Paper provides 'Just the Facts' about SBC structure, methodology & finance
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Responding to "misperceptions" about "how we operate and deliver ministry through various channels as Southern Baptists," D. August Boto, executive vice president and general counsel of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, has released a paper, "Just The Facts," pertaining to "current issues facing the convention."
"In reading innumerable articles, discussion threads and comments about current Southern Baptist challenges, I was surprised at how often some basic aspect of convention life was either misstated, or admitted to be unknown to a writer, who often was a pastor or other type of church leader with some experience. I began collecting them in memory, and eventually concluded it might be helpful to present those basics and some illustrations in a simple tutorial article," Boto explained.
Boto said there are structural, territorial and perspective factors as well as foundational information about funding of cooperative ministries that should be considered in view of "what choices need to be made" in current discussions about the future of the SBC.
STRUCTURE, TERRITORY, PERSPECTIVE
Boto said that congregational polity means in part that organizations formed to support cooperative ministries serve the churches and not vice-versa, and that relationships formed among churches at one level do not dictate relationships formed at other levels.
"The churches decide which organizations with which they will relate," he said, adding, "They do so in order to carry out or further their ministry mission.
"[A] church may wish to cooperate with an association, or a state convention, or a national convention, or all, or none."
Among Southern Baptists, a local association of churches is not a subordinate of a state convention, and neither is a state convention a subordinate of the national convention.
"Therefore, it would be wrong to say 'the state conventions belong to the SBC' or 'the associations of the state convention,'" he said.
"It would also be wrong to suppose that a state convention could tell an association what to do, or that a national convention could tell a state convention what to do," Boto added. "The organizations are independent of each other, and determine their own budgets, personnel, methodologies, and ministries."
Boto also said that entities are not subdivisions of the conventions to which they relate, but typically separate corporations that might properly be referred to as "subsidiaries."
"They are expected to be responsive to, though they may not be directed by, the convention to which they relate," Boto said. However, he pointed out that entity unresponsiveness could result in replacement of trustees.
Similarly, Boto described ministry territories at the various levels as "footprints" that sometimes overlap. Consequently, whenever Southern Baptists use "we," they must be clear about the context in which this collective pronoun is used.
"We" might refer to church members, or to member churches in an association, or a state convention, or the national convention (the SBC). Most often, he said, Baptists use "we" or "our denomination" to mean "all of us Southern Baptists and everything we do, in the variety of ways we do it."
"But broad generalizations like that sometimes lead to misunderstandings," he cautioned.
Regarding "perspectives," Boto said essentially that where you sit determines your view, and that it is natural for individuals to have affinities for their respective ministry areas.
"[K]nowing who is speaking, and for whom they work, can inform the hearer about the likely perspective of the speaker," he offered.
Boto used a "just the facts" approach also to explain how Southern Baptists arrived at the funding process used today to support cooperative ministries.
Explaining the birth of the Cooperative Program, Southern Baptists' primary funding channel for supporting state and national ministries, Boto described the "societal method" of funding that existed prior to the Cooperative Program.
"The term comes from early days when mission 'societies' were formed and initially funded by a church or an organization, and then at some point expected to support themselves by appealing for and gathering contributions," Boto said.
But, he said, the societal system experienced failure and created hardships for cooperative ministries and catalyzed a "deluge of fundraisers seeking pulpit time."
"The Cooperative Program was a collaborative effort between state conventions and the SBC whereby NO societal promotion would be undertaken," Boto said, "but instead churches would give some percentage of their 'undesignated receipts' to fund both state ministries AND national ministries.
"The state conventions would collect the gifts and take their share, and pass on to the SBC its share for its ministries."
According to Boto, the SBC reserved the right to make its own appeal and collect its share directly from the churches, but it has chosen not to do it that way.
Among the advantages of the Cooperative Program, Boto cited:
-- no pulpit time taken for financial appeals.
-- consistency in receipts ... and in planning and budgeting.
-- no need for cooperative ministries to fundraise for themselves; promoting the Cooperative Program benefits all state and national cooperative ministries.
-- missionaries serve free from the burden of having to leave the mission field to raise money.
-- cooperation replaced competition among ministries.
-- cooperation replaced competition between the state conventions and the SBC.
Boto said the end result is that an overall sense of unity in missions is fostered among Southern Baptists.
He also detailed five examples of where knowing about Southern Baptists' structure, territory, perspective, and funding makes a difference in understanding statements some have made recently in "news accounts, the blogosphere, and the task force progress report."
For example, he addressed what he termed "'Breaking the 50% barrier' statements":
"If the Great Commission Task Force's reallocation suggestion is ultimately adopted, this statement will be technically accurate, but only if it refers just to what the national convention allocates to the IMB through the Cooperative Program," he said. "The churches and individuals allocate additional funds to the IMB via designated gifts.
"If, however, 'total funds' refers to the total of designated and undesignated gifts of Southern Baptists, the '50% barrier' was broken long ago," he corrected. "That is because the IMB already receives just under 60% of the combined total of such gifts received by all national entities" (special offerings included). "After the reallocation, if it occurs, the IMB will receive just over 60% of such gifts, so, in a sense, the '60% barrier' will also have been 'broken.'"
The four remaining statements are: "the 17% statement;" "statements about 'returning CP Promotion to the state conventions;'" "statements referring to 'Facilitating Ministries;'" and "statements indicating that 'only 2% of offerings actually get to missions.'"
Boto said he is "proud to be a Southern Baptist, not because I think we 'have arrived' and can boast of our accomplishments, but because (among many other reasons) we believe the Word of God, have good ministry programs and processes in place, and constantly strive to do a better and more tangible job of demonstrating our love for the Lord through witnessing, helping others, and giving.
"I trust our entities, and believe them capable and already very well equipped to perform the ministries they are assigned," he said. "I also believe they are all worthy of even more (in fact much more) support.
"I trust the state conventions, and believe them to be as committed to the goal of carrying out the Great Commission as we on the national level are.
"I appreciate the work of the local associations, whose directors of missions find themselves on the front lines of domestic ministry, and in our missionaries, who do that same thing internationally.
"And I am thankful for the Cooperative Program, and still believe it to be the most reliable and trustworthy method of funding missions ever constructed.
"Mostly," he concluded, "I believe in and trust the Lord, who is constantly making all things fresh and new. I am praying for our Southern Baptist Convention, and the nations we impact for Christ, including especially our own.
"I hope you are, too."
Boto's paper is provided in its entirety below and is posted at http://baptist2baptist.net/gcr/articles/AB-04-09-10.asp. It contains an appendix of resources that detail SBC funding and giving, including information about a new "CP Statistics" feature on SBC.net and Baptist2Baptist.net that gives data pertinent to the work of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force.
Will Hall is executive editor of Baptist Press.
The full text of Boto's paper is below.
Just the facts
By D. August Boto, executive vice president and general counsel,
Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention
The years have raced by, and I find myself now, at mid-life, having witnessed more than 35 years of Southern Baptist history as an adult. At my age, I am also old enough to remember the phrase that Jack Webb often repeated in the TV show Dragnet -- "Just the facts, ma'am. Just the facts."
Not only have a great many Southern Baptists never heard of Dragnet, they also have little knowledge of how we operate and deliver ministry through various channels as Southern Baptists. In recent days, a lot of "facts and figures" have been floated around by Southern Baptists discussing the work of the Great Commission Task Force, a special committee of the Convention formed last year by SBC president Johnny Hunt to bring a report and any recommendations to the annual meeting in Orlando in 2010 "concerning how Southern Baptists can work more faithfully and effectively together in serving Christ through the Great Commission." Some statements that have been made are not easily understood.
Finding the facts concerning our structure, methodology and finances is a difficult undertaking. I know it has been for the task force, as their recent need to correct some erroneous data they had been given has illustrated. Our Southern Baptist distribution systems are multiple and varied, and our emphases and perspectives are also.
Therefore, since there is so much discussion revolving around the Great Commission Task Force recommendations, and many misperceptions, I thought I would offer the following because of my sense that many Southern Baptists want "Just the facts." At the end, I'll add some specific examples from current public statements and attempt to provide some clarity. My goal is to provide factual information and to avoid, as much as I can, argumentation. You will decide for yourself three things - how well I accomplish that goal, whether these facts are relevant to current issues facing the Convention, and, if they are, what choices need to be made.
Baptists are congregational, not hierarchical. This means that the local churches are at the top of any organizational chart showing our structure. The organizations that Baptists form serve the churches, not vice versa.
The churches decide which organizations with which they will relate. They do so in order to carry out or further their ministry mission. In other words, a church may wish to cooperate with an association, or a state convention, or a national convention, or all, or none. There are other affinity groups churches may choose to cooperate with also, but in the prior sentence I listed only the three that are typically referred to as "Baptist general bodies."
If a Baptist church cooperates with an association, state convention, or national convention, the church's relationship with one of those bodies does not automatically cause the church to relate to the others. Said another way, an association is not a subpart of a state convention, and a state convention is not a subpart of a national convention. Therefore, it would be wrong to say "the state conventions belong to the SBC" or "the associations of the state convention." It would also be wrong to suppose that a state convention could tell an association what to do, or that a national convention could tell a state convention what to do. The organizations are independent of each other, and determine their own budgets, personnel, methodologies, and ministries. However, in Baptist life, they do cooperate (and often.)
The "typical" Southern Baptist church relates to all three types of Baptist general bodies -- the association, the state convention, and the national convention. The national convention to which all Southern Baptist churches relate is called The Southern Baptist Convention.
Conventions relate to entities (which used to be called "agencies") that perform various aspects of ministry. Some entities, then, are state convention entities and some are national convention entities. Entities are not subdivisions of the conventions to which they relate. They are typically separate corporations that might properly be referred to as "subsidiaries." They are expected to be responsive to, though they may not be directed by, the convention to which they relate. Failure of an entity to "be responsive" to its related convention could result in replacement of trustees.
Churches have their local ministry "footprint," and usually partner with others some way to extend their ministry beyond the town or county where they are located.
An association serves two or more churches by assisting in local ministry in an area that is usually a town, city, or county.
A state convention typically serves churches in a single state, but sometimes more than one state if churches are near state lines, or if a number of churches in several "new work" states need to join together to form enough of a critical mass to sustain a state convention. This latter case results in there being a few "multi-state" state conventions.
A national convention (like the SBC) serves churches located in the nation the convention serves. For this reason, it cannot be said that there are any "SBC" churches overseas (though through the IMB we are involved in planting churches there).
Sometimes the ministry of associations, state conventions, or national convention is to unchurched people in need, and sometimes the ministry is directly to one or more of their cooperating churches. A theme running across all Southern Baptist "cooperative ministry" is that it render both "outside" and "inside" assistance in areas of need.
When a Southern Baptist says "we," he may be speaking about his church members, the member churches in his association, the churches cooperating with his state convention, or the churches cooperating with the national convention (the SBC). In my experience, when Baptists say "we" or "our denomination," they most often mean "all of us Southern Baptists and everything we do, in the variety of ways we do it." But broad generalizations like that sometimes lead to misunderstandings. (See "Examples" section below)
When denominational employees or volunteers speak, they tend to speak from the perspective of their particular ministry assignment. Therefore, knowing who is speaking, and for whom they work, can inform the hearer about the likely perspective of the speaker. Illustrating this point is the fact that some blogs do not allow anonymous comments because the inability to identify the commenter makes it impossible to fully assess his or her bias or perspective.
Interestingly, while associations and state conventions and their entities have employees, and while the SBC entities have employees, the SBC itself has no employees. The SBC also has no office in its state of incorporation (Georgia), and technically does not even exist 363 days a year. It may be found only when it meets, on the two days of the annual meeting, wherever that meeting is scheduled. Between conventions, the SBC's interests are tended to by its Executive Committee, a Tennessee corporation.
The Executive Committee is made up of a cross section of 83 Southern Baptist men and women drawn from states and regions of the U.S. in rough proportion to the concentrations of Southern Baptist in those states and regions. The most EC members allowed from any single state or defined region is five. There is a special SBC Bylaw (Bylaw 18) that describes its duties.
In doing its work, the Executive Committee is to approach things holistically rather than from the viewpoint of any single SBC entity. "What's best for the entire Southern Baptist Convention, to accomplish its mission." is the question the Executive Committee is to answer as it makes its recommendations to the messengers.
Now let's look at an example of how perspective matters. I work for the fiduciary of the SBC that I just took the time to describe -- The Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention. That means I work for a corporation related to the national convention. My perspective is part of what caused me to include the prior two paragraphs. Also, if I were to speak of "our allocation budget" I would probably be speaking about the national convention's distribution of offering receipts through the Cooperative Program. But if I were to say simply "our budget," I might be referring to the SBC Operating Budget (out of which the Executive Committee is funded), or I might be speaking of only the portion of that Operating Budget that applies to the internal operation of the Executive Committee. I would not be speaking of a state convention budget, or of an association budget, or of a church budget (unless, of course, I was at my church!).
As illustrated, understanding the perspective of a speaker goes a long way to properly understanding the speaker. But it also helps one ask appropriate questions about the subject the speaker is presenting.
For instance, if I were to say "We collect X amount in annual offerings" you might (and you should) wonder who "we" is. I could be talking about what is gathered in the offering plates of Southern Baptist churches each year, or the amount given through the Cooperative Program, or the amount of CP gifts plus designated gifts, or only the amount of CP collected by the SBC.
Of course, no one making public statements wishes to be imprecise. But the assumption that everyone listening is on the same page with the speaker is sometimes erroneous. So it is important to listen carefully and thoughtfully, follow up with clarifying questions, and know that perspectives and biases naturally occur because of the employment and ministry assignment of the speaker.
Finally with regard to perspective, it would be unfair not to recognize that some perspectives have nothing to do with employment or ministry assignment, but rather come from experience, sponsorship, relationship, hardship or affluence, and a whole host of other factors. A rather potent example is found in the case of the Idaho Ten. Before they went on their well-intentioned mission trip to Haiti, their appreciation of the knowledge and experience of the IMB or of the Florida state convention, and the need to tap into that guidance, was probably less than it is now.
Another example might be that the dangers of direct funding (societal missions), and the benefits of the Cooperative Program (see the next section), can hardly be appreciated by a generation which has not suffered the ill-effects of competitive missions funding promotion efforts, or the pitiful and continual, hat-in-hand appeals by furloughed missionaries begging for support money. As time has passed, fewer people have the perspective that direct missions funding is less productive, undependable, dangerous and competitive because they have not personally witnessed or experienced these things.
To sum up this section, taking the time to analyze the perspectives of speakers is an important part of making better decisions.
Ministry funding occurs at all levels in Southern Baptist life, meaning at the personal, church, associational, state convention, and national convention levels.
An individual Southern Baptist contributes as he or she is led by the Holy Spirit. If the contribution is directed to a non-Southern Baptist ministry, that gift is "outside" Southern Baptist accountability channels. An example of such a gift would be one to Campus Crusade, Samaritan's Purse or to Promise Keepers. Such organizations do their own promotion, making direct appeal to individual contributors. This method of funding missions is generally referred to as "societal missions." The term comes from early days when mission "societies" were formed and initially funded by a church or an organization, and then at some point expected to support themselves by appealing for and gathering contributions.
After 1925, Southern Baptists, who had been operating under the societal system for their own ministries, and had experienced financial failure and a deluge of fundraisers seeking pulpit time, began operating under the Cooperative Program. The Cooperative Program was a collaborative effort between state conventions and the SBC whereby NO societal promotion would be undertaken, but instead churches would give some percentage of their "undesignated receipts" to fund both state ministries AND national ministries. The state conventions would collect the gifts and take their share, and pass on to the SBC its share for its ministries. The SBC reserved to itself the right to make its own appeal and collect its share directly, but the SBC has never chosen to do it that way.
The Cooperative Program brought several advantages, among which were: 1) no pulpit time was taken for financial appeals, 2) consistency in receipts, and the attendant ability of ministries to plan and budget, 3) no need for ministries to beat their own drum for money, or to fund promotion departments, 4) missionaries free to serve, and unencumbered by lack of provision or need to find donors, 5) no competition between ministries, 6) no competition between the state conventions and the SBC, and 7) an overall sense of unity in missions among Southern Baptists.
Under the Cooperative Program system, the regular church member had (and still has) little sense of the fact that his or her contribution at the local church funds not only his church ministries, but also state and national ministries, unless the church regularly instructs its membership on these facts, such as through the WMU, in training programs for youth, and in quarterly or annual reports. Unfortunately, we have somehow come to a time when over 90% of Southern Baptists probably could not describe what is included in the last four paragraphs.
At the time the Cooperative Program was adopted, two national convention offerings were "grandmothered" into continued acceptability -– The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering (for foreign missions) and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering (for home missions). Neither offering is deemed to be a part of the Cooperative Program. The receipts of each are entirely forwarded to the IMB and NAMB, respectively. The World Hunger Fund offering, a fairly recent collection by the national convention, is divided 80% to the IMB and 20% to NAMB. It, too, is outside the Cooperative Program. In fact, no designated gift of any kind can be a part of the Cooperative Program.
The churches, and the individuals in those churches, direct the application of all the funds the churches receive. The most recent figures show that the churches receive a little over $12 billion out of which about $548 million is directed by the Cooperative Program. The funds contributed through the Cooperative Program are directed to ministries by either a state convention or the national convention (the SBC). This means that the state convention and national convention ministries combined receive only about 4.5% of church receipts through the CP. The other 95% percent plus is directed to ministry by the churches and their members. Some of that 95% also goes to state and national ministries directly (outside the Cooperative Program) via designated gifts.
As you will find when checking the Annual (see Resources section at the end of this article), the IMB receives 50% of the CP contributions received at the national convention level. Similarly, NAMB receives 22.79%, the six seminaries as a block receive 21.92%, the Historical Library receives .24%, and the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission receives 1.65%. The Executive Committee's budget is about 2/3 of the 3.4% allocated to SBC Operating, the other third of which covers Convention expenses.
As stated already, gifts designated to any entity (state or national), including the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering, are counted outside of the Cooperative Program. Therefore, if someone were to refer only to an entity's CP receipts, that would leave out other revenues the entity might receive aside from the Cooperative Program. Every entity reports its total receipts (CP, designated gifts, and earnings) in each year's current SBC Annual, which is posted on SBC.net. (In the 2009 Annual, those statements of income are found on pages 130-136.)
The percentage divisions that the state conventions have adopted, and are operating under, differ from state to state. A very close approximation of these is found on the SBC.net website. The reason I refer to the listing as a "close approximation" is explained, in part, by the disclaimer on the website which refers to fiscal year differences and submitted report totals.
There are so many state conventions, and my knowledge of their arrays of ministries is so limited, that I should not attempt to describe them all here. Remember, I work for the fiduciary of the national convention. So while I consider the state conventions to be full partners in ministry, and think all Southern Baptists have more than sufficient evidence to fully trust and contribute to those state ministries, my responsibilities and perspectives are on the national convention side of things.
At the national convention level, its ministries are described in the Organization Manual (see "Resources" section at the end). State convention ministries are described on their websites, all of which are accessible via SBC.net at the "state conventions" link under the Directory of Services.
Examples of easily misunderstood statements
The five statements below were selected from news accounts, the blogosphere, and the task force progress report. Some of them appear repeatedly in some form or another. I chose them as examples because they all are more complex than they appear to be, and they all are capable of being meant and heard differently, depending on who utters and hears them.
1. The "17%" statement
"Our denomination channels only 17 percent of Cooperative Program allocations to international missions."
This statement is approximately accurate, but almost every portion of the statement deserves attention.
The exact percentage in the most recently reported year was actually 18.641%, which means that the states actually forwarded 37.283% to the national convention, rather than the 34% now often stated. This is shown on the breakdown of the application of church receipts displayed in the CP section of SBC.net – http://cpmissions.net/2003/pdf/AnalysisOfCPChurchReceipts.pdf and can also be derived from the information on pages 109-111 of the 2009 SBC Annual.
By "Our denomination" the speaker probably means Southern Baptists, but some might wrongly understand it to mean only "the national convention (the SBC)."
The word "only" is obviously included to convey the speaker's thought that more than that should be channeled, which begs the question "Channeled by whom?" There are four giving components involved –- the individual, the church, the state convention and the national convention.
The words "Cooperative Program allocations to international missions" are probably meant by the speaker to only refer to the portion given through the CP that ends up being allocated to the IMB via the CP Allocation budget (50%). The reason both 17% and 50% are both correct figures (the 17% being, as I said earlier, only roughly correct) is because out of all CP gifts collected by the churches, about 34% (again, an incorrect approximation) of them reach the national level and the IMB gets half (50%) of that 34%, which equals 17%. But the casual hearer may misunderstand and reach one or more wrong conclusions.
For instance, the hearer might think that at the national level, the SBC only believes the IMB is worthy of receiving 17% of the receipts, which of course would be in error. Or, another hearer might think that the IMB only receives 17% of ALL the money given by Southern Baptists for Southern Baptist foreign missions each year, but that would be an error also, since the IMB receives about 60% of those contributions after figuring in the Lottie Moon offering and other designated gifts.
2. "Breaking the 50% barrier" statements
"The '50 percent barrier has been broken' in the proportion of total funds allocated to international missions."
If the Great Commission Task Force's reallocation suggestion is ultimately adopted, this statement will be technically accurate, but only if it refers just to what the national convention allocates to the IMB through the Cooperative Program. The churches and individuals allocate additional funds to the IMB via designated gifts.
If, however, "total funds" refers to the total of designated and undesignated gifts of Southern Baptists, the "50% barrier" was broken long ago. That is because the IMB already receives just under 60% of the combined total of such gifts received by all national entities. After the reallocation, if it occurs, the IMB will receive just over 60% of such gifts, so, in a sense, the "60% barrier" will also have been "broken."
3. Statements about "returning CP Promotion to the state conventions"
"... We will ask Southern Baptists to move the ministry assignments of Cooperative Program promotion and stewardship education from the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention and return them to being the work of each state convention since they are located closer to our churches. Our call is for the state conventions to reassume their primary role in the promotion of the Cooperative Program and stewardship education...."
"... While the Executive Committee has held the Cooperative Program assignment since 1997, and later received the Stewardship Education assignment, history shows us that we have struggled with where to place both of these assignments in order to serve our churches most effectively."
The ... statements above may lead the reader to believe that the national convention has not always promoted its own ministries, or that the Executive Committee's involvement in that promotion is a fairly recent one, or that presently the state convention role in Cooperative Program promotion is not a primary one. If so, none of those conclusions would be accurate.
A review of history establishes the fact that the national convention has always promoted its own ministries, and has always funded that promotion. It also shows that the Executive Committee role in Cooperative Program promotion began in 1927, and since then has covered three separate spans of time totaling 44 years. While the most recent span of time (the last 13 years) did begin in 1997 as stated, the period before that was one during which another national convention body had the assignment -– The Stewardship Commission. There has never been a time since the birth of the Cooperative Program that the national convention did not have a body it funded exercising a key role in CP promotion.
Similarly, history shows that there has never been a time when the state conventions did not have a key role in CP promotion. Because CP is a joint enterprise, the partners in it (the state conventions and the SBC) each contribute to its promotion from their unique perspectives, with the SBC side providing the thematic consistency and framework, including design and print cost efficiencies.
4. Statements referring to "Facilitating Ministries"
"...we will ask Southern Baptists to reduce the percentage allocated to Facilitating Ministries by 1% as a part of our initial effort...."
The term "Facilitating Ministries" is an accurate term describing a subsection of the Cooperative Program Allocation Budget. Because the title is in the plural form, however, it may lead a reader to presume that it applies to several organizations. That conclusion, however, would be wrong.
Checking under the title of "Facilitating Ministries" in the budget (on page 60 of the 2009 Annual) one can see that there is only a single entry -– "SBC Operating". The SBC Operating Budget is detailed on the page before the Allocation Budget (page 59). A review of it shows that it is the budget covering the expenses of only one organization -- the Executive Committee. Therefore, for clarity's sake, the ... statement quoted above could have just as easily, and perhaps more simply, been rendered "the Executive Committee."
5. Statements indicating that "only 2% of offerings actually get to missions"
"... a system where out of more than $12 billion collected last year in Southern Baptist churches, a little over 2 percent made its way to fund missions."
Statements like this are powerful because of the unexpectedly low percentage stated. It may lead a hearer to believe that a proper allocation would be a much higher percentage. If you are one of those people, before reading further, ask yourself what you might wish the percentage to be. I'll address the percentage in later paragraphs.
The #5 statement above is only correct if "missions" means foreign missions. Obviously state-side missions have importance also.
But to be perfectly correct, the word "missions" must also be understood to mean "national convention foreign missions." The churches last year reported that their contributions to all missions amounted to 11.2% of their total receipts (over five times as high as is made in the statement).
The #5 statement above also seems to imply that "a system" is responsible for what the speaker deems to be an insufficient amount for missions. If the hearer believes that system is the Cooperative Program, that would be wrong. In fact, believing that any system accounts for the percentage would be wrong.
The present percentage which goes to all missions, or just to SBC missions, or just to the IMB part of SBC missions, is what it is because under our Baptist polity, churches decide for themselves how much of their collections should be applied to their own expenses and ministries, and how much should be contributed to other ministries, including state and national ministries.
Churches apply about 95.5% of their total receipts to things OTHER than to state convention and national convention ministries (see illustrations several paragraphs below and the "CP Stats" link, provided above). Some of those things are ministries and missions directed by the local church. Some of those things are non-Southern Baptist ministries and missions. Some of those things are land costs, utility expenses, staff salaries and other normal and needful things. A "system" does not decide how much should be contributed for missions. The local church and its individual members make those decisions.
If our SBC "system" does anything, it attempts to place a proper emphasis on missions. Currently, at the national level, 86.1% of all designated and undesignated gifts to the SBC entities are disbursed to the mission boards. 59.94% is allocated to the IMB and 26.16% is allocated to NAMB. An additional 11.1% is allocated to the seminaries, whose work most would consider a vital missions and ministry component. The combined percentage is 97.20%, leaving the remaining 2.8% to be split between the Executive Committee (1.81%), the ERLC (.86%), and the Historical Library (.12%) (See page 142 in the 2009 Annual).
Additionally, the "only 2% statement" we are talking about, especially if it is used in a discussion about national ministry allocation, may unintentionally lead the hearer to believe that changing the percentage is something the national convention alone can accomplish. But as stated above under the first example, there are four giving components involved in the figure –- the individual, the church, the state convention, and the national convention.
For illustration purposes, imagine that the national convention decided to terminate ALL its ministries except for foreign missions. In that case, the "only 2% statement" would change to, "Out of more than $12 billion collected last year in Southern Baptist churches, only a little over 3 percent made its way to fund missions." (This computation merely takes the 407 million dollars of total gifts most recently reported on page 142 of the 2009 Annual and divides it by the 12 billion dollar figure stated.) Therefore, the statement should not be used as a criticism of the national convention's allocations, which have very little effect on the percentage.
To push the illustration just a bit further, imagine that there were no state conventions at all, and that every single dollar contributed by designation or through the Cooperative Program reported in the most recent Annual (the 2009, for the 2007-2008 year) went to foreign missions. In that case, the "only 2% statement" would then read, "Out of more than $12 billion collected last year in Southern Baptist churches, only about 4.5 percent made its way to fund missions." Therefore, the percentage still being relatively low, the "only 2% statement" should not be used as a criticism of state convention allocations.
Of course, I do not know what percentage you mentally thought of as appropriate (above, when I suggested that you think of one). But if you chose one even as low as 5 percent, you may now realize that that percentage you chose could be extremely impractical, given the needs of the local church, the need for regional and national ministry, and the desire of many churches to support ministries of their own or ministries not sponsored by one of the conventions.
To sum up, it would be inappropriate to criticize the national convention, any state convention, or the Cooperative Program based on a perception that the percentage of church receipts funding Southern Baptist foreign missions is too low. This is because that percentage is not materially affected by the state conventions or the national convention or the Cooperative Program. If they were all completely eliminated and all the money they once got went to foreign missions, the percentage would still be low (about 4.5% at present giving levels). And it would also be inappropriate to believe that Southern Baptist churches only give 2% of their receipts to support missions of all types, since the collected data shows the actual figure to be 11.3%.
A statement presently escaping much examination
"The average church attender contributes a little over 2% of his disposable income to charitable causes"
The foregoing statement, by all accounts, appears to be accurate ... and very troubling. What is "disposable income?" Is that something less than all a person's income? It sounds like it.
And does this statement mean, as I think it does, that the amount includes ALL charitable giving, not just giving through the church? Isn't this amount only one-fifth of the tithe described in scripture?
This statement appears to be the most telling indictment of all. If it were corrected to merely come in line with the tithe (which many consider to be a minimum scriptural giving amount), then the statement discussed last in the section above would be:
"Out of more than $60 billion collected last year in Southern Baptist churches...."
Wouldn't that be nice? Just by tithing, our people could generate not only four to five times more CP funding for missions, but for the other ministry supporting entities too, such as the seminaries! And if the churches returned to former levels of CP support, even by only a percentage point or two, the returns would be even more astounding.
I hope my presentation of the facts above helps you think through the challenges presently facing our Southern Baptist Convention, the state Baptist conventions, the associations, our churches, and the task force. I provide below a list and description of various resources in case you might wish to review the information for yourself.
The complexity of our Southern Baptist processes is daunting, I know. I work in the environment every day. In my opinion, however, that complexity is no justification for replacing those processes, any more than we would ever argue that a bicycle is preferable to a fuel-injected and computer-timed car merely because a bike is "simpler." The systems in place have been designed over time, and by experience, in order to bring about the greatest good. They are not perfect, and can be improved, but they should not be summarily jettisoned. But again, that is not a fact. It is just my opinion.
Allow me to close by saying that I am proud to be a Southern Baptist, not because I think we "have arrived" and can boast of our accomplishments, but because (among many other reasons) we believe the Word of God, have good ministry programs and processes in place, and constantly strive to do a better and more tangible job of demonstrating our love for the Lord through witnessing, helping others, and giving.
I trust our entities, and believe them capable and already very well equipped to perform the ministries they are assigned. I also believe they are all worthy of even more (in fact much more) support. I trust the state conventions, and believe them to be as committed to the goal of carrying out the Great Commission as we on the national level are. I appreciate the work of the local associations, whose directors of missions find themselves on the front lines of domestic ministry, and in our missionaries, who do that same thing internationally. And I am thankful for the Cooperative Program, and still believe it to be the most reliable and trustworthy method of funding missions ever constructed.
Mostly, I believe in and trust the Lord, who is constantly making all things fresh and new. I am praying for our Southern Baptist Convention, and the nations we impact for Christ, including especially our own. I hope you are, too.
Appendix of Resources (particularly about structure and finances)
Each year, the EC of the SBC produces an Annual. In recent years it has been posted in its entirety on the SBC.net website, under a button at the top right side of the splash page. The Annual contains reports of ministry from the entities, financial and otherwise.
Each year state conventions hold their annual meetings, usually in October or November, at which their annuals and books of reports are distributed containing similar data as is described above, but from the state convention ministries.
Associations also distribute similar information about their work and finances at their quarterly and annual meetings.
The national convention's Charter, Constitution, Bylaws, Business and Financial Plan, and Organization Manual (in other words, all of the SBC's governing documents) are found in the front of each year's Annual. They are also listed on the website separately, in a section that is more easily accessible, under "Legal Authorities" on the home page.
In the Executive Committee's report section of each year's Annual there is always a report of receipts and distributions to the various entities of the national convention. In the most recent Annual (2009) this report is found on page 142. A state-by-state receipts report is found on page 141. Contributions sent directly from the churches to the national convention (not through the Cooperative Program) are listed starting at page 143.
The current year's approved Cooperative Program Allocation Budget, wherein the percentage given to each entity is listed, is found in each year's Annual among the early proceedings. In the most recent Annual (2009), it is found on page 60.
Statistics for other things, including membership, baptisms, and long-term Cooperative Program giving trends, are found in each year's Annual at the front the Executive Committee section. In the most recent Annual (2009), they are found on pages 108-113.
The entities of the Southern Baptist Convention are listed in SBC Bylaw 14. The fiduciary of the Southern Baptist Convention is identified in SBC Bylaw 18.
The approximate percentage divisions the state conventions have adopted are at the SBC.net website under "Cooperative Program" -– http://www.cpmissions.net/2003/Yourstatescontribs.asp.
Other statistics, including a detailed breakdown of the way churches cooperating with the SBC apply their receipts, are also found on the Cooperative Program website, under "CP Stats" or at the link -http://cpmissions.net/CPStatistics.asp .
Baptist Press also regularly reports such figures as are referred to above, and its archived articles can be researched at SBC.net to find information.
The entities (state and national) all have websites which provide similar information, which websites may be accessed from SBC.net. State convention and associational websites are likewise listed there.