GCR or CPR: What are we voting for in Orlando?


cprWhat are we voting on in Orlando? In the comments section of a recent article by Alvin Reid the GCR debate took on much greater clarity for me. I think I now understand in clear terms the two paths that the SBC is being asked to choose between in Orlando in June.

One path is the “Great Commission Resurgence” (GCR) vision set forth by the GCRTF and their recommendations. The other path has been coined as the “Cooperative Program Resurgence” (CPR). These two competing paths are not about who is “for” or “against” the Great Commission. One can be against the GCR and still for the Great Commission (and vice versa). The question is not who is “for” and “against” the Great Commission. The real question is two-fold for Southern Baptists: 1) How do we define the Great Commission? 2) How do we most effectively accomplish it? That is what we are voting on in Orlando this June.

  1. 1. GCR- This vision is to restructure certain items within the SBC to enable greater effectiveness and cooperation in the Great Commission. The hope is that this vision will lead to greater missions giving because people will give to a vision that is compelling and mobilizes more resources (people and money) to the areas of greatest need (need = least access to the Gospel).
  2. 2. CPR- This vision is to do more/better at what we are already doing. The SBC structure is right but the giving is not, so we need a resurgence in CP giving and that will lead to a greater fulfillment of the Great Commission. The division of the CP pie is not a problem; the size of the pie is.

So, the key question is, “Which vision will be most compelling and most effective for advancing the Great Commission?” Another important question that is corollary to this is on the subject of missions giving. Will the GCR vision “save” missions giving (GCR camp) or “destroy” it (CPR camp)? (B21 will do more discussion in a later post on the GC giving recommendation and whether or not it will save or destroy missions giving)

I do believe that the CPR vision is presented with a few major problems:

  1. CPR almost equates the Great Commission with CP giving.
  2. CPR seems to be more about system preservation than challenging greater effectiveness in the Great Commission. More effectiveness is corollary to the preservation of the system.
  3. If the current system is the right one for most effective cooperation in the Great Commission, then why are we in a crisis period in the SBC (declining baptisms, reduction of IMB personnel, etc.)? Also, why is CP on a two decade decline? Some pastors have said that they are giving less because the allocation of the CP pie does not prioritize places with the least gospel witness. Does the CPR vision answer the concerns of these pastors?

The first major problem is that I think the CPR vision wrongly defines the Great Commission. This vision, as it seems to me (I don’t want to be unfair), almost defines being missions-minded or involved in the Great Commission as giving to the CP. So, missions = CP giving! In Rick’s comments, the CP is called a “missiological” approach, not a missiological funding approach.

A Tennessee pastor, with whom I had breakfast some time ago, was accused of “not being missions-minded” by a couple that had been attending his church for months.  He was confused because the church was on mission in several places in the US and around the world. The couple said, “but you don’t give to the CP.” This church does give through the Tennessee Baptist Convention, but because of a liberal institution in the state, they designate the portion allocated to that institution to the IMB instead. This meant that they were counted for giving zero to the CP in the state paper, and as a result this couple said they were not a “missions-minded” church. This approach to the Great Commission sees the writing of a check as the fulfillment of Jesus’ command more than the going and the disciple-making.

The second major problem with the CPR vision is that it is not compelling because it is more about preserving a system than it is about a call to greater launching for missions. The urgent cry seems to be “save the CP” and missions will go on better than ever. That’s the answer to the crisis. It’s about preserving the system and doing more/better within the system already set in place. Rick helpfully lays this out when commenting on Reid’s blog, “What if those who oppose certain components are also doing it to preserve the cooperative missions support system for the next generation?” So, the CPR vision is about the preservation of the system first (specifically the support system), and the hope is that the indirect result of saving the system will be greater mission effectiveness.

This vision is not compelling, especially to younger leaders. If we can present to them a way for them to effectively, in a hands-on manner, cooperate in the Great Commission and give directly to areas with the least access to the Gospel, then they will get on board, but a vision to save a denominational funding system is not going to “light their fire,” especially when these leaders see that the pie continues to allocate the greatest amount of resources to the places that are saturated with churches. Simply saying “give us what you’ve always given us and a little more” won’t work.

Finally, the CPR vision will need to prove statements like, “I certainly agree we need to do more to spread the gospel…” because they are not offering any alternative ideas on how we can do more to advance the Gospel within the current system, and just saying “let’s do more of the same” sounds like lunacy to many in light of how drastic our current situation is in the SBC. We can’t do what we’ve always done and get different results than what we are getting. Seems that one thing the majority of Southern Baptists are agreeing on in this debate is that the status quo is not working, but the alternative offered by the CPR is more of the status quo and longing for a golden age of the past.

In terms of the bottom line, here is how the two views play out in terms of mission impact:

  1. GCR- Allocate resources (people and money) to the places of greatest need in our country and the world, and as a result missions giving will increase.
  2. CPR- Give more money so that resources (people and money) will continue to fund what we are currently doing in the south and more will trickle out to the places of greatest need in our country and the world.

Which vision is most compelling? Which vision will have the greatest impact on the vast pockets of lostness in our country and the world? We are NOT voting on whether or not the SBC is a Great Commission people in Orlando. We are not voting on the Great Commission. However, that does not mean that this vote is unimportant, insignificant, or just about personal preferences. This is a crucial time, and this vote will have world shaping impact! We are voting on the definition of the Great Commission and how we can accomplish it most effectively together. Because of that it is among the most important votes we will ever face as a convention of churches. Which vision is most compelling to you? More importantly, which vision will have the most direct impact on a dying world? The world is not watching and waiting to hear our answers to these questions because at present they do not care about the answers, but our answers to these questions will impact them (or not).

*A follow up post will answer the question, “How do we define the Great Commission?” and it will deal with the meaning of Acts 1:8.

Comments 0

  1. Great insight into the current situation.
    Two questions:
    In what way is GCR going to tangibly change structures? I’m probably too cynical, but I don’t see any signs that even if GCR passes (and I pray it will) that we’ll see any change in the SBC…
    Is it fair to say that both CPR and GCR want to take the existing CP and “make it better”? Is it fair to say that neither one of them is willing to scrap the current CP and start over? (For my two cents it seems like we are trying to “fix” a system that simply needs to be put down and then resurrected in a methodologically relevant way…)

    Thanks for this post!


  2. Tim,

    Great questions!

    I think it does tangibly change structures, but only slightly. I think the GCRTF put forth recommendations around which a majority of SBCers can unite as a first step towards greater effectiveness in the GC. Obviously there is much more work to be done.

    The most tangible change structural change is phasing out the cooperative agreements. This is a great change b/c it will assure: 1) more money sent to the least churched areas 2) more NAMB money focused directly on church planting (which has GREAT potential)!

    I’ve tried to be hesitant to speak for CPR camp for fear of being unfair, but from what I’ve read I don’t think it’d be fair to say that both camps want to make the existing CP better. I guess that depends on what you mean by better? The CPR camp is calling for MORE of the same, no ideas on how to make it better. In fact they’ve said we shouldn’t even discuss the division of the pie, we should just enlarge the pie. So, CPR is calling just for more giving and no reform of the CP.

    Yes, it is fair to say that neither is willing to scrap it (at this point…), though I think the GCR is willing for more reform to save missions funding in the SBC.

    Thanks for your questions/concerns. I think GCR is a good first step in the right direction. We as pastors and churches need to make more steps…


  3. Jon,

    I think your comments about the GCR being “a good first step” is a helpful way to restart a discussion. There is a perception held by many pastors and members of smaller churches that the GCR has been or will be used to provide cover for those denominational entities that do not want intense fiscal scrutiny and for the megabrethren who haven’t enjoyed the negative press for poorly supporting the unified funding plan for all SBC agencies. There is so much to do to bring the SBC into the modern institutional/informational era but everything cannot be done at once.

    We can discuss how the taskforce is not really representative of SBC churches. We can discuss why the NAMB was targeted and the seminaries were not despite the fact that both groups receive a similar percentage of CP funding. My concern is that if the GCR is seen as cover rather than real change, a significant portion of SBC churches, pastors and concerned laity, will simply drop out of the discussions…and their giving will follow.

    So, I understand the desire to move slowly at first given the task. But I also understand the grave nature of where we stand as a convention. Small initial steps may be the right thing to keep everyone engaged but it might also be too little to late.

    I have no doubt that the GCR report will be accepted by a wide margin in Orlando…that’s what we tend to do at annual meetings. The real issue is what happens after Orlando. We Southern Baptists have a long track record of making a big show at an annual meeting without bringing real change to how we do business. 2010 may be THE year to change this perception…and for many churches, it may be one of the last chances to do so. With so many other avenues now available for churches to be directly engaged in Great Commission work, the burden is clearly on the SBC to show that it is not only relevant but committed to do what is necessary to stay relevant.

  4. If we can even get some of the structural changes and mind set changes done, we will have accomplished much. Of the fact that we have put so much money, for so long, into the south (where are churches are located) and have seen so little results in comparison to how much we gave, we (Denominational leaders and pastors) should REPENT.

    Great post. Great discussion. I’m excited about the future of the SBC. When other denominations are abandoning the word, we are at least trying to obey the word.

  5. Correction: Indeed I agree with you that CP is a “missiological funding” approach. Through it, we are able together to hold the rope for the missionaries already appointed. That is why I believe that when we participate in “hands on” missions projects, we should fund these efforts with dollars that are “above and beyond” our generous CP gifts so we do not reduce our support of the missionaries to pay for our trips. Some churches are doing this now and I do not think it should be rewarded or encouraged.

    Also, I would not characterize my view in such impersonal terms as “system preservation.” We are talking about real live missionaries on the field whose Great Commission work requires CP giving closer to ten percent than one percent. Every time a church giving ten percent drops to three percent and redirects these funds for whatever reason, it is not only a “system” that goes without support. It is a real live Southern Baptist missionary.

  6. Rick,

    I am glad that you agree with me that the CP is a funding approach. I figured that you would. What I am after here is clarity, b/c the rhetoric as I said almost equates CP giving with the GC.

    CP is one tool in the GC. It is not the GC. What I am arguing is that we’ve elevated the tool to the point that we either equate it w/ the GC or think it’s the only tool for doing the GC. That elevation has caused us to refuse to evaluate it or consider restructuring it to make it more effective.

    I am grateful for the CP. We do indeed hold the rope for appointed missionaries. However, I don’t want funding missions to replace actually obeying the GC as given by Jesus which doesn’t mention funding (Mt. 28). We have put a ‘system’ in place where we can write a check and sit back and do nothing and think we are doing missions. Within this system we criticize those who emphasize doing the hands on mission efforts over funding at a certain benchmark.

    Just a clarification, under the GCR report, funding members mission trips does not fit the category of GC giving. Only giving to SBC causes ‘counts.’As a side note, State conventions like Alabama and KY are already counting GC giving when they say that including Lottie/Annie and CP they are giving 50% to SBC causes.

    Two key questions need to be asked: 1) how do we define “missionary”? 2) Why is CP giving going down?

    These are the basic questions I asked in the piece.

    I find it tragic when reduced CP giving causes missionaries to come home from/not be able to go to the foreign field or an underserved region in America (answer to #1), but one reason why CP giving is being reduced in favor of designated gifts is b/c the CP system does not prioritize pioneer missionaries (one answer to #2).

    I am not sure that anyone would characterize their view as system preservation but that is what is being argued for. Of course it affects people, but the reason GCR is calling for reforming/restructuring the system is b/c it doesn’t prioritize putting people in underserved and unreached areas.

    The system in place prioritizes putting “missionaries” in the places that are most saturated with churches. See Micah Fries recent research. 6% of NAMB “missionaries” are in most unreached states. The “System” needs to be reformed. CPR is calling for more of the same.

