Southern Baptists are a big family and, each year, we have a family reunion of sorts. There is a huge amount of behind the scenes planning which takes place prior to the annual meeting of the messengers (family members) who come for the reunion of Southern Baptists. Believe me, I know something about such preparation efforts. The state convention is obviously smaller than the national gathering, but the preparation is intensive and extensive nonetheless. I can only imagine how much energy and time goes into making the annual meeting possible and effective for the messengers to come together for inspiration, information and interaction.
This year, the Great Commission was the major topic for discussion. A motion was made and overwhelmingly approved for a presidentially appointed task force to be named for the purpose of studying how Southern Baptists can be more effective as Great Commission Christians. The 18-member group will meet throughout the year and bring a report to the convention in Orlando at our next annual meeting. They need the prayer support of all Southern Baptists, and I am pleased to join my family members in praying for this important task force as they faithfully serve our Lord and our beloved SBC family this year.
Personally, I left the convention gladdened that the Great Commission has become a missional topic for Southern Baptists to discuss.
For Alabama Baptists, two topics — the Great Commission and the Cooperative Program — have been inseparable emphases over the past 11 years. When we speak of our ONE MISSION, we are focusing on the Great Commission, because we are a Great Commission people. When we refer to the ONE PROGRAM, we mean the Cooperative Program, because we believe in the unified budgeting approach to supporting missions in Alabama, North America and around the world. Currently our state convention is the best supporter of SBC causes through the Cooperative Program, and we thank God for this type of partnership.
My prayer is that a Great Commission Resurgence (GCR) will lead to a Cooperative Program Resurgence (CPR). In reflecting over the needs of our global missions effort, it would be interesting to learn what current Cooperative Program giving would look like if we gave at percentage levels of 1989. In other words, if churches had maintained a 10 percent level of giving through the Cooperative Program throughout the last two decades, rather than the decreasing percentage, which is now slightly above 6 percent, what would the picture be for Southern Baptists?
Consider this past year as an example. If we had maintained the 10 percent level of giving, then the receipts for the SBC alone would have $869 million instead of $539 million. That is a 61 percent differential. The additional amount going to the IMB would have funded the present shortfall they are experiencing. It would have meant more funds for every missions effort in SBC life. There would have been much more money for the seminaries and other entities in Baptist life.
Remember that is just one year: 2008. If you add the cumulative of the past 20 years, you would be astounded. The point I am making is the same one others have made on the national level. We don’t have a funding problem but a faith problem! The real issue is personal stewardship on the part of Baptists who, like other evangelicals, are not being good stewards of their resources. Debt and economic upheaval are only the symptoms of the problem.
When we exercise faith personally and become good stewards of storehouse giving through our churches, then we demonstrate an evidence of a Great Commission revival or resurgence. For Southern Baptists, a Great Commission revival or resurgence should mean a Cooperative Program Resurgence. This is the kind of CPR which can invigorate and energize Southern Baptists. I know that the Great Commission Resurgence is bigger than one issue, like funding, but if I heard the debate correctly, then it is an important one for all of us to consider.
I am a loyal Southern Baptist, from the top of my head to the tip of my toes. I am sold out to Jesus and to my family of faith called Southern Baptists. I am committed to our ONE MISSION, the Great Commission, and to our ONE PROGRAM, the Cooperative Program. I am also concerned that we do a better job with the resources we have been given. I pray that we as a family called Southern Baptists will experience a revival, a resurgence in our Great Commission living and in our Cooperative Program giving.