Designated Receipts Top CP gifts: The SBC Ship of State Is In Peril | Part Two

October 13, 2015

Will Hall | Editor
Baptist Message, Louisiana

**This article was originally posted HERE and is used by permission**
For more information on Will Hall click HERE and www.baptistmessage.com

 

A Tale of Two Mission Boards
The boon in designated giving has been handled differently by the SBC’s two missions entities, which have benefited the most from this shift to designated giving.

IMB President David Platt announced Aug. 27 the overseas mission group had overspent what it had received by more than $210 million since 2010 – despite “the increased giving to the IMB over the last four years.”

He said the organization had intentionally drawn down contingency reserves and sold global properties in order to keep as many missionaries in the field as possible, but that this approach was unsustainable because reserve levels had been drawn down too low and there were fewer global properties that could be sold. Consequently, Platt announced the IMB would reduce missionaries and staff by 600-800 people, “in order to get to a healthy place financially at the IMB.”

NAMB, on the other hand, has been able to solidify its financial position, in part because of restructuring, but also apparently because of the surge in designated giving and, perhaps, the benefit of Cooperative Agreement monies recovered from the state conventions.

According to data published in the SBC Annual, since 2010 NAMB has seen a $33.7 million drop in post-retirement benefit liabilities: a $2.4 million drop in current liabilities; a $77.4 million growth in unrestricted assets; and, an $8.3 million growth in restricted assets.

Combined, this translates into a $121.8 million improvement in its finances since 2010. Moreover, by shifting assets, NAMB has been able to increase its investments by $135.5 million and purchase about $4.4 million more in property and equipment.

Signs of Hope or More of the Same?
Earlier this year, NAMB released information regarding the class of 2010 church plants that showed this group of 757 congregations had contributed $3.3 million to missions in 2013 (the latest ACP report available at the time) – amounting to about $4,539 given by each church plant.

Although the report shared that this was a year-to-year increase of 12 percent, no other descriptive data was offered about how this group of churches gave.

However, NAMB previously published research in the Church Survivability and Health Study 2007 showing church plants typically receive $70,000 in annual receipts.

If the class of 2010 averaged $70,000 in contributions annually, it would mean the average $4,539 they forwarded to support SBC missions and ministries amounted to an average 6.5 percent of what individuals gave to them.

Likewise, if all of the $4,539 was given through the Cooperative Program, it would mean the next generation of Southern Baptist churches is more committed to cooperative giving than more established SBC congregations, which in 2014 averaged giving 5.47 percent of undesignated receipts through the Cooperative Program.

But NAMB was explicit the $3.3 million figure included the Cooperative Program, Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong offerings, combined. Unfortunately, this aggregate figure effectively masks details about how these church plants specifically are giving toward SBC ministries.

The Baptist Message asked NAMB for a breakout of how much of the $3.3 million given to missions by the class of 2010 was given through the Cooperative Program compared to amounts contributed to the LMCO, the AAEO, and other Great Commission Giving efforts, information they used to compile the $3.3 million figure they have shared with the public on multiple occasions.

We also asked for the total undesignated receipts for this year group.

Together, this information would have shown whether church plants are on par, ahead of or behind other SBC congregations in how they support the SBC causes, specifically through the Cooperative Program.

Also, in order to see whether outside ties make a difference (such as connections with Acts 29), we asked about affiliations of these church plants with other denominations and church planting networks.

This information might have helped settle whether Southern Baptists’ concerns about Calvinist church plants are merited or not, at least with regard to support of the Cooperative Program.

Unfortunately, NAMB declined our request.

What Now?
The point of this analysis is not to position the Cooperative Program against the special missions offerings for the IMB and NAMB, but to illustrate the duress of the cooperative system with which Southern Baptists have successfully funded state and worldwide missions and ministries for 90 years.

Fortunately, IMB and NAMB each have a special offering to offset lost support from the Cooperative Program.

But data shows even those funding streams are under extreme pressure, and, it is no stretch to suggest that as the Cooperative Program declines, the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and Annie Armstrong Easter Offering will follow.

Moreover, the signs already point to the real possibility of such trouble.

For instance since 2000, total undesignated receipts for SBC churches have gone from $ 5.98 billion to $8.75 billion, rising 46.27 percent, although this revenue has declined in recent years. But the AAEO rose just 20.02 percent ($48.5 million to $58.1 million) and the LMCO went from $113.18 million to $153 million, a 35.19 percent increase.

In other words, both mission offerings trailed when income rose, and now SBC churches are in an era of overall financial decline.

The SBC is “in extremis,” which in a nautical context, requires drastic action in order to avoid the loss of the ship.

So, what do we do next?

Southern Baptists are robbing God.

Members of SBC churches have stepped up giving from an average of $1,438 to $1,541 from 2011 to 2014. But, in 2014, the median household income (half of households were above this number and half below it) in the United States was about $52,000 and the average household income (skewed by higher income bracket households) was $72,000.

Both metrics reveal Southern Baptists are not even approaching anything close to a tithe of their total income.

Southern Baptists teach tithing, but whatever we are doing is not connecting with our people, and we must urgently find an effective way to communicate the importance of tithing—not for funding SBC missions and ministries, but for obedience to God.

But, if Southern Baptists tithed, undesignated receipts would be more than 3 to 5 times what they were in 2014 ($29.5 billion to $40.9 billion, compared to the $8.75 billion that actually was contributed).

Likewise, congregations must do more to reach our country and the world outside of the local mission area. Nearly 89 percent of all receipts stayed within the walls of the church in 2014, an amount that has held steady since 2000. The world is growing but our outreach to it is not.

Finally, most importantly, we must once again be evangelistic – we have got to reach the lost.

The Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20 offers a very specific sequence to follow in obeying God’s command to reach “Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth”: evangelize, baptize and teach.

It is apparent that too many of our congregations are content simply to teach those who already are among us and are neglecting evangelism among the lost.

In just four years, Southern Baptist congregations, combined, lost 520,980 weekly worshippers, or 8.4 percent of our active membership.

If we do not restore evangelism as a priority, we face extinction, not just a loss of cooperative funding!

In His letter to the church at Ephesus (the primary center of evangelistic effort in Christendom at the time), Jesus warned they faced losing their lampstand because they had lost focus.

Today, only archeologists and tourists visit that place.

The SBC must remember, repent and return to our first love as well, or we face a similar demise.

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Scott Shaver

Well… Here we go again with “Southern Baptist church members robbing God” as the axiomatic problem with missions and denominational finances.

A little difficult to recover evangelism when “The Gospel” becomes an interchangeable term with marketing practice and political posturing.

We’ve watched the definition of “Southern Baptists” change with new revisions of BFM and we’ve watched “The Gospel” being redefined in so many ways with so many political and theological twists that the term itself has become nebulous.

Only thing that hasn’t changed is preachers crying about church members “robbing God” when they can’t continue to spend like drunken sailors.

Wile the rest of us are out here “robbing God” what have you guys been doing about feeding the sheep?

    Dr. Will Hall

    Scott,

    My point about robbing God was directed at the lack of tithing on the part of Southern Baptist members. As for preachers spending like “drunken sailors,” congregations are charged with being good stewards with the tithes brought into the storehouse. If there’s a problem with spending like “drunken sailors” there is a problem with the leadership of the congregation that extends beyond the pastor.

    I can’t speak for what “you guys” have been doing about feeding the sheep. But my ministry in my local church is an open book. If you want to contact me, I’ll give you the number for the church to check out my ministry engagement in the short time I’ve been here. You can also check with Rick Gage at GO TELL Ministries to find out the work I performed as crusade director.

    Failure to tithe is not a function of a pastor’s spending like a “drunken sailor,” but a spiritual sin of the heart.

    — WKH

      Scott Shaver

      Perhaps you did not catch, Will, or I poorly identified my use of the term “preacher” as being primarily directed at the class usually chosen/selected to lead para-church organizations (like the SBC and related entities, state “SBC” conventions, etc). The OT “tithe” applies (whether under law or grace or both) to the local church.

      Hence, “the tithe” as far as what portions should leave the local church and be directed to para-church organizations is a rabbit not worth chasing at the moment.

      From the inception of the first gathered Christian fellowships, it would be interesting to know if 100 percent attendance in those early fellowships also represented 100% obedience to the practice of tithing across the board in each and every geographic location where the early churches were established.

      One of the skills we’ve obviously been able to see parachurch organizations and their leaders hone is the ability to make numbers and statistics say anything they desire, even and especially in a time of crisis. As to the question of “feeding sheep” (primarily directed at denominational/para-church leaders/organizations), I’ve personally witnessed over the last couple of decades “marginalizing” of sheep, “utilization” of sheep, “theological redefinition” of sheep and wringing of sheep…..without a lot of “feeding” in the mix.

      No disrespect intended Will, but I have no desire, need or will to investigate/prove the foundation and fruit of your ministry, present or past. Your word’s good enough for me.

Scott Shaver

Will:

Can you tell me whether or not Louisiana (LBC) and David Hankins have moved/are moving toward a 50/50 arrangement with the SBC? I understand that your estimate of “stepping up” undesignated receipts 3-5 times is speculation based on something that has not occurred, but would a forwarding of 50 percent from Louisiana not help knock a dent in the problem with “focus”. That is, if you’re truly convinced that the “lampstand” is indeed representative of the missions sending agencies of the SBC as opposed to the local church.

    Dr. Will Hall

    Scott:

    I’m writing for this week’s edition and also traveling in the evenings to attend associational meetings around the state. I will reply as soon as I have time to compose a thoughtful response to your good questions.