    Finally, giving a % benchmark of CP giving is not as helpful because it means different things for different churches.

    Churches want to give directly to missions, and that is missions defined as crossing cultures into unreached/underserved areas, instead of continuing to fund ministries that are called missions in areas saturated with local churches. B/c CP doesn’t prioritize that churches are reducing.

    Rick, I really do appreciate your heart for funding missionaries. I believe we both want the same thing, to be able to adequately send and fund missionaries to reach people with the gospel. We just disagree on how to do this. CPR is calling for more of the same and trumpeting preserving/enhancing the current system. GCR is saying that in order for us to send more we have to restructure b/c the tool that is great and has worked historically is not working the same way now.


  7. Jon,

    If anything I have said or any CPR proponent has said has given you the impression we believe in writing a check and sitting back, please disabuse yourself of this notion. We don’t.

    If anything I have said or any CPR proponent has said has given you the impression that we believe the CP replaces our personal responsibility to be involved in missions, please disabuse yourself of this notion. We don’t.

    If anything I have said or any CPR proponent has said has given you the impression we don’t believe that autonomous agencies (such as state conventions, mission boards, churches, seminaries, and the like) should work through their own leadership channels to exercise excellent stewardship of resources and be effective in penetrating lostness, please disabuse yourself of this notion. We don’t. We believe they are fully capable of making whatever changes are needed and will fully support CP financially while we trust them to make the needed changes.

    The Task Force does not have a monopoly on proposing change. These autonomous entities can and should change from within. However, while those changes are being “considered,” I believe churches should strongly support the Cooperative Program in the same manner that a Christian in a church should support their church’s unified church budget even while priorities are being sorted out.

    Tim (above) proposed the CP be “put down” less than a week after Justin said he would be “happy to see the CP die.” Justin’s recent proposal of total directed giving would bypass the CP entirely. This is precisely the dismantling of CP and a return to the societal (or individually directed) approach. At some point, the GCR folks are going to have to decide if they really, really do support the CP or if they just want to “say” they do while “letting it die” or “putting it down” and replacing it with the individually directed societal approach.

  8. Some of our differences are not so much in missions ideology as they are in the approach to managing change.

    GCR Ultimatum Approach: We don’t really trust the entities to fix what needs fixing so we’re going to give less money through the CP until they do. Prove yourself worthy to us and we will once again consider funding you enthusiastically. But if you don’t do what we want the way we want, we’re outta here!

    CPR Supportive Approach: We do trust the entities to do what’s right and make those changes that are prudent and necessary to maximize our effectiveness. We will continue strongly supporting the CP while this work of evaluation takes place with no threat of picking up our marbles and going home in the meantime.

    Different strokes for different folks. God can certainly use either method to get us there. I simply find the second one more cooperative. Having said that, I believe those who favor the first approach are men and women of good will with the same passion for the nations that I have who want the very same thing but are just going about it in a significantly different manner than seems appropriate to me.

  9. Rick,

    Thank you for your responses. I really do enjoy our exchanges b/c I think they provide me with greater clarity. It seems in your next to last post that I seriously upset you. I apologize for that. I want to ask some questions that I hope can provide me with more clarity on the CPR position.

    1. The status quo is not working, so what would you change in the current system? You are a stake holder in the SBC, and these entities and agencies are there to serve/aid your local church in accomplishing its mission, so what would you change? These entities answer to the churches, typically thru the trustee process, but they do answer to churches, so what would you change?

    2. Why should we elevate giving to the CP to the level of giving to your local church?

    3. Why should someone continue giving to something if it does not reflect the priority of mission?

    4. Why shouldn’t the entity shift its strategy in order to justify itself instead of holding out its hand and saying “continue to give us what you’ve always given us”?

    5. Why should we continue to keep the majority of our funds in the south that is saturated with churches?

    6. Why do you favor counting GC giving at the state level but not at the local church level? For example you state that Alabama gives 50/50 to State and SBC causes, counting Lottie & Annie.

    Also, the GCRTF is quite clear in their report that they support the CP. Supporters of the GCR may support the GCR but not support the CP as strongly (or at all) as the GCRTF, but the GCRTF could not be more clear in their position.


  10. Rick,

    Here are some of my thoughts after your last two posts:

    In the SBC, agencies answer to the churches of the SBC. This is usually done thru the trustee process. However, at the convention last year 95% of the messengers said they wanted to commission Pres Hunt to form a Task Force (an outside body) to ask these questions. This does not go for everyone who voted yes, but MANY who voted for that did so b/c they do not believe that the leadership “in house” in each of these entities is asking these questions and they wanted “outside” eyes on it to look at it. Why? B/c you are very unlikely to reform a system that you feed off of.

    The benefit of doing this was so that all of our processes could be evaluated (or at least most of them). These autonomous entities cannot evaluate cross-agency, so the GCRTF allowed us to look at everything and see if we could do things more effectively.

    Problem with current system is that it is not prioritizing the penetration of lostness, and there is nothing being done by these agencies to suggest that we are moving in a new direction.

    Rick, I think your responses have clarified for me that my post was basically accurate in the way it laid things out. I think in your last post you basically lay out the GCR position, though I’d tweak some of your terms. I don’t think the GCR is about distrust, as much as our process in the SBC is local church driven and the entities answer to the churches, so the churches are calling for change.

    Definitely, part of the mindset of the GCR is “prove yourself worthy to us” and we will give at greater levels. Why should it be any different? Why should they expect funding if they are not proving themselves? The reason that CPR position is status quo is b/c it basically thinks the agencies are proving themselves.

    I don’t think it’s fair to characterize the GCR position as “we are outta here” if we don’t get our way. It’s more like, we will give directly to the SBC causes that reflect our priority of mission to underserved/unreached areas.

    In terms of the CPR approach, what work of evaluation is being done? I am just clueless here, and maybe there are things going on. Do you mean things like KY and FLA forming GCR task forces?

