where the money is going are giving less and less thru traditional channels. Many are beginning to designate their gifts to what they feel reflects the priority of missions. I think this is part of what the GCR is all about. The churches are beginning to say we want things to change, and now in the discussion the agencies are fighting for the status quo. The churches are saying if you don’t adapt toward what we feel the priorities are then we will stop supporting you. The state conventions and other entities need to change in order to again be serving the churches. In order to be church centered entities need to reflect the wishes of the churches and can’t keep asking them to give more money if the current structure doesn’t reflect their wishes.

    As far as the IMB, again I am not saying dismantle the convention or cooperation. I agree that many churches need to cooperate together and have a mission board to send missionaries. We need boards for the 4 things I mentioned above. Those are the priorities. Everything else we might do together while good is not best and will not be supported as highly. From what I understand in talks with many young leaders, these 4 things are their heartbeat. This is where the convention is headed. It will change. I think the question of the GCR is will we change soon for greater impact or will we fight change for years until we have to? If we choose the latter we will lose years of potential effectiveness, churches that would otherwise have partnered with us, and young leaders who see these priorities valued elsewhere.

    They don’t want to fight. They want to be a part of a Great Commission movement that gets the Gospel to the unreached places/peoples of the world, and they can’t imagine discussing Sunday School trainings and Youth Camps with half the world having little or no access to the Gospel.


  18. Norman said, “Agencies are local church centered because they are local church created.”

    Yes and no. It has to at least be a possibility that some agencies never should have been created and some have reached the end of their usefulness.

  19. Jon:

    This is a great discussion. It is the first forum I know of that is not only looking at the issues that are driving the task force but also wrestling with the tradeoffs with various possible outcomes.

    Your points are well taken. At first I thought your perception was that I was somehow disagreeing with you. Read all my comments carefully and you will see that this was not (and still is not) the case.

    The only point that we may see things slightly different as each of us “guesses” as to how the local churches are going to prioritize their spending.

    We may have a different vantage point. From what I see — taking a role as an objective reporter and trying to remove whatever bias I may have — I think churches are way more “onboard” with some of what you call “secondary” programs than what you see through your lens.

    If I were to poll all the churches in Oklahoma as to whether to fund or dump Falls Creek I believe the vast majority would say “keep it”.
    The same goes for OBU which is a school that has more missionaries on the field serving with the NAMB or IMB than any other four year school.

    Churches do a lot of crazy things. They pay the pastor’s and staff salary, they pay utility bills, they pay debt obligations on their buildings, they even pay (and will continue to pay for) youth camps regardless of whether they are owned and operated by the state conventions or someone else. Churches even contribute to Guidestone to help with retirement for their staff. How individual churches spend their income is a matter of balance that each of them determines.

    My own two cents is that I think churches should beef up what they send to the IMB and Lottie Moon. They can do this by bypassing the CP via the states or by sending money to the states via the traditional CP framework. An interesting barometer of how churches might react to what is evidently going to be in the mix with the task force report is the degree to which churches now bypass states in missionary giving. Does someone know what percentage of the 41,000 SBC congregations currently bypass the conventional CP giving conduit?

    The great thing about the SBC is that the churches are autonomous. Because of this, denominational structures have to stay in-sync with what the churches want. Looking at “waste and ineffeciency” is a good thing. The definition of “waste” is stuff that a majority of churches don’t want and won’t support.

    Different people may see things from a different vantage point. But the fact is that virtually all state conventions have already made significant cutbacks in personnel. I don’t know if they are doing this because they are “ahead of the curve” or “behind the curve”. My prediction is that states will continue to pare down their staffs. This will be true for the next several years until the economy improves.

  20. I think more money will come from local churches when they feel their funds are being used to the best of the Kingdom.

    We need to cooperate MORE. We overlap on a lot of our work in the states. State conventions need to work together and stream line their operations.

  21. As a request, could you guys do a series of article about the general breakdown of funding in states; what percentage goes where and why? And then do a breakdown of the Cooperative Program.

