COOPERATIVE PROGRAM: Where is the money?
EDITOR'S NOTE: Ronnie Floyd is president of the Southern Baptist Convention and senior pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas.
I am often asked, "Where is the money to accomplish this vision?" In this month of emphasis on the Cooperative Program, I think we must answer this question openly and honestly. As one Southern Baptist, I want to attempt to answer the question, "Where is the money?"
The money is in the pockets of God's people
The most recent research by empty tomb, inc. reveals the following:
-- Less than 3 percent all Christians tithe, meaning give at least 10 percent of their income to their church
-- The median annual gift to a church is $200.
-- In 1968, Americans gave 3.1 percent of their disposable income; now Americans give 2.2 percent, which is less than they gave during the Great Depression.
-- At the current rate of decline, by the year 2050, Americans will give only 1 percent of their disposable income to the church; if this occurs, a vast number of churches and missions will be forced to close.
I find this data somewhat disgusting. It shows the selfishness and narcissistic reality of millions of professing Christians today.
The money to reach our towns, cities, regions, states, nation and the world is in the pockets of God's people. We need to repent now and call people back to God with boldness and compassion.
Pastors, Christian leaders and church leaders must lead the way in giving at least 10 percent of their income through their local churches. The professing Christians and members of our churches must also do the same.
This is not an option for us, but it a biblical truth that our Southern Baptist Convention has practiced for years. In the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, we read this in Article XIII on Stewardship: "According to the Scriptures, Christians should contribute of their means cheerfully, regularly, systematically, proportionately, and liberally for the advancement of the Redeemer's cause on earth."
Once again, I want to appeal to pastors to address the importance and necessity of biblical stewardship with your church. Be biblical, bold and convictional. There is no need to apologize for calling your people to give more. We give because we love Christ, want to walk in obedience to Him, and desire to see our town, city, region, state, nation and world reached for Christ.
Money is in the pockets of our churches
Each of our churches must evaluate continually what we are doing to partner with our Southern Baptist Convention in reaching the world for Christ. We do this through our gifts through the Cooperative Program. How much a church gives through the Cooperative Program is a church's decision. Each church is autonomous and we honor their decision.
However, since we are Southern Baptist churches, we also believe in the value of partnership. I believe each church can do more to fund the vision of reaching the world for Christ. What we give through the Cooperative Program is important.
If we devalue the Cooperative Program, then we undermine the financial engine that impacts our work together statewide, nationally and internationally.
According to the most recent Annual Church Profile, our churches gave over $500 million dollars to causes outside our convention that they categorized as "mission causes." Therefore, thousands of our churches could give more through our work together as Southern Baptists by a simple reallocation of monies their people are already giving.
Simultaneously, each church can find a way to do more, and determine to give more through our Cooperative Program. If we truly believe our state, our nation and world needs the Gospel, there is no greater way to impact this population of 7.2 billion people. Please go to your church now and ask them to pray and act with all of us to give more now through our Cooperative Program.
The problem is not our path, but our pace
Please understand, while each Christian is under obligation to obey the Scriptures through the giving of the first fruits through their church, each church and each state convention is under the necessity to get the Gospel to the entire world. This is not an option, but an act of obedience.
The problem is not our path, but our pace! Our path is set; we want to be a Great Commission people. Yet, our pace needs to accelerate with a deep sense of urgency.
I know each church faces different challenges and circumstances and each state convention is unique with its own opportunities and challenges. This is why my appeal has been continually: Each of us can find a way to do more!
We need to also remember: this is God's money. It is not our money personally, our church's money, our state convention's money nor our Southern Baptist Convention's money. It is God's money. He has entrusted to us His money to use for His purposes for His glory alone.
Yes, we can do more. We can do more together!