I was blessed to read the article in the Jan. 15 Arkansas Baptist News concerning First Baptist Church, Alymra, and their longtime commitment to give 30 percent of undesignated funds to the Cooperative Program. Their example of sacrificial giving and trust shown to our state convention and the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is to be commended. While most churches are not able to give 30 percent, it might surprise some of our readers to know that in the not-too-distant past, the percentage giving by Southern Baptist churches averaged more than 10 percent. Today’s average is around 5 percent. In recent years, the traditional Cooperative Program giving channel through our state conventions has been criticized by many influential leaders in the SBC. Every SBC church benefits directly or indirectly from the ministries of our state convention. Our state conventions and associations contribute more to strengthening our common theological convictions, missions support and education, evangelistic zeal, disaster relief efforts, social ministries and public perception than any other element of SBC life.
When I was serving with the International Mission Board (IMB) of the SBC, we were told that when encouraging churches to support the Lottie Moon (Christmas Offering for International Missions), we should remind them to not take that money from their Cooperative Program giving. Now North American Mission Board and IMB missionaries are being told to go to individuals and churches to solicit funds for their direct support and their budget items outside the money given to the Cooperative Program through the state conventions. Many churches are giving directly to the SBC Executive Committee. I am afraid we are going down a slippery slope to a societal giving approach in the SBC. The Cooperative Program was developed as one of the finest methods of missions support in history. Those who ignore the lessons of history are doomed to make the mistakes of the past.