Messengers to the SBC meeting in Orlando this June will be asked to approve a body of recommendations from the GCR Task Force that will change the shape and function of the Southern Baptist Convention. I encourage you to read the report for your self before you go to the Convention. It is important that you give much prayerful consideration to this before the vote. You can find it at http://pray4gcr.com/.
As I read the Preliminary Report and now the final draft, I am left with mixed feelings but also with a definite conviction.
Mixed feelings because I fear what this could mean to our funding and yet I know in my heart that the need addressed by the GCR is real.
What it could mean to our funding? My association receives the equivalence of a little more than half of the salary and 98% of the insurance for our NAMB appointed Church and Community Missionary position as a result of the Cooperative Agreement the SCBC has with the NAMB. Add to that another several thousand dollars that we receive for each New Church Planted in cooperation with the SCBC. (SCBC New Work Funds are a combination of NAMB and Janie Chapman funds) The disruption of these two income streams represents a large deficit that we would have to make up from our churches if we are to continue the ministries that these funds represent. The GCR recommendations call for a 7-year phase out of the Cooperative Agreements so we would have time to figure out a solution. If the economy remains as is, it will take some effort to do this. If the economy comes back, it would not be as difficult. In either case, our churches will need to determine if these funds are necessary and worth the extra support to the Association it will require from them. At the same time, our churches will be considering their increased support of the local missions of the Association they will also be pulled in the direction of increasing their gifts to the Cooperative Program. Leaving us between that “rock and hard place”!
I have heard discussions about the need for the SC State Convention to down size so it can pick up the funding for the 20 or so Missionary positions in SC funded by NAMB. That will be difficult to do. Consider this, The GCR recommendations would require SCBC to shrink its share of the CP and increase the amount sent to the national SBC to 50%. That will mean shrinking the already stressed SCBC budget from 19 million to 16 million and then find another ½ million to make up the deficit from the NAMB Cooperative Agreement. Where will this money be found? Some say the SCBC staff is too large. Perhaps it could be leaner, but it has already been downsized considerably over the past few years. Others have pointed out that SC spends far more per capita on its institutions than other Southern States. So perhaps some could be trimmed from our funding to our colleges and the Children’s and Retirement Homes. Yes, and probably they are in a better position to find funds from fees and gifts that could make up the difference, but do you think the alumni and constituents of these worthy institutions are going to let that happen? I doubt it!
So, we are left with some very hard choices! Fund the Great Commission in the Pioneer and Metropolitan areas of North America at the expense of Great Commission work in the more established Southern States or find more funds so that more can be done without eliminating or downsizing these established ministries? Either way we will be called on to make greater sacrifices than we are comfortable with!
And yet, I am convinced that the need that the GCR is trying to address is very real and must some how be addressed!!! I agree that we must become more intentional about funding the IMB, we must become more practical and strategic in reaching North America, and we must call our church members and churches and associations and conventions to a greater focus on the Great Commission in these last days! Most of all, and I say this with fear and trembling, we must not remain as we are!
As fearful as I am of the impact to our funding that this GCR Recommendation may mean, I am much more afraid of what will happen if my denomination chooses to maintain the status quo. We live in an age that requires a Great Commission vision that calls each of us to a greater sacrifice than we have ever known before! I can proudly say that the SBC has been the brightest mission minded denomination in the Modern age! But we now live in a Post-Modern age that requires denominations to be leaner and more intentional about multiplying the Kingdom! God help us if we choose modern maintenance over a post-modern mission!
Mike O'Dell, Director of Missions
York Baptist Association
Rock Hill, SC