This will be my last post on the SBC. In this last post I want to address a significant problem within Southern Baptist life.
The chief reason why Southern Baptists cooperate with one another is to fulfill the Great Commission. We do this primarily by pooling our financial resources together to fund our mission endeavors. On the national level, we have two missionary agencies, the North American Mission Board (NAMB) and the International Mission Board (IMB). The most important of the two in my estimation is the IMB. The majority of the non-Christian population lives outside the Unites States and Canada. The greatest need for church planting is in regions where Christianity has little to no presence.
It was reported in a Baptist Press article last May that the IMB was going to suspend and cut back on various ministries because of a lack of funds. This has left an unsatisfying taste in my mouth. It is frankly unacceptable.
Now there are various ways to correct this financial shortfall. Churches can give more to the Cooperative Program. Churches can also give more to the Lottie Moon offering, which goes 100% to support the IMB’s work.
Yet, I believe the shortfall raises questions about why the IMB is enduring a financial shortfall. Have Southern Baptists gotten their hands into too many ministries? Is there duplication and redundancy in our ministries? Should some ministries and positions be cut in order to fund ministries of greater priority? Sometimes, the answer is not just give more money.
Much discussion over the past years has centered around the allocation of Cooperative Program dollars given to Southern Baptist causes. The Cooperative Program is the historic mechanism by which Southern Baptist dollars are collected and dispersed to support State, National, and International mission efforts.
To many younger Southern Baptists, as we have learned more about the allocation of Cooperative Prgram dollars, we find disappointment. The disappointment is this: Almost every Southern Baptist State Convention receives more Cooperative Program dollars than our National entities, which includes IMB and NAMB.
Now I am not an anti-State Convention guy, but I cannot for the life of me agree that the majority of my money designed to support missions in the most unreached places is not getting to those people who serve in those areas. Now I hear that the IMB is suspending programs which undoubtedly would send out missionaries who are needed to reach lost people in espcially dark regions of this world.
Why does my own state convention (Tennessee) and previous (South Carolina) receive the greater portion of my mission dollars than the IMB and NAMB? I know there is much work to be done in these two states, but we have 1,000’s of Southern Baptists in these two states. There are also 1000’s of other solid evangelical churches in these states as well. Yet when you compare the need of the gospel to be spread to other nations and peoples, there really isn’t any comparison where the bulk of our money should be going.
Here is a list of the breakdown of 2008 CP dollars kept by State Conventions in the South where the base of Southern Baptists are located:
Alabama 58%, Arkansas 58%, Florida 61%, Georgia 59%, Kentucky 64%, Louisiana 65%, Mississippi, 66%, North Carolina 71%, South Carolina 58%, Tennessee 58%.
Only two state conventions forward more nationally than they keep, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia. Yet both these states have two state conventions and the other two keep an exceedingly high amount of CP dollars.
So for example in my own church and state here is our breakdown. Westwood Baptist Church gave 7% of our budget to the CP which amounted in 2008 to $16,784. How much then of this money went to International Missions funded through the IMB?
$9,735 or 58% was kept by the State Convention
$7,049 or 42% was sent to the SBC, and of this total the IMB by allocation receives 50% which amounts to $3,525. So the greatest area of need only receives 21% of the money we send.
It just does not add up. This does not excite the younger Southern Baptists I know. I do not think it excites the members of my church either.
My sincere hope and prayer is this may be reformed quickly. I hope we can bring changes in unity rather than going our different ways. But as Dr. Albert Mohler said recently, churches should make Southern Baptist entities earn their money. Ultimately I and the church I pastor will give account of the stewardship of our finances. And we want to be graded well.