    I’m not asking for an expose’ of a CP version of Watergate. I have read books about the CP, including the poorly done one seminarians are forced to read; but I find very little specifics of what they do with the money.

    Why does the CERL need a percentage almost as much as a single seminary?
    And, I’ve been to Nashville, but I’ve never seen anything near the size of Southern Seminary, but something called “Facilitating Ministries” get a percent as big as the Louisville guys do.

    And how do rate if these things are effective? For the sake of clarity in these conversations, how do we judge if the smaller state foundations are worth keeping rather than a single Guidestone we don’t pay for. And why do we pay a percentage to a state foundation? (It seems like that would be like paying your bank to watch your money.)

    Thanks guys.

  22. Jon:

    At the risk of having the last word, I’d like to come out and answer your question to me which I skirted before.

    Your question: “Are youth camps more important than the Great Commission”.

    My answer: “No, of course the Great Commission is more important”.

    We both agree there is a problem. There needs to be more money sent from the local churches to the IMB. The question is: what combination of methods of accomplishing this is most fruitful.

    I believe you see the pruning down on state conventions as the lowest hanging fruit that is going to free up more money for the IMB.

    I’ll stipulate right now that I have no problem with the state conventions cutting back on staffing. They have done this and will likely continue to do so.

    My response to the “problem” that we are spending so much per capita here in the Bible Belt compared to one of the former Soviet Republics in Asia (for example) is that churches should re-evaluate their spending. They should look at everything they are doing: staffing, building maintenance, debt retirement, various programs, etc. in light of the facts that Johnny Hunt and others have brought into clear focus in the last six months.

    The whole locus of this discussion should be with the local churches. Consistent with Baptist polity the local church is the “boss” — not some denominational hierarchy. Every dime that goes anywhere in the SBC comes from the “guy-in-the-pew” through the local church. [There is an exception with major capital grants that universities, the mission boards, and seminaries receive directly for major projects]

    You were pretty blunt in some of your comments. Well, I’m going to be blunt also. I don’t think the local churches can hide behind a smokescreen of a “bloated bureaucracy” at the state level as an excuse for the paltry giving that is coming out of the SBC that is going to missions. Local churches have to take the initiative and step up to the plate with more giving to foreign missions. If this means cutting back on some of the other stuff they do locally then so be it. If this means circumventing “bloated bureaucracies” at the state level (if in fact they exist) and sending money straight to Nashville then so be it.

    I don’t think giving has to be a zero-sum game. It is pathetic that implicit in our discussion so far we evidently are assuming that the total amount of giving is constant and we are just arguing about carving it up between local, state, and SBC-wide budgets.

    My bottom line is that I agree that there is a problem and absent some radical change at the local church level this problem is not going to be solved and cannot be solved.

    Roger K. Simpson Oklahoma City OK

  23. Thanks for this Jed! I crunched the numbers some months ago after reading and studying the GCR and the KBC 2009-10 budget and came up with this info. Take it for what it’s worth, you get what you paid for 🙂

    Median household income for Kentucky – $37,046
    Tithe (should do the 2% that is average, but I’ll pretend for this) – $3,705
    Assume church gives 10% to CP – $371
    KBC passes 16.67% on to IMB – $61.83
    KBC keeps in state 62.68% – $232.54

    Kentucky receives $27 million (roughly $6.50 per person in the state) while the IMB gets $4.5 million (0.075 cents per person)

    This isn’t a dig at the KBC or any state convention, I owe much of my spiritual growth in college to a KBC funded college campus ministry, and I fully endorse the CP as the best allocation of funds for 40,000+ churches to partner together

    Simply asking for us to think about this and ask “How can we be more effective?”

  24. Roger,

    Sorry for late response. My weekends are spent in family time and sermon prep/delivery, so this is my first chance to respond to your two comments.

