Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Controversy of the Cooperative Program

Let me say from the outset that I support giving through the Cooperative Program. It is a brilliant strategic administration that has produced far-reaching success for the Kingdom of God. It's not perfect but it is very good.

From the Baptist Press, we learn that messengers to the Convention approved a request from the Executive Committee. The Press writes:
One of the recommendations now encourages churches “to give an increasing percentage of undesignated receipts through the Cooperative Program” but no longer specifies a 10-percent goal for supporting the missions and ministries of state Baptist conventions and the Southern Baptist Convention.

Another now encourages the election of leaders whose churches “systematically and enthusiastically lead by example in giving sacrificially and proportionally through the Cooperative Program,” again without mention of a 10 percent target.
Later in the article, we read:
Anthony Jordan, executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma and chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee, told messengers he believes this is one of the finest hours in the history of the convention and church members have a responsibility to step forward and reach the world with the Gospel. But, he added, he also believes the convention is “on the brink of defaulting in our responsibility.”

“In 1980 the Southern Baptist Convention gave 10.7 percent per church of undesignated receipts to the Cooperative Program,” Jordan said. “Today that number is 6.6 percent. In the greatest hour of opportunity, we’re walking away from our responsibility to fund the greatest missionary force in the evangelical history of Christendom.”
This is especially pertinent in the context of this year's convention. One of the major points of the presidential election was the fact that Ronnie Floyd's church gave 0.27% (that's zero point two seven percent) to the Cooperative Program. Our new president, Frank Page, pastors a church that gave over 12% to the CP.

So, what does giving to the CP actually accomplish? I did some "cipherin'" and after carrying over all of my "aughts," I discovered it does not accomplish as much as most people think. Many believe that if a church gives $100 to the CP, then $100 goes to the mission field. That is not true (of course, it is true with the annual "Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for Foreign Missions" and similar offerings).

Regarding the CP, let me explain. First of all, churches have four options for the allocation of their funds:
  1. PLAN A - 67.5% of the money given by an individual church stays in the state of North Carolina and the rest (32.5%) goes to the national convention. There are no designations - the monies are dispensed by the agencies.
  2. PLAN B - The same amount stays in NC but the balance is divided thusly: 10.5% goes to the national offices, 10.9% goes to Baptist colleges in NC, 10.6% goes to special missions and 0.5% goes to the "Adopt-An-Annuitant" program (caring for uninsured retired pastors).
  3. PLAN C - The distribution is the same as Plan B except instead of 10.5% going to the SBC, that amount goes to the CBF (Cooperative Baptist Fellowship).
  4. PLAN D - Only 49.5% of your church's dollars stay in NC. The rest is divided thusly: 5% goes to Fruitland Bible, 12.5% to special missions, 32.5% to the national convention and 0.5% to the "Adopt-An-Annuitant" program.
Now, let's consider PLAN A, probably the most popular plan, by looking at the numbers from a hypothetical church (Note: The percentages are actual numbers from the 2006-2007 budget):
A church gives $100,000 to the CP. Of that amount, a full 67.5% stays in North Carolina for state purposes such as our Baptist colleges ($11,319.75) and Baptist Hospital ($1,302.75) and Baptist Children's Homes ($3,186.00) and the Biblical Recorder ($769.50) and Administrative overhead ($5,967.00) and NC Home Missions ($4,509.00) and Fruitland Bible Institute ($722.250 and adminstrative overhead ($16,773.75) and more.

The remaining 32.5% of the $100,000 goes on to Nashville - $32,500. Of this amount, HALF goes to International Missions ($16,250) and 22.79% goes to Home Missions ($7,406.75).

Our six seminaries get a little over 21% ($6,955.24) and the rest of the $1,888.25 goes to the SBC operating budget, the "Ethnic and Religious Liberties Commission," the Annuity Board, and the Historical Library/Archives.

So, if you are keeping score, out of the original $100,000 given by the church "to missions," only $23,656.75 actually goes to the missionaries. That's less than 25%!
Again, I want to express my appreciation for the CP and all it has done to spread the gospel over much of the past 100 years. There is no doubt that the CP is a great innovation that has helped Baptists through the years do great things for the cause of Christ.

However, the dramatic language used to promote this program could stand to be toned down just a notch or two. The kingdom of God does not stand or fall because of the CP.

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