    — WKH

      Scott Shaver

      Thanks Will. Appreciate.

      Drive safe…..SLOW if you’re anywhere around Golden Meadow.

William Thornton

I think it profitable that a state convention staffer, funded all or in part by Cooperative Program dollars, initiates and participates in a forum that reaches someone other than the demographic served by state papers and I’m pleased SBCT has put your articles up.

1. We are in agreement that individuals and churches give less overall and that a way must be found to successfully challenge them to give more and that everyone should do more evangelism.

2. Your comments on Part 1 and about half of your text here concern NAMB. I detect an agenda. Nothing wrong with that. NAMB belongs to all of us and state paper editors as well as bloggers should scrutinize and question anything they wish about it.

3. The CP is positioned against the special offerings. It’s a matter of evaluating the opportunity cost of scarce dollars. Thirty years ago I rarely ran across churches that would not make CP their primary giving channel. Today the CP is merely one of several and likely not the primary in terms of dollars. The most salient point about CP and designated giving is that all have declined in real dollars since 2000 but that the CP, for a number of reasons, has declined far more than designated. Since the CP is mostly a state convention funding stream, it is up to the many states to outline a compelling vision towards which their churches will give. This vision has been lacking. Many states have recognized this and are now making notable changes.

4. Your articles would be more properly titled by adding a single word, “The SBC ship of state CONVENTIONS is in peril.” While IMB, NAMB, and the seminaries have challenges, their value to Southern Baptists is not in question. The value of a state convention to is not obvious to many pastors and church members.

5. The general approach to giving and CP funding by denominational leaders and staff has never varied: “Just give us more of your money.” This hasn’t worked, even when couched with spiritual warnings about not tithing. Typically, leaders offer a lament, tied together with a warning, and wrapped in a golden vision of halcyon days that would come were Southern Baptists to tithe. Perhaps some new approach should be tried.

You have a tough job. I wish you well in it

    Dr. Will Hall

    William:

    William:

    I’m writing and traveling (it’s a production week and also associational meeting time). I’ll either reply here tomorrow, or, call you to discuss.

    — WKH

Andy

WILL: “Southern Baptists teach tithing, but whatever we are doing is not connecting with our people, and we must urgently find an effective way to communicate the importance of tithing—not for funding SBC missions and ministries, but for obedience to God. But, if Southern Baptists tithed, undesignated receipts would be more than 3 to 5 times what they were in 2014 ($29.5 billion to $40.9 billion, compared to the $8.75 billion that actually was contributed).”

1. It seems that your two articles here have made the opposite argument from your first sentence here…It seems that your main argument is that everyone tithing would solve our SBC budget shorfalls, and by the way, If you don’t you are disobeying God.

2. Personally, I think that more people are realizing the weak biblical support for a mandantory new covenant tithe, as well as extra-biblical ideas like “store-house” tithing (That you must give 10% to your local church, not 7% to your local church and 3% to a few of your missionary friends). So at a local level, for example, I would actually agree with your larger arguments more than this one statement on obedience. I think it is MUCH MORE biblical for a pastor to point to a need in the congregation, “we are in disobedience to God if we have money to spare, and allow our brother or sister to suffer lack.” …than to say “you are in disobedience if you don’t give 10% of your income to this church.” (I’m happy to discuss this with anyone, but I realize it is not the main point of this article).

3. YOU have not made this argument, so this point is not attacking you, Will. But I think it bears repeating that EVEN IF one accepts the tithe for individuals, that there is no biblical amount or percentage that a church must give to certain groups or ministries that it supports.

4. I agree with you assessments of our inward focus. We are often concerned with building our own kingdoms at the expense of reaching out to those outside of our church walls.

    Dr. Will Hall

    Andy:

    You raise some good points that I want to address, but I can’t do so today. Bear with me, please.

    – WKH

Lydia

“Unfortunately, NAMB declined our request.”

How is this possible?

Ben

As I read this article in the Baptist Message, I am continually amazed at how everything winds up being the “Calvinists'” fault in Louisiana. We continue to fight against one another and wonder why pastors and churches are reluctant.

    Donald

    Ben, I missed this…. the only thing I saw was one mention that if the NAMB answered the questions then we would settle questions about Calvinist afiliiated church plants and the CP. It that what you are talking abou?

Ben

“This information might have helped settle whether Southern Baptists’ concerns about Calvinist church plants are merited or not, at least with regard to support of the Cooperative Program.”

Exactly what concerns are there? The SBC has said over and over that Calvinists and non-Calvinists are welcomed at the table together. If Will cannot get information from NAMB surely he can get the info from the LBC. Wouldn’t that at least shed some light on the effects of affiliation? If we can’t see the national picture, the state picture should provide some insight. How many Calvinist affiliated plants are in Louisiana and what does their giving tell us?

