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SBC giving projected for 6th record, yet key missions challenge is ahead

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–A projected record in Cooperative Program giving — the sixth in a row — was announced during the opening session of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee’s Sept. 20-21 meeting by Morris H. Chapman, the entity’s president and chief executive officer.
The increase in giving from Southern Baptist churches nationwide is projected to be $8 million over the 1997-98 fiscal year’s record-setting $159,583,743.
“The Lord has been mighty good to Southern Baptists,” Chapman said during his report to the meeting in Nashville, Tenn. “Southern Baptists have been faithful in giving their tithes and offerings.”
Final figures for the fiscal year will be announced Oct. 1.
In relation to the SBC’s current CP Allocation Budget of $155,005, 723, the projected increase would be $12 million, Chapman reported.
This year’s overage, he added, will pay off the remaining $3.5 million of the SBC’s capital needs debt, with all overages in the years ahead now being forwarded to convention agencies according to the regular CP funding formula, which entails, for example, a 50 percent allocation to the International Mission Board and 22.79 percent to the North American Mission Board.
“We have every reason to praise the Lord,” Chapman said of the projected record, “and to thank Southern Baptists across the country. We have reason to commend state conventions for working with the Southern Baptist Convention in forwarding as much as possible to the SBC for world missions, seminary education for our young ministers and a strong voice for religious liberty, ethics and morality in Washington and beyond.”
The SBC’s upcoming 75th anniversary celebration of the Cooperative Program — “Partners in the Harvest,” with a goal of $750 million in giving for all Baptist causes during the 2000-2001 fiscal year — can be reached, Chapman said, “with God’s help and the cooperation of loyal Southern Baptist leaders everywhere” — to “literally launch our witness into the next millennium.”
The Cooperative Program is the unified funding plan begun in 1925 through which Baptists cooperate in support of missions and ministries. Three goals have been set for the anniversary celebration:
— Baptize 1 million people in the year 2000.
— Sign up a record number of Baptists for volunteer missions projects.
— Give $750 million in 2000-2001 through CP and special offerings for international, North American and state missions, which would entail an additional $60 million in CP gifts through local churches across the country.
Despite the chain of record-setting years in Cooperative Program giving, a key financial challenge could face Southern Baptists as early as next year, Jerry Rankin, president of the International Mission Board, said in his report to the Executive Committee.
“Partners in the Harvest could not come at a better time,” Rankin said.
The IMB is now in its seventh consecutive year of record missionary appointments, he said, and the agency has been able to keep up with the growth financially thanks to the unprecedented years of Southern Baptists’ CP giving.
Now, the IMB missionary personnel office is “nurturing over 3,000 candidates committed to missionary appointment” — and it has predicted “that we will come very close to 1,000 new missionaries sent out and commissioned in 1999,” Rankin said. The IMB’s appointments last year totaled 885, counting career missionaries and other workers with commitments to service of two years or longer.
“But unless we meet the goals of Partners in the Harvest,” Rankin noted, “we very seriously are facing the consequences of having to restrict the flow of missionaries” at a time when “God continues to call out Southern Baptists in unprecedented numbers” for missions service.
The IMB has exceeded the capacity of the its Missionary Learning Center and has had to shorten orientation sessions for new missionaries and spend additional funds to go off-site for furlough- and various other missionary-related conferences, Rankin said.
Thus, the IMB will begin an expansion of the missionary-training facility next spring to nearly double its size, he noted.
If a cutback in the sending of missionaries ever is necessitated, Rankin said, “That would be absolutely tragic, because what is happening today in the accelerating harvest [of unreached peoples] is not a result of our missions strategies and record numbers of missionaries.”
Rather, Rankin said, “God is at work, and he is calling us in faithfulness and obedience to join him in what he is doing, and we dare not be unfaithful and remiss in responding with the resources with which God has blessed us as Southern Baptists.”
Paige Patterson, president of the SBC, added in his report to the Executive Committee, “Can you imagine any turn of events that would be as serious, debilitating and awful as that scenario, that we wouldn’t have enough money to send the missionaries that are volunteering to go?”
Such a possibility “is a reality,” said Patterson, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, N.C.
The large number of young seminarians who are “headed for international missions” is a reality Patterson said he and the leaders of the SBC’s five other seminaries are well aware of.
“That’s what makes the 75th anniversary of our Cooperative Program and all of the effort we’re putting into Partners in the Harvest so critically important,” Patterson said.
Churches can obtain information about becoming involved in Partners in the Harvest by phoning 1-800-722-9407 or, on the Internet, at the SBC website, www.sbc.net, in the Cooperative Program section.