SBC Life Articles

The Cooperative Program, IMB, and the Price of a Happy Meal

Cooperative Program

The SBC Executive Committee was just about to pray for the missionaries in transition. In a pregnant, sober pause before he prayed, an IMB leader told us the story of two women in a high security nation where there is a religious liberty clause but the government violates it every day. The authorities arrested these two women because they were mending the clothes of the poor without charge.

When asked why they mend the clothes of people without charge, they responded, “We do so in the name of Jesus.” So, off to prison they went.

How many of us would be so bold as to humbly take needle and thread and mend the clothes of poor people without charge, knowing the cost would be financially and socially devastating? How many of us would be willing to experience inconvenience to make Christ known in a city with millions of poor people?

This story especially pierced me, for it was told at the same time we were hearing the results of the IMB reset. We were cutting our missionary force at a time in history when billions live in darkness without hope of hearing the transformational message of the Gospel.

This was but one report Executive Committee members heard at their February 22–23 meeting in Nashville as we learned more about the “reset” for our International Mission Board. We were confronted by the reality that hundreds of our missionaries were leaving the field because of multi-year shortfalls in budget receipts. Thankfully, no debt was accumulated in the process of spending down the reserves to keep missionaries on the field as long as possible. But still, a reduction of 20 percent?

I have an idea of how IMB President David Platt feels. We recently released and retired people we love and care deeply for at the Missouri Baptist Convention. But I can only imagine the emotional burden he carries as he surveys the magnitude and sweeping breadth of change he has had to implement in his first eighteen months as president of Southern Baptists’ premier missions organization.

What sobers me most of all is the realization that for just a few dollars more from each follower of Christ who belongs to a Southern Baptist church—the price of a Happy Meal at McDonald’s—we could have avoided the “reset” and averted this recent crisis. Are we willing to be inconvenienced for less than the cost of a Happy Meal?

Here are a few facts about giving to and giving through charitable causes, including churches.

  • Pew Research discovered that the average Christian gives 2.17 percent of his income to the local church. Whatever happened to the systematic giving process we call “tithing”? It is what some of us were trained to do early in our walk with the Lord. The goal was that one day our grace giving would exceed what we can afford to give by a rising tide of generosity proportional to our faith. Pastors, as we train our people to walk by faith, we must once again teach our people the whole counsel of God about their finances.
  • In 2014, the top 2,083 CP-giving Southern Baptist churches gave 50 percent of all Cooperative Program dollars. Furthermore, the top 8,701 CP giving churches accounted for 80 percent of all CP funds.
  • In most state conventions (including Missouri), a larger allocation of the total CP dollars received from our churches is moving in the direction of national and international missions and ministries. Each time Missouri Baptist churches exceed their budget goal, we immediately send 50 percent of the overage to SBC. At the same time, we recalibrate the next year’s budget to increase the percentage to the SBC national and international missions and ministries by the percentage we received over budget. It is a great plan to help us move to 50/50 early in the next decade.

How is that possible? We can do this because of the cooperative vision and mission of our Missouri Baptist churches. Other states are doing similar things.

There are hundreds of our churches that give above 10 percent. My prayer is that the Lord blesses their generosity.

Many cooperating churches may want to join the 4,422 other Southern Baptist churches that have reported accepting the “1% CP Challenge”—an initiative to increase their CP giving by one percent or more of their church’s undesignated receipts.

The standard for most churches not too many years ago was 10 percent through CP. I would encourage our churches to make a run at that goal.

Since 1925, the Lord has trusted to Southern Baptists the missions and theological funding process called the Cooperative Program. CP is the conduit for the most sustainable, multi-generational, multi-faceted mission funding method in Christian history.

It all starts with the individual giving to his/her local church. The local church contributes to the Cooperative Program through its state convention. The state convention then forwards a portion of its Cooperative Program funds to SBC missions and ministries.

Check out the resources (videos, Cooperative Program bulletin inserts, bookmarks, and more) for your church at MoBaptist.org/CP, SBC.net/CP, or similar resources posted at your state convention website.

    About the Author

  • John Yeats