“There will be a day when I’m gone and there will be a day when you are gone,” Frank S. Page said.
“What kind of legacy will we leave behind,” Page asked, “as the Executive Committee, as students, as professors, as preachers, as lay men and women?”
Page reviewed the legacy Southern Baptists are building through the Cooperative Program when he addressed the opening session of the February 22–23 Executive Committee meeting in Nashville.
“We need to be resolute in leaving behind a legacy of commitment to our Lord, a legacy of missions and evangelism, a legacy of church plants and missionary work, a legacy of touching the lives of countless men and women, boys and girls in discipleship,” Page, the SBC Executive Committee’s president, said in reference to Cooperative Program funding by Southern Baptist churches for outreach in their states, across America, and throughout the world.
Support from the States
State Baptist conventions, Page noted, have become a key factor in growing Cooperative Program support for advancing the Gospel across North America and around the world.
State conventions will provide an estimated 40 percent of Cooperative Program gifts they receive to SBC causes during the coming year, up from 38.5 percent from the states last year, as a result of budget actions during their annual meetings last fall, Page reported.
It is “one of the largest increases we’ve seen in a long time,” he said.
Twenty-six states voted to increase their CP percentages for SBC causes, for an average increase of 1.72 percent of funds the states received from the churches, Page said. Twelve states made no change and two decreased by an average of 0.32 percent.
“We are grateful to our state partners for all they have done,” Page said. “We recognize their sacrifice. We recognize that they are in the midst of a changing paradigm. And we recognize that the ministry God has called them to is valid and a part of the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Among state conventions increasing their CP percentages for SBC work are Florida by 10 percent; Michigan, 5.51 percent; Missouri, 4.02 percent; North Carolina, 3 percent; Minnesota/Wisconsin, 2.95 percent; and Georgia, 2 percent. Page said substantive budgeting changes also were made by the conventions in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, New York, Tennessee, Utah/Idaho, and SBC of Virginia.
Strong year-end giving, meanwhile, has been reported in Georgia, New York, New England, Florida, and SBC of Virginia, Page said.
2016 and Beyond
Cooperative Program gifts to support the missions and ministries of Southern Baptist Convention are projected to increase by $5 million this year due to the state conventions’ actions coupled with a “rebound of personal/church giving trends,” Page said.
During the last fiscal year, 100.62 percent of the funding needed for the SBC Cooperative Program Allocation Budget was received, Page reported. The $189 million-plus in receipts was 1.39 percent above the previous fiscal year and was distributed weekly, with just over 50.41 percent going directly to IMB for international missions, 22.79 percent to NAMB for North American missions, 22.16 percent distributed through the six SBC seminaries for theological education, 1.65 percent to the ERLC for moral and religious liberties advocacy, and the remaining almost 2.99 percent for the SBC Operating Budget.
National Cooperative Program receipts for the current fiscal year to date are 1.9 percent ahead of last year’s giving at the same time and 6 percent ahead of CP Allocation Budget projections, Page said.
“Projected income depends on a variety of factors, including employment, the economy, church giving, etc. We recognize that many things can change,” Page said while noting that “the trend we’re seeing” is highly encouraging.
Great Commission Advance
Commenting on the ten-year Great Commission Advance now under way, Page said, “We’ve seen encouraging trends as churches of every demographic, ethnicity, and age are unifying better than before.” He credited Executive Committee work in particular with ethnic liaisons and advisory councils for helping “our ethnic brothers and sisters through their churches” gain greater understanding of the strategic role the Cooperative Program plays in supporting the Gospel causes of the state conventions and the SBC.
A total of 4,402 churches, meanwhile, have taken the “1% CP Challenge,” Page noted, to raise their Cooperative Program giving by 1 percentage point of their yearly budgets.
Page lauded SBC President Ronnie Floyd, senior pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, for “encouraging churches at every level” to strengthen their Cooperative Program support.
“He and I have been involved in [conference] calls with many pastors, hundreds of pastors, as we’ve encouraged them to up their giving to missions and ministries,” Page said.
“And among the larger churches, Dr. Floyd has had great success in encouraging them to go to the $1 million mark in Cooperative Program giving. And by the way, Dr. Floyd did not ask them to do anything that he has not already done himself. His church is already well past that now, last year as well as this year,” Page said.
The Great Commission Advance, launched by Page at last year’s SBC annual meeting in Columbus, Ohio, calls for every Southern Baptist and every church to engage in a mission project, locally or elsewhere in the nation or world, and to encourage their church members to practice the biblical tithe of 10 percent of the income God gives believers to be given through their churches for missions and ministry.
Another facet of the Great Commission Advance, as described by Page in his February 22 remarks to the Executive Committee, is “a new analytics software development that is going to provide far more accurate and up-to-date real-time information to help us with Cooperative Program understanding of where our churches are, or are not.” The project is being undertaken by a consortium of several state conventions, the International Mission Board, North American Mission Board, and Executive Committee.
Closing his remarks, Page said, “I couldn’t care less if people ever remember my name; but I do want them to remember what we stood for and what we did for the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Art Toalston is senior editor of Baptist Press and is a member of Brentwood Baptist Church in Brentwood, Tennessee.