Saturday, July 4, 2009

GCR leaders and the 'Cooperative Program'

From a friend of a friend of a friend, one more thought about the "Great Commission Resurgence Task Force" committee:

The chairman of the committee, Ronnie Floyd (pastor of a megachurch in Springdale, Ark.), has already been rejected by Southern Baptists for his pitiful, disgraceful Cooperative Program giving. I use the strong word 'disgraceful' because he attempted to become our president while giving 1/3 of 1 percent to our cooperative work. Why do we keep putting these guys in such key leadership positions!?

The Cooperative Program is the unified approach Southern Baptist churches take to jointly fund large-scale projects (like missions and seminaries) that they could not accomplish separately. I seem to recall reading that megachurch pastors like Rev. Floyd and Rev. Johnny Hunt chafe at observations like the one above because their churches - virtual denominations unto themselves - invest large sums of money into direct missions while sending small percentages to the "CP." I seem to recall that some megachurch pastors, in fact, have complained that their missions spending "outside the structure" of the Cooperative Program is not given enough weight in evaluating their commitment to the Southern Baptist cause.

I can understand that concern. Any pastor who is leading a congregation to invest in missions activity what for them is a large sum of money ought to get credit for such visionary leadership.

My friends who are Southern Baptists, however, tell me that it was the creation of the Cooperative Program that freed individual congregations from a constant barrage of fund-raising requests brought by visiting representatives of missionary societies. The more persuasive fund-raisers raked in the dough for their causes; the less glamorous causes struggled. Small congregations were torn, unable to respond meaningfully to all the pleas for money. The decision to pool resources for missions causes - and ignore pleas from societies - set loose one of the greatest engines for Christian missions the non-Catholic world has ever seen. Most Southern Baptist churches measure their commitment to cooperative missions by the percentage of their budget they donate to the CP.

No doubt the proponents of the "Great Commission Resurgence Task Force" committee want to see renewed passion for the missions mandate among Southern Baptists. Any believer with a heartbeat wants to see that.

Given the track record of some of the GCR leaders, however, a person couldn't be blamed for wondering whether they aren't actually hostile to the Cooperative Program approach to doing missions.

And if you aren't a Cooperative Program Southern Baptist, what makes you a Southern Baptist at all - as opposed, say, to an Independent Fundamental Baptist? Could this committee be used to dismantle the Cooperative Program framework or at least do serious damage to it?

Just asking. What does an outsider like me know anyway?