2018 Church Budget Time

On both sides of the Atlantic, it is only a little overstated to say that we preach individualism and competitive capitalism, and practice socialism.”Milton Friedman

When is the last time you attended a church meeting? The budget actual meeting on Sunday or Wednesday night, not the Sunday morning service where the church votes to approve budget (that some or most people haven’t even read) but the actual meeting where the budget is discussed. The budget meeting at my church, Rowland Springs Baptist, is coming up December 3rd. I encourage all my fellow church members to go and I encourage all my blog readers to attend the upcoming budget meetings at their own churches. Remember, church is not just someplace you go for an hour every Sunday, it is a body of which you are part. You should serve the body and seek its welfare. Paying attention to corporate stewardship is important. Think about how much of your personal income you go to church. Do you spend 10% of your income on anything else and not pay much attention it?

As a Southern Baptist, the first thing I’d ask you to pay attention to is the missions budget. Missions are not an option, they are an expectation. The lost have to be evangelized and the poor have to be fed. The budget should set aside a good chunk of money for missions but, remember, there is no requirement to give to the same things as last year. There is not even a requirement for a church to give to the convention. Year by year, whatever missions projects that demonstrate the best stewardship, be they inside of your church or out, should get your church’s funding. There are many good Southern Baptist causes and overall the denomination is sound. However, I would advise against giving to the Cooperative Program. As a Certified Public accountant and seminary-trained theologian, I can tell you that the Cooperative Program is not the most efficient way to give in the 21st century nor is it biblically required. Here’s an excerpt from my ebook, The Cooperative Program and the Road to Serfdom, about how it works:

All Cooperative Program money is passed through state conventions, which take a cut of it to fund their own initiatives, before it is passed along to the national convention. For example, an SBC church in the state of Kentucky may send in $100 to the Kentucky Baptist Convention through the Cooperative Program. The Kentucky state convention would keep $50 and send the remaining $50 to the national Convention in Nashville, Tennessee. Cooperative Program money passes through at least three levels of bureaucracy before it is spent: the state convention, the national convention, and the national entity. Often these bureaucracies are headed by a member of the evangelical intelligentsia who is famous among denominationally-minded pastors but largely unknown to every-day pew-sitting Southern Baptists. A bureaucratic intelligentsia distributing funds as it sees fit runs contrary to the political and economic views of most contemporary Southern Baptists, who, as Republicans and Libertarians, tend to favor local control and streamlined organizations. The divide between the economic theory that drives the Cooperative Program and the economic theory that underlies free-market conservatism may be widened by the mindset of the pastors who champion the program. Pastors who study subjects such as theology, music, and church education in bible colleges and seminaries largely do not receive instruction that focuses on economic theory as a part of their schooling. They are, however, educated about the importance of funding the Cooperative Program, a program which in many cases subsidizes the cost of their educations.”

I suggest an alternative to blanket giving to the Cooperative Program – giving directly to Southern Baptist entities. For example, I would favor giving money directly to the International Mission Board and the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Blanket gifts through the Cooperative Program move money further away from the initial giver. The Cooperative Program takes this money out of the hands of local decision makers and passes it through a multi-level bureaucracy stocked with partisans of those at the top. Former North American Mission Board department director Mary Kinney Branson put it like this: “It all boils down to a simple formula: The extent of misuse is directly proportionate to the distance between the giver and the spender.”

Through my years of study, I’ve learned that there is much waste and mismanagement in Southern Baptist entities. In my estimation, there is not much accountability. For example, just this year, two Southern Baptist entities signed a court amicus brief in favor of mosque construction! I love Jesus and I want what money he has entrusted me with to go to the best causes. That excludes the Cooperative Program. Quite frankly, the Cooperative Program sounds like something a big government Democrat would invent. It’s certainly not, as some pastors have called it, “The Church’s tithe” to the Southern Baptist Convention. Good grief! Doesn’t the tithe belong to God?

Remember, as you broach these matters in budget meetings, be gentle, respectful, and loving. Remember to hear others out. Do whatever is best for the Kingdom….and at least go to the budget meeting.

*Whether you are inside or outside my local church, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you’d like to talk through these matters or have questions.

**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.

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