NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–The presidents of Southern Baptist entities individually addressed Executive Committee members Sept. 17-18, highlighting ways that Southern Baptists’ Cooperative Program gifts are being used for Kingdom purposes and sharing how their ministries are impacting the world for Christ.
INTERNATIONAL MISSION BOARD
Jerry Rankin, president of the International Mission Board, said that as late as 1950, Southern Baptists had only about 600 missionaries working in 27 countries.
“Today to see how God has called out 5,246 missionaries serving in 184 countries gives me an awesome sense of God’s providence,” Rankin said at the SBC Building in Nashville, Tenn. “We continue to rejoice in the places they’re serving.”
But to reach every unengaged people group in the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Rankin said Southern Baptists would need a total of 8,000 missionaries.
“Currently almost 3,000 candidates are in the appointment process to long-term missionary service,” he said. “The number of applications for Journeyman, ISC and Master’s could enable us to possibly send as many as 1,000 a year if Southern Baptists provided the finances.
“How grateful we are for the faithfulness of God through Southern Baptists giving to the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, and with our record goal receipts this past year we’ll be able to send out more than 200 missionaries beyond what we budgeted,” Rankin said.
NORTH AMERICAN MISSION BOARD
Geoff Hammond, president of the North American Mission Board, said partnerships with fellow Southern Baptists help multiply efforts to reach the continent for Christ.
“We’re grateful for what they do in assisting us in fulfilling our mission,” Hammond said. “We’re grateful for the relationships we have with state conventions, associations and Southern Baptist entities and auxiliaries.”
Hammond reported that this summer NAMB had its largest-ever state leadership meeting with cooperating partners, which are vital in mobilizing more than 150,000 missions volunteers and missionaries each year.
“We just held a missionary connection event up in Boston. We brought together 155 missionaries that serve up in the Northeast,” Hammond said. “It was a wonderful time of hearing their stories and providing encouragement, training and networking.”
Southern Baptists need to understand that North America is an “incredibly important mission field,” Hammond said, as “the nations have become our neighbors and we need to reach them.”
“I want to say thank you for your gifts through the Cooperative Program and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering,” Hammond told Executive Committee members, who represent Southern Baptist state conventions and churches.
ETHICS & RELIGIOUS LIBERTY COMMISSION
Richard Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, thanked the Executive Committee for granting his entity a substantial increase in Cooperative Program funds at the SBC annual meeting in San Antonio.
“To give the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission a $325,000 increase, if you didn’t adjust the percentages, you would have to have a $59.5 million increase in CP at the local church level for us to get $325,000 in extra Cooperative Program money,” Land explained.
“So what you did, in effect, in changing our percentage from 1.49 percent to 1.65 percent is the equivalent of growing the Cooperative Program by nearly $60 million in terms of the impact it has on our budget,” he said. “So we are most grateful. We thank you, and we will do our best to be good stewards of that which you have entrusted to us.”
Land noted the growing culture of death in the United States that the ERLC is working hard to combat by promoting the protection of unborn children, among other efforts.
“We [in the United States] are and have been aborting about 1.4 million babies a year, on average,” Land said. “That’s nearly 50 million babies since 1973 — one out of every three babies conceived.”
GUIDESTONE FINANCIAL RESOURCES
O.S. Hawkins, president of GuideStone Financial Resources, said the focus of his entity is on the messenger of the Gospel rather than primarily the message of the Gospel.
“It’s our privilege to advocate for our pastors, missionaries, investors and others who are out there sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” he said. “We’re guided by a mission statement that says we exist to honor the Lord by being a lifelong partner with our participants in enhancing their financial security. That’s our motivation.”
Hawkins reported that the past year has been a successful one for GuideStone, especially as this fall marks the first time that the entity is providing a $10,000 life benefit to every full-time seminary student in all six Southern Baptist seminaries.
“On the medical side we’re seeing tremendous growth there,” Hawkins added. “We went through three years with no increases in our medical premiums for our pastors. In fact, over half of them got decreases. This next year, we’re going to have some inflationary increases there, but still over 80 percent of our participants in 2008 are going to be paying less in medical premiums than they were in 2004.”
Because of the sustained donations from Southern Baptists across the country, Hawkins noted that GuideStone chose this summer to forgo the Cooperative Program allocation it has been receiving for relief ministries to needy retirees or their widows, starting with the upcoming fiscal year.
SOUTHERN BAPTIST FOUNDATION
Warren Peek, president of the Southern Baptist Foundation, told Executive Committee members that during a 60-year history the foundation has given $167 million to Baptist causes while receiving only about $10 million in Cooperative Program support.
“While we are very thankful for this support, it is our goal to be financially independent by the year 2010 so that the Cooperative Program support can go to other Baptist causes,” Peek announced.
The foundation offers investment services to SBC entities and assists state foundations with investments and estate planning. It also offers individuals the opportunity to leave money through a will, a trust or a charitable gift annuity, Peek said.
“We strive to provide the highest ideals of Christian stewardship while offering a maximum return,” he said, noting that the foundation rules out stocks that invest in abortion, gambling, pornography, alcohol and tobacco.
GOLDEN GATE BAPTIST THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY
Jeff Iorg, president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, said ministry training has advanced to a level never before seen in Baptist life in the western United States, as evident in the opening of a Ph.D. program in biblical studies to full capacity enrollment and in the rapid growth of the doctor of ministry program.
“I thank you for making that possible through the Cooperative Program,” Iorg told EC members. “While all of our institutions depend on the Cooperative Program, if it weren’t for the Cooperative Program, if we were only appealing to local Baptists for support in the West, there would never have been a Golden Gate Seminary. So thank God for you and for what you’ve extended to us through that means.”
Iorg also specifically thanked Southern Baptists for the one-time CP allocation the seminary received this summer and for the adjustment in the seminary funding formula which “is giving us the opportunity now to rethink our strategy in Southern California.”
MIDWESTERN BAPTIST THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY
R. Philip Roberts, president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, reported that the seminary “is in the midst of a very encouraging growth spurt” as it celebrates its 50th anniversary.
“We’ve had six great years of increased [fulltime equivalents], and FTE credit hours, and if you know anything about our formula, that’s what fuels and determines our share of the Cooperative Program monies, and that’s been very important for us,” Roberts said.
Midwestern Seminary has seen its FTE credit hours grow in the past three years from 8,000 to 12,000 for the past school year, Roberts said. While those students are on campus, the faculty and staff have three goals for them in addition to graduation: leading someone to faith in Christ; discipling a new believer; and participating in a mission project either in a major urban area or overseas.
“We’re honored to be blessed and encouraged and supported by the Cooperative Program in all that we do,” Roberts said. “The Cooperative Program support forms over 50 percent of our budget, and that means that we’re very much dependent upon your good gifts and the gifts of our churches to support all that we’re doing at Midwestern.”
NEW ORLEANS BAPTIST THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY
Chuck Kelley, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, said because of how Southern Baptists helped the school recover from Hurricane Katrina, NOBTS is “alive and well and doing great” on its 90th anniversary.
Kelley noted that the campus sustained more than $50 million in damages related to the hurricane and received a $33.4 million insurance settlement.
“I guess we’re the only school in New Orleans that is not involved in a lawsuit against its insurance agency,” Kelley said, attributing the difference to the millions of dollars Southern Baptists gave toward recovery efforts.
A Cooperative Program gift of $6.2 million was the largest single gift the seminary received after the hurricane, and Southern Baptists added $10 million to that in other offerings, Kelley said. Now the campus is fully operational again and families are returning for training.
“Thank you for helping us get back on our feet to serve those students,” Kelley said, adding thanks for the more than $3 million worth of volunteer labor provided by Southern Baptists on the New Orleans campus.
“It has mattered. There has not failed a week since the wind died down that Southern Baptists have not been in the streets of New Orleans and along the Mississippi Gulf Coast helping people rebuild their lives,” he said.
SOUTHEASTERN BAPTIST THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY
Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, said school administrators are now telling parents “it’s a dangerous thing to send your sons and daughters to our seminary because we will do our best to talk them out of coming back home to you.”
“We will do our best to talk them into going to the nations where there are 1.6 billion people who’ve never yet heard the name of Jesus,” Akin told EC members.
During chapel services, the seminary has been emphasizing the lives of legendary missionaries like William Carey and Lottie Moon, and as a result, Akin said 22 students changed their degree programs to international church planting.
“It’s exciting to catch the missionary spirit,” Akin said. “… We’re grateful that we can do what we do because of your prayers, because of your giving, because of the Cooperative Program. It really is a wonderful, wonderful partnership that we share with Southern Baptists, and we’re just honored to have a small part in doing what the Lord has called us to do, getting the Gospel to the nations.”
SOUTHERN BAPTIST THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY
R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, told Executive Committee members he is well aware of “the incredible stewardship that is invested in us” as “we are drinking from wells we did not dig and eating from vineyards we did not plant.”
“The Lord has blessed Southern Seminary beyond anything we could have imagined,” Mohler said. “We will have 4,500 students this year, and that is by seminary enrollment simply massive and unprecedented. We will have more new students on our campus this year than the average size of the theological seminary in the accredited world of theological education in the United States … and that is a sign of God’s blessing to us.”
Mohler said students are coming from all 50 states and this year from nearly 30 foreign countries to “an institution that they know stands without apology for the faith once for all delivered to the saints.”
“They’re coming to an institution they know is The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. They want to identify with the Southern Baptist Convention and with Southern Baptists,” he said.
SOUTHWESTERN BAPTIST THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY
Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, reported that students from the school are launching out across the world to the hard places where people live “in homes without running water, with no floor but a dirt floor, out there serving the Lord, having walked three blocks to get any kind of water at all for a bath or anything else in their home.”
“What wonderful kids you’ve got,” Patterson said of the students. “What amazing contributions that you’ve made to the work around the world. That’s what our theological seminaries get to deal with every single solitary day.”
Patterson acknowledged that Southwestern has had to face some problems during the past year in the media and elsewhere.
“And the great thing about it is that in the midst of those problems God is so gracious that, contrary to published results by some who think they know, we have had now for the third fall in a row an increase in our student body,” he said. “Not only that, we’ve had the two greatest years in financial giving in the history of the school, and we are ready to celebrate our 100th anniversary.”
LIFEWAY CHRISTIAN RESOURCES
Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, which does not receive Cooperative Program funds, presented a check to the Executive Committee for $696,000 with instructions that 60 percent be allocated to the IMB and 40 percent given to NAMB to advance the cause of missions.
The money was raised this summer at the various mission camps hosted by LifeWay, including Centrifuge, M-Fuge and X-Fuge, Rainer said.
“During these weeks of mission emphasis, these children, some of them in camps with grades 7-12 and others younger grades 3-8, heard about missionaries around the world,” Rainer said. “They heard about missionaries in North America. They learned intensely about these men and women that their churches support.”
When they were encouraged to pray and give money for missions, Rainer said the children and youth gave “their nickels, their quarters, their dimes and a few dollars.”
“It is easy to see the problems. It is great to be a part of a people of God that are seeing God’s solutions. These are not just difficult days,” Rainer said. “These are divine days.”
WOMAN’S MISSIONARY UNION
Wanda Lee, president of Woman’s Missionary Union, an SBC auxiliary which does not receive CP funds, reported that a ministry called WorldCrafts is in more than 30 countries with more than 2,000 artisans, “all of whom are experiencing the awareness of God’s love in their lives in very unique and different ways.”
Lee said missionaries and WorldCrafts are at the heart of WMU, and one of the newest WorldCrafts groups is in Nigeria, where Southern Baptists are ministering to women who are HIV-positive and children who have been orphaned because of AIDS.
“Many of these who are facing death and who know that their time on earth is short are finding a place of hope, a place where they’re loved and a place where they can continue to do something meaningful with their lives for ever how long they have,” she said.
Lee also told Executive Committee members that WorldCrafts is “probably the fastest young women’s approach to learning about missions in the church right now.”
Erin Roach is a staff writer for Baptist Press.