    Dr. Will Hall

    There are no Calvinist church plants in Louisiana.

      Ben

      None? Maybe I should have asked how we determine what a “calvinist” church plant is? There is at least one A29 plant in our state down in New Orleans. They once received LBC funds.

        Dr. Will Hall

        There are no Acts 29 church plants funded by the LBC.

        NAMB may have supported an ACTS 29 church plant in New Orleans. But I checked with our church planting team. They understand the situation across the state and are in constant contact with our church planters. They stated clearly we have no Acts 29 church plants, period.

          Ben

          Thanks for that information. I didn’t mean to get off subject. I will get off the rabbit trail. Maybe one day we can further that discussion.
          I agree we need a greater focus on cooperative ministry. In my area, we are working hard to partner with like-minded churches and are seeing some of the fruits of that labor. I think the 2 biggest hurdles in alot of churches are 1)simply a lack of knowledge on what CP is and what it does. 2) People give to stories and faces. There is a disconnect between the local church and the denominational agencies. Just my 2 cents. Have a great Thursday.

    Scott Shaver

    Correction Ben:

    Your SBC leaders, seminary presidents and “blue ribbon” committees have been telling Southern Baptists for 15-20 years that “Calvinists and non-Calvinists are welcomed at the table together”. Sounds good in theory, obviously works lousy in practice…with or without “triage”. Inviting incompatible soteriologies to a common table won’t prevent them from using the knives and forks as weapons on each other at the opening gong of the dinner bell. This has been true in history (i.e. Reformation vs Anabaptists)…..it’s true now albeit in less bloody expressions.

    Keep going back to Russell Dilday’s take on fundamentalism when he prophesied that the result of the “CR” would be the final division and fragmentation of the SBC along calvinist/noncalvinist lines. That does seems to be, IMO, the most accelerated and recognizable dynamic we’re witnessing now.

Dr. Will Hall

William, Scott & Andy:

I am writing a combined response that may miss some of your points, but it’s the best I can do with my schedule right now.

There is no agenda with NAMB, I’m trying to cover issues that have been missed or ignored and need to be discussed. I’m not a crusading investigative writer, but I do pick up the stories that I sense are going unnoticed.

I don’t share the view that state conventions are in peril–except those pioneer states who were cut loose when the Cooperative Agreements were abandoned by NAMB. Louisiana is a shining example in particular, but Alabama, Mississippi, Texas (SBTC) are some that come to mind that are thriving because they are close to the churches and are providing meaningful ministries and support for the life, work and ministry of Southern Baptists in their states.

With regard to CP support, if I would change anything in my article, it would be this statement: “Likewise, congregations must do more to reach our country and the world outside of the local mission area. Nearly 89 percent of all receipts stayed within the walls of the church in 2014, an amount that has held steady since 2000. The world is growing but our outreach to it is not.”

In place of this, I would substitute: “Likewise, congregations must do more to reach our country, starting with the local mission area. But it cannot neglect the world beyond its local reach. Regardless of home or beyond, churches are spending less on missions. From 2008-2014 total missions expenditures (money spent on reaching anyone, whether in the neighborhood or a neighboring town, state or nation) have dropped from
$1.36 billion to $1.23 billion.

As for tithing, I don’t see any data that indicates a large number of Christians are giving some of their tithe to personal ministry choices and some to cooperative ministries, etc. (I think the example was $7 to the local church and and $3 to missionary friends). Every source I researched indicates Christians are not tithing, period, even though 32 percent of charity in our country goes to religious purposes (the largest category in philanthropy).

For all philanthropy in the United States, the average annual household contribution was $2,974 (the average household income was about $72,000 last year and the median was $52,000).

Much is lost in averages, I know.

But, the point is that although there may be anecdotes of individuals or even groups following a pattern of “personalized tithing,” the data does not bear out that this is happening on a large scale. Remember, the average giving per person in SBC congregations (per capita worship attendance) was about $1,541.

Finally, the most important point in my final thoughts was this:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
“… we must once again be evangelistic – we have got to reach the lost. … In just four years, Southern Baptist congregations, combined, lost 520,980 weekly worshipers, or 8.4 percent of our active membership. … If we do not restore evangelism as a priority, we face extinction, not just a loss of cooperative funding!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

All the commotion about “pieces of the pie,” etc. has caused us to miss the “invisible gorilla” (http://www.theinvisiblegorilla.com/gorilla_experiment.html). [awareness of this video courtesy of Dr. Steve Horn]

— WKH

    Scott Shaver

    Sounds very reasonable and well-thought to me. I agree. Thanks Will.

      Scott Shaver

      Just thought I’d add that I know some who tithe strictly cash at church with no intent or desire for record of contribution. Has something to do with not claiming earthly credit for heavenly treasure.

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