A few weeks ago, I was interviewed by Benson Gregory of WJMM in Lexington about my life and the ministry of Farmdale Baptist Church. This “Focus on the Church” interview aired on August 28th and 29th on the three different stations in nine different time slots in the Lexington area. Permission has been granted to post the interview online here.
One of the joys of being the pastor of a church in the Kentucky Baptist Convention and the Southern Baptist Convention is the privilege of cooperating together with other churches for a purpose bigger than anyone of our churches. The Cooperative Program allows us to pool our resources together and do more than we could ever do individually.
The primary purpose for which we have cooperated together as Southern and Kentucky Baptists is for the spread of the gospel among all nations. This purpose certainly includes missions in Kentucky and North America, but it especially means extending our efforts to get the gospel into nations which currently have little or no access to the gospel.
Over the years, many programs have been established in the United States that, while they are mostly good and helpful, use vital resources for lesser purposes. In a day when financial accountability is on all of our minds, we must not allow our budgets to reflect less than our commitment to take the gospel to every nation on the face of the earth.
The Great Commission Resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention is about examining our budgets (as individuals, churches, and institutions) to see if our expenditures really reflect our stated commitment to the Great Commission. The result has been that Task Forces have been formed in the Southern Baptist Convention and in some state conventions (including Kentucky) to make recommendations to the messengers of their respective conventions. At the Annual Meeting of the SBC meeting in Orlando, FL in June, the messengers adopted the report of the GCR task force. This was an essential first step, but whether or not there is a genuine Great Commission resurgence depends on the responses of the state conventions and churches of the Southern Baptist Convention. State conventions must be willing to adjust their budgets to reflect an emphasis on the Great Commission and churches must consider raising their Cooperative Program giving so that local, national and international mission needs will be met.
Today, the report of the Kentucky Baptist Convention’s Great Commission Task Force was released. I am pleased to announce that this report calls for Kentucky Baptists to give “More for Christ.” This is a call to both individuals and churches. It recognizes that a Great Commission resurgence can never be merely by adjusting numbers in a budget, but must spring from the hearts and actions of God’s people. I believe this commitment will inevitably manifest itself in a change in our budgets, individually, corporately, and as a convention. However, apart from individuals and churches resolving to do more for Christ in the days ahead, the Great Commission resurgence will remain a dream rather than a reality.
The most dramatic, and perhaps traumatic, aspect of the proposal of the Task Force is the call to move over the next several years to a 50/50 split in the KBC budget between the SBC and KBC (the current split is 63/37 with most of the funds staying in the Commonwealth). This will obviously be a very difficult process. Many good programs and positions will probably need to be cut. However, we must choose between the good and the best. I’m convinced that as long as more than 50% of our Cooperative Program giving stays in our own state, we cannot truthfully call ourselves a Great Commission people!
The report of the Task Force also calls for Kentucky Baptists to increase their Cooperative Program giving. Some have maligned the whole Great Commission Resurgence movement as damaging this historic method of funding Southern Baptist work. I believe that nothing could be further from the truth. Failure to make the above mentioned changes in the budget will result in even more hemorrhaging from the CP. Informed pastors and church members simply cannot in good conscience urge their churches to give more to the Cooperative Program knowing full well that the great majority of that money never leaves the state. I am totally convinced that if the Mission Board of the KBC gives Kentucky Baptists a budget which reflects a compelling vision for the nations, we will give more than ever to make that vision a reality for the good of the nations and the glory of Christ!
Some will object to the proposals of this Task Force, and it is their right to do so. However, please consider what the basis of their objections are. For example, one of the cuts in the budget will probably be the matching retirement contribution that the KBC makes to the accounts of pastors, DOMs, and other KBC employees. I receive and appreciate this benefit. However, $17.50 a month (the max. amount given to pastors) is not worth more than one soul that has never even had the opportunity to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. Make no mistake, this is the issue. There are unreached people groups around the world who have no access to the gospel. Called and qualified missionaries who want to take the gospel to these peoples are being turned down by the IMB for lack of funds. This must not be among a people who were founded and exist for the purpose of fulfilling the Great Commission. We have a unique opportunity to do something about this tragic state of affairs. Together we can, because this is something that is bigger than any one of us!
- For more on the report and comments from Task Force Chairman Hershael York, click here to read the KBC news release on the report.
- Click here to download a copy of the Kentucky Great Commission Task Force report.
As a pastor of a small church in Frankfort, KY, I take seriously the command of Christ to his church to take the gospel to all nations. The Great Commission is both a tremendous privilege and a weighty responsibility. For this reason, I’ve always encouraged the churches that I’ve served to increase their missions giving. I’ve always struggled, however, with the reality that most of the money which is given through the Cooperative Program stays in the state. I’ve found that when church members discover how small a percentage of the cooperative program dollars actually go to international missions, they are surprised and sometimes even outraged. And well they should be! If the Great Commission is as important as we say it is, then our financial support should reflect this.
Last year, amid some tough financial decisions, Farmdale Baptist Church increased our missions giving by establishing a set amount to be designated to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, in addition to the collected amount at Easter and Christmas. This enabled us to increase our North American (AAEO) and International (NAMB) missions giving without feeding what is being increasingly viewed as a bloated bureaucracy. This move enabled us to essentially double our contributions to these two important offerings which are the life blood of our two missions agencies.
I was very encouraged by and supportive of the Great Commission Task Force Report at this year’s annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention. I voted in favor of all the committee’s recommendations because I believed change was needed that would cause the Convention to be better stewards of the monies entrusted to them by the thousands of churches of the SBC. Though these steps may appear small to some, the recommendations adopted by the Convention demonstrate that the denomination is accountable to its member churches. These changes will be virtually meaningless, however, unless the state conventions of the SBC follow suit in the implementation of changes in the way their resources are allocated. As long as more than 50% of our Cooperative Program giving stays in the Bible Belt of the southern United States, we cannot call ourselves a Great Commission people! We must do more! Christ’s commission to his church demands that we do.
This year’s state convention annual meetings will be important ones as we see whether or not the Great Commission Resurgence’s effects are felt in our state conventions. Some state conventions were slow to respond to the Conservative Resurgence, I pray that they will not be similarly slow in embracing the Great Commission Resurgence. This push to get the gospel to the unreached people groups is the natural outworking of the Conservative Resurgence. The gospel which was defended at such great cost must be proclaimed, believed, and rejoiced in around the world. Christ must receive praise from all languages, people, and nations!
As a Kentucky Baptist pastor, I urge that the Kentucky Baptist Convention seriously evaluate where our resources are predominately being used. May we make it our goal to progressively, yet purposefully, move toward at least a 50/50 split between what stays in the Commonwealth and what is sent on to the budget of the Southern Baptist Convention. I further urge other Kentucky Baptist congregations to increase their mission’s giving, both to the Annie Armstrong and Lottie Moon offerings, and through the Cooperative Program. In our budget for the coming year at Farmdale Baptist Church, we are not only increasing our designated giving to the AAEO (from $1,000 to $1,500) and LMCO (from $2,500 to $3,000), but we’re also increasing our Cooperative Program giving by over 17% (from $8,500 to $10,000). I know this is small potatoes, but if churches across the KBC respond correspondingly great things can be accomplished for the cause of Christ. Increasing our CP giving is a good faith effort on our part intended to demonstrate both our commitment to this tried and true method of funding the work of Southern Baptists and our support for the adjustments that I believe will be made at this year’s annual meeting. I hope that those who oppose the Great Commission Resurgence out of fear of what might become of the Cooperative Program would realize that if you give Kentucky Baptists a compelling vision for the nations and a budget that reflects that vision, we will give to make that vision a reality for the good of the nations and the glory of Christ!