NEW ORLEANS (BP) — Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, used a World War II analogy June 19 in New Orleans to warn that the Cooperative Program, which fuels SBC missions and ministry, is running low.
A student of history, Page said the Germans were defeated in the Battle of the Bulge after a solid start because they ran out of fuel.
“Their machines stopped working. They were technologically very superior, but they couldn’t go anywhere. Their tanks became sitting targets for our tanks and our soldiers,” Page said June 19 at the SBC annual meeting in New Orleans.
He then told messengers: “We’re running out of fuel in the Southern Baptist Convention. The fuel for a Great Commission Advance, which is what I would like for us to see happen, is the fuel of the Cooperative Program.”
Southern Baptists can talk about missions and even summon the resolve to engage in missions, he said, but without providing fuel for the missions task, the Great Commission will be left to someone else.
“We need a rally point that is both biblically-based and historically faithful, and we believe that is the Cooperative Program,” Page said. That’s why, he said, Southern Baptists must heed “God’s call to be a tithing body of believers.”
Page called for individuals throughout the convention to commit to a 10 percent tithe of their income for the cause of advancing the Kingdom of Christ.
“When the average American Southern Baptist mirrors the culture and gives 2.3 percent of his or her income to causes that would be considered charitable or church-related, we’re never going to be able to impact the lostness of the world like we ought,” Page said. “So I’m calling for a 10 percent tithe on the part of our people.”
During the past year, 15 percent of churches in the convention have expressed specific interest in Page’s 1 Percent Challenge, he said, referring to increasing gifts through the Cooperative Program by 1 percentage point of their budgets.
Page also addressed Calvinism during the Executive Committee report.
“Calvinism is an issue amongst us,” he said. “You may or may not like that, but it is a real issue. I don’t want to shock anyone in this room, but I am not a Calvinist. I am not. I know that shocks you. But I want to tell you this: A lot of our people are.”
According to a recent LifeWay Research poll, more than 60 percent of Southern Baptists said they were concerned about Calvinism in the convention, Page noted.
“Friends, I’m concerned because there seems to be some non-Calvinists who are more concerned about rooting out Calvinists than they are about winning the lost for Christ,” he said. “Did I tell you I’m not a Calvinist? But I am not among that number.”
Some Calvinists, Page said, “seem to think that if we do not believe the same thing about soteriology that they believe then somehow we are less intelligent or ignorant at best.”
“I simply say to you today that it’s time to realize that a Great Commission Advance needs everyone. A Great Commission Advance needs everyone,” he reiterated. “Calvinists and non-Calvinists have worked together for decade upon decade upon decade in this convention.”
Page confirmed again that he plans to assemble a group of advisers to help chart a way through the division surrounding Calvinism. That will not include revising the Baptist Faith and Message, Southern Baptists’ statement of beliefs, he said.
“I do believe we can find some ways to work together better, and I believe that the leaders of both of these groups can come together to say, ‘Here’s how we can return to working together like once we did,'” Page said.
One way to come together, he said, is for Calvinists and non-Calvinists to go door-to-door in Houston next summer, telling people about the Good News of Jesus Christ before the SBC annual meeting.
“If we can come together in missions and evangelism, we can come together,” Page said.
Earlier in the day, Page said the Cooperative Program enables Southern Baptists to diversify their missions investments by supporting ministry on the local, state, national and international level.
“We no longer talk about giving to the Cooperative Program. We talk about giving to missions and ministries through the Cooperative Program. We want you to hear that distinction very well,” Page said.
In a CP video, Mark Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., said Jesus gave the Great Commission not just to one group of disciples but to all Christians, yet his local church alone cannot accomplish the task. The Cooperative Program, he said, makes the task possible through partnership.
“If you’ve not thought about using it, as a local church pastor, I would encourage you to think and pray about how you can better cooperate with other local churches in spreading the Gospel around the world through the Cooperative Program,” Dever said.
During the business portion of the report, messengers:
— adopted a 2012-13 SBC operating budget that anticipates $7.5 million in income, with $6 million through the Cooperative Program. A total of $2.6 million is budgeted for SBC administration expenses and $4.9 million is allocated toward operating expenses for the Executive Committee.
— adopted a 2012-13 Cooperative Program allocation budget that directs $137.2 million to ministries through the convention’s two missions entities, $41.6 million to theological education through six seminaries and $3.1 million to concerns about ethics and religious liberty.
— approved a request from the North American Mission Board to adopt fiscal year October 1 through September 30.
— adopted revised Convention Site and Housing Guidelines for annual meetings, reducing the number of necessary hotel rooms to 4,000 and the number of minimum hotel rooms within two miles of the convention center contracted for the annual meeting to 1,500. Both figures were reduced by 500.
— adopted the 2016-17 SBC calendar of activities.
Erin Roach is assistant editor of Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).