ROCHESTER, Minn. (BP)–There is much to be commended in the final report of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force.
I like the mission statement: “to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every person in the world and to make disciples of all nations.”
I agree with the core values: Christ-likeness, Truth, Unity, Relationships, Trust, Future, Local Church and Kingdom (although I think “Faithfulness” would be a better word than “Future,” but that’s just the editor in me.)
I am not opposed to an improvement of the system of cooperative agreements between the North American Mission Board and state conventions, as long as NAMB’s primary strategy remains supporting and undergirding the work of the state conventions throughout North America where the job is being carried out. That means money needs to continue to flow from NAMB to the state conventions, especially those such as the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention that are unable to generate enough funds on their own to have necessary basic staff and services.
TWO PROBLEMS WITH THE REPORT
My primary points of disagreement with the report are in (1) the establishment of a new category called “Great Commission Giving” and (2) the intentional omission of a percentage target recommended for churches to give through the Cooperative Program.
First, the term “Great Commission Giving” as proposed would include “designated giving” from churches that decrease their CP giving in order to purposely route funds around the budget approved by messengers to their state convention and to the Southern Baptist Convention.
As a pastor, when a tithing family gives a designated gift over and above their tithe for a special need in our church, I rejoice and thank God for their generosity. When a non-tithing family gives a designated gift because they would rather decide how their money is spent than submit it to the decision-making process of our church, I grieve over their lack of cooperation.
I like the term “Great Commission Giving,” but if we are going to use it in the SBC, let’s use it for undesignated gifts through the Cooperative Program and continue to call other contributions what they are: designated gifts.
After all, the report itself acknowledges that the Cooperative Program is “the most effective means of mobilizing our churches and extending our reach … without which we would be left with no unified and cooperative strategy and commitment to the Great Commission task.” According to that, it sounds like Cooperative Program giving is the real Great Commission Giving.
THE MISSING LINK
Second, I was disappointed that the task force failed to challenge churches to consider 10 percent Cooperative Program giving as a base line. The report challenges individuals to give 10 percent of their income to their church, state conventions to pass 50 percent of their receipts on to the SBC, and the SBC to allocate 51 percent of their budget to the International Mission Board. But there is no percentage suggested for churches to give through the Cooperative Program. That is the missing link in their proposal.
When I asked task force members about the omission, I was told it was because local churches are autonomous. And yet the report gives my autonomous local church a list of 31 things to do, ranging from calling a Solemn Assembly in January 2011 to adopting an unreached people group. These are wonderful things to do, as are the rest of the 31 challenges, but so is giving 10 percent through the Cooperative Program. And making that challenge would intrude no more on my church’s autonomy than any of the 31 challenges the task force included. I believe my church would respond positively to such a challenge.
The report does challenge churches “to grow and increase in sacrificial Cooperative Program giving.” That statement misses the mark. Without establishing a recommended percentage base line of 10 percent, that statement tells churches already giving 10 percent they should give more while failing to challenge other churches to rise to at least that level.
A STRONGER RECOMMENDATION
A more challenging and more effective proposal would be to encourage:
— EVERY BAPTIST to tithe, giving 10 percent undesignated to their local church, and to give offerings, over and above the tithe, to Southern Baptist missions as the Lord directs them.
— EVERY CHURCH to give 10 percent of their undesignated receipts through the Cooperative Program to their state convention, to give three percent to their local association, and to promote missions offerings for IMB, NAMB and their state convention.
— EVERY STATE CONVENTION to work toward a goal of sending 50 percent of their undesignated receipts to the SBC.
— THE SBC to increase the percentage allocated to the IMB. This increase of funding for international missions would be possible without any decreases of dollar amounts to any other allocations because of increased tithes and increased CP giving. The solution is not just changing how we slice the pie. The solution is a bigger pie.
And that bigger pie comes from each Baptist tithing to reach their Jerusalem, each church cooperating through 10 percent undesignated giving to reach their Judea, each state convention forwarding half its CP receipts to the SBC to reach their Samaria, and the SBC investing an increasing percentage of its income in spreading the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Now, that’s what I call Great Commission Giving.
LET’S GET IT RIGHT
I urge messengers to the SBC in June to send a real message by doing three things: 1) elect officers who have demonstrated they believe in and support the Cooperative Program; 2) amend the report to apply “Great Commission Giving” to undesignated gifts only, continuing to call designated gifts what they are; and 3) amend the report to add a challenge to all churches to move toward 10 percent giving through the Cooperative Program.
That would greatly strengthen this report and give us a handle for challenging ourselves, our churches and our conventions to give cooperatively and sacrificially for the sake of God’s Kingdom.
David Williams is editor of the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist, newsjournal of the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention.