Collaboration is the key going into Orlando

The 35-word original title of Noah Webster’s first spelling book was A Grammatical Institute of the English Language, Comprising an Easy, Concise, and Systematic Method of Education, Designed for the Use of English Schools in America, Part I, Containing a New and Accurate Standard of Pronunciation. Really. That is all one title of a spelling book.

You talk about overstatement?

Some of you may be concerned that I am overstating the details of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force (GCRTF) Progress Report. I contend I am being thorough and careful to understand and explain the report.

Let’s start where we stopped last time.

Component #5: We believe in order for us to work together more faithfully and effectively toward the fulfillment of the Great Commission, we will ask Southern Baptists to reaffirm the Cooperative Program as our central means of supporting Great Commission ministries, but in addition, we will ask Southern Baptists to celebrate with our churches in their Great Commission Giving that goes directly through the Cooperative Program, as well as any designated gifts given to the causes of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), a state convention or a local association.

I agree that Southern Baptists should do a better job of celebrating all that our sister churches are doing in promoting the Kingdom. It is also true that we will not win people to our cause by lecturing them about their lack of participation in the Cooperative Program (CP). Truly, there are Sothern Baptist churches involved in significant national and international missions and ministry outside the CP.

It is equally true that the most effective and efficient means for reaching the entire world for Christ is through the CP. One of my last statements in the last article included the following statement: “… at the MBC, we will continue to promote the CP because the CP is the Southern Baptist way to reach the lost world. More about that in my next column.” Here’s the “more”.

Through the CP you support:

More than 10,500 missionaries worldwide; over 5,300 international missionaries and another 5,200 North American missionaries;

Statewide, nationwide, even worldwide church planting – last year Southern Baptists collaborated to start more than 17,000 churches;

Six world-class seminaries, currently training more than 15,000 future missionaries, pastors and other ministers of the Gospel – one of those seminaries located right here in the Show-Me state;

The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, providing relevant information and education for our Southern Baptist churches concerning the moral issues that face us all;

State Baptist colleges and universities, specifically Southwest Baptist University and Hannibal-LaGrange College;

Ministry to widows and orphans through state Baptist homes for the aged and Children’s homes, including alternatives to abortion through the Missouri Baptist Children’s Home;

Collegiate ministry on the campuses of secular colleges and universities – currently, through the Cooperative Program, you are involved in ministry to students on more than 30 Missouri colleges and universities;

Disaster Relief ministries from the bootheel of Missouri to New Orleans to Indonesia to Nashville;

I could go on and on about the value of the CP. The fact is there is no one church – no small or medium-sized church and no mega-church – that can replace the value of the collaborative work of Southern Baptists through the CP. The CP is too valuable to lose.

Component #5 will strengthen designated giving and diminish cooperative giving. Ken Hemphill, SBC national strategist for Empowering Kingdom Growth, recently stated that “… the ‘Great Commission Giving’ category … would spell the end of what we have known as the Cooperative Program.” I agree. The GCRTF does not agree. Who is correct? At this point, we do not and cannot know. The only way to find out is to give the issues raised in the GCRTF Progress Report to the respective boards, agencies and committees and allow them the time to report back to the 2011 annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). If Southern Baptists wish to completely change the way we do Kingdom business, then I will function in accordance with the wishes of the majority. I just think that we ought not ask Southern Baptists to make that decision without full information.

Component #6: We believe in order for us to work together more faithfully and effectively toward the fulfillment of the Great Commission, that a greater percentage of total Cooperative Program funds should be directed to the work of the International Mission Board. Therefore, we will ask Southern Baptists to support this goal by affirming an intention to raise the International Mission Board allocation for the 2011-2012 budget year to 51 percent, a move that is both symbolic and substantial. At the same time, we will ask Southern Baptists to reduce the percentage allocating Facilitating Ministries by 1 percent as part of our initial effort to send a greater percentage of total Southern Baptist Convention mission funds to the nations.

I do not support component #6.

By dictating a specific percentage for the international missions line item in the SBC budget, component #6 undermines the trust we place in those who have been elected to serve the interests of all Southern Baptists. The fact is we have a system in place – a system that includes appropriate checks and balances to prepare the CP budget of the SBC.

From 1992 to 2000, I had the unique opportunity to serve on the SBC Executive Committee. I was one of a few Southern Baptists who had the privileged task of preparing the SBC budget. Every year, we debated the percentages given to the International Mission Board, the North American Mission Board, the Executive Committee, the seminaries and the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. All of us wanted to offer more dollars to international missions. We also wanted to give more to win America to Christ, and more to educate future missionaries, pastors and other ministers of the Gospel. Every year that debate ended with the realization, first, that the number of CP dollars is a limited number. But we also acknowledged that Southern Baptists do missions equal in importance to international missions when we reach a lost soul in North America. As well, we do missions when we train a future missionary in one of our SBC seminaries. We are involved in genuine missions when we train a future pastor who will lead an SBC church to give generously to worldwide missions and ministry through the CP. You become a missionary when you share the love of Jesus with the victims of a disaster. Bona fide mission work includes collegiate ministry on the campuses of Missouri colleges and universities. We are involved in authentic missions when we plant a church in rural Missouri, or in St. Louis, Kansas City or Springfield. Lost souls in North America, in fact lost souls in rural Missouri, are just as valuable to our Lord as are lost souls across the oceans.

I am praying that when Southern Baptists meet in Orlando we will not undo 85 years of collaborating to reach the world for Christ through the Cooperative Program.