    1. I know that you are trying to remain neutral in your comments, but I think we probably disagree a little more than is stated. For one thing I don’t think discussions about changing state convention allocations is “lost in the weeds” and you do.

    2. You may be right about our different “guesses” at how local churches will prioritize their ministry spending. It may be that local churches are more “onboard” with the current structure (as a sidenote: I am not trying to criticize camps like Falls Creek or great schools like OBU. Plus, when it comes to OBU I think it fits under one of the emphases I’ve raised about minister training).

    It may be that local churches would say “keep” the youth camp. That really hasn’t been my argument. My argument has been that too much money is kept in state and more needs to go to the mission field, so we need to prioritize what we do. That’s it. The discussion has centered around one specific area, youth camps. All I’ve been saying is that youth camps like other things we might mention (certain trainings & consultations) don’t HAVE to be done by the state conventions.

    3. Honestly even if churches would say keep youth camps I don’t think we are losing millions of possible missions dollars in youth camps (Also, any youth camp I ever went to there was an expected payment of each individual. I’m sure it’s cheaper than what it would be, but there is still a cost). There are a lot of other things that $ gets caught up in that just don’t need to be done. I will post about this in response to another comment.

    4. BUT, let’s say you’re right. Let’s say a “majority” of churches if it comes to a vote would back the current system with all of the programs it offers their churches rather than voting to get more to missions (if churches understood that this is actually the choice they are making I don’t think they’d vote for the current system. I think this is part of what the GCR is about) then I think it is the job of local church pastors to educate their people to have the attitude toward the Great Commission that the Bible does. It would take leadership. If the majority of our churches back the current system it shows even MORE our need for a GCR! I don’t think they will. I think that’s why there was a 95% vote from the floor to look at this.

    5. I agree with your proposal for churches to beef up what they give to Lottie. BUT, I wanna see reform of the system b/c I believe without it then you’ll eventually have a bunch of churches designating only to what they like and there won’t be as high a level of cooperation on the four priorities I mentioned. I think there needs to be reform so those things are emphasized.

    6. I agree that it would be interesting to see how many churches designate.

    7. Correct me if I’m wrong but didn’t this lack of giving to the CP begin before the economic recession. No doubt that has had a part to play in this, but I think two things have been the main contributors: 1) New spirit among the churches where they want to be hands on in the mission of Christ in the world, 2) disenchantment with current giving percentage. To me states are paring down not b/c of any strategic move but b/c they are having to…


  25. Thomas,

    Your request for a series breaking down the funding in states is an excellent idea and one I think we will try to take up soon. Let me give a brief answer here in terms of my state convention and then offer if I might some things that may not need to be done by state conventions.

    Here is some what the 9 million dollars given to KBC Mission Board does. I’ll put my comments in parentheses.

    Kentucky Baptist Mission Board — $9,015,276 (36.83%)
    The Cooperative Program allocation to the Kentucky Baptist Mission Board is divided the following ways:
    • Leadership Development — $1,673,185 (6.83%)
    Funds the Church Retirement Plan for Kentucky Baptist ministers and church staff; leadership development training and consultation for churches; support for ministers in need; couples and seniors events; worship and music training and consultation; the Shepherding the Shepherd Conference and more.

    (You’re going to find the words “training” and “consultation” often in this list. There are specific consultations that churches can call for in a certain area. There are conferences the convention puts on, etc. In this list specifically, Lifeway, other groups, or even other local churches nearby can provide leadership training/consultation. Why can’t churches provide senior adult events? Music training?).

    • Evangelism Growth — $1,508,682 (6.16%)
    Funds evangelism training events; on-site consultation for churches and associations; Baptist Campus Ministry on college campuses statewide; evangelism conferences; Crossover activities; creative ministries training events and more.

    (Again, evangelism training can be done by other churches who have a track record with evangelism. In my state we have the Billy Graham School of Evangelism. Plus, I’ve been to a state evangelism conference before and they did bring in a seminary professor as the speaker. Creative ministries is an interesting one. There are 2 “Creative Ministries festivals” put on each year. These include creative arts workshops on a wide range of topics: monologues, church plays, improv, mimes on mission, beginning an interpretive movement team, clowns on mission, pocket magic, balloon sculpting, puppet choreography, etc.)

    • Missions Growth — $1,292,738 (5.28%)
    Funds disaster relief, construction, ex-offender mentoring and other ministries; ethnic and language ministries; new church starts; association support; partnership missions projects and more.
    • Church Development — $1,142,537 (4.67%)
    Funds training events for churches; youth leader training and youth events; on-site training and consutations for chures and associations; support for Sunday school and discipleship training efforts; church building efforts; stewardship training and more.

    (again lots of training and consultations. I think a new paradigm of state conventions pairing churches together for consultations might help save some money.)

    • Executive Office — $1,264,713 (5.17%)
    Funds Cooperative Program promotion; communications services such as printed material, Web site management and video production; research; special Convention projects and more.

    • Business Services — $1,157,911 (4.73%)
    Funds distribution of CP and other funds; accounting and budget services; collection of Annual Church Profile data; human resource management; Mission Board computer systems and more.
    • General Items — $975,510 (3.98%)
    Funds KBC scholarships, maintenance of the Kentucky Baptist Archives; expenses of the Kentucky Baptist annual meeting; KBC committee work; and more.

    Thomas, this helps give an idea of some of the things the money is going to on a state level. B21 will try to provide more info so everyone understands exactly where things go…


  26. Roger,

    Let me try to interact with your last post.

    1. I agree there needs to “be more money sent from the local churches to the IMB,” but I’d add more of the money local churches send needs to actually make it to the IMB rather than just sending around to designate only to the IMB.

    2. I agree wholeheartedly that churches need to re-evaluate what they are doing and give more. Certainly a GCR needs to take place at the local church level and we need to call for our churches to “step up to the plate.” However…

    3. Here’s my problem with what you’re laying out. While I agree local churches need to give more I have a problem with convention entities at ANY level telling churches they need to get their act in gear before the entity gets it’s act in gear (For example, David Hankins’ comments that if churches gave 10% to CP he could guarantee that states would give 50%). I think this betrays an attitude PERVASIVE among our entities that the churches serve them NOT that they serve the churches!

    To say the churches need to get in gear before we streamline, clean up, restructure to meet priorities, etc. is like a church telling its members to give more before the church demonstrates a track record of using the money effectively to accomplish its biblical mission. That’s backwards. Let the entities say we will streamline/shift to meet the priority of mission expecting that when that happens the churches will be more onboard with what’s happening and will give more. That’s what I think (and I hope) the GCR in terms of article 9 is all about…

    So I disagree that the “whole locus of this discussion should be with the local churchs.” It should be at every level. The local church is primary and the only entity that has to exist. Everything else is secondary and in some sense temporary. The churches should give more, but the disucssion has to be at all levels b/c if entities aren’t using the money to accomplish the mission then the churches should withhold or demand a change or give around!

    “Bloated bureaucracy” isn’t a smokescreen. It is a reason why some churches are giving less and using more money themselves to do mission. They say if we don’t give to these bureaucracies at least we will be able to tell our people with confidence where their money is going and that is going to missions.

    Bottom line of all that I’ve been trying to say is this: I want more money for missions and the unreached peoples of the world. However that needs to happen, whatever sacrifices need to be made at individual, church, state and national level let’s make them!


  27. Thanks for the break down!

    Two things. 1) Lifeway as it relates to the state conventions. How much of our “training and consultation” is duplicated by both Lifeway or SBC agencies compared to the state conventions. Could some of these services be shifted to a central agency instead of each state doing it? You wrote “Sunday School support”, as one of the things the state does. Could this be done by Lifeway? I think their webiste includes most of the things you wrote the leadership of your state does.

    2) Guidestone as it relates to the state conventions. Same basic questions.

  28. Thomas,

    These are GREAT questions that I don’t really think I know the answers to. Does anyone know? I think it is so hard in the SBC sometimes for the right hand to know what the left hand is doing b/c we are so big and b/c of autonomy at each level. I think the task of figuring out where the duplication might be is what the GCRTF has been looking at.

    I don’t have statistical answers but in my experience there is a lot of duplication in areas like “evangelism” b/c training is being done by local churches, state conventions, lifeway, seminaries, etc. Now, I’m not saying that all evangelism has to take place at one place, but do we need 4 or 5?!


  29. Jon,

    you wrote

    “• Evangelism Growth — $1,508,682 (6.16%)
    Funds evangelism training events; on-site consultation for churches and associations; Baptist Campus Ministry on college campuses statewide; evangelism conferences; Crossover activities; creative ministries training events and more.

    (Again, evangelism training can be done by other churches who have a track record with evangelism. In my state we have the Billy Graham School of Evangelism. Plus, I’ve been to a state evangelism conference before and they did bring in a seminary professor as the speaker. Creative ministries is an interesting one. There are 2 “Creative Ministries festivals” put on each year. These include creative arts workshops on a wide range of topics: monologues, church plays, improv, mimes on mission, beginning an interpretive movement team, clowns on mission, pocket magic, balloon sculpting, puppet choreography, etc.)”

    Clowns on mission? Mimes on Mission? is this for real?


  30. Pingback: Who is More Lost? :: SBC Today

  31. Post

    In response to SBC Today’s blog (that mentions this particular blog):

    For what it’s worth, I’d like to offer a few points of clarification. For starters, I believe that we need a Great Commission Resurgence AND I think we have the greatest missions sending agency in the world and our state conventions do great things. My Grandfather and my Dad were state execs and I take their (and other state execs) work very seriously.

    Also, I believe that there is a greater need for money to go to the nations because their is little to no witness amongst tens of millions of people. You quote me as if I was saying that unbelievers overseas are somehow more lost than those down the street. That, of course, is absurd. As you stated, from Ephesians 2, lost is lost. My simple point is that the amount of money that we’re using to reach the lost (in whatever area) seems disproportional. That is, we’re using tens of millions of dollars to reach, in Kentucky for example, a couple of million lost folks. These folks, of course, are also surrounded by churches that are spending millions of dollars to reach them as well. This in contrast to the hundreds of millions of people who have little or no Christians among them and little to no money being spent to reach them. In light of this, I’d like to see a greater percentage of money go to reaching those people. Hope this makes things clearer.

    Finally, I do think we disagree about how things should change. You say, “However, one cannot call on their state convention to live off of 50% when the church sends a mere 2.75% to CP to be divided between the state and national convention.

    If we are going to reconcile this debate we must begin treating others the way we desire to be treated.”

    This seems to imply that churches and state conventions are playing on an even playing field. That is, they’re playing by the same rules. Well, like many other muddy statements, this deserves a yes and a no. Yes, we’re all called to love God and one another as we love ourselves. We’re all under Christ’s glorious kingship. But, we also need to answer no to what you’re saying here. Even though we’re all under Christ’s kingship, the church has priority in his kingdom plans (not denominations). So, denominations should not demand that churches do what they say first (give more to CP) if they want them to do what the churches want them to do (give more to international missions). It works the other way around (or it should).

    Well, more than you wanted, but perhaps this will add some clarity.


  32. It has become increasingly clear to me that everybody is for getting more $ to the nations provided that no sacrifice is involved in the process.

    If asking states to consider scaling back some ministries to send more $ to the nations then the plea of states for churches to send more is a plea for the local church – the place disciples r made – to eat themselves.

    It isn’t cannibalism; it is a re balancing of the Great commission portfolio. Putting more resources in the asset classes which directly contribute to establishing thriving local churches and helping struggling churches thrive once more. The Great Commission is fulfilled in thriving local churches. We should invest and re-calibrate accordingly.

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