Undesignated gifts reported by the Southern Baptist Convention’s 46,793 cooperating churches rose by $406 million in 2015, to more than $9.15 billion, according to the 2015 Annual Church Profile released by LifeWay Christian Resources in June. This is the highest amount in history.
“We thank the Lord that our churches, following five successive years of decline, have experienced this rebound in tithes and offerings from their members,” Frank S. Page, president and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee, said.
Undesignated giving was one of only three categories that showed an increase in the most recent reporting year. The number of cooperating churches grew by 294. Fifty-three mission churches were also added. Total reported baptisms, church membership, and weekly attendance fell to their lowest levels in the twenty-first century. Total missions giving also declined to its lowest level in more than a decade.
The forty-two state conventions that serve as Cooperative Program collection partners with the SBC reported $474,272,984 given through CP in 2015, a decline of $4.4 million from the previous year’s gifts and hitting the lowest CP total in fifteen years.
Dividing undesignated gifts by CP given through the state conventions yields an average of 5.18 percent per church given through CP, a decline of 0.29 percentage point from 2014.
“History has shown that giving to SBC and state convention ministries by the churches lags one or two years behind church-level giving since churches typically set their budget goals based on their previous giving year,” Page said. “CP receipts in the SBC’s current fiscal year gives us a reason to hope this lag will be short-lived.”
According to the Baptist Press June financial report, national CP gifts received by the SBC Executive Committee through the first three quarters of the 2015–2016 fiscal year were 2.88 percent above contributions received during the same time frame the previous year and 5.22 percent above the year-to-date SBC Cooperative Program Allocation Budget projection which helps fund the SBC ministry entities.
Page praised the state conventions for their sacrificial support of the missions and ministries of the SBC. He noted that while the states received $4.4 million less in 2015 from their supporting churches than the previous year, they forwarded almost $3 million more to SBC causes, topping 38 percent of total CP forwarded to the SBC four of the past five years.
In 2013, Page requested staffing numbers from the state conventions so he could highlight their sacrificial efforts to forward a greater percentage of their CP gifts to the national causes of the SBC. Thirty-two states had responded by his 2013 report deadline, he said.
“Collectively these states had reduced their convention staffing by 22 percent, from 1,750 in 2000 to 1,350 in 2013,” he said. “In the past three years, they have reduced that number another 8 percent, to 1,230.”
Reflecting on the number of reported baptisms, weekly attendance, and membership numbers, Page observed, “We have lost our cutting edge.”
“We have bought into society’s lie that people will not listen to us anymore,” he said. “That’s simply not true. Everywhere I go, I find people who are open to hearing the Gospel.”
Citing Romans 1:16, he said, “The power of the Gospel has not changed. We have changed. We are no longer convinced that the Gospel has real power to change people through faith in Jesus Christ.
“Oh, may we be held captive once again by its power,” he said.
“Charting the number of baptisms reported by our churches should have only one goal,” he said: “To lead Southern Baptists to weep over our ineffectiveness in personal evangelism, beseech the Lord of the Harvest to send forth laborers into His harvest, then volunteer to be one of those laborers.”
Total Cooperative Program Giving
(from Churches to States and from States to SBC)
Undesignated Gifts to Churches
Roger S. Oldham is vice president for Convention communications and relations for the SBC Executive Committee and is a member of Long Hollow Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tennessee.