EDITOR’S NOTE: In recognition of the SBC’s October emphasis on the Cooperative Program, Baptist Press will provide readers with extra news and information detailing the scope and depth of the Cooperative Program and its impact for the Kingdom. Using vignettes and profiles of churches and individuals, as well as historical and ongoing accounts, our intent is to explain the Cooperative Program not just as a funding channel but as one of the critical ties that bind Southern Baptists in voluntary fellowship for cooperative ministries and missions.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–One percent doesn’t seem like very much. Just a few years ago, if our investments were returning only 1 percent, we would be looking for different investment instruments. However, during the past two years, most of us wish that our investments yielded a 1 percent gain.
Sometimes one percent is very little; sometimes one percent is a lot.
What could one percent mean to Southern Baptists?
An analysis of the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) fiscal year that ended on September 30, 2008, reveals that Southern Baptists gave over $9 billion ($9,013,807,646) in undesignated receipts to their churches. If the $9 billion dollars represented a tithe, it would mean that during 2008, Southern Baptists earned over $90 billion dollars ($90,138,076,460) in total income. But we know that all Southern Baptists do not tithe.
Empty Tomb Inc. publishes a study in the fall of each year titled, The State of Church Giving. The 2008 study analyzed 44 denominations in America, including the SBC. This study revealed that the average church member in America gives 2.55 percent of their disposable income (top line income less various taxes) to their church for church finances and benevolences. Assuming that the 2.55 percent holds true for the SBC, the $9 billion dollars in total giving does not represent a tithe (10 percent); rather, the $9 billion represents 2.55 percent of some number much larger than the $90 billion dollars in the above example.
If giving in the SBC increased from 2.55 percent to 3.55 percent (just 1 percent), what would the impact be?
First, if we are going to increase giving by 1 percent, we need to know the dollar amount that it is 1 percent of. We have enough information to determine this figure. Some simple 7th grade algebra should work fine:
X = the amount of disposable income in the SBC
.0255X = $9,013,807,646; solving for X,
X = $9,013,807,646/.0255
X = $353,482,652,784, (if we tithed on over $353 billion, our undesignated offerings would be over $35 billion instead of $9 billion)
If Southern Baptist churches increased giving by just 1 percent above the 2.55 percent ‘norm’ (lifting the proportion to 3.55 percent), our adjusted undesignated offerings for 2008 would be $9,013,807,646 plus $3,534,826,527 (1 percent of $353,482,652,784) and would have been over $12 billion ($12,548,634,173).
Now, assuming that SBC churches gave the same percentage through the Cooperative Program (6.08 percent) as they did in 2008, they would have given $763,207,930 through the Cooperative Program (SBC churches actually gave $541 million), and assuming that the states would have forwarded to the SBC the same percentage as they did in 2008 (36.65 percent), the Cooperative Program Allocation Budget would have been $279,715,706 or $75.3 million more than was actually received!
The increased benefit for each of our entities for 2008 would have been:
— The International Mission Board would have received $37,665,056 more than it did in 2008.
— The North American Mission Board would have received $17,167,732 more than it did in 2008.
— Theological education would have received $16,693,153 more than it did in 2008.
— The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission would have received $1,242,946 more than it did in 2008.
— SBC Operating budget and facilitating ministries would have received $2,561,223 more than it did 2008.
Just think of the Kingdom impact if we gave 4.55 percent (a 2 percent increase). The distributions above would be doubled.
Honestly, I am embarrassed to find myself writing an article to God’s people discussing how “great” it would be if they raised their giving to less than half the tithe. To paraphrase Malachi: Missions support would be so much better if we only robbed half the tithe from God instead of the three-fourths of it.
And what if we all tithed?
Our churches would be giving over $2 billion through the Cooperative Program.
Sometimes in Southern Baptists life we put the emphasis on the wrong syllable. Giving isn’t a measure of the wallet, giving is a measure of the heart. It is fundamentally a Lordship issue that asks “Whom are you going to serve?”
Can Southern Baptists give 1 percent more in 2010? Sure!
Can and should they tithe? Yes!
But the motivation should not be the Great Commission, or in helping an entity of the SBC, or in reaching a lost world for Christ. We should give because our heart is in a right relationship with God. It is from that relationship that we are motivated to tithe. Sometimes one percent is very little; sometimes one percent is a lot … when it is from the heart!
Note: The Bible teaches us to tithe based on the first fruits of our labor. The disposable income used in the above analysis would need to be adjusted upward by about 17 percent in order to determine first-fruit income for the SBC.
Bob Rodgers is vice president for Cooperative Program & stewardship with the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention.