“The most basic question is not what is best, but who shall decide what is best.”
― Thomas Sowell
“Upon this rock I will build My church.” Jesus
Allow me to introduce you to Dr. Rick Patrick. Dr. Patrick is a member of the board of directors of the Southern Baptist special interest group, Connect 316. This group, in my opinion, has spent the last year doing two things:
In my view, Patrick and the members of Connect 316 spend a great deal of their time blaming all the world’s ills on Calvinism and trying to consolidate power in the Southern Baptist Convention within their own ranks so that they can obtain all the financially lucrative leadership positions/ save as many souls as possible through semi-pelagian decisionism/
control/ direct the good news of Jesus Christ to the lost world. (Did I mention that they hate Calvinism?) This group, in my opinion, plays upon the ignorance of every day pew-sitting Southern Baptists who erroneously think Calvinism is some kind of evil, anti-missions theology.
Connect 316 has developed its own statement of faith; it’s called the Traditional Statement. Anyone who doesn’t think the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 is an adequate statement of faith, can go to the Connect 316 website and sign its anti-Calvinist “Traditionalist Statement”.
One signer this statement is Bob Hadley, pastor of Westside Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, FL who recently published the following statement:
“If the trustees look to Louisville for their (International Mission Board) next president, our church’s giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering will follow our giving to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering: $1.”
Allow me to translate this statement for you:
“If a Calvinist is appointed to lead the IMB, my church will stop giving to annual IMB fundraisers.”
As you may have heard, Dr. David Platt was recently elected as President of the International Mission Board. Platt is a widely respected young pastor with significant moral influence over many southern Baptists…and he’s a Calvinist. Platt, the author of Radical, is widely known as one of the most mission-minded men on the planet. He blows the ignorant caricature of anti-missions Calvinism that Connect 316 depends upon to spook laypeople and consolidate its power out of the water. Some Traditionalists, like Hadley, have not taken kindly to Platt’s appointment and are threatening to withhold giving to the SBC.
“David Platt is one of the most passionate and influential voices for missions among evangelicals.” The Baptist Press
Rick Patrick has apparently realized that some his Indians are off of the reservation.
One should understand that gaining political power in the Southern Baptist Convention is tied to being a champion of the SBC’s Cooperative Program. The Cooperative Program is the system by which independent Southern Baptist churches jointly (and voluntarily) fund SBC entities such as seminaries and the International Mission Board. Anyone who desires a position of leadership in the SBC is expected to have his church give to the SBC. As anyone in business knows, one has to spend money to make money. Rick Patrick and Connect 316 just can’t have Connect 316 traditionalists going around threatening to defund SBC entities. Thus, Patrick has published an article entitled “CP Evasion Fails the Great Commission” at SBC Today. Here, I will make fair use of the article to critique it.
I’ll start with Patrick’s title.
“CP Evasion Fails the Great Commission”
The CP was started in 1925. If we take Patrick’s word, this means that the great commission was not accomplished by anyone before 1925 and is not accomplished now by any of the thousands of Christians churches in the world that do not give to the Cooperative Program. Patrick’s statement is absurd.
The text of Patrick’s article follows with my critiques in bold:
While I celebrate the autonomy of each Southern Baptist Church in directing their mission gifts however they feel led, I nevertheless believe that the Great Commission is best fulfilled by churches who freely choose to contribute through and not around traditional Cooperative Program channels.
My reasoning is partially grounded on the concept of Cooperative Program superiority championed most clearly in the language of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force Report of 2010: We call upon Southern Baptists to honor and affirm the Cooperative Program as the most effective means of mobilizing our churches and extending our reach.
No, Southern Baptists have not declared that the Cooperative Program is the only way to support missions. We have simply declared that it is the best way.
Churches directing their gifts around the Cooperative Program and toward a specific ministry do so for one of two reasons. Their CP evasion may be positive in nature—in order to increase support for a particular entity they value. On the other hand, it may be negative in nature—in order to avoid supporting a particular entity they devalue. In both cases, they forfeit our most effective means of Great Commission support.
The Cooperative Program was started in 1925, before the age of internet and digital banking, in order to distribute mission giving from individual churches more evenly to the causes of the state and national conventions. The tradeoff to this even-handed giving was the substantial state and national convention bureaucracies that the CP model created. In such bureaucracies, convention leaders can use the good-ole boy system to hand out posh positions to their friends. (Names like Hankins and Caner come to mind.) In times past, this was a necessary evil. In times present, a church or an individual person can send money directly to an SBC cause (such as the IMB or a seminary) through the cause’s website. No national committee is needed to decide how best to give out everyone else’s money. Of course, no one with a desire for consolidating power would ever advocate such decentralization.
If the Cooperative Program is not the only way to support missions, then how is a church failing the Great Commission when they redirect their mission gifts through a strategy of CP evasion?
1. CP evasion ignores the SCOPEof the Great Commission.
The Great Commission is much more than international missions. Churches who direct their giving away from CP channels in order to “get more money to the nations” have taken it upon themselves to prioritize reaching “the uttermost” at the expense of reaching “Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria,” as described in Acts 1:8. Jesus did not say, “and most of all” to the uttermost. We sometimes fail to consider that as the fourth largest mission field in the world, we are the uttermost where many other nations are sending their missionaries. The work we do through NAMB and our state conventions is absolutely Christ honoring Great Commission work worthy of our full support.
Here Patrick makes it look as if he is making a point from scripture, but he really isn’t. Excellent work is done through NAMB, and people can donate to NAMB directly through its website. (NAMB is not 20 years removed from a financial scandal enabled by the good ole’ boy system.)
2. CP evasion ignores the SCHOOLS of the Great Commission.
The Great Commission exhorts us to continue “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.” Our seminaries receive Cooperative Program support without which they could not operate. Our Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission educates Christians regarding morals and ethics and advocates in the public square as salt and light before a watching world. Directing gifts toward our mission boards or specific mission agencies bypasses these important ministries, which are fulfilling the Great Commission as well. What kind of missionaries will we be sending overseas without academically rigorous and spiritually inspiring seminaries to train them?
I attend an SBC seminary. People can give directly to the school, directly to a scholarship fund, or directly to a student in need. On another personal note, I don’t know one classmate in seminary who thinks well of the Connect 316 crowd. There are a lot of us young guys, I think, that are sick of the political stuff. We love Jesus and we just want to share Jesus. We’re in seminary to learn how to do it better.
3. CP evasion ignores the SUPERVISION of the Great Commission.
Two days a year, the Southern Baptist Convention is in session. The rest of the time, the Executive Committee handles the day to day operations of our denomination. Administration is admittedly not an exciting spiritual task. However, it is naive to assume our denomination could exist without it. When churches engage in CP evasion to bypass the business office in order to give directly to the missionary on the field, they simply fail to appreciate the complex necessity of infrastructure. In the United States Air Force, for every pilot, there are roughly twenty-four support staff members on the ground. Everyone favors the exciting jobs, but paying the complete operational cost is necessary.
Apparently Patrick thinks that regular people and churches need spiritually-gifted administrators to control their money. He then compares that type of bureaucracy, with no citation of statistics, to the United States Air Force. The SBC isn’t in the business of killing foreign people. The Air Force is. The Air Force is also a federal government bureaucracy.
4. CP evasion ignores the STRATEGY of the Great Commission.
The Cooperative Program strategy can be compared to the unified budget of a church. As long as church members are faithful in their tithes and offerings, there are resources available for every line item in the budget, but when church members designate for specific causes of their choosing and bypass that budget, it creates a financial disaster. The popular items like music, children, youth and missions eat up all the money because everyone wants to feel like they are paying for life changing, spiritually transforming ministries. But the unpopular items like air conditioning compressors, toilet paper and routine maintenance are then left unfunded. In a quarter century of ministry, I have never seen anyone designate a special donation for the boring stuff. But just try to have church this Sunday without toilet paper and see what happens!
The notion that CP evasion is a new and improved way to support the Great Commission may seem admirable in its passion and idealism, but it is unfortunately fraught with naïveté and grounded in the presumption that one’s individual program will work much better than our cooperative one. Unfortunately, CP evasion always leads to CP erosion, thus reducing our Great Commission efforts as long as the Cooperative Program is indeed our “most effective means of mobilizing our churches and extending our reach.”
I didn’t catch the “strategy” Jesus left us in the Bible to fund a large Roman Catholic Church political machine. Politically, most Southern Baptists favor limited, decentralized, local government (and independent churches). It doesn’t make sense that they would agree with Patrick here. Observe how Patrick talks down to people who disagree with him. They are “naïve”. Patrick is basically saying, “Leave it to the influential leaders, they know better than you how to spend God’s money.” Well, baptisms are at an all time low, do they really?
I’m not a Calvinist. Yet, I still feel predestined to see that organizations like Connect 316 should be avoided like the plague. Rick Patrick’s organization has spent months propagating anti-Calvinist propaganda and, now, he’s trying to clean up his own mess. It’s Shameful. It leads me to wonder if Connect 316 is under the influence of the enemy.
“For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy,” 2 Timothy 3:2
*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.