    Again, as you lay out, the CPR position is just keep doing what we are doing and hope those who feed off the system will change it though they’ve given no indication that they will. The CPR approach is let’s keep saturating the South with our resources and more will trickle out to the places with the least access to the gospel.

    What I’ve heard all along by the CPR camp is “of course we are all for getting more resources to the nations and the places of greatest lostness.” But when the matter is pressed, CPR only wants more resources for places of greatest lostness as long as the same amount or more money remains in the South where the majority of our churches are.

    GCR- lets give our resources (people & money) directly to the places with least access to the gospel
    CPR- lets give our resources (people & money) directly to the places with most access to the gospel, saturate it, and some will trickle out to the places with less access to the gospel.

  11. Jon,

    It appears our positions cannot be reconciled. We do have the common ground of the gospel and a passion for penetrating lostness. However, the things you claim the CPR is about are things I simply do not favor — the status quo. Balderdash. When it comes to missions support through our central means, for example, the status quo is 6.6%. I do not favor that at all. I want to challenge churches to specifically rise above the status quo giving level in our primary missions support channel.

    I do think it is unfair to characterize CPR as status quo and system preservation simply because our side is not talking about killing the CP like your side is. I have to admit that if the views expressed by some GCR proponents concerning their “happiness to see the CP die” and “putting it down” are realized, no one will accuse your side of favoring the status quo.

    The death of the CP is certainly not status quo, and while you may try all you want to distance yourself from such talk, no one on the CPR side is talking about killing the CP. I just don’t believe the best way to support something is by trying to kill it.

    I will do you the courtesy of one last exchange, although I don’t think we’re progressing toward greater understanding, but toward a tendency, perhaps, to exaggerate the position of the other. I will admit to that if you will.

    1. I’m fine with the state conventions looking at their allocations and seeking ways to get more resources to the areas of lostness. I don’t want to set up a “standard” of 50% for them if we are not also willing to set up a “standard” of 10% for churches. That seems inconsistent. I would not mind asking the state conventions to “pool” resources and establish a common “new work” fund for some of the unreached states, with a goal to increase that fund a bit more each year, for example. I would like to see the seminaries take some initiative in changing their structures to become more efficient. I think trustee meetings at all levels of SBC life could be streamlined — two instead of four, video conference instead of travel costs, and the like — to save funds needed for direct missions. Just a few ideas. Don’t paint me in the corner of “resisting change.” I don’t. I resist “this” change if it gives comfort to the idea that 2% CP giving is justified as long as you don’t like something the SBC does. I believe there will always be “something.”

    2. I do not believe in elevating CP giving to the level of giving to your local church. I do not believe in ten percent or more CP giving because of the misconception that a church “tithes” to the convention. I believe in it because it works, or at least, it worked once upon a time, when we actually cooperated in doing it, even when there were things we did not quite like.

    3. I believe the CP basically DOES reflect the priority of mission. This is a matter of degree. GCR seems to feel the need for major change, while CPR sees more of a tweaking of what we are already doing. Thus, I’m comfortable continuing to give faithfully because I believe, for the most part, there is no better channel for missions support. I keep supporting my favorite team even though they may have a few losing seasons. It’s a matter of loyalty and trust. They will straighten the ship. I will not force that with an ultimatum. I will never promise to leave America if a certain politician is elected to office. I’ll keep paying my taxes and working to make things better. I guess I just don’t like the ultimatum approach.

    4. I think the entity SHOULD adjust its strategy, not to “prove” itself to me, because I already believe in it and support it, but simply to become even more effective than it already is.

    5. As I have stated, more money needs to go outside the Bible belt. At the same time, lostness is lostness wherever it is found. One could argue that the churches in the South have done a better job reaching people. They have “proven” themselves capable of penetrating lostness and are therefore worthy of our financial support. We certainly need to join God in what He is doing and support outreach to the lost in the South as well as every other region.
    Part of the reason we keep more funds in the South is that this is where the funds come from. Most Baptists will keep the majority of their money but give a portion through the church. Most churches will keep the majority of their money but give a portion through their associations and state partnerships. Most states will keep the majority of their money but give a portion to reach the rest of America and the uttermost. The trickling effect derives from the source being Jerusalem. As the resources pass through Judea and Samaria on their way to the uttermost, we are fulfilling the Great Commission at all levels of cooperation. If we strengthen the uttermost by weakening our support locally, we risk weakening the work in the very place that is generating most of the resources, which would ultimately mean less for the nations.

    6. I admit this inconsistency and will stop claiming 50% state giving through CP since Annie and Lottie are indeed separate. I do not favor the GC giving nomenclature because I believe it distracts from and weakens the emphasis upon CP. Now, why do YOU favor setting a 50% goal for an autonomous state convention while you do not favor setting a 10% goal for an autonomous local church?

    The GCRTF could really clarify their support of the CP by doing three things: (1) setting a specific challenge percentage for local churches, (2) providing the additional funding needed for CP promotion to whichever entity is going to promote CP, and (3) eliminating the GC term from our conversation so as to truly emphasize the best missions support strategy any denomination has ever known.

  12. The best CP promotion tactic is simply to have those prominent pastors who say they believe in the Cooperative Program so strongly to move their churches to at least “above average” support. The reason CP supporters do not take seriously the rhetoric of GCRTF members who want to change the nomenclature is because their actual support is tepid, on average.

    Your original post offers a very lucid perspective on what messengers face in Orlando. After much work, the task force realized the difficulty of making significant changes in a large and established structure. They’ve suggested a few changes that — as small as they were — elicited significant reaction. They are a “first step” that should encourage those anxious for change to see the Convention is moving in a good direction.

    Three questions remain for me:

    1. Why were the seminaries excluded from any recommendations? They “consume” 22 percent of national CP dollars and have significant redundancies among them that could be eliminated at significant savings, such as online learning courses (any one of them is available globally) and their own colleges. Why does each school have different requirements for the same degrees? etc. The seminaries’ absence from the final report is glaring until one sees that two seminary presidents were on the GCTRF and one wrote the report.

    2. What happens if messengers do not approve the task force report? Some prominent guys have declared the SBC is a mess and put a lot of personal chips on the table. If the messengers say by a “no” vote they don’t agree, do the folks — on the task force and others who want the report approved — throw up their hands and leave like one large group of Baptists did when the SBC shifted to the right?

    3. If the IMB and NAMB presidencies are filled by two others on the GCRTR, like the Executive Committee is going to be, do Southern Baptists paint another layer of cynicism over their already jaded perspectives about how things are “really” done at the top administrative levels?

  13. Pingback: GCR? « Renewed Mess

  14. Confused and Doomed:

    After reading many voices on this, these two words seem to best catergorize the current situation. I completely agree we can not continue to operate under the existing structure and am all for a “compelling vision” to get our people to rally around to penetrate the darkness. However, I am concerned that neither side has developed or at least clearly articulated such a vision that can readily muster the troops both in giving and going. A number of others I have spoken with share this concern. They are open to change but have not yet been convinced the task force’s recommendations are the answer. The new vision statement is not really an issue. The reduction in EC funding will not cause a stir either way. Most really care little about the IMB being allowed to work in North America. Few, if any, (including those who are not supportive of the recommendations) would argue that NAMB focusing on church planting is a bad thing. Virtually none of our members and pastors know of, let alone understand, about the cooperative agreements. So the big issue is the CP and/or GC giving. If younger pastors already are giving directly to entities and/or individuals and state conventions calculate LM and AA giving as SBC giving what is the issue? What will substantial changes will ‘celebrating’ GC giving make for these churches.

    For the record the church where I serve as Associate Pastor does both. We contribute 13% to the CP, 2% to our association and 2% for local church planting in addition to small amounts directly to those related to our children who are on the mission field (SBC and other) as well as supporting church mission trips. In total, approximately 28% of all contributions are expended on mission endeavors. Please, can someone give us something the people in the pew can truly understand and rally around.

    Finally, there seems to be a sense of doom. Writings from many who support the recommendations seem to indicate failure to adopt them will eventually result in future fracturing within the convention. Those who do not support the recommendations warn that their adoption will, at best, significantly weaken the convention.

    Confusion and Doom. What are we do?

  15. Norman,

    Thank you for your comments and questions.

    I’d disagree on the best CP promotion. The best CP promotion would be both entities streamlining what they do and leaders raising their support levels.

    Many leaders, including pres Hunt, are raising the level of their support.

    Yes, these are first steps in the right direction, and we can’t forget that in these discussions.

    I can only answer your questions in my opinion, not from the TF’s perspective.

    1. Seminaries- I think main reason they were not included is that overall most think the seminaries are doing a good job and operating with very little at present (see recent research by Stetzer that shows how much ministers value their seminary experience). The other reason they are untouched is b/c we think theology should drive mission, and we want our planters, pastors, missionaries, etc. to be theologically sound and trained. Also, getting rid of one seminary or another would probably not be passable on the convention floor b/c of how well people think our seminaries are doing/or how well they value their seminary.

    The three-legged stool that consistently younger leaders are saying they want the SBC to center around are: 1) Missions (frontier) 2) Church planting, and 3) theological education/ministerial training. I think most think we are top notch in 1 and 3, and just want to see more focus on 1 (and more money as well), and a completely new focus and passion for 2.

    2. If GCR is not adopted- I don’t think prominent guys will pull out and leave. I think they will probably pull back from CP and give directly to SBC causes that they believe in and reflect the priority of mission.

    I think the GCRTF sees that this is already happening and they’ve made their recommendations to NAMB, state conventions, etc. so that we can change now instead of being forced to change in 15 years…

    3. Entity Presidencies- I can’t speak to jaded cynicism. I want the very best men to be the presidents of these three entities. By best men I mean GC-focused, gospel-centered, etc. If the very best men for these positions are GCRTF members then I don’t care. Why wouldn’t we want the best men? Why would we restrict it only to men who don’t serve in a certain setting?

    Hope that helps,


  16. Tom,

    I understand your frustration. I think I’d describe my attitude as hopeful, and many brothers I’ve talked with recently are saying the same thing to me.

    In terms of clarity the vision doesn’t spell out everything b/c it can’t. The GCRTF is limited in what it can do. I think these are first steps in the right direction.

    Know that there are many, many young ministers who are hopeful and have never been more excited about the future of the SBC. It has nothing to do with structures. It has everything to do with gospel-centered focus they see among their peers and many leaders in the SBC.

    What makes me most hopeful in terms of the recommendations is freeing NAMB to focus more on church planting in underserved areas. I know that few would argue focusing NAMB on church planting is a bad thing. Many would be shocked to know that NAMB isn’t as focused on it currently as you’d think. That’s why the recommendation should inspire hope, or at least it does for me. Not only is freeing NAMB not a bad thing, it is a great thing!

    There may not be substantial changes with celebrating GC giving, but at least these brothers who do this will not be criticized by entity employees or written letters from the EC that tell them they are cooperating wrongly. That may encourage them to cooperate more, instead of less.

    I praise God for your churches focus on missions!

    Let’s rally our people around getting more resources (people and money) to the places with least access to the Gospel in our country and the world! That excites me, and that is why I’m hopeful!

    Let’s take these first steps enthusiastically and commit to doing the more that needs to be done.

  17. Jon,

    Interesting parsing of the two sides of the debate–and I’m not sure which camp I’m in (I’m 2/3 GCR and 1/3 CPR, I guess).

    I don’t think that the opposition to the GCRTF report is all about preserving the status quo (the lack of push-back from state and national leaders after the final report, as seen after the preliminary, testifies to that). I do think that if CPR is about equating CP giving with missionality, we should be opposed to CPR…but I think that the lack of CP support that some see in the report is not Great Commission centered.

    We need to take the intentions and the vision of the task force and add some more structure to it…maybe another year to discuss it, but probably refer it to the entities for comment and actually enact it in Phoenix in 2011.

    Ultimately, the life or death of GCR will rest on whether we are resurgent for the Great Commission at the local church level. That is “why are we in a crisis period in the SBC” – a lack of local church activity for the Great Commission, that is sacrificing comforts for the gospel in their community or for sending out those called to the lost. National programs only work if the local churches “buy in” and get motivated by the program. National sea-change only happens when every pew of every church, whether small or large, says “enough is enough” and does something about it.

    I appreciate the vision of the task force as seen in Components 1 and 2 of the final report…I just wish we could “solve” the issues and unintended consequences of the other components so we can stand together for reaching the lost next door and around the globe!

  18. Rick,

    I will answer the issues you raise and try to do so point by point.

    It seems to me from your posts here and elsewhere that you do favor the status quo with minor tweaking. Again, your position is give more and keep the system basically the same with minor tweaks done in house. Do more/better of what we are already doing.

    GCR is not calling for killing the CP. That’s an unfair charge. Pres Hunt has raised the CP giving at his church and is committed to continue doing that. GCR is wanting to SAVE missions giving not kill it.

    I am not trying to exaggerate your position, just trying to understand it. Honestly I am after clarity b/c there is a lot of rhetoric.

    1. Are you basically for the GCR recommendation to end cooperative agreements in favor of getting that money to focus on the underserved places of N. America? Is that what your “new work” fund is calling for? If you are for states allocating more resources to areas of lostness, then you are for them keeping less in state. That is what GCR is calling for.

    Great idea on trustee meetings. I would be in favor of that as well.

    2. CP has changed over the years. It is not what it has always been. There was CP before cooperative agreements. Many states did send on 50% to SBC causes. So, we’ve always asked questions about updating and changing, and changes haven’t ruined us. I love the CP, but it will continue to decline if the allocations don’t come into line with what churches prioritize. This is as it should be b/c churches don’t answer to SBC entities. SBC entities answer to the churches. The church is central in God’s plan.

    The GCRTF wants us to adjust to be as effective or even more in this new day as were in the past. This is not b/c they are against the CP, but b/c they are for it. But, let’s also not act like there was some golden era in the past where we did everything perfectly. We’ve consistently allocated the greatest amount of our resources to the places that are most saturated with churches.

    Also, we do elevate giving to the CP to the level of giving to the local church when we try to say that we should give to the CP (undesignated) in the same way that we give to our local churches (undesignated). The problem is that the local church is central, not the convention. The convention is a tool to allow churches to accomplish the GC together, but if that tool is not aiding the local church in accomplishing its mission then they shouldn’t give to it.

    3. As far as CP reflecting mission, I just disagree. We continue to spend the most on the places with the most churches. That’s why churches are increasingly favoring designated giving b/c they want their money to impact places with little access (or none) more directly, and this will continue to happen. The GCRTF recognizes that and so they are trying to save missions giving and the CP so we can accomplish the GC. For example, Lottie giving in Okl was 4th best ever this year and only 5% off their record.

    There is no ultimatum here. Most will not leave the SBC, they’ll simply pull back on the CP and give to what they feel reflects the priority of mission. Paying taxes analogy is unhelpful b/c we must pay those…

    4. We live in a new day. Churches will not continue to give to something just b/c they always have. So, these entities do need to prove that they are prioritizing mission if they want to continue to be supported. This is as it should be. These entities answer to the churches b/c they were created to serve the churches. Plus, the entities have no money of their own. They are using the churches money, so they should be accountable for it. Perception among many churches is that they are not prioritizing lostness, so these churches are pulling back on their support. We can criticize those churches and say young people just aren’t as loyal as older generations, or we can recognize that we live in a new world and change. The GCRTF is trying to encourage this change now before it is forced 10 years from now as giving continues to decline…

    5. This is where our biggest disagreement will be and it shows that I have pretty accurately described the 2 positions. CPR is for continuing to keep the greatest amount of our resources in the south and trickling the rest out to the areas with least access to the gospel.

    Lostness is lostness, but access to the gospel is the issue here. In the Bible belt a person can walk down the street and fall into 2-3 churches where they could hear the gospel. We have THOUSANDS of churches in KY, Alabama, etc. Those churches are more than capable of impacting the lostness in their state. We don’t need MORE convention structure there to reach those places.

    What do you mean that churches in the South have proven themselves capable of penetrating lsotness and are worthy of our financial support? The entities don’t support the churches. An ex-DOM told me recently that the average association only puts back 3% of what they are given in to the field that they are in. So, our entities are not resourcing our churches.

    CPR- let’s keep more resources in the south and join what God is doing in better reaching the South. CPR is for trickling more out not giving it directly…

    Pioneer missions thinks much differently. Pioneer missions says let’s get the gospel to people who have no church, no Christians, no entities to aid in mission, etc. They have nothing!

    Acts 1:8 I think is being completely misunderstood. Acts 1:8 is about the advance of the gospel not saying let’s make sure our local church is strong before we send resources to other places. Missions was supposed to BEGIN in Jerusalem but not stay there (Lk. 24:47).

    Plus, Jerusalem is a city in the middle east. It’s not Louisville, KY or Birmingham, AL. Acts 1:8 is detailing how the Gospel will advance strategically not stay in one place, saturate it, and then trickle out to the ends of the earth. Also, the passage that is so often used to talk about giving shows that support from Jerusalem did not stay strong and yet the mission advanced all over the world. Gentile churches were collecting money to give to the impoverished Jerusalem church (1 Cor. 16; 2 Cor 8-9). So, that really has no bearing here. Acts 1:8 is about advancing the gospel. Acts begins in Jerusalem and ends in Rome. That is what the GCR is calling for, Advance.

    Plus, we won’t be weakening support locally. We have thousands of churches there.

