ANALYSIS: Are we serious about penetrating lostness?
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--As part of a recent data call to each entity that receives Cooperative Program distributions, the International Mission Board was asked, "What additional resources does IMB need to reach all of the unreached people groups?" IMB's response was 3,000 more missionaries and additional resources of approximately $200 million more per year. Wow! How in the world could Southern Baptists come up with an additional $200 million for IMB? The answer is quite simple. All that Southern Baptists need to do is tithe! More about that later.
The difficulty in fixing things is in knowing what to fix. What we tend to do is focus on fixing the symptoms and not the disease. It is sort of like my do-it-yourself approach to auto repair. I keep replacing parts until I find one that solves the problem -- a pretty expensive approach.
We Southern Baptists sometimes do the same thing. For example: Our proposed solution to providing more financial support for reaching a lost world is to is to tinker with the Cooperative Program and other perceived needed repairs such as the state/SBC split, or to restructure the Executive Committee (EC) in order to give IMB maybe $2 million dollars more a year, even when IMB's stated need is over $200 million more per year.
We need to address our actual disease. We have a heart disease, not a wallet disease. We have a heart disease, not an organizational disease. Our heart disease is well defined in Mathew 6:21, "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
By any reasonable estimation, 75-80 percent of Southern Baptists are in bondage to money, mammon, and debt -- however you want to characterize it. The vast majority of Southern Baptists are slaves to the demands of this world, which renders them unable to fully serve our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. This is a crisis in the life of the SBC, and one proposed solution is to use my approach to auto repair.
Now back to getting IMB another $200 million per year. Using the empty tomb, inc. analysis (see May 21, 2010 article in Baptist Press -- http://www.bpnews.net/BPnews.asp?ID=32986),church members, on average, give 2.56 percent of their "disposable income" (after-tax income) for congregational finances and supported ministries. In 2008, that amount for all Southern Baptists was $11.1 billion in total gifts. Therefore, under the analysis of empty tomb, inc., this $11.1 billion represents 2.56 percent of Southern Baptists' disposable income.
To determine the approximate total disposable income for all Southern Baptists we merely need to divide $11.1 billion by .0256, and that equals about $434 billion in disposable income for all Southern Baptists. We are taught to tithe on gross income and not disposable income. Therefore, we need to know what the total gross income is for the SBC. If gross income is about 15 percent higher than disposable income, then gross income for Southern Baptists is about $499 billion.
If Southern Baptists tithed, total gifts would be about $49.9 billion. The impact of tithing for every SBC entity is staggering. If the gifts forwarded by SBC churches through CP remained the same as they were in 2008 (6.08 percent), the states would receive $3.03 billion of CP gifts. If the states forwarded to the SBC the same percentage they did in 2008 (37.34 percent), the CP Allocation Budget would be $1.132 billion. This is over five times the amount now received!
Using the same allocation percentages that are applied to the CP Allocation Budget today, IMB would receive $566 million in CP distributions versus the $100 million that they now receive. Not only would the SBC meet IMB's need for $200 million per year more, IMB would receive another $266 million of CP in addition to that! And NAMB would receive $258 million, and theological education would receive $251 million. Compared to the underwhelming $2 million reallocation now being recommended, this solution is a serious and meaningful strategy for the SBC to provide needed resources for all of its cooperating missions and ministries.
God has given Southern Baptists these resources, but we rob God. The Bible teaches us that robbing Him is not a good thing to do, "and the anger of the Lord burned against the children of Israel ... you are cursed with a curse, the whole nation of you." Robbing God, which is what we do when we fail to tithe, is a disease of the heart, not the wallet. We can tweak around the edges of CP. We can believe that we are doing something meaningful by realigning CP promotion, and we can reorganize until the cows come home, but it won't help cure what ails us, and it won't make a dent in our capability to reach a lost world for Christ, or better resource the convention's cooperating missions and ministries.
For me, the symbolic gesture for IMB seems to cast a cloud over our Great Commission commitment. My uneasiness is not that I think it is symbolic but that it is only symbolic. Are we serious about penetrating lostness on a global scale? If we are, let's put the first thing first for Christians: addressing the Lordship issue of serving God, not robbing Him. Let's tithe. Then God will allow His blessings to flow through us to accomplish His purpose. Love loud, actions speak louder than words!
Bob Rodgers is vice president for Cooperative Program & stewardship with the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention.