NASHVILLE (BP) — God wants “everything we do to bring Him glory,” Frank S. Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, noted.
The church must be a focal point where God’s glory is evident, Page stated during the opening session of the EC’s Feb. 19-20 meeting in Nashville.
Page read two verses from the apostle Paul in Scripture, Ephesians 3:20-21, to open his message:
“Now to him that is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (NKJV).
Page said the passage speaks of “an immeasurably generous God” but, he pointed out, “Interestingly, he [Paul] says that glory will be found in the church.
“Isn’t it always good to know that the great things that really happen, happen in the local church,” Page said. “That’s why we say we are a top-down convention — and the top is the local church.”
Mission & vision
The church, Page said, can bring glory to God by focusing “on the mission to which God has called us,” one that is “very clear” — the “Great Commission mission that is given to us that is not yet complete.”
“[W]e must pull together to see that accomplished,” Page said, adding that when it is “centrally focused,” there won’t be time for “division where there shouldn’t be division.”
“The cause is greater than our differences,” he said.
Likewise, the church can bring glory to God by holding to “the vision to which He has called us,” Page said. “I wake up every day and say, ‘God, what can we do as an Executive Committee, as a convention that would enable every man, woman, boy and girl on the face of this earth to get to hear the Gospel of the Lord Jesus?’
“… [T]hat’s what we’re here for. It’s not about budgets, it’s not about bylaws,” Page said, reiterating, “It’s about seeing every man, woman, boy and girl have a chance to hear the Gospel.”
Stewardship, Page stated, is a key means of fulfilling the mission and vision.
“If we do not get the issue of stewardship correct, the work to which God is calling us will be short-circuited,” Page said. “The issue of stewardship cannot be overestimated.”
Individuals & churches
Personal stewardship is “where it must start. In fact, we have much ground to regain,” Page said. “In 2003, 70 percent of all households gave to charity. In 2015, that had decreased to 65 percent.”
Page said the Executive Committee has been working with state Baptist conventions “to get great resources to our churches so that we might encourage people to raise up the level of Christian stewardship.”
During the SBC annual meeting in Phoenix, Page reported last year on an all-new “It’s a New Day for Financial Freedom” free six-week study for small groups and individuals at the EC’s talkCP website under the Stewardship tab. Also at the talkCP website is information about Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University and a discount available to churches.
Many churches are well aware of the decline in philanthropic giving and “often have to sacrifice to do that which they do,” Page said.
“We fully realize they are under great pressure in the 21st century to fund a number of initiatives,” including “their stewardship in collaborative ministry by giving through the Cooperative Program” to support Southern Baptists’ state, national and international missions and ministry.
Page projected that the Southern Baptist Convention’s Cooperative Program Allocation Budget will rise to $194 million during the coming fiscal year. “We’re thankful to the Lord for that,” he said, yet, “Even with that success we still have issues. Average Cooperative Program giving has declined not too many years ago from 11.3 percent down to 5.16 percent of giving on the part of the average Southern Baptist church.
“[L]ess than 2,000 churches in our convention give 50 percent of all Cooperative Program receipts,” Page said. “Almost 7,000 churches give 80 percent of Cooperative Program. We have a long way to go.”
The need for churches “to be sacrificial in their stewardship” is a regular point of emphasis, Page said. “We talk about it with every ethnic group, every age group, every subset of persons within our convention. We’ve developed advisory councils. We seek to deepen the understanding of this wonderful collaborative ministry.”
SBC & its entities
Within the SBC’s entities, Page said, continuous attention must be given “to be diligent, efficient and effective in the stewardship of the dollars God has given us though individuals, churches and state conventions.” Entity leaders, he said, are “constantly encouraging one another to do the most we can with what we have.”
The Executive Committee, for example, has twice reduced its percentage of the Cooperative Program Allocation Budget along with its percentage of any budget overage, Page recounted.
Page reported that the Executive Committee has begun working with Jonathan Gray of the Georgia Baptist Foundation as the EC’s national stewardship catalyst. Gray is the Georgia foundation’s president and CEO and a former executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Foundation.
“We’re excited about the future,” Page said. “Over the past 90-plus years since the Cooperative Program started, a little over $6.9 billion has been given to missions and ministries on the national level. That includes $3.4 billion to the International Mission Board, over $1.6 billon to the North American Mission Board and over $1.5 billion to theological education.
“We’re thankful for all that God has done,” Page said. “Why? We want to bring glory to Him.”