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Cooperative Program Definition Reducing Cooperation?

As I sat in the convention hall that Tuesday in San Antonio, and as I listened to the discussion between the messengers and the Executive Committee over the adoption of a new articulation of an "old" definition for the Cooperative Program, I wondered what difference all of this would make. I wondered why the Executive Committee found it so difficult to give a clear answer. I remember one messenger asking for a simple yes or no answer. Instead of a yes or no, he got referred to some obscure text. Maybe there was a misunderstanding. Maybe it wasn't clear. Either way, I couldn't help but think that there was something that was at stake. Something was taking place. What was it?

My guess? I think that the the leadership hoped that this definition would create greater cooperation amongst Southern Baptist. After all, with about a quarter out of every dollar making it past the state conventions and onto Nashville, the IMB, and the seminaries, there is a temptation amongst many pastors to lead their churches to designate a much higher percentage for Nashville, IMB, seminaries, etc. This designation is seen by some to reduce the level of cooperation that is taking place on the state level. And, therefore, a reduction in cooperation means a reduction in the purpose of the cooperative program. This is where the definition comes in. If there is a definition of cooperative giving that necessarily includes giving through the state without designation of any kind, and churches want credit for cooperative giving (which they rightly do), then this potential fragmentation can be avoided! So, by pushing this definition through, the Executive Committee is protecting the unity of the Cooperative Program.

Unfortunately, it looks like the opposite is taking place. A recent article looking at Southern Baptists in California shows that there is a movement underway to create a competing state convention, a state convention that will give 50 percent of all that it receives to Nashville and keep 50 percent in the state. You can read the article here.

I have to say that I have mixed feelings about what's taking place here. On the one hand, I understand the desire to see more money go towards Nashville, IMB, seminaries, etc. (In fact, I'd rather see 70 percent go out of state and 30 percent stay in. But 50-50 is a step in the right direction.) When the money makes it to the missionaries, we'll have greater excitement about the Cooperative Program. But, on the other hand, I don't want to see the fragmentation of the state conventions. It has been done before, but if it can be avoided, I'd avoid it.

The Executive Committee is thinking about the importance of cooperation and they are taking action. I think that we should follow them in their concern for the CP and we too should take action in seeking to perfect a system that is simply the best thing going. May God give us wisdom, as we seek faithfulness to Christ and his kingdom.