The Pen

Why I Don't Support the Cooperative Program

The Second VP of the Southern Baptist Convention, Jared Moore, posted a blog today, “A Plea to Young Pastors: Support the Cooperative Program, 4 Reasons Why.” As sincere as the post was, the four reasons he presents, to me at least, are not convincing. His reasons [my paraphrase] include (1) The CP supports up to 5,624 international missionaries, and we have a world-wide Great Commission (2) NAMB’s efforts in planting churches is commendable, with 5,304 NAMB-supported missionaries (3) Great seminaries and CP-supported education (4) The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission is worth our support.

I apologize to Brother Moore if my paraphrasing is insufficient to cover the material in his post.

I’ve been stewing on this all day. I have to write a counter-piece, entitled “Why I Don’t Support the Cooperative Program.”

I don’t support the Cooperative Program because the funds are channeled to the North American Mission Board, who I believe has proven itself to be an irresponsible steward of God’s money and unrepentant in its past bad behavior.

I don’t support the Cooperative Program because the numbers the SBC publishes are deceitful and dishonest. I don’t’ support the Cooperative Program because when Bob Reccord was buying airline tickets to London to attend movie premiers with CP money and NAMB was bragging about so-called “5 thousand NAMB-supported missionaries,” trustees found that in reality, only 32 missionaries were fully funded by NAMB. The other five thousand (give or take) are partially funded to the tune of a few hundred dollars a month, or perhaps insurance, or unpaid “Mission Service Corps” and yet counted in this number because “supported” doesn’t have to imply “financially-supported.”

I don’t support the Cooperative Program because when the trustees fired Reccord for financial impropriety, including paying for ice sculptures at NAMB parties, they gave him a half-million dollar severance package and paid a PR firm to refurbish his tarnished image. Subsequent NAMB presidents have not apologized for this – they have airbrushed it and tried to shove it down the memory hole. Sorry. I remember. If it was wrong and should not have happened, say so.

I don’t support the Cooperative Program because when the highest ranking woman in the North American Mission Board came out as a whistle blower, NAMB refused to answer her concerns and instead insinuated she was exaggerating, but never – and I mean never – refuted a single one of her complaints. This is beyond shameful.

I don’t’ support the Cooperative Program because I know the price tag of their giving and what it costs the average, ordinary Southern Baptist that puts their offering in the plate – it’s their blood, sweat and tears in monetary form. I know little old ladies that put their “egg and butter money” in the plate and at great personal sacrifice. I know young parents, early twenty-somethings who’ve had their first child and take their minimum-wage income tithe and sacrifice their “date money” to put an offering in that plate. And I have personally seen the waste and abuse of those funds in my state of Montana.

I don’t’ support the Cooperative Program because I’ve seen it pay a fully salaried NAMB employee and so-called “church planter” for seven long years who never planted a church, who couldn’t be fired because “it wouldn’t be the Christian thing to do.”

I don’t support the Cooperative Program because I’ve seen it pay fully salaried NAMB-employee “Church Planting Catalysts” lie about so-called “new works” (which is the name for what they’re supposed to be doing because their previous job description of starting “new churches” was too demanding). They have asked me to lie on reports, to fudge the numbers just a bit on a start date for a church plant so it could go on this year’s records even though it was on last year’s records. I don’t support the Cooperative Program because these “Church Plant Catalysts” are calling a Backyard Bible Club or men’s Bible Study a “new work” to qualify under the job description and by the time these figures get publicized by NAMB they come across as “new churches.”

I don’t support the Cooperative Program because I’m tired of seeing churches closed down and re-opened with the same members and same pastor under a different name so they qualify as a new church start. That’s dishonest and wrong.

I don’t support the Cooperative Program because North American Mission Board employees push affinity-based churches like drug dealers push cocaine (and I think the same of both products). In Montana, a NAMB employee has spent CP funds to plant a church for race car enthusiasts. This is happening all over the country.

I don’t support the Cooperative Program because the North American Mission Board has displayed disrespect for the local church, as demonstrated by their behavior in the Bakken Oilfield.

I don’t support the Cooperative Program because they’ve hired women as “Church Planting Catalysts” and only backed down because of the insistence of local churches that the state convention blacklisted as “troublesome” or “problem-causing.”

I don’t support the Cooperative Program because when concerned churches asked two regional vice presidents of NAMB to provide notes from a meeting we participated in (that they said beforehand they would make available) to prove the dishonesty of our state director, they refused to surrender the minutes and said they “were the exclusive intellectual property of NAMB” – proving again that there is no extent to which they will not go to protect those in power. He lied. They lied to cover it up. We know it. They know. You may not know it, but I do and cannot be silent about it.

I don’t support the Cooperative Program because the former head of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission was busted by national media for plagiarism and we can’t even be upfront and honest about removing him from that position and why! What ethics do we have to show? Until we clean ourselves up and can apply ethics inwardly toward the Ergun Caners and Joe Aguillards and stop sweeping our controversies under the rug, we have no business proclaiming ethics to Washington (when what we should be proclaiming is Jesus anyway).

I don’t support the Cooperative Program because after preaching “Modern Day Downgrade” at Reformation Montana 2013 I was sent hundreds upon hundreds of emails from pastors recalling their own horror stories when dealing with NAMB, assuring me that my experience was not the exception. The problem is pandemic.

I don’t support the Cooperative Program because the North American Mission Board church planting training is among the most seeker-friendly, man-centered piece of waste that I’ve ever seen. The content provided is disturbing at best. In Montana, the NAMB-employed trainer told us to print our church’s name on urinal cakes and provide them to bars for marketing. That was just the tip of the iceberg of the man-centered, Christ-defaming ideas they had that could help us shove as many lost people as possible into a building and call it a church on NAMB’s reporting sheet.

No, sir. No I will not support that. I will not support blasphemy in the name of church growth. I will not support fudging the numbers. I will not support the purpose-driven pile of trash that has become NAMB’s influence in Montana. I will not support an organization that will not hold accountable its employees, from Bob Reccord to Fred Hewitt. I will not support an organization whose Second VP urges support primarily based off its sheer size. I am not impressed that NAMB is a gargantuan and bloated behemoth of financial waste and poor integrity. I am not impressed at the size of this bureaucracy; I do not stand in awe of it, as though it deserves my support because of its sheer scope or reach.

I support the IMB, which does not suffer from the same continuous ills that plague the North American Mission Board. We will give to Lottie Moon. But with God as my witness, the money over which my local church is a steward will not be given to NAMB unless there is a revival and reformation that turns us away from this Modern Day Downgrade and toward Christ and accountability.