The 1% Challenge for increased Cooperative Program giving has been a surprising success, Frank S. Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, said February 18.
Page had asked the Convention’s 45,000 churches to consider a 1 percent-of-budget increase in Cooperative Program giving, which would add $100 million to the funding stream for Southern Baptist missions and ministries.
“The 1% Challenge began almost two years ago and has received a great deal of positive attention. Honestly, more than I thought it would,” Page told EC members in Nashville. “I thought . . . it might have some traction until we got a more comprehensive strategy in place.”
But the Challenge has caught on, Page said, and at least 15 percent of Southern Baptist churches either have adopted the Challenge or are seriously considering it. “It’s making a difference,” he said.
In his report, Page showed a slide show that highlighted a sweeping initiative still in the planning stages: Great Commission Advance.
“We will present the bare bones of this at the Houston Convention [in June], but it will be developed much, much more over the next year and then presented in fullness in 2014,” Page said.
Great Commission Advance is an aggressive global vision—“reaching the world for Christ”—supported by a strong home base—“we support the work of our state conventions”—fueled by the Cooperative Program, Page said.
“We have joined with a State Executive Director Task Force, chaired by Dr. Nate Adams, to plan a long-range, unified strategy to promote the Cooperative Program across the Southern Baptist Convention,” in keeping with the Great Commission Task Force Report adopted by the SBC in 2010, Page said.
“I shared elements of this with the state executives last week.” Pointing to a slide, Page noted that the EC will provide market research and formulate ideas, while the states will work closely with the EC to produce resources that are customizable state by state while maintaining a consistent “brand.”
Page pledged this initiative will be a collaborative effort that will include state and SBC leaders. “I’ve asked Milton Hollifield [president of state convention executives] to appoint a committee of partners from states to work together with our entity heads” to develop a broad-based CP strategy that we all can enthusiastically support, he said. “We need to pray for God’s hand of favor upon this.”
When the finished strategy is rolled out in 2014, it will include specific goals, Page said. He asked the EC to imagine the power of asking churches and pastors if they would want to be part of a massive movement of God that, as an example, “sends out seven thousand international missionaries, plants ten thousand new churches in North America, and reduces seminary education costs for students so they can graduate and go to churches or overseas without massive debt.” State conventions can add their own specific goals, Page said.
Page began his report by showing a Cooperative Program promotion video produced by the Missouri Baptist Convention titled “From You to Eternity,” illustrating how a tithing Southern Baptist impacts the world.
“That’s one of the things we’re trying to do—some collaborative work with our state partners and entity partners. We come up with that which is best and then we share that and help provide those resources so that all of our state conventions can utilize those resources,” Page said.
The initiative, which will go through 2020, will begin with a massive emphasis on stewardship. “We believe it is godly stewardship that will change families, change churches, and change our Convention,” he said.
“Friends, I do believe we’re in a new day where we have an opportunity to do some things together better than we’ve ever done before,” Page said. “We’ve struggled with trust in the past. We’ve struggled with really respecting one another.
“I believe we’re seeing a day and a time where we realize the enemy is so powerful and the world is going to hell so quickly we must work together,” Page said. “We don’t have an option anymore. This us/them mentality has got to go. So I’m begging you to come together so that we can work together to do the work of the Lord.”
Also in his report, Page announced the formation of an Asian American Advisory Council, the third ethnic advisory council he has named over the past eighteen months.
“Of our 45,000 churches, almost one in four is ethnic in some fashion—almost 10,000,” Page noted. “Our leadership in all of our Convention needs to reflect that ethnic diversity. Let’s work hard on that.”
Page said he will be working with David Dockery, president of Union University, on an Educational Summit where representatives from colleges, universities, and seminaries will work specifically on “making education more accessible to our ethnic brothers and sisters.”
Another area of concern during the past year, Page said, has been working toward unity on Calvinism. The advisory council he formed expects to deliver a report to the Convention at the annual meeting in Houston, he said.
“While I’m a non-Calvinist, I’m not an anti-Calvinist,” Page said. “Again, friends, if there was ever a day and time when we all need to be at the table together so that we can work together in missions and evangelism, it’s today. . . .
“We’ve got a long way to go, but we’re going to come to a new day of saying, ‘We respect each other and we are going to work together to win this world for Christ,’” Page said.
On the Saturday before June’s SBC annual meeting in Houston, Page said, he’ll be in the “roughest, poorest” part of the city going door to door, sharing the Gospel as part of the yearly Crossover evangelism initiative. He challenged SBC leaders and others to join him.
Erin Roach, assistant editor for Baptist Press, is a member of Buck Run Baptist Church in Frankfort, Kentucky. Roger S. Oldham also contributed to this story.