From the President's Report to the SBC Executive Committee, February 22, 2010
The Greatness of Cooperation
As a member of the Executive Committee (EC), you serve in one of the most critical positions in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). The Convention relies heavily on you to be trustworthy and wise in your deliberations and judgments. The committee always will have its critics, and lobbyists who attempt to pressure you "to see it their way." Those who live and die by the political sword in the Convention believe that you can be convinced of their position because of your desire for political goodwill. But in the years I have been here, members of the Executive Committee have displayed rare and courageous resistance against those who attempt to influence your vote on everything from issues to officer nominees. The vast majority of the EC members over the years, including those of you who are here tonight, have maintained your integrity and the integrity of the EC as you have made decisions upon hearing the facts and listening for the voice of God. You must never be swayed or persuaded by anything but a combination of good reasoning, sound doctrine, and a profound dependence upon the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
For the good of the Executive Committee, the Convention, and the Kingdom of God, members and staff must not pursue personal power. The minute they do so, they become susceptible to the power plays of others. The Southern Baptist Convention is much bigger than we are. God's Kingdom is much bigger than the Convention. We are not here to push our own agendas or to engage in political posturing that is prevalent in religious circles. We are not to advise the Convention from huddles in the hallways, secretive meetings, and telephone campaigns, but from sincere convictions, open discussions, and dependence upon God's Spirit to lead us.
We are a people who have chosen to work together in a spirit of cooperation. We cannot and must not treat cooperation with each other as a frivolous exercise in disrespect. We must treasure the cooperative spirit that exists among us and work everlastingly to improve it for the sake of God's Kingdom. Cooperation is one of the geniuses of this Convention.
In my opinion, the old Southern Baptist ship of Zion is not sailing steadily. It is being battered by the winds and the waves. In the years I have served you, I sought to add ballasts in one place or another to give the seafaring craft increased stability. But it appears that we have seldom sailed on glassy seas and maybe never will. Perhaps I sought to do the impossible. I do believe, however, that someone had to be at the helm of the ship, and I am thankful God gave me the opportunity to do my best although we may not have reached peaceful waters and a safe harbor.
The fate of the old ship, Zion, is linked to the fate of cooperation among all the churches in the Convention. This Convention should never leave one church behind! Every church in the Kingdom counts! The largest churches receive the greatest attention, but the smaller churches are important, too. Some of the greatest preachers in this Convention are preaching in small churches located in small towns or perhaps on a gravel road out in the country. They may never be marquee preachers on earth, but they will be rewarded in heaven according to their faithfulness and humble spirit. Some of the wisest people on the earth are in these churches. These churches and their pastors are important in God's Kingdom, too. To leave them behind from neglect or by demoting the Cooperative Program to one of many offerings will be ecclesiastical euthanasia for them and ultimately for the Southern Baptist Convention. God forbid!
Today in America, I fear that too much is all about us rather than all about God. The present generations have convinced themselves that it is, after all, about them. When Satan catches us off-stride, sleeping at the wheel, or staring into space, the father of lies leaps into action to keep us from taking the leap of faith required to refocus upon Jesus and not ourselves. May we sail the seas more effectively in the years to come.
The Cooperative Program
The Cooperative Program is the greatest missions funding mechanism in the history of Christendom. The Cooperative Program is a highly valued resource for missions, ministries, and theological education.
Last August, God led August, that is, Augie Boto to read Mark, chapter 12. There Jesus observed, This poor widow has put in more than all those giving large sums to the temple treasury, for they all gave out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, has put in everything she possessed — all she had to live on.
Augie said he realized that Jesus had designed the "teaching moment" to illustrate that people usually look at the amount to determine Kingdom worth, when instead they should be looking either to the proportion or to the sacrifice. In fact, the text actually says that many rich people were putting in a small sum, stating that in fact, the widow's mite was a "greater" amount than all the other gifts combined.
The widow gave a percentage. She gave 100 percent.
The even greater lesson to be learned from God's Word is that our giving is to be sacrificial. The motto Southern Baptists used years ago to promote building funds had it right even for Cooperative Program giving! NOT equal gifts, but equal sacrifice."
In a little more than one decade, the average offering through the CP from the churches has declined from 10 percent to 6 percent. If our churches would raise their CP gifts by an average of 1 percent, the Cooperative Program increase for all SBC entities would be $36 million. The International Mission Board alone would receive half of that amount or $18 million. The six seminaries would receive roughly $1 million plus or minus. When you combine all CP gifts, mission offerings, and designated offerings to SBC entities, the two mission boards received 86 percent of all that is received by the SBC. Our Convention needs highly respected and greatly loved pastors who will stand up and declare the Cooperative Program for the missions and theological educational lifeline that it is and ask all pastors to do the same in their churches.
Re-allocation among the SBC entities is not the road to revival nor will it create drastic changes in the witness of our Convention. Re-allocation to one entity takes away from another entity! The pie cannot be stretched any farther than 100 percent. The amount of the gifts must increase. The decline of the Cooperative Program is rooted in the failure of today's church members to practice biblical stewardship and the failure of pastors to cast a vision that stirs the hearts of God's people to engage in direct missions sponsored by the church and to give generously through the Cooperative Program in order that our collective witness will be an eternal flame for Christ. Both can be done successfully if we don't care who gets the credit.
The Great Commission
Southern Baptists have always had a passion for the Great Commission. In their passion to carry out the Great Commission more effectively, the Convention approved the appointment of a Great Commission Task Force. The members of the Task Force have prayed often and worked diligently to fulfill their duty to God and to Southern Baptists. Dr. Ronnie Floyd is the chairman of the task force and Dr. Johnny Hunt is our Convention president who appointed the group's members. We welcome you both tonight and in a few moments will gladly hear your report.
Although I have not seen the details of tonight's report, I can imagine that it will call on all Southern Baptists to respond to their own personal call to duty — to be unrelenting in our efforts to fulfill the Great Commission and labor for the Kingdom of God. The leadership of the task force has graciously indicated they understand the procedures of the SBC's official documents that may require involvement of the Executive Committee. They have expressed a desire to be fully compliant with SBC Bylaws. I know we all appreciate their expressed desire to abide by SBC Bylaws.
The Executive Committee will undertake these studies in a timely manner and in accord with the procedures in place that guide our work. We hope and pray that our deliberations will be both passionate and conscientious as we seek to fulfill our assigned duty. Let us act with resolve, but not rashly in performing the role for which the Convention created the Executive Committee more than ninety years ago. The responsibilities given to you by the Convention are a sacred trust. Let us do them thoughtfully and well. We shall pray for God's blessings upon the Great Commission Task Force as it moves toward completion of a very difficult undertaking.