As Ronnie Floyd reflects on the path that has led to his service as president of the Southern Baptist Convention, he cannot deny the providence of God in every step.
Particularly, he cites God’s will in being elected president last June rather than the first time he was nominated in 2006.
“God is sovereign over all affairs,” Floyd, pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, told SBC LIFE. “There’s a purpose, and you leave it in the hands of God and you go forward.”
Floyd went forward at the time more committed to making a difference for the Kingdom through the SBC.
“I did not know that it really was more about God holding me back for a more providential hour, for me, with the gifts I have, the person I am,” Floyd said. “So I count it as God’s providence for me, God’s providence for what He wants me to do at this hour in the life of the Southern Baptist Convention.”
Floyd believes he understands the Convention much better today because of his service as chairman of the Great Commission Task Force (or Great Commission Resurgence Task Force [GCR] as it is popularly called) in 2009–2010.
“There wasn’t a day that year that I didn’t deal with the Southern Baptist Convention. I dealt with hundreds and hundreds of emails and thousands and thousands of people,” Floyd said. “I got to know the Southern Baptist Convention up one side and down the other. I got to know pretty well everything about it—the good, the bad, and the ugly.”
When he was selected by then-president Johnny Hunt to lead the Task Force, Floyd already had served on the Executive Committee for a decade, serving as chairman of the committee for two years. He was on the search committee that called Morris H. Chapman as president of the Executive Committee, and he was one of seven members on the Program and Structure Study Committee that recommended streamlining the Convention from nineteen to twelve entities.
Floyd had preached at several SBC Pastors’ Conferences and was the conference president in 1997. He had written numerous books, including The Power of Prayer and Fasting, and he had served on the executive board of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, among other roles.
“So I already knew the Southern Baptist Convention before the Great Commission Resurgence, but GCR was a revolutionary moment for me,” Floyd said. “It wasn’t like I wasn’t committed to the Great Commission already. That’s all my life was about. That’s why I was chosen to lead it.
“But God took me to a brand new level in it,” Floyd said.
Serving as chairman of the GCR Task Force led Floyd to two particular realizations, he said. The first is that he was gripped by the lostness of the world—how many people still don’t know Jesus. The second is that he has a responsibility to be a good steward of the leadership role God has given him.
“I felt it was incumbent on me as a leader to be as cooperative as I can be and to make sure that I get as much money as I can through our Cooperative Program to fund our Great Commission work,” Floyd said.
Cross Church, averaging 8,500 in worship each week, had been increasing its Cooperative Program giving steadily for years, Floyd said, but with GCR they “really set sail.”
After having a national television ministry since the early ‘90s, Floyd, in light of GCR, determined that the best way Cross Church could immediately increase its Cooperative Program giving was to redirect money for the national television presence to missions.
“I had to ask myself, ‘Is there anyone else? Are they hearing the Gospel already through national television, and are there faithful Gospel preachers?’” Floyd said. “The answer to that was yes, there were.”
That decision propelled Cross Church from giving $32,000 through the Cooperative Program in 2005 to $700,000 in 2013, reflecting an increase of just over 2,000 percent, according to a Baptist Press report last June. In both 2005 and 2006, the church gave an additional $189,000 it considered as CP to the SBC Executive Committee as designated giving for dispersal according to the CP Allocation Budget distribution formula.
After the GCR report was approved by the Convention in 2010, Cross Church decided “we needed to be cooperative,” Floyd said. “We put a lot of trust and faith in what Southern Baptists decided—that we were going to get even more serious about the Great Commission.”
Now Cross Church is the top Cooperative Program giving church in the Arkansas Baptist State Convention among more than 1,400 congregations. The church increased its CP giving from 0.26 percent of undesignated receipts in 2005 to 4.1 percent in 2013.
Cross Church is budgeted to give $900,000 through the Cooperative Program in 2015, and they’ve made a practice of giving any overage as well. In 2014, the church gave an extra $50,000 through CP, for example, and in 2013, they gave $100,000 beyond their goal.
The CP numbers are important, Floyd said, because the funds help mobilize Southern Baptists to reach the world with the Gospel, penetrating the lostness that gripped him during his GCR service.
“So the bottom line is through lostness and a conviction of stewardship that I have a responsibility as a leader and my church has a responsibility as one of the largest churches in the Southern Baptist Convention to step up and to lead the way, and that’s what we’ve really tried to do,” Floyd said of increased CP involvement.
As he mentioned, Floyd didn’t just step into Great Commission service with his task force appointment or even with his election as president. He began following Jesus in high school, steadily developed a devoted prayer life and desire for spiritual awakening, and for years led on the local, state, and national levels of SBC life.
Floyd’s message to pastors, church leaders, and lay people is that “we are in an urgent moment in this world. We must get the Gospel to every person in America and every person around the world.”
“We must do all we can with where we are and with what we have to get that done, and I would call upon all of us to evaluate now where our churches are financially,” Floyd said.
“Shift whatever we need to shift, and let’s allocate as much money as possible to help us reach our states, reach our nation, and reach the world for Christ by giving through the world missionary enterprise of the Southern Baptist Convention called the Cooperative Program.”
God blesses people with resources, Floyd said, and whether those are large or small, “we’re responsible before God for what we do with it, and we need to always honor the Lord with the first fruits of what God gives to us.”
“That will transform the future of the Cooperative Program,” he said. “You cannot undervalue generosity. You cannot out-give God. You are never more like Jesus than when you give. . . . We need to all be givers to the honor and the glory of God to win the world to Christ.”
Erin Roach is a writer in Nashville and is a member of First Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tennessee.