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Are the Proletariat Revolting Against the Cooperative Program?

News Division

If you’re not a Southern Baptist, you probably don’t care. If that’s the case, read something else at Pulpit and Pen that may interest you.

But if you are a Southern Baptist, you may just care that there appears to be some common sense thinking going on out there in SBC-land, and common sense thinking only means one thing – revolution. No, I don’t mean “grab your pitchforks and torches” revolution. Southern Baptists don’t fight that way, because we recognize that we do not wrestle with flesh and blood. No, the weapons of our warfare are potlucks and committee uprisings, cold shoulders and displays of passive aggressiveness in dark hallways at associational meetings in whispered tones. For consisting of mostly Southerners, we’ve sure developed a denominational case of Minnesota Nice. By the time blogs are questioning leadership – openly – things have gotten pretty bad. Everyone knows that if you write a blog piece critical of our intelligentsia overlords you’ll soon awaken to a dead horse head in your bed (well, not literally…but you’ll be blacklisted by Southern Baptists elites). No potluck for you (imagine that in the tone of Seinfeld‘s Soup Nazi)!

The Southern Baptists Convention runs on the trustee system. In other words, each SBC entity is separate from one another and outside the control of Southern Baptist messengers, except for the annual tradition of selecting trustees for these entities. Of course, the nomination of trustees is heavily guarded and heavily guided by the men with high 6-figure salaries who lead the entities, effectively hand-selecting their own “bosses” who will be rotated in and out every few years. And who makes for good trustees, everyone knows, are either (A) stereotypically Southern Baptist “hayseed pastors” who are just thrilled to be flown in for finger sandwiches twice a year – a trip on the fancy aeroplane is awesome, after all – or (B) ladder-climbers who consider a trustee appointment to be a great addition to their resume’. The hayseeds don’t know or care what’s really going on, and the ladder climbers won’t jeopardize a letter of recommendation from the entity head the next time they want to find employment at a new job. The trustees are told what has been done in regard to business and what will be done. They’re given a powerpoint presentation and Hershey Kisses are spread out on their conference table. And best of all, when things go South or entity heads behave badly, the trustees are thrown under the bus and people are told, “Trust the trustees!” The information provided for the trustees are typically only their mailing address, so if you want to snail-mail your concerns you’re more than welcome. That’s how the system works is supposed to work.

David Platt recently revealed that the International Mission Board (IMB) will cut 600-800 personnel from the payroll because of a troubling deficit. A deficit so troubling, in fact, that it amounts to $21 million dollars for 2015. In case you missed that, that was a 21 million dollar deficit. IMB staff is already down 900 staff members from 2009, and still is in a 21 million dollar deficit. And get this – the deficit for the last six years equals 210 million dollars. Let me put that in bold for you – the IMB deficit for the last six years is 210 million dollars. The only way they’ve been able to survive is by selling off valuable real estate from around the globe. When you take into account that the budget shortfalls have been subsidized by property sales, the IMB has been about 40 million in the red.

Here’s the thing – I want to clarify that this is not David Platt’s fault. Clearly, the problem began long ago. He just recently inherited this mess, and good for him that he’s dealing with it. But while this is not Platt’s fault, this is somebody’s fault. So who’s fault is it?

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Is the president of SEBTS correct? Is it the fault of Southern Baptists for not faithfully giving, for being selfish and having wrong priorities?

Well, no – not if facts matter. Giving to both the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering (that goes to IMB operating expense) has increased over the last four years. In reality, the IMB has simply spent about 40 million more per year than what expected budget receipts would indicate is wise. In fact, if churches just up and decided to give more, they would have to give upwards of 25% more to cover the inflated expenses of the IMB as it now stands. How many churches can do that? Is that a reasonable expectation? I don’t know how anyone, except for perhaps the intelligentsia with a “Let them eat cake” attitude of entitlement would blame Southern Baptist membership for the IMB’s deficit – while their giving has been increasing. Such a charge seems not only unreasonable, but downright preposterous.

Speaking of preposterous…

This is how Ronnie (you know, the guy with the fire engine truck and confetti cannon baptistry – you can see our articles about him here) began an interview with the Baptist “Press”:

I want to remind all of us of two things. First, the Board of Trustees has the responsibility of overseeing the fiscal responsibility of the International Mission Board. Annually, the Southern Baptist Convention approves the board of trustees of each of our entities.

How does Ronnie begin explaining why the IMB has been spending money like drunken sailors with all the oversight and accountability of a public school girl on prom night? First, this is a trustee thing and secondly, you people approved of those trustees. Nice, Ronnie. Nice.

And Ronnie’s first bullet-point?

1. Trust our proven trustee system

The trustees of our International Mission Board will lead through this time and provide a future long-term financial strategy. Under God’s leadership, the trustees called Dr. Platt to provide leadership to Southern Baptists with mobilizing our churches to reaching the world for Christ. Therefore, our proven trustee system is at work, and we need to trust they will lead through this hour.

Trust the trustees ✓. Talk about how good a long-term financial strategy is while glossing over the fact that apparently they haven’t had one ✓. God is the one leading them (so you better not question them) ✓.

Yes, yes. All of those things are predictable from the Mercedes convertible-owning megachurch pastor. No surprise. But, he continues…

But each of our churches can again evaluate where we are in our missions giving through the Cooperative Program. This serves as our financial base for the International Mission Board. With the monies the Southern Baptist Convention receives, over one-half of those funds go to the International Mission Board.

Never mind the fact that the IMB spent more than what was reasonable even if SBC churches had given beyond their wildest expectations. Give more, churches! Floyd then went on to brag about his church deciding to give more, which falls flat upon the reality that his megachurch gave very little until his first attempt at claiming the SBC presidency was thwarted by his church’s lack of CP giving (Cross Church was only giving .27% to the CP). Let’s not let a few little facts get in the way of blaming Southern Baptists for the poor stewardship of our kinda-sorta elected trustees (who kinda-sorta aren’t in charge of the entities at the end of the day).

Again, none of the above surprises me. Welcome to the SBC, ladies and gentlemen. This is the place where the Intelligentsia tells us to shut up and give them money, and we shut up and give them money.

What has surprised me are a few posts from some rank-and-file Baptists who seem to have been just, plain fed up with it. One is a post by Rick Patrick