GCRTF VIEWPOINT (Kenneth S. Hemphill): Valuing the work of state conventions
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--I am delighted to see that dialogue between the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force and the state convention executive directors continues to progress. I have had the privilege of working with a large number of our state leaders through my travels, first as a seminary president and now as the national strategist for Empowering Kingdom Growth. I have found them to be men of vision and passion with a desire to see their churches become more effective agents for Kingdom advance.
I am concerned that the GCRTF progress report, if adopted as originally stated, would create a tremendous burden for the state executives, whose assignment it is to lead churches to work together in the fulfillment of the Acts 1:8 imperative.
First, the tenor of the report seemed to suggest that accountability was lacking for monies received from NAMB for agreed-upon ministry initiatives. While that may have not been directly stated, it was certainly implied, and any such suggestion is both inappropriate and counter-productive when it comes to our partnership for the Great Commission. Any work NAMB is going to accomplish now or in the future -- however these agreements are renegotiated for the future -- will depend upon respectful relationships that are undergirded by trust.
Second, I am concerned that the lack of NAMB financial agreements would greatly penalize those states that face the greatest need and greatest opportunity when it comes to the planting of churches. In pioneer states, many of the staff members have salaries that are supplemented by NAMB funding. When you couple this loss of resources with the request that the states be required to accept the full responsibility of stewardship and Cooperative Program promotion, you can begin to see the immensity of the challenge they are facing. I have no doubt that our state conventions can do an excellent job of promoting the Cooperative Program alone, but the truth is that there is great benefit and cost savings involved in having the promotion for the CP come from a single location. It ensures that we all can echo the same message when it comes to cooperating for Kingdom advance.
Third, the potential impact upon state convention work was recently in the news when a potential presidential candidate indicated the state convention should keep no more than 25 percent of CP monies collected for state-wide ministries. This is both an arbitrary and unrealistic number that unduly diminishes the value of the work of state conventions. It is true that the SBC has no authority to tell the state convention what percentage of receipts they are required to forward to the SBC Executive Committee for disbursement to convention-wide causes. Yet recent articles suggest monies could be given around state conventions who do not comply with the acceptable percentages by designating their gifts as "Great Commission Giving." These monies would then be added to gifts that are traditional CP gifts. If the "Great Commission Giving" category were used in this manner, it would spell the end of what we have known as the Cooperative Program and could greatly impact the work of our state conventions as they assist churches in becoming more effective in all their Acts 1:8 partnerships.
I am delighted to hear that dialogue continues and that substantial progress is being made. All our various entities have a vital role to play in fulfilling the Acts 1:8 imperative, and we must build strong partnerships for the sake of the Kingdom.
Kenneth S. Hemphill is the SBC's national strategist for Empowering Kingdom Growth.