SBC Life Articles

What’s in a Name?

Morris H. Chapman, president and chief executive officer of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, responded to the Great Commission Task Force Final Report with a "white paper" called "What's in a name? The Cooperative Program and Great Commission Giving." In his response, he expressed nine concerns about how the Great Commission Task Force's proposed new category of giving, "Great Commission Giving," may impact the Cooperative Program.

Chapman said that though the task force's final report lifts up the Cooperative Program, it "takes away with the left hand what it affirms with the right." The task force "elevates designated contributions" to the same level and as equal value as "contributions made to the whole" of Southern Baptist work through the Cooperative Program, he said.

His first concern was that the GCTF proposal makes the Cooperative Program "just another component of a conglomerate category." Citing a diagram that was shared by the task force in its progress report in February, Chapman observed, "No matter how you diagram it, the effect is clear — the Great Commission Giving category moves the Cooperative Program off its historic, first priority position, and replaces it with a new category of measuring a church's support for Convention ministries."

He added, "Since 1925, the Cooperative Program has been THE cooperative means by which Southern Baptist churches support the whole program of Southern Baptist work. Each previous generation of Southern Baptist leaders believed God gave our forefathers great wisdom and insight for cooperatively supporting state convention and national convention missions and ministry objectives."

In his second concern, Chapman addressed the Cooperative Program name. "[C]ooperative missions and ministries" are what define Southern Baptists, not what individual congregations do alone, Chapman said. Calling the Cooperative Program a "brand" known by Christians around the world, he said the Cooperative Program not only provides support for SBC missions and ministries, but that "the name and methodology historically have defined Southern Baptists as cooperating for the Great Commission."

He noted that "adopting the phrase 'Great Commission Giving' for both designated and undesignated giving has appeal through its connection with Matthew 28:19-20." He countered, "However, as previous generations of Southern Baptists have understood, the Cooperative Program IS our Great Commission Giving!"

He expressed concern that the phrase "'Great Commission Giving' will lure unwary Southern Baptists to 'switch' from cooperating with the whole of our missions and ministries," he wrote, adding that this would lead to "a revival of the old Independent Baptist model of societal giving."

Observing that the Cooperative Program is based on the biblical principle of "not equal gifts but equal sacrifice," Chapman stated his third concern that Great Commission Giving would become the new "metric" by which a church's support for the Convention would be measured.

"If the GCTF is as serious as it says it is about retaining the primacy of the Cooperative Program," he wrote, "it would seem logical not to create any new category of support that would threaten to displace Cooperative Program as the metric of participation in the Convention."

He said that once "Great Commission Giving" becomes this metric, there would be no incentive for "pastors who have already led their churches to give low percentages through the Cooperative Program" to reverse that trend. He added, "They certainly would not be motivated by the new giving category to give more through the Cooperative Program."

Chapman's fourth concern addressed the motivation for cooperation: "The Cooperative Program is about what we can do together, not what we are able to do independently." Citing his pastoral background, he said, "As a former pastor of different-sized churches in which I strongly promoted the Cooperative Program as the greatest giving vehicle in the history of Christendom, I cannot understand why the pastor of any church, large or small, does not work to lead his church to participate with all Southern Baptist churches through the Cooperative Program."

He stressed, "The Cooperative Program is that primary vehicle that allows us to do much more together than the vast majority of our congregations could ever do alone. It creates a synergy, a dynamism, a sense of belonging to something bigger than ourselves, outside of ourselves. It points to a God-sized, Kingdom enterprise. It is a model of working in concert with fellow believers to impact the world for the total Great Commission work identified as the purposes of the SBC — missions at home and abroad, evangelism, church planting, theological education, benevolent enterprises, and moral advocacy."

Chapman expressed his fifth concern, "Mere Reallocation Creates No New Money," in terms of what he called a "glaring omission." The final report "calls on individual donors to quadruple their average contributions to the level of a tithe (10%) of their income to their churches." It calls on "state conventions to increase to 50% the percentage of Cooperative Program receipts they forward to the SBC." And, it "asks the Convention to set a goal of breaking the '50% barrier' of the CP Allocation Budget to the IMB."

"But, amazingly," he wrote, "nowhere in the report are churches asked to set a giving goal for their contributions through the Cooperative Program." He also expressed disappointment that while the GCTF set specific goals for both Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong special offerings ($200 million and $100 million annually, respectively, by 2015), the task force report "failed to set financial goals" for annual contributions forwarded by the churches through the Cooperative Program for the whole of Southern Baptist work.

He added that the task force recommendation about reallocating funds from the Executive Committee to the IMB "is not the answer." The reallocation would increase the IMB budget by "sixty-two one-hundredths of one percent," but decrease the CP allocation to the EC by almost "thirty percent," according to Chapman. "The total CP Allocation Budget for the Executive Committee ($6.95 million) is already less than the amount spent by the IMB just for promotion of its ministries ($7.15 million)."

The sixth concern Chapman stated was that cooperative efforts of those already committed to the Cooperative Program will be adversely affected if the new metric of Great Commission Giving is adopted. He noted, "It is a sad fact of human nature that when those who proportionally give small amounts to a collaborative enterprise try to control its processes, it undermines the willingness by those who proportionally give much to continue their giving at sacrificial levels.

"The Cooperative Program has such name-recognition among long-time Southern Baptists that it may take a few years before it completely unravels if the new GCG model of giving is adopted; but the course of decline will be set in motion the moment the newly-minted category of giving becomes the primary emphasis," he added.

Chapman's seventh concern addressed potential unintended consequences that would follow the adoption of the new Great Commission Giving paradigm. One consequence would be "budget shortfalls" by some of our entities caused by increased "special interest" giving. The end result would be a need by SBC entities to request that the SBC business and financial plan be amended to allow all SBC entities to make direct financial appeals to the churches.

In his eighth concern, Chapman noted, "Before the birth of the Cooperative Program, entities of the Convention were unable to plan their annual budgets in any meaningful way." He wrote, "The Cooperative Program introduced a proven track record of stability, much more so than special offerings. Prior to this stable source of funding, our entities had inadequate knowledge about how much income they might receive from the churches in each successive year. Several of our entities hovered on the edge of bankruptcy, accumulating staggering debt. Adoption of the Cooperative Program helped reverse this perennial trend."

Addressing his final concern, Chapman said, "[I]n a healthy church and in a healthy Convention, designated giving is the icing on the cake; it is not the cake itself." If, however, the Great Commission Giving category is adopted, "The result will be that a few entities will not survive, others will be on a starvation diet, and only a select few will be healthy. This can only increase tensions between pastors who support the whole Southern Baptist program, including associational and state conventions, and those who do not." He added, anything that diminishes the effectiveness of the Cooperative Program "will endanger not only the Cooperative Program, but the very spirit of cooperation by which we go about our work for God's Kingdom."

Chapman concluded his white paper by saying he felt "compelled to write about the dangers" he sees in the GCTF proposal. "The proposal to introduce the nomenclature of 'Great Commission Giving' appears at first glance to be innocuous," he said. He followed, "It is anything but. How disheartening it would be if eighty-five years of cooperative efforts were to come to a screeching halt at the Convention in Orlando because of a single vote!"


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