Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared here and is used by permission.
Financing the work of God that we do together as Southern Baptists should never be minimized. The 51,000 plus churches and congregations that comprise the Southern Baptist Convention choose voluntarily to fund the work of Southern Baptists. Amounts and percentages are not mandated or demanded, but determined within each local church, as it should be.
Last week, when I read Dr. Jason K. Allen’s article entitled Celebrating and Strengthening the Cooperative Program, it was a tremendous reminder of many things. I commend Dr. Allen’s honest and transparent approach. As an employee of one of our Southern Baptist seminaries, he did not speak the company line, but promoted the heart of the Cooperative Program by furthering the centrality of the local church and each church’s voluntary support of our work together.
When the Church Loses Centrality
When churches lose their centrality in Baptist life at any level – association, state, or national convention, it is then that the support of the Cooperative Program stands to lose the most. An association, state convention and the entities of the Southern Baptist Convention must operate with the highest integrity and with the deepest of passion to serve the needs of the churches in carrying out their mission to reach their region, state, nation, and world for Christ. When this happens, churches will joyfully give both voluntarily and sacrificially.
I have championed the Cooperative Program for many years, but especially since I chaired the Great Commission Resurgence task force in 2009-2010, and during my recent service as President of the Southern Baptist Convention. For those who were engaged with us over those two years, you know I believe in the Cooperative Program and spent much of my time and effort toward this grand effort.
Yet, it is never something I have supported blindly, and never will. When churches are not being heard or being assisted by denominational entities, conventions, or associations, churches will consider other ways to further the gospel. Dr. Allen superbly stated in his article,
“If a church is evaluating or trimming their CP support, let’s not cajole, pressure, or shame them. That is not a winning strategy. My assessment is not a pragmatic or political calculation. It is a biblical and theological one. Christ promised to build his church, not our denomination. Let’s clean up our vocabulary, and use words like “please” and “thank you,” and shelve words like “should” and “must.” The Southern Baptist Convention agencies, and our state convention partners, serve the churches, not the other way around. As we serve them, they will support us.”
These words represent my heart and what I have both believed and trumpeted for years. Giving the resources God has entrusted to each church is a privilege and a responsibility. Receiving and expending these resources entrusted to denominational entities, conventions, and associations is equally a privilege and responsibility. This is not our money, our church’s money, or our convention’s money; it is all God’s money.
The conservative resurgence began when I was in seminary. During the early years as a local church pastor, only a few of the conservative resurgence leaders were champions of the Cooperative Program. Therefore, many of us grew up with a limited to non-existent mentorship in the Cooperative Program. This was unfortunate and not to the benefit of our work together. Yet, in everything there is a season.
Over the last two to three years, we have seen the Cooperative Program turn toward growth and a future when most said it was impossible.
Relating to the future, I cannot determine what other churches do. Whatever a church’s decision, I will pray for and encourage them. I also cannot determine what a denominational entity does or does not do.
What I can do is work with my church to determine what we will do in the future. Prayerfully, we will always be given more reasons to give, rather than reasons to make us question why we should continue to give. Additionally, I am deeply committed as long it is possible for us, to mentor other churches and pastors in a growing commitment to take the gospel to the world through our financial support through the Cooperative Program.
*This article is taken from Dr. Hadley’s website, sbcissues.com, and is used by permission.
Only July 12, the New Orleans Baptist Association published a statement titled, Which Way Forward, Toward Unity or Division?” It can be read in its entirety by CLICKING HERE. I understand the need for unity and the desire for unity. As Christians, one would think that this would be a given. As the old saying goes, union is one thing; unity is another. Continue reading
As I challenge the prevailing narrative arising from the recent Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting in St. Louis, Missouri, my remarks, though sincere and well-intentioned, will likely be misunderstood. This is regrettable and unavoidable. Just because something is difficult to say does not mean it should not be said. Perhaps my timing will be challenged. Could this not wait for another day? Yes, it could, but Barney Fife’s “nip it in the bud” philosophy is practically a core value of mine. Why allow a questionable notion to grow unchallenged for an extended period of time? Continue reading