Since adopting a resolution in September pledging to “encourage and lead” their churches to “give more than ever before through the Cooperative Program (CP),” at least 17 of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee’s (EC) 79 members have already recommended increases in CP giving at the churches where they are members. The proposed increases are intended to help the International Mission Board (IMB) amid revenue shortages.
According to reports sent by EC members to chairman Mike Routt, proposed increases range from .2 percent to 2 percent of church budgets, though not all reporting members stated their recommendations as a percentage of undesignated receipts.
Routt said even at churches where a CP increase is not possible for the upcoming budget year, EC members “continue to use their influence to lead their congregations in exemplary missions giving.”
Photo by Morris Abernathy
Since pledging Sept. 22 to encourage their churches to increase Cooperative Program giving, SBC Executive Committee members have begun making good on their promise.
The average CP gift from churches of EC members in 2013-14 was 7.58 percent of undesignated receipts, 2.11 percentage points higher than the SBC average of 5.47 percent for the same period.
Ashley Clayton, EC vice president for Cooperative Program and stewardship, praised the CP giving of all EC members and expressed special thanks to those who have been able to propose increases.
“Since the September Executive Committee trustee meeting, EC members have undertaken the challenge of increased Cooperative Program giving by starting at home,” Clayton said. “Against the backdrop of a newly adopted EC resolution on increased CP support for missions, EC members are now challenging their own churches to prayerfully consider increasing their missions support through the Cooperative Program.
“These EC members understand the importance of their role in representing Southern Baptists, and they are rising up and giving leadership to current and future funding challenges for SBC missions and ministries,” he said. “If every Southern Baptist church were to increase their CP giving by 1 percent of undesignated receipts, it would result in $100 million dollars more for missions every year.”
If every Southern Baptist church had given through CP at the level of the average EC member’s church, the IMB alone would have received approximately $67 million in additional income for 2013-14.
The EC resolution, adopted in Nashville Sept. 22 without opposition, stated, “At this urgent hour of desperate need in our nation and around the world, we, the members of the SBC Executive Committee, pledge to encourage and lead our churches to give more than ever before through the Cooperative Program in 2015 and beyond. We also call upon all cooperating Southern Baptist churches prayerfully to join us in doing more than ever before.”
The IMB’s plan to reduce its field personnel and staff by 600-800, Clayton said, “definitely struck a chord among Executive Committee members.” In response, the EC recognized that increased CP giving is the most effective way “to bring long-term sustainability to the IMB.”
Background material to the EC resolution noted that “while one-time gifts may allay IMB’s present need to keep a larger number of its missionary force on the field, it does not address the full range of both IMB and our other SBC entities’ needs to maintain long-term sustainability for funding the vital ministries entrusted to them by the churches that support the Southern Baptist Convention.”
EC member David Hamilton, pastor of West Heights Baptist Church in Pontotoc, Miss., said the West Heights staff will recommend a 1 percentage point budget increase in CP giving for 2016-17, bringing the congregation’s gifts through Southern Baptists’ unified program of supporting missions and ministries in North America and around the globe to 14.6 percent of undesignated receipts. West Heights also will likely give an additional gift through CP in 2015-16 equivalent to 1 percent of its undesignated receipts.
When Routt challenged EC members “to step up to the plate and take the lead” in CP giving, Hamilton said, “I know there were other members in there, but I personally felt he was talking directly to me and that I needed to step up and take the lead with our church.”
EC member Rolland Slade, pastor of Meridian Baptist Church in El Cajon, Calif., said he is asking the congregation to increase CP giving by 1 percent of the budget each year for the next five years “to get back to the level we were at two years ago before the downturn in the economy.”
“I do feel some responsibility as an EC member to lead Meridian to step up, but it is more than that,” Slade said. “As a former [North American Mission Board] missionary, I personally know what it means to be supported through CP.
“I have fond memories and am thankful for Southern Baptists across this nation that allowed me to serve full time without worrying about raising support,” he said. “I was able to concentrate on sharing the gospel and ministering to the people that God put in front of me. I believe that is the beauty of CP. Our IMB missionaries don’t have to raise support. They can focus on sharing the gospel in some of the darkest parts of the world.”
Among other reports from EC members:
Routt, pastor of Circle Drive Baptist Church in Colorado Springs, Colo., has recommended a CP increase of 1 percentage point of the congregation’s 2015-16 budget. If adopted, it would be Circle Drive’s fourth CP increase in the past seven years.
SBC President Ronnie Floyd said Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, where he serves as pastor, plans to give $1 million through CP in 2016 following the congregation’s first-ever million dollar gift in 2015.
Adam Hollingsworth, a member of City Church in Tallahassee, Fla., said the congregation will increase its budgeted CP giving “by a minimum of 1 percent in 2016.”
Jim Gregory, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Mountain Home, Idaho, recommended a 1-2 percentage point increase in the church’s CP giving and said he feels confident “the increased percentage will be agreed to.”
Kim Grueser, pastor of Pittsburg (Penn.) Baptist Church, said he told the congregation’s stewardship team about the IMB’s need. The team subsequently recommended a 1-percent-of-budget increase “to bring our CP giving to 14.1 percent.”
Jared Wellman, pastor of Mission Dorado Baptist Church in Odessa, Texas, has recommended a 1-percent-of-budget CP increase that would bring the congregation’s CP giving to 11 percent of undesignated receipts. Wellman also is urging the church to double its giving this year to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions to $50,000.
Routt, in encouraging continued sacrificial CP giving, reminded EC members in an Oct. 17 email of their “stewardship of influence.”
Those who serve on the EC “have been given this sacred trust of” acting on behalf of the SBC while it is not in session, Routt said. “By God’s sovereignty, He has raised us up ‘for such a time as this,’ a time to lead our denomination to a resurgence of Cooperative Program giving. In other words, we have the opportunity to exercise our stewardship of influence to set an example for our convention to follow.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)