GCR: Will the SBC choose the spirit of Ryland or Carey? A Plea to the KNCSB and other SBC partners

kansas-nebraska-borderIt is reported that before William Carey left for India to begin the Modern Missions Movement he was told by J. R. Ryland “Young man, sit down; when God pleases to convert the heathen, he will do it without your aid and mine.” Surprisingly, it seems that a similar debate is taking place within the SBC. In fact, it has been implied recently that Britain is now pagan because Carey left England and launched the Modern Missions Movement. This “fact” is being used to justify keeping larger concentrations of missions dollars at home instead of getting them around the world.

This argument was brought forth to support the decision of the Kansas-Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptists (KNCSB) to keep an even higher percentage of CP dollars in their states. The KNCSB has decided to reduce their CP support of the SBC from 32% to 22%, so now 78 cents of every $1 given in Kansas and Nebraska through the CP will stay there and only 11 cents of every $1 given in Kansas and Nebraska through the SBC’s primary channel of missions giving, the CP, will actually go to reach over 6,000 Unreached People Groups around the world.

This was a difficult decision for the KNCSB but they believe it was necessitated by two factors: 1) the current economic situation and 2) the GCR category “Great Commission Giving.” The KNCSB says it could weather the economic climate but it cannot weather the GCR (that was overwhelmingly adopted by the SBC messengers in Orlando). This move, however, raises several questions:

1. Is the KNCSB “jumping the gun?” While the SBC did adopt the category of GC giving at this year’s annual meeting, not one of the GCR recommendations has taken effect yet. That means that the GCR has not had a drastic affect on the KNCSB yet, and if churches are choosing to give in a designated way then that was a trend that started before the GCR. It seems that blaming this move on the GCR is not fair. This reality leads to the 2nd question.

2. Why are more churches choosing to give directly to mission causes rather than give as they have traditionally done through the KNCSB? This is a key question that honestly needs to be asked across the board in the SBC. Has the KNCSB asked this question of itself and seriously dealt with the emerging answers? One answer that has been given to this question is that churches are dissatisfied with the small percentage of CP dollars that state conventions send to support National and International mission causes. If that is the case then I fear that this move by the KNCSB will not only not help but will in the end make matters worse. Instead of this quick action it might be better for the KNCSB to seek out the answers to these questions from the churches and then adopt a strategy that is enthusiastically supported by the churches.

3. How can the KNCSB expect their churches to “give more” to the CP when they are not “giving more” themselves? It is an exciting time because several state conventions are stepping out in faith to lead the way in increasing their missions giving to SBC causes nationally and internationally trusting that the churches will give more as well. I am thrilled to see my state convention in Kentucky take the lead on this by considering the move to a 50/50 split of CP funds, as well the Florida Baptist Convention.

There are encouraging trends in frontier states. The Nevada Baptist Convention and its four associations will vote to merge into one entity and increase their CP missions giving by two-thirds over the next five years. The Baptist Convention of New York is also increasing its giving to national and international mission causes, as well as set the goal to start a 1,000 new churches in New York. These frontier and underserved areas are wanting to increase their role in the national and international missions process. At the same time, the GCR recognizes the situation in these frontier states, like Kansas/Nebraska and others, is different than the Southeast for example. The call has been for more mission focus in these areas through NAMB and others, not less.

4. Can we really blame the paganism of England on the Missionary zeal of William Carey? Quite honestly this part of the article deeply saddened me. What would the writer have had Carey do? Stay in England and let the Indians go to Hell? Why should we worry about “them?” Why not just worry about “us?” This leads to my final question.

5. Will we have the attitude of Jonah or the heart of God? Jonah did not want to see God bless the nations because he thought it would weaken Israel (his home). Yet, God’s heart for all peoples was on display. Revelation 5 and 7 tell us that God is not just concerned with the amount of people in Heaven; He is also deeply concerned with the amount of peoples in Heaven. If the SBC, like Jonah, begins to set its gaze on itself it will implode. If we choose maintenance over mission then we will continue to decline. We cannot lower our focus on the ends of the earth and only be (or primarily be) missionaries in our backyards.

Many people who love Jesus and lost people will have strong disagreements about how all of this should work out, but I hope that we can all agree that there are serious questions that we need to answer very soon as a convention. It is in the context of these questions that I would like to make a plea to all Southern Baptist partners.

This plea is to be willing to ask tough questions and adapt because things are changing. Churches, especially those led by a younger generation, will want to increasingly stream line what is done by denominational agencies and emphasize missions to the unreached over sustaining denominational ministries in our backyard. This trend was made clear by the election of Bryant Wright as President of the SBC. These churches will take the lead in evangelizing their “Jerusalem” because they believe it is the role of the local churches to evangelize their city/state, not the role of associations, state conventions, seminaries or any other SBC partner. They will also want the money they give to cooperative missions to end up in the hands of church planters and missionaries to Unreached Peoples. If Southern Baptist partners don’t recognize this, then they will likely see more and more churches deciding to give their money through “direct giving.”

