SBC Loyalty?

CP LOGO_COLORSCREEN_HIRES TAGWritten 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.

Comments 0

  1. One thought: the rules for tuition discount are that you must currently be a member at an SBC church to receive the discount. I do not see it as a lack of integrity if you go to an SBC school and are a member of an SBC church and receive a discount. You are abiding by their rules. If the SBC is really concerned about it, they should make a rule (like the NAMB or IMB has) where you must be a member at an SBC church for two years prior before attending in order to receive the discount. Until they do that, I don’t see the harm in being part of an SBC church while in seminary. Who knows, you may just come to like the SBC and stay.

    In my case, I had never attended an SBC church before attending the SBC seminary. I had no plans (one way or the other) to continue in an SBC church when I graduated. But I liked the school and the tuition was affordable so I enrolled. I immediately became members of a nice SBC church in the area was actively involved for my years in seminary. And you know what? I actually started to like the SBC. I graduated with an appreciation for them in many areas — not to mention the tuition discount. Once I graduated I eventually ended up on staff an SBC church.

    Did I lack integrity when I took the discount? I don’t believe so. I followed all the rules they had. If they want to make the stricter, they are welcome to do so, but I think their discount is one of the reasons why they have large seminaries and is perhaps a great “promotional” tool toward pastors for the SBC. At the very least, it is promoting sound, biblical theology so pastors can go out and preach the word without debt. If they end up at an SBC church doing that, should we really care whether the SBC gets the credit or not?

  2. Love the new look, guys. Your second point is one of my biggest pet peeves. I’ve been concerned about this trend for over a decade. It gripes me to no end to see folks become SBC long enough to get the CP discount, and then leave seminary and become nondenominational, Bible Church, A-29 (only), Sovereign Grace, etc. I praise The Lord for the work he’s doing among those groups and others. And if someone feels led to leave the SBC and go elsewhere, so be it. But being SBC just long enough to get all the CP benefits is just wrong. My suggestion: you must be a member of a SBC church for at least two years to receive the CP seminary discount, and your church plant must agree to remain SBC for at least five years after the CP money runs out in order to receive any CP money in the first place.

    1. I would support the 2-year prior membership stipulation for SBC tuition, but not the 5-year post-plant requirement for NAMB support. I’m uncomfortable with a church being in a contractual obligation of that sort to the Convention, and the requirements of SBC membership are so minimal that I doubt it would really accomplish anything.

  3. The whole issue as you’ve framed them and as I see it speaks to integrity. To Kyle’s inquiry, it would seem that if someone joins an SBC church with the sole purpose of receiving a discount shows a lack of integrity.

    There may be rules set-up in the system, but I’m pretty sure the rules are not meant to be used for their personal advantage.

  4. In response to Kyle’s post, it certainly seems like that is sticking a whole lot to the letter of the law rather than the spirit of the law. Dare I say that’s a bit pharisaical? Not to mention all students are required to take a course on the Cooperative Program therefore they cannot plead ignorance to the points the Akin brothers are making here, that ma and pa SBC are giving sacrificially to and for the causes of the SBC.

    I personally don’t believe that a 2 year waiting period should be enacted for schooling. I think that would be an overcorrection. Rather I would just make it clear that a student understands that he’s taking the discount with the assumption that he will serve in an SBC church.

  5. When looking for doctoral programs I ended up talking to an SBC pastor that I knew (I was in an independent church at the time). He basically asked me to join his church so that I could get a discount at a nearby SBC seminary. I politely declined – for the reasons mentioned above by the way. The ministry in my local church and my education choice shouldn’t be based on how I can best “milk the system.” 2 years later we had moved and I have been in a great SBC church ever since. I doubt anyone on staff at my church now would encourage potential seminarians to join solely to get a discount. It comes down to personal integrity, like you mentioned.

  6. The question of integrity on these matters in some cases begins even before Seminary and church planting and pastoring. As an undergraduate I was part of our Church Related Vocations fellowship at our small Baptist college. This group was comprised of young men and women who felt the calling to full time ministry. The vast majority of these 150 students received a monthly check in the amount of $180 in addition to any scholarships or grants they already received. It was a tremendous blessing. The source of these funds were no less than state Cooperative Program dollars. There were many stipulations regarding the receiving of such funds which included lifestyle and habits, church attendance and membership, and of course actually serving for the same amount of time gifts had been received. Many never fulfilled such obligations but continued to receive checks. As a student leader in this organization, I was amazed at the amount of times I was approached by individuals when his or her check was “late.” On one such occasion, after having visited with one irate student because he had written a “hot check”, I was alone and in my mind’s eye I saw this little old lady in the back pew of a country church opening a little coin purse and dropping in a few nickels in to the offering plate. After that day I never forgot that “lady.” She traveled with me beyond college to Seminary and stands ready to help cooperating Great Commission Southern Baptists today do their work to the Glory of God. I am thankful for Ma and Pa Baptist. Thank you brothers Akin for putting a voice to this issue.

