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!