The SBC Cooperative Program: Giving or Taxing

CPFor decades the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has funded Baptist work through a mechanism called the Cooperative Program (CP).  In short, individual Baptists give to their church.  This church joins with other Southern Baptist churches in giving to the work of the convention.  The convention budgets this money to pay for mission work, theological education, and a host of other ministry resources.

In recent months this process has been called into question by what some call a bloated bureaucracy.  The Great Commission Resurgence (GCR) task force was appointed by President Johnny Hunt in June.  Part of their work is to take a look at the effectiveness of this bureaucracy.

Some of the reporting about this task force has focused on the giving percentages of churches for the members of the task force.  Perhaps it is time to reconsider this underlying criteria for being a good Baptist church.

In fact this has been under reconsideration since 1979 when Adrian Rogers was elected president.  Prior to his election, churches had been greatly encouraged to give at least 10% of their undesignated budget receipts to the Cooperative Program.  Rogers church did not even get close to the 10% threshold.

Here is my point.  If 10% is required, it appears more to be a tax than a gift.  Some are being treated as if they are tax cheats for not giving at the unofficially prescribed level.

Each church has a responsibility before God and their people to handle the money in a godly fashion.  The focus of a church’s budget should be on glorifying God and extending the Kingdom of God.  How a church chooses to do this is up to them.  After all, Baptists are from the free church movement.

I am confident that if the Cooperative Program gives the best bang for the buck, then giving levels would increase.  This is why the work of the GCR task force is vital to the future work of the SBC.

In the meantime, let’s not assume that lower percentages mean less commitment to the work of God.  On a personal note, each church that I served as pastor increased their percentage level of giving to the CP.  So this is not the rant of an anti-CP guy.