Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee (EC) President Frank S. Page will issue a challenge to Southern Baptists at the SBC annual meeting to “do more” to reach the world with the gospel.
Page will set forth his vision for Great Commission Advance, an initiative to increase missions involvement among individuals and churches, during his report to the convention on Tuesday afternoon, June 10, in Baltimore.
C. Ashley Clayton, EC vice president for Cooperative Program and stewardship, told SBC LIFE, journal of the Executive Committee, “In its most condensed and basic form, Great Commission Advance calls for Southern Baptists to simply ‘do more.’” Page will call on all Southern Baptists – individuals, families and churches – to sacrificially do more to advance the Great Commission “so that every person has the opportunity to hear the gospel,” Clayton said.
Page told SBC LIFE that “doing more” in the area of personal stewardship is essential to missions involvement. He will urge Southern Baptists to commit to establishing a biblical standard of giving and generosity.
Page also will encourage Southern Baptists to participate in missions at the local, state, national and international levels. For some, “doing more” may mean surrendering to God’s call to vocational ministry as a pastor, chaplain, church planter or international missionary, he said.
In addition, Page will challenge churches to increase their level of support through the Cooperative Program for Southern Baptist missions and ministries.
Since being elected EC president in 2010, Page has emphasized that the Cooperative Program is about missions and ministries, not numbers and percentages, Clayton said. Southern Baptist missions and ministries at the state, national and international levels are fueled by the Cooperative Program. Ministries like disaster relief, international missions, church planting, collegiate ministry, theological education, care for neglected children and moral advocacy are supported by dollars contributed through the Cooperative Program, he said.
One of the primary objectives of Great Commission Advance is to address the decline in Cooperative Program giving over the past two decades, Clayton said. In 1982, churches were giving an average of 10.7 percent of their undesignated receipts to cooperative missions and ministries through the Cooperative Program. That number has dropped to 5.4 percent, declining by an average of about 0.2 percent each year.
In 2012, the average percent of churches’ Cooperative Program giving held steady for the first time since the 1990s and slightly ticked upward.
The previous year, Page had announced the “1% CP Challenge,” asking churches to increase their Cooperative Program giving by one percentage point of their undesignated receipts. If every church increased their Cooperative Program giving by 1 percent, it would bring in an extra $100 million for SBC missions and ministries, Page said. If church Cooperative Program giving returned to an average of 10 percent as it was in the past, Cooperative Program receipts would reach nearly $1 billion, providing a platform for the most aggressive missions enterprise in the history of Christendom, he said.
The International Mission Board has estimated that it needs 7,000 missionaries on the field to initially reach every known unengaged, unreached people group in the world, but it currently has less than 5,000. The North American Mission Board has committed to planting 15,000 churches in 10 years. Increased Cooperative Program dollars also would keep the costs of seminary training at a minimum, making theological education more accessible to all Southern Baptists.
Page has led the Executive Committee to reduce its Cooperative Program allocation percentage from 3.4 percent in the 2010–11 fiscal year, to 3.2 percent in the 2011–12, to 2.99 percent in the current fiscal year. He plans to reduce even further in the 2015–16 fiscal year. Allocation percentages are adjusted every two years.
“We’re lowering our Cooperative Program allocation. So when you hear me beating the drum and asking for more, it’s to go to these other entities to do that which God has called them to do,” Page told the Executive Committee at its Feb. 17 meeting.
The SBC was founded on such shared values as missions, evangelism, stewardship and cooperation, Clayton said. On the basis of those values, Baptists were able to organize and develop a structure through which to accomplish their work.
Great Commission Advance is about refocusing on those values, Clayton said. “We want to elevate our values above mere background noise. When people align with and embrace the values, it will result in increased support for Cooperative Program.”
The trouble comes, Clayton said, when an organization loses sight of its core values. “Knowing the ‘why’ of an organization is vital to its success,” he said. Through Great Commission Advance, Page will remind the SBC of its core values, of why we do what we do.
“The long-held guiding principle of the SBC is as true today as when it was founded,” Clayton said. “We can do more together than we can do alone.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Rebecca Wolford is communications specialist with the SBC Executive Committee. This article first appeared in the EC journal SBC LIFE, on the Web at www.SBCLIFE.net.)