Written by Jon and Nathan Akin
Our grandfather was a deacon in a cooperating Southern Baptist Church. He was a blue collar worker who gave generously and sacrificially in cooperation with other likeminded churches so they could send more missionaries, plants more churches, and train more gospel ministers together than they could apart. This giving allowed the Foreign Mission Board (now IMB) to send missionaries to unreached and underserved peoples around the world. This giving allowed the Home Mission Board (now NAMB) to plant churches throughout the US, and this giving allowed for young men to get a great seminary education at a discounted price. All of this giving was to propagate the gospel locally, nationally, and internationally.
He is not unique. He is one of countless “ma” and “pa” Southern Baptists who have given sacrificially to help others advance the mission of Christ. As we reflect on his generosity, it is a little bothersome to see that some seem to be taking advantage of these sacrificial gifts. We would readily admit that the SBC is not the “only game in town,” and there are many other solid networks with whom to partner for the propagation of the gospel. However, we do believe there should be a sense of gratitude, loyalty, and transparency on the part of those who benefit from the giving of ma and pa Southern Baptist. We want to highlight several areas of concern where these may be lacking.
- Planting through the North American Mission Board
We know a Pastor who received significant funding from NAMB to plant a church in a major western city. Once the funding from NAMB stopped, the pastor and church stopped cooperating with the SBC. This is not anything new, but it is still a persistent problem. There are planters/churches that receive funds through NAMB to plant that for all practical purposes have nothing more to do with the SBC once the funding is over. Once the SBC agency is no longer giving them money, they are no longer giving money to the SBC. Again, the SBC is not the only game in town, but as a matter of integrity and gratitude it would seem a planter should be a loyal participant in a convention of churches that has invested so much in him and his church. Would it not display more integrity to struggle to plant by raising one’s own funds than to use the money of ma and pa Southern Baptist and then turn around and have nothing more to do with them?
- Becoming a Southern Baptist to receive the Seminary tuition discount
Another area of concern is those who become Southern Baptist to get the nearly 50% scholarship for their seminary education and then leave the SBC as soon as seminary is over. This scholarship is provided by the sacrificial gifts of ma and pa Southern Baptist through the Cooperative Program and allows us to give the best of seminary educations at a fraction of the cost of other schools. I (Jon) have pastored in a seminary town, and there were often students coming to the seminary who attempted to join my church to get the tuition break. One admitted to me that he did not intend to remain Southern Baptist once his seminary education was complete. This is happening frequently. Where is the integrity in this? Does it show integrity and honesty to take advantage of this system when one doesn’t intend to be committed to it? Again, we wonder if integrity might not dictate that if you become SBC for the discount then you remain SBC to serve those who funded your seminary education. If you do not intend to be Southern Baptist, then would paying full tuition not show more integrity? In this we see the heroes of the SBC, those sacrificial men and women who many will never know, being taken advantage of with very little gratitude.