    6. I think you were on to something by claiming 50/50. Why not celebrate Annie and Lottie giving? That’s all GC giving is calling for. I can admit to an inconsistency in calling for 50/50 state and no benchmark for churches. I’ll stop doing that. But, the problem here is how do we view the local church. If the local church is primary (which the Bible says), then we can’t compare on equal terms churches and convention entities. Plus, when churches do keep so much for ministry in their local area why do we need to spend so much more on that local area thru convention structures? Why not use those structures to do ministry where churches are not currently?

    What I am saying is that IF state conventions started allocating 50% of their monies to SBC causes churches would give more. The problem is that states are telling the churches “when you get your act together (i.e. give more) then we will get our act together…” That betrays that we think the churches serve the convention not vice versa.

    As Dr. Rankin has pointed out if we consistently criticize the churches who give the largest amount to SBC causes b/c they are not meeting a percentage that will destroy missions giving as well. Why not celebrate rather than criticize?

    Again, the GCRTF could do the things you are calling for…but they think doing those things will further destroy missions giving b/c it doesn’t give churches hands-on ownership of mission and will push us further down the road we’ve been going for 2 decades.

    Bottom line, this is about penetrating lostness more directly. That’s all I’m after.


  19. “In the SBC, agencies answer to the churches of the SBC. This is usually done thru the trustee process. However, at the convention last year 95% of the messengers said they wanted to commission Pres Hunt to form a Task Force (an outside body) to ask these questions. This does not go for everyone who voted yes, but MANY who voted for that did so b/c they do not believe that the leadership “in house” in each of these entities is asking these questions and they wanted “outside” eyes on it to look at it. Why? B/c you are very unlikely to reform a system that you feed off of.”

    OUTSIDE EYES? With two seminary presidents on the task force? Really? I find it hard to believe these people were chosen as outside eyes. I think they were chosen specifically because they would say what one or two people presented to them. Questioning their integrity?? Not so much as being brutally honest.

  20. TO ONE AND ALL: Interesting debate fellows, I am truly impressed with your ability to articulate your view points. So maybe you can answer a few questions for me?

    1. What ever happened to “Not equal gifts, but equal sacrifices”

    2. Why was this ever called Great Commission Resurgent? The name alone makes it appear that in the event you do not agree with the Task Force, it sounds like you do not agree with THE Great Commission.

  21. Jon,

    All kinds of stakeholders are on the TF: seminary, state convention, association, NAMB, etc.

    So, the eyes are both inside and outside, and mostly made up of pastors.

    This is not a group of weak men and women who are a bunch of yes men.

    The convention commissioned Pres Hunt to put this TF together to examine our structures and give recommendations on how we can cooperate better in the GC. The TF is made up of a bunch of different stakeholders. The TF is allowed to examine all of our processes at once and not only look at one entity at a time. This is a good thing.

  22. Daniel,

    Thanks for the questions. I’ll try to answer them the best I can.

    1. I think you do find the principle of “Not equal gifts, but equal sacrifice” in places like 2 Cor. 8-9. But the issue is that the giving there is not undesignated giving. It is very designated giving. Paul is asking Gentile churches to give to relief for the impoverished Jerusalem church/Christians.

    When it comes to voluntary cooperative missions the issue is very different. The GC is given to the local church not a convention, which is supposed to be a tool aiding the local church. Local churches have to ask the question, “How can we best fulfill the mission Christ has given to us?” If they feel like the unified budget of their convention does not reflect the priority of mission then why would they sacrifice more to that budget until reform happens?

    2. I tried to make clear in the post the point you are making here. You can disagree with the GCR and still be for the GC.

    The name is the outgrowth of what has taken place in the SBC over the last 30 years, the Conservative Resurgence. The hope of the CR was that when we got our theology right we would then see a resurgence of Great Commission activity. That is why the SBC was created.

    So, the GCR is offering us as Southern Baptists ways we can be more effective cooperating together in the GC. The difference here is not who is for or against the GC, but rather how we go about cooperating together in the GC. Hope that helps,


  23. Jon,
    Thanks for the quick reply. You have some good points. Since it looks like we are all going to be divided inevitably into “camps” I am not sure which jersey to wear. I am not ardently against the GCR, but I am very much for the CP-but it needs a tune-up. What do you call us odd balls? I have already heard the statement, “It’s not either/or, but both.” I am not a “fence straddler” but I feel that with the ways things are going, it is going to divide our convention.

    I will share with everyone one thing that I am VERY much in favor of—NOT voting on the GCR this year at the convention. It is too much, too soon. I say this because from my observation—If not given more time to absorb the facts and changes, GCR will be defeated. If GCR is passed, CP fails. Either way, I see no win–win for our convention as a whole.

    As being a pastor, I look at what our convention is doing and compare it to events in the church. I know that when people who claim to be supportive of the church, but designate their offerings because they may not agree with a program, never helped the matter, it only hurt. (i.e.—I don’t like the youth, so I’m going to designate my offerings to the music program) I am not casting any stones, but would the pastors on the GCRTF agree with that practice in their churches? (And I have heard the argument about the convention is not the church and understand that, but the principle is still the same)

    How is this not “societal” giving from a 100 years ago? My concern, how can this not back us up but claim we are going forward.


  24. I wonder if we are focusing on the right things. And these are sincere questions.

    Is our denominational structure the problem? Is the fact that we have State conventions and missions boards and seminaries and that we support them through a giving vehicle we call the CP the reason the gospel is not getting out? Is the status quo within our structure the reason the gospel is not getting out? If so, then we should carve off all parts that hinder the gospel immediately.

    But is that the problem? Is that where our efforts should be focused? It seems to me that we are ignoring the 800lbs gorilla in the room. And that is misdirected priorities. Too often it seems that churches, associations, state conventions, the national convention and our institutions get their wants ahead of God’s desires. Our churches have to have the state of the art, xyz and go into millions of dollars of debt to get it. And when the economy turns down those churches have to decrease their giving to the CP because the bank is breathing down their neck. And we willfully ignore the scripture in this area of church life. The Bible says. “Owe nothing to anyone but love”. There are many other passages that support this principle. Yet far too many churches have or are building edifices to themselves that are used sparingly. Some pastors are leading the way in this, by getting into personal debt to the point where they are scared to preach the whole Word of God for fear that they may not have a job and then can’t pay their bills.

    And then there is the person in the pew, who isn’t bothered by the fact that his neighbor is going into an eternity without Christ because many have sold him a bill of goods in an easy believism where he got fire insurance instead of a relationship with God. The biblical ignorance in the pews is also astounding.

    And then we have 95% of all evangelical money being spent on 5% of the world’s population (that’s folks right here in the USA verse the rest of the world).

    If nothing else the GCR report has started us focusing and thinking about what we value most. But does it do it in the right way? We are asking questions and that is good, but are we asking the right questions? Forgive me, maybe the recent political culture in our country has be jaded. But what comes to my mind… is Hope and Change.

  25. Jonakin,

    “The three-legged stool that consistently younger leaders are saying they want the SBC to center around are: 1) Missions (frontier) 2) Church planting, and 3) theological education/ministerial training. I think most think we are top notch in 1 and 3, and just want to see more focus on 1 (and more money as well), and a completely new focus and passion for 2. ”

    What is “theological education/ministerial training”? More importantly who is it for?

    I’ve long been of the conclusion that the #1 problem with the SBC (and other denominations) in fulfilling the Great Commission or many other areas of ministry revolve around the lack of education of church members. For example, my pastor assigned levels to classes. The 100 level was the new Christian/seeker level and on up to the 400 level. I asked a couple of deacons why the only thing above the 200 level Lifeway book classes were a couple of 300 levels for women only and the single 400 level on Christian financial management. To me, the obvious solution was some “meatier” classes for people who wanted (or were ready) to take a bigger bite out of the Scriptures than the simplistic Lifeway pablum. Instead, the numbers weren’t brought up anymore.

    Educated Christians are dedicated Christians. What do we see in the GCRTF Report about education? Anything? Oh yes, “stewardship” training. How to handle your money. Gee, the only “real advanced” class. How about doctrine? How about

    “The name is the outgrowth of what has taken place in the SBC over the last 30 years, the Conservative Resurgence. The hope of the CR was that when we got our theology right we would then see a resurgence of Great Commission activity. That is why the SBC was created.”

    The problem was that the CR included some bedfellows with a few, shall we say, offbeat beliefs. There are scars there, many of them, that inhibit unity and fuel the cynical comments about the GCR in relationship to the SBC. I’ve prayed and will pray for the GCR and GCRTF. I have hopes that God will find a way to make it work, despite the SBC and its bureaucracy.

  26. Hans, you said one thing spot on there about church debt. The “build it and they will come” mentality isn’t in my Bible and last time I checked I saw something about counting the cost before you commit.

    My wife and I were led to the church we now attend and after we had been there a few months, we discovered that that nice new building with all the trimmings was under an enormous burden of debt. The preacher at the time was leaving for the mission field and when asked, my wife and I were happy to help set up to pay off the debt. We worked ourselves and with others to raise money to get some extra down on the debt, set up and promoted members of the congregation to give extra to help make the payments. We ended up with a fundraiser that raised a bit over $10K for a principle payment plus enough promised giving to cover most of the monthly payments. We planned to repeat this each year to get that extra principle payment.

    Our new pastor is one of the younger crowd. His commitment to expositional Gospel preaching is excellent and he if very missions oriented (I hate the word “missional”, jargon is needed, but do we have to invent it?). All of this is wonderful, but when I got a bit of a windfall and offered to give an extra 10% to fund a matching donation drive for another principle payment, I was turned down flat.

    As things happen when a new pastor comes in, a number of people left the church, including some of the larger donors we had solicited. Different issue and they needed to go, not important. What the problem was, that loss of extra building fund money, suddenly the church had a shortfall of exactly the missing amount of the building fund donations. I have since offered twice to have my wife and I set up and raise again a building fund commitment from members. My offers were not taken up. My impression is since it isn’t missions, it isn’t important. You know, that kind of extra money should be raised for missions.

    The problem? I’m very missions oriented and the last time I looked, with all the drives for extra missions money, we are still paying three times as much to fund a tin building. Without the extra building fund contributions, our actual cash overflow in general giving from tithes falls short after the mortgage payment comes out of general funding, so we stay short with discretionary funds.

    I guess I’m missing something, building fund commitments to pay of the debt faster and get more cash flowing to missions isn’t as “sexy” as being “missional” and pushing for missions giving. You tell me.

  27. Daniel,

    I very much appreciate your thoughts, and understand the pull on you. I wish you’d be in the GCR camp 🙂 I am not sure what to call the third option.

    But, I think if you asked the GCRTF they’d say exactly what you said. They’d say they are for the CP and want to see it kick-started…

    I hope a vision about directly penetrating lostness doesn’t divide us, but instead ignites us for Christ!

    As far as not voting on the GCR this year I would disagree. For one the GCRTF is only given this mandate for one year. For a second thing, these recommendations will be vetted and implemented thru the trustee structure, so it won’t happen all right away.

    We need to act soon. We are in a 50 year decline (see Stetzer’s article at Between the Times). This calls for drastic measures. We can wait and slowly discuss over years if we need to change or we can change and accept this vision to directly penetrate lostness instead of directly saturating the South and hoping resources (peopel and money) trickle out to the places with the least gospel witness.

    CP won’t fail IF GCR is passed. It is failing now (25 year decline). GCR is attempting to save it. They can’t be more clear that it is the primary method of giving. Hunt and Floyd are raising the amount they are giving to the CP, and are encouraging others to follow suit. GC giving changes nothing really, other than celebrating rather than criticizing.

    We are already half societal and half CP, just look at the stats. Plus, we have special offerings for EVERYTHING.

    As far as designated giving in the churches, pastors may not like it, but they will cash the check and they won’t criticize the person who gives it…

    Hope this helps answer some things,


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