Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The GCRTF and the SBC Partnership Model

Recently the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force (GCRTF) released their initial report. Among other things, it called for dramatic changes in the funding and structure of state conventions and NAMB, including the elimination of the long-standing cooperative agreements between the two entities. My discussion here is not to debate the spiritual reputations of the men and women of the GCR Task Force. They are all talented brothers and sisters in Christ. However, their reputations are not going to be on the floor of the convention in June. It will be the six actual recommendations of their report and the long-term ramifications that will result if adopted.

The Bible tells us to thoroughly evaluate our plans before implementation. Before drastic changes are made, it is helpful to assess the current structure in a realistic manner. Our current SBC Partnership Model, which is the state and national convention, association, and the local sponsoring church working cooperatively together to plant new churches, should be evaluated carefully before hitting the reset switch.

Evaluating Effectiveness
In the secular world, an Industry Standard is the optimum criteria for any industry to measure effectiveness within the respective field of production. When evaluating any missional structure one of the critical questions that must be answered is, “What structures are you measuring it against?

For example, take the Ford Motor Company. Ford does not expect 100% of the population to drive their cars. Rather, performance is measured in how well it does in comparison to, say, Honda in terms of market share. If Ford were outperforming every other car company, it would be unwise to throw out their overall management plan. Improve yes, overhaul no.

It is, alas, unrealistic to expect that any agency will be “100% efficient.” To seek to “do more” without knowing the current levels of effectiveness will end in frustration. Undefined performance standards are unachievable and wastes resources (i.e. unending reorganizations) that should be invested in ministry needs. What is our “Ministry Standard” to measure our current effectiveness?

To what other ministry structures were our SBC missional efforts compared? If the GCR Task Force did any comparisons, they were not in the report.

Benchmarking Effectiveness through California Church Growth, 2000-2008
The American Church Research Project (, led by David T. Olson organized statistical reports from 305,000 congregations by state and county. This research allows us to compare the effectiveness of the SBC Partnership Model against ALL other Christian and Catholic church starting ministries in California for years 2000-2008. This data allows us to move beyond inspirational challenges to numerical measurements of ministry performance. Is the current SBC Partnership Model effective in California? This is key because many SBC churches across the country support this work as they contribute to the Cooperative Program. Are their resources well spent?
Unfortunately, church planting is falling behind the tremendous population growth of California; however, evangelical churches (this includes SBC churches) are the only group in growth mode. How many churches did the SBC model plant during this time period? According to the CSBC, statistical data 1,155 SBC churches were planted between the years 2000-2008. CSBC reports an 80% success rate in its overall church planting efforts. This means that the current SBC model is producing 96% of all church starting efforts in the California evangelical world! Even with its flaws, our current model dominates the church planting structure in California. Every SBC pastor should stand up and applaud this work of God!

If we want to do more to penetrate the darkness in California, I would argue that the last thing that should be done is to start a massive overhaul of this amazing model of partnership. That will take over a decade and cost millions. Invest heavily in what is working right now, the Cooperative Program and the local Baptist association!
The current SBC Partnership Model is highly effective and it is difficult to see what could be gained for the Great Commission in engaging in a complex reorganization of resources. Can we improve? Always! But, those who are calling for SBC structures to produce “more” should provide other efficient ministry models (with data) for Southern Baptists to carefully consider.

Dr. Mike Stewart, Director of Missions
Central Coast Baptist Associations (CCBA)
San Jose, CA
(CCBA is 100% funded by its own ministries.
CSBC and all other SBC ministries are valued partners of the CCBA.
The views expressed here are his and not necessarily those of the churches of the CCBA.)


John said...

Hey Mike,

Great illustration of the effectiveness of church multiplication in CA. I think things are similar here in MD. I will work on my calculations.

Though it may not make a lot of difference, do remember to calculate the loss of existing SBC churches in CA (those not planted between 2000 and 2008). There are probably a number of existing churches that have closed their doors. I think Olson factored his numbers with this in mind.

You sure made me think with your article, Mike. Thank you for offering it to us all. I hope the eyes of the NAMB trustees see it when they make their decisions about funding both church planting and their missionaries.


mike said...

Thanks John for the thoughts. While we would could do a great deal of research on many factors my data was pretty plain. The current model works and would work at even higher levels IF Cooperative Program and Associational Resources were fully funded by the local SBC church, big and small alike. Our numerical stagnation is linked to our financial apathy about SBC mission work.