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.
Dr. Rick Patrick, Senior Pastor
First Baptist Church, Sylacauga, AL
Executive Director, Connect 316
After Russell Moore offered a crystal clear apology in Baptist Press this week, Southern Baptist statesmen Steve Gaines and Jack Graham are urging gracious reconciliation. Because I have great respect for these men, I wish to honor their request with a more conciliatory posture than I have demonstrated in the past. Listen to the words of Gaines and Graham as they call us to move forward and put this ugly brouhaha behind us:
Regarding his work at the ERLC, I have agreed with most of his statements, especially those regarding the sanctity of human life, the sacredness of heterosexual, monogamous marriage and religious liberty,” Gaines said. “However, I have disagreed with some of the statements he made during the election and I especially disagreed with the tone with which he made some of those statements. I have discussed all of this privately with him. He has genuinely apologized for his mistakes and that is good enough for me. I believe all of us who are recipients of grace and forgiveness should grant him the same forgiveness that we desire from the Lord. It is high time that we put all of this behind us. None of these matters will prevent Bellevue Baptist Church from continuing our support of the Cooperative Program, the ERLC and Dr. Moore. It is time to move ahead and work together to double our efforts to take the Gospel to our nation and the nations. —Dr. Steve Gaines
This is a gracious and unifying statement from Dr. Moore. —Dr. Jack Graham
In the eighth round of a famous boxing match in 1980, Sugar Ray Leonard was getting the best of Roberto Duran, when Duran turned away from Leonard, waving in surrender, at which point the referee said, “No mas,” which is Spanish for “No more,” thereby ending the match. Whatever else one might think of Roberto Duran, there is something to be said for possessing the self-awareness to know when one has had enough.
Although Duran’s “No mas” was a sign of surrender, Southern Baptists must learn to say “No mas” as an expression of firm resistance, opposing the election of additional Calvinist leadership over the next several years as we experience vacancies within our eleven entities. Recently, such leaders have typically possessed exceptionally strong theological, philosophical and personal ties to Al Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. A proactive effort by trustees to install Soteriological Traditionalists would serve to counter-balance this disproportionately Calvinistic influence.