  7. Changing the rules never has any effect on those intent on violating their spirit. The two-year “waiting period” does absolutely nothing to ensure that the person will remain SBC after they graduate. I enrolled at SBTS after having been an SBC church member for a little less than a year. I have no intention of leaving the convention, and I did not join to get the discount.

    Maybe the best path to a solution is to ask the hard question: Why do men and women want to abandon their relationship with the SBC after having received so many of its benefits? Why is that mutual feeling of connection not developing? Unfortunately, it seems that many of our leaders automatically “norm” the convention and its practices. It is never thought possible that it might be because of mismanagement of resources or mistreatment of individuals that people want to exit our midst as soon as they can.

    In reality, these people might be driven away by what they see taking place, Many of them may have originally intended to continue a life-long partnership with the SBC and could no longer do so in good conscience for one reason or another.

    Integrity between two parties is, well, a two-way street.

  8. I don’t think it is unreasonable to ask that students receiving the subsidy (it’s not actually a discount since the money gets paid by others) make some sort of declaration about their intentions to continue work in Baptist ministry. This is already being done on some grant and scholarship applications such as the Charles B. Keesee grant ( which goes so far as to ask the student to affirm that they intend to enter full-time Baptist ministry or religious work. I think this would likely go too far for the Seminary requirement, but I think a similar affirmation made by students where they declare they are currently Southern Baptist and intend to remain Southern Baptist prior to receiving the CP subsidy.
    Understandably, convictions may change later, and that does not restrict this in any way. All it would essentially say is “I am currently, and upon graduation intend to remain a Southern Baptist.” If the answer to this question is “no,” then they should not receive the discount. If they lie on the application, then that is a whole different sort of integrity issue that needs to be dealt with on their knees before God.

  9. I agree with both of you on this one. I am part of a church plant in Florida. We see some of the repercussions of the convention’s goal of planting 100 churches a year (this year it is 125) but most of these churches do not last. The greater problem is the number of people given money through NAMB who do not represent SBC in belief or practice. I have a friend in Canada who has had major problems with most of the plants up there because of liberal theology. They are open about their disagreement with the SBC but take the money. My heart is along with yours in this matter. Let’s be faithful and have integrity.

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  11. I know of a solidly evangelical non-SBC church in East TN that did a minimal CP gift in order to be able to send their students to an SBC Seminary and receive the tuition break. Not cool in my opinion. This is a situation where the heart of the policy is missed because of the letter of the policy.

    I also know of students who don’t claim the tuition break because they in good conscience can’t say they will serve an SBC church after seminary mainly because of geographical issues. They came from non-SBC but serve faithfully in an SBC church now. Long term though they aren’t sure they will serve in the SBC because they are from the Twin Cities area where there is not a lot of SBC work. Should they be forced to pay the higher tuition rate?

    It’s a difficult conversation but one I hope the Seminaries will have because it is an issue of putting our students in a position either to pay more than we intend or to make a decision that would be considered unethical all because we aren’t clear on the policy.

  12. When I went to SBTS I was not a member of the SBC. I did join a SBC church and I did receive the discount, though. However, the paper I signed with SBTS specifically said that, in exchange for the monetary discount, I would agree to serve in the SBC for a period of (I think) two years. I agreed and have been serving the SBC since then.

    I don’t know if that agreement is just at SBTS or not, though.

  13. Akin Bros…..Thank you for the challenging article & the courage & compassion to speak the truth in love. And thank The Lord for people like your Granddaddy who give through CP as a means to financially support an Acts 1:8 strategy to do GC work locally & globally.

  14. The CP subsidizing is a huge blessing for SBC seminarians! But I’m afraid that for some, the lure of the SBC tuition rate weaves a tangled web. My response is always, “If you’re going to take the money, you should agree to play by the rules”– This goes for accepting CP money, as well as fully committing to a school’s covenant, regardless of whether or not you agree with it or whether or not you think each element is strictly commanded by Scripture (ie: alcohol consumption). Most scholarships have strict rules in place; why is this one different? The “openness” of the requirements does leave room for grace in certain cases, but it also leaves room for abuse. Like the first commenter says, the rules for tuition currently are that you must be an SBC member to receive the SBC rate. That’s it. There are no other stipulations. Though our application for admission does in fact ask whether or not the applicant is currently involved in the SBC and it does ask whether or not the applicant intends to serve within SBC life, it’s ultimately the Church Recommendation form that sets the tuition rate. Based on these and other factors, I would personally be in support of some different wording or a more binding agreement in regard to a student’s tuition.

    When I began as a student at SEBTS, I was also scholarshipped by the GA Baptist Convention. Their application for aid does ask which SBC church recommended you to seminary, which SBC church you’re a member of in your seminary town, and whether or not you intend to maintain SBC connections post-graduation (so, it asks for your SBC history, your current involvement, and your future plans). You also have to sign stating that you agree that it would be “right” to pay back your scholarship money if you decide to break ties with the SBC or serve within another convention or denomination. This kind of wording sets the expectations for the applicant up front, and it also provides more grounds for the review committee when deciding whether or not to award the money.

    I understand that people come from all different backgrounds and have no control over things like geography or parental up-bringing, so requiring a “history” of SBC affiliation may not be the most appropriate deciding factor. I am proud to be part of a convention that supports anyone who wants to learn and serve and, thus, makes provision for many students to receive the SBC rate for their first semester, and continues that support if the student joins a SBC church while in school. So in essence, it may appear that that provision allows any student to join the SBC just to get the rate, but in my opinion, when you weren’t “hindered” from being SBC (ie: geography isn’t a factor– you just have zero intention to join and serve in a SBC church) and you join JUST for seminary JUST to get the money, you’re abusing the grace that was extended to your brother. Be active in your church, be joyful in your CP giving, and be honest with your intentions. Even the full tuition rate, comparatively speaking to other private schools of equal caliber, is very affordable. Additionally, other churches and organizations do provide funding for non-SBC students. When you take money that was given to you in good faith, yet have no intentions to support the further working of those resources, you’re not only stealing your seminary education, but you’re taking precious dollars that could be supporting missionaries, church planters, and local leaders/trainees already on the ground.

  15. I couldn’t agree more, especially when you frame this in terms of personal integrity. However, it deserves being said that faculty and administration at (at least) some of the seminaries will push non-SBC seminarians to join an SBC church for the discount.

    A good friend with a background as a Presbyterian came to my seminary and planned on paying full tuition, but had numerous people on staff put significant pressure on him to get the discount. Apparently they couldn’t fathom him paying full price when a discount was available – even if that meant sliding in the back door of an SBC church to do so. He resisted firmly at first but after so many staff/admin looking at him like a crazy person for paying (in their minds) double the “normal” rate, he finally gave in.

  16. I’m late to the party, but speaking personally, it’s pretty frustrating to think that some people might question my integrity later on, when I’ve made every effort to be crystal clear about this. I attached a document to my seminary application explaining that I was currently a happy member of an SBC church but did not have plans to devote myself to the SBC post-graduation. Here is what I submitted to the Admissions office:

    “At some point in the application this question was asked: ‘Do you plan to serve within Southern Baptist life?’ I answered in the affirmative, but I’m not entirely certain what the question means. Does it refer to long-term or short-term plans? I am currently a member of a Southern Baptist church and I do plan to continue serving there (which is why I answered the question in the affirmative). At the same time, I’m a non-denominational Christian at heart, and I do not plan to serve in Southern Baptist life in the long-term; though I wouldn’t be opposed to that should God later give me an opportunity to serve in an SBC church. I have much in common with Southern Baptists, and I’m a more-than-happy member of a great Southern Baptist church. But I’m not denominationally committed to the SBC.”

    And even before that, I had contacted two high-ranking faculty members about some of the ways I differ from Southern Baptists, because I worried that those differences might disqualify me from receiving the discount; and both affirmed unequivocally that the only requirement was to be a member of an SBC church. There was no “spirit of the law” talk. And if there were a “spirit of the law,” it would seem that integrity calls for at least clearly informing students about that spirit beforehand, rather than staying tight-lipped about it and then accusing them of abusing grace.

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  18. What is it we are called to be loyal to? The SBC or the Kingdom? If seminary students want to go to the great SBC seminaries and get half-off tuition, let them. It’s not like God won’t know where they got their degree and whose denomination funded it.

    Consider for a moment all the SBC seminary graduates who are impacting the world for Christ, yet who may have “used” the denom’s name for a discount. Why are we not cheering them on and praising God for the chance to be a part of that work. How do you know God isn’t using the SBC to educate multitudes of “unloyal” theological leaders for His glory? Do you not want to be used that way? Why are you demanding loyalty? Ok, here’s the credit you want:

    SBC seminaries are awesome (except for dispensational premill eschatology) and the half-off discount makes them even more awesome, and the fact that they don’t really vet all their students who claim to be SB shows that they are more interested in the progress of the Kingdom and not denominational interests. (That should be satisfactory?)

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