And the questions remain to be answered. Will we have the spirit of Carey or Ryland? Will we have the attitude of Jonah towards the nations or the heart of God?

Comments 0

  1. Jon, the article you point us to in the Baptist Digest is pretty disturbing. To blame Great Commission Giving is nonsense and is only an opportunity to take shots at the GCR movement, in my opinion.

    The one thing that gives me hope is that the change from 32% to 22% is only for the current year and in 2011 the percentage will return to 32%. That means that the KNCSB needs to do some dramatic re-prioritization before it finds itself in the same predicament next year. If this article by Tim Boyd is any indication, I am not optimistic that will take place.

    I absolutely believe that if a state convention enters a self-preservation mode, churches will quickly and dramatically reduce their giving.

  2. The actions of the KNCSB fully exposes the “GREAT FLAW” in the Cooperative Program system… It puts absolute control of the primary funding mechanism of the Southern Baptist Convention into the hands of the State Conventions to do with as they alone see fit, regardless of the expressed will of the Convention.

    I agree with the author that this will only lead to more of our churches bypassing the Cooperative Program altogether and giving directly to the causes they see as most worthy of their missions dollars.

    I fear that if this spirit of “Ryland” is adopted by a large percentage of the State Conventions the C.P. will be dead within a few short years and the State Conventions will be decimated.

    This was not a wise move by the KNCSB…

    Grace Always,

  3. Are we actually to accept that choosing not to forward money to the national Cooperative Program is at the same level as denying the need for taking the Gospel anywhere? Really?

    Argue that it’s a bad move, that it will lead to churches not supporting the KNSBC, that it’s bad for all aspects of life.

    But to equate reducing Cooperative Program percentages with Ryland’s “Sit down” isn’t forwarding the discussion. It’s a polarizing rhetoric. After all, one wouldn’t consider mega-churches that expend 95% of the money that comes into their offerings on their own programs as equal to Ryland, would we?


  4. Doug,

    It’s not the forwarding of cp that I’m as concerned about as the argument that sending missionaries will weaken us at home. That’s where I’m drawing the analogy, the stated motivation behind the move.

    Also I would consider a mega church that spends 95% on itself at least practically in the spirit of Ryland. Wouldn’t you? What we do with our money in missions giving at a local, state or national level says a lot about whether or not we value getting the gospel everywhere. Doesn’t it?

    I’m not equating cp% with Ryland. I’m not trying to be polarizing but that argument justifying cp giving level was disturbing and I hope not representative of others bc it is in the same vein as Ryland. That was my point. I hope this clarifies it

  5. There is no credible argument that we are not to go make disciples. Jesus modeled this, and he commanded this before his ascension. Any modern-day Ryland who argues against disciple-making is choosing to ignore not only Jesus’ teachings, but much of the rest of the New Testament as well.

    That said, I am somewhat perplexed at a quote from the summary section:

    “Churches…will want to increasingly stream line what is done by denominational agencies and emphasize missions to the unreached over sustaining denominational ministries in our backyard.”

    I do not understand the dichotomy. The obvious implication is that “missions to the unreached” is not inclusive of “denominational ministries in our backyard.” Is this true?

  6. I recently got back from Nebraska. It was my third mission trip there in about 13 months. I do believe that there is a great need in that state. There are less than 80 SBC churches in the state to reach the 1.7 million people who live there. In the Sand Hills where Tom Huffman is the DOM, he serves an area that is massive and only has 65,000 people in it(part time salary I might add). There are 4 SBC churches there. Less than 10% of the people in the state are connected to an evangelical church. Now with that being said, I do believe that the guys in the field have been put in great fear about the funding, I do believe that has come from the state level. The work there is hard and slow. The funds are low and the need is great. I do believe that our system needs to be overhauled. I also believe that these are very difficult issues. We some how need to plant more churches there and get the gospel to the unreached areas globally, a both and approach. There are no easy solutions to this I’m afraid. I do believe that we honestly need to cut state level employees and take salary cuts on that level before we cut the funds to the guys in the field that are carrying out the mission. Great Article!

  7. What the KNCSB is doing with their percentages is completely misguided. They should be following the lead of Nevada and New York by giving more, not less.

    That having been said, I think you have misunderstood their statement about William Carey and may inadvertently be attacking a straw man. Here is the paragraph to which I assume you are referring:

    “The modern world missions movement began with William Carey in England. Why is England no longer the leader of this movement? Why has that shifted to the United States? It is because they did not pay enough attention to “Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria.” Today, they are more pagan than Christian. What will happen to us if we turn our attention away from Nebraska and Kansas? In the short term, we may send a great deal of money on to the nations. But, remember England. That could be us in just a few years.”

    As far as I can tell, their logic goes like this:
    -The sending of William Carey and other missionaries from England was a good thing.
    -England is no longer a major missionary-sending nation.
    -English Christians seem to have done a poor job of reaching their own nation.
    -Therefore, the KNCSB should channel more money to their own region so that they can send more missionaries in the long run.

    I disagree with their conclusion, but their logic does not include any negative statements about William Carey or the sending of missionaries. I hope you’ll revise this post accordingly before anti-GCR bloggers catch the mistake and blow it out of proportion.

    By the way, I love this blog and have thoroughly enjoyed reading your thoughts here for the last couple of years. Keep up the good work.

  8. I am a little confused… but that is nothing new for me 🙂

    Why is it that when the Mega Church leaders choose to give directly to the missions causes they feel most worthy they are blasted for not supporting the C.P.; Yet when the State Convention leaders choose to forward a lesser percentage of the C.P. to the national missions causes it is somehow justified?

    Are not the state convention leaders guilty of the very “Societal Giving” that they have been guilty of charging the Mega Church leaders with?

    I guess it’s all a matter of who is doing the choosing…

    Grace Always,

  9. Jon,

    How much of this is also an effect of our “favoritism” when it comes to missions designations at all levels?

    There is nothing wrong with church planting in the Northeast, but are their souls more valuable than those in the Midwest? I am not arguing that ANYONE is saying this, but more the idea of what “pagan” meant originally, i.e. those of the country/land, who were the last to convert to Christianity.

    I agree with Doug Hibbard’s point about the real Rylandism being the local church level…and it does extend to both 90+% designation to one’s own programs AND the choice to divert funds around the cooperative model just because one doesn’t want to work within the system. If it were primarily the small churches whose pastors don’t get to speak at the Pastors Conferences, whose members don’t get appointed to committees or taskforces, and whose good ideas are not disseminated on the blogs and Baptist Press were the ones who were direct-giving, I could allow that as a symptom of the inertia of changing the corporate will of a state convention. However, it is the mega-churches whose mouthpiece looms large at the state and national level who are the ones guilty of not giving enough to allow the states to designate more to missions. How many 100-member, less than $1 million dollar budget churches DOES it take to balance out one First Baptist Megalopolis who wants to be independent but SBC in name?

    Will it take time? YES

    Will the megas’ leadership have to cash in their political capital among their own people to reverse the tendency of us to not designate as much money once the number gets above 6 figures? YES

    Might there be some nasty fights over which state entities have to be shuttered to send missionaries to both the US and the world? YES

    But isn’t it worth it?….(I’ll let you all answer that one!)

  10. WGY,

    Thanks for your comment. I will try to answer your question. The issue is how we define “mission to the unreached.” For example, is a state camp “mission to the unreached”? If it is then I think the phrase “mission to the unreached” has almost no meaning and can include anything. If not then we have to concede that not ALL denominational ministries at the local or national level are mission to the unreached. I’m not saying that these things (a camp for example) are bad or not worth doing. What I am arguing is that churches will want to do less of those things so they can do more of church planting/sending missionaries to places with vast amounts of lost people and little to no churches/witness.

    Hope that clarifies what I meant.


  11. Ronnie,

    Thank you for your testimony and thoughts. I think they are very helpful. I certainly agree that Nebraska is an area where there is much work to do. I think the GCR wants to do more not less there. Thanks again,


  12. Dan,

    I very much appreciate your comments and encouragement. I especially appreciate your concern that we not attack straw men and that we not do harm to the GCR discussion. Please hold us accountable to this.

    I think I understand your point, but I don’t think I follow your assessment completely and don’t think that I need to revise the argument.

    The focus of the paragraph you cited is that the modern missions movement weakened witness in England and same could happen to us. So the stated goal is not sending more missionaries in the long run. The stated goal is protecting our home.

    So I would revise your summary slightly:

    As far as I can tell, their logic goes like this:
    -The sending of William Carey and other missionaries from England was a good thing.
    -England is no longer a major missionary-sending nation.
    -English Christians seem to have done a poor job of reaching their own nation B/C THEY PAID TOO MUCH ATTENTION TO MISSIONS…
    -Therefore, the KNCSB should channel more money to their own region so that they can send more missionaries in the long run.

    While I think the last statement you have here is implied in that paragraph sending more missionaries long term is definitely not the focus of the article or paragraph. The focus is instead on their own region. That is why I don’t think my argument needs to be revised because that is the emphasis of the piece.

    Along with you I will not accept that this is an either/or situation where we have to emphasize one to the detriment of the other. I think it is a both/and. However, I don’t think anyone will remain missional in their local context if they don’t increasingly sacrifice to focus on the global context. Plus, when will we ever be “strong enough at home” to send more missionaries globally? Won’t we always run the risk of becoming England?

    With that said I completely agree that I wish others would follow the lead of Nevada and New York! And am very appreciative of your comments.


  13. Andrew,

    Good to hear from you again brother. I’m not sure that I completely understand your argument, so I’ll do my best to respond to it.

    I think it is an unfair assessment to say that those who designate are simply doing so b/c they don’t want to work w/n the system or b/c they want to be independent but have the name SBC. Many are doing it b/c they want more money to go directly to mission causes that they feel strongly about.

    Also, blaming this on the mega churches seems a bit unfair. For one, I’m not sure that there are that many mega churches in KNCSB. I believe (tho am happy to be corrected) that the vast majority of churches in the KNCSB are not mega churches, so how could this be a reaction to something they are doing?

    Also to act like “smaller” churches are designating more just b/c “big” churches/influential speakers are doing so gives very little credit to those pastors and congregations and their ability to think for themselves. Many of them may just be convictional that they want more of their missions dollars to go directly to missions causes.

    Also, in your list in your comment there are some generalizations that may not be completely true. “Small” churches do have folks appointed to committees and boards. Also, “small” church pastors do have a voice thru blogging and other social media.

    Finally I think the argument that churches (of any size) should start giving more BEFORE the state allocates more puts the cart before the horse. Does the church serve the state or does the state serve the church?


  14. Jon – thanks for your reply. It helps illuminate a bit.

    You explained:

    “…we have to concede that not ALL denominational ministries at the local or national level are mission to the unreached”.

    No question about that. But I do see an immense difference between that statement and the original implication in the article (i.e., that, by definition, denominational ministries are not missions to the unreached).

    I would like to hear more about the basis/underlying premise behind this statement:

    “What I am arguing is that churches will want to do less of [church camps, etc.] so they can do more of church planting/sending missionaries to places with vast amounts of lost people and little to no churches/witness.”

    I am interested in your thoughts about where the threshold is for lostness to become sufficiently vast to warant increased $$ and time being spent. If over 75% of a population is unreached, would that warrant church planting/sending? Would it matter if that 75% was concentrated in pockets so that, within those geographic regions, the numbers were really closer to 100% unreached?

    Thanks for being willing to discuss these questions,

  15. wgy,

    Again thanks for your reply and conversation.

    I’m not sure how to explain more about the premise underlying my original statement. I am just observing that not all denominational ministries are mission to the unreached and that churches are wanting less denominational ministry and more mission to the unreached.

    I didn’t mean to imply that denominational ministries are by definition not missions to the unreached. I was simply observing that we spend a lot of “missions dollars” on things that are not missions to the unreached but are rather denominational programs and churches are wanting that to decrease…

    I haven’t put much thought into (and don’t think I’d be comfortable) quantifying more lost, most lost, or categories like that with numerical values. What I’m concerned with is that our tendency is always to drift away from global focus to our region and putting the main part of our focus there…

    I think this does require a both/and approach…


  16. Jon –
    Thanks again for your candor and openness. No need for an explanation about your first comment. I do think that, in the end, it was clear. You are not alone in your apparent feelings about denominational ministries. It is too bad that your experience with such ministries has left you (and many others) less-than-enthusiastic about their effectiveness in reaching the unreached.

    As for the other issue, I agree we always have to be intentional about where we devote our missional resources. Just letting our focus drift where it will (either to the global or to the local) is not good stewardship. We must be about “both and”, not one or the other.

  17. There is no doubt a great need in North America for a movement of the Holy Spirit, revival in our churches and greater efforts to penetrate the lostness. One writer mentioned there are 58 churches in the KNCSB to reach a population of 1.7 million people. Cleveland, OH has 40 Southern Baptist churches to reach 1.7 million people. When you move to the East Coast, the ratio is even greater.

    1.7 million people are a lot of people. If we estimate 70% of them are not Christ-followers, that would mean 1.2 million of the folks in Kansas-Nebraska and Cleveland, OH are heading for a Christ-less eternity.

    However, the percentage of the lost in these areas compared to the lostness of the world is staggering. The world’s population is presently at 6.9 billion people. Using the same percentage (70 %, which is being very liberal!), the number of lost in the world would be 4.83 billion people, 1.5 billion who have never heard of Jesus Christ.

    The lostness of Kansas-Nebraska and Cleveland combined represents .049% of the TOTAL lostness of the world, or 99.951% of the world’s lost live outside these areas!

    This is not the time to keep more of our resources “home”, but to work together cooperatively to give more.

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