The executive board of the BGCT will present a budget that is 8% less than the one approved at the last convention. The proposal reflects the reality that Cooperative Program giving from the churches is declining. That reality was recognized by Dr Everett back when he first came to the BGCT and requested that the convention reduce its spending to 90% of the current budget. Yes, that’s the same budget that is 8% greater than the one that will be proposed. So somewhere along the line, there was hope expressed that giving levels would increase by about 3-4% during 2009, since current giving is running about 1.5% below the reduced 2008 budget. In light of the financial situation that is now looming nationally, the sharp drop in investment income and the job loss, the expectation of a 4% increase in giving, which would normally be considered modest, may be an impossible stretch.
The elephant in the room with regard to the continued, steady decline in BGCT Cooperative Program giving is the fact that churches are leaving the convention for the rival state convention, or dually affiliating with it and as a consequence cutting the BGCT share. I doubt that anyone in the building on Washington Avenue will cite that as a reason, but it is hard to look at the other group’s website, or read their newspaper without having your attention drawn to the churches that have signed on in recent months. Other than new church starts, their only other source for new congregations is the BGCT, and their new church starts are not really that numerous.
While the movement of churches from one body to another, at a rate of about 20 a month by my calculation, is one measure of dissatisfaction with BGCT leadership, the decline in participation at convention meetings is another one. For some reason, as the level of discontent and disagreement rises, the level of participation drops off. I guess churches just decide that sending messengers is no longer worth the effort, that business is cut and dried and that it is a waste of resources to send anyone when convention leadership appears to do as they please. But that doesn’t get anyone’s attention. Denominational leaders live in the insulated bubble of a mutual admiration society. In Texas, the committees, boards and offices have been locked down by a common interest group for more than a decade. There are few people who have come in from the outside, and among those, not many willing to speak up and say that things “out there” are not going well, and a lot of it has to do with perceptions that the convention is dominated by a single interest that doesn’t listen. As a result, nothing really changes.
There are 4,000 churches in the BGCT that uniquely support the SBC through their Cooperative Program giving. As the convention has adjusted the budget to decrease the percentage passed on through the CP, churches have designated more to be returned to the IMB, NAMB and the SBC. In response, a few token actions, such as allowing Southwestern to have a booth at the convention, have been taken. We need a budget that begins to reflect the reality that the vast majority of churches in the BGCT desire to continue to have a strong, cooperative relationship with the SBC. Other causes, such as CBF partnerships, the BWA and the Baptist Joint Committee, do not have to be eliminated, but instead made optional so that those churches desiring to support them can continue to do so. I think that’s the message that BGCT congregations are sending to the leadership through the continued drain of churches out the back door and the resulting steady decline in Cooperative Program giving.
This blog will always advocate for every supporting church to send whatever messengers it can to the convention, and then those messengers need to pay attention and vote their convictions. Prior to my illness, Deep in the Heart was getting hits from 250 different IP sources a day, and we are back up to around 180 at this point. I have no idea how many of those are from Texas, or how many are members of BGCT churches but among those who leave comments, at least half are. Encourage your church to elect, and send, messengers. Unless or until the convention realizes the potential of internet broadcasting and voting, that is the only way Baptists have to effect change.
Please join me in Ft. Worth.