http://www.baptiststandard.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=8588&Itemid=53

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.

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About LS

I'm 56, happily married for 25 years, B.A., M.A., career educator with experience in education as a teacher and administrator, native Arizonan living in Pennsylvania, working on a PhD and a big fan of the Arizona Wildcats, mainly in football and basketball.

3 responses

  1. Colby Evans says:

    I’ve never heard BGCT leadership acknowledge that the main reason for the ongoing drop in Cooperative Program giving is directly related to the loss of churches to the SBTC. It’s not that hard to figure out. Of course, now the downturn in the economy will also contribute to the decreases but if you look at those quarterly reports in the Baptist Standard, and for some strange reason I do, over the course of the last six or seven years the number of contributing churches has consistently dropped, as has the current year giving compared to the previous year. The most recent report shows that we are about 3% under last year at this point, when we were about 4% under the previous year. That’s 7% in two years. The elephant in the room is that the BGCT leadership is moving in a direction that the churches do not want to go, and they are making budget adjustments in their giving to compensate for it. And as far as convention participation goes, well, the current control group (TBC) got the rules changed a few years ago, so if you adjust your budget, your convention voice is reduced in that your messenger allotment is adjusted downward.

    It will continue this way until the convention leadership responds to its churches. During the executive director search, the people who showed up at the listening sessions made it clear that they wanted relations to improve drastically with the SBC, and they wanted an executive director without controversial baggage. We got a CBF insider who helped start a theological school that competes with SBC seminaries. Apparently there wasn’t any listening done when the associate executive director was chosen, a pastor on the TBC board with influence and connections to the search committee that recommended him. Two TBC board members were elected exec board officers. If they think that churches are not making note of these things, they need to guess again. These kinds of things are exactly the reason why the giving is shrinking, and will continue to shrink. I wonder if they even care.

  2. spiritualsamurai says:

    Great stuff Lee!

    Thank you so much for you candor and willingness to stand. TBC has become a liability to Texas Baptists. They talk about change in the secular world, we really need change, real change in our BGCT as well.

    Sadly, by the time change does come (and barring any sudden conversions on David Currie/Charles Wade’s executive board) there may not be much of the BGCT left.

  3. David Lowrie says:

    Lee,

    I join you in your call for action and for people to join us in Fort Worth. I believe the opportunity to real lasting change is on the horizon.

    I believe like you that we need to get more people to the table, and we need to get fresh eyes on many of our struggles. Status quo will not cut it if we are serious about Kingdom work. I fear that if more people do not step up and speak out for meaningful change, we might as well begin to make our “pre-need arrangements” and plan the funeral that could come within our lifetimes.

    I am on the younger end of those who have some loyalty to the convention. Most of the young pastors who came of age during our denominational wars are tired of the fighting and have no use for the political positioning that has been going on.

    The sad reality is if people do not show up in Fort Worth and vote for change, then it will not happen no matter how much we may long for it. Randell Everett I believe is a voice for change, but he needs help to make his vision meaningful and effective.

    I would join you in challenging all the churches in the I-35 corridor to come to Fort Worth, and voice your desires for a new tomorrow.

    I am not trying to stop the growth of the SBTC, but I believe it is time for the BGCT to come to grips with the fact that we have many churches who want a voice in our future. They shared their concerns to those who apparently would not heed them. They translated their concerns into the language of money (which is a poor way to communicate but one often chosen as a last resort), and now they are leaving. We must stop this trend and broaden the tent in key leadership areas if we are serious about Kingdom work in the years to come.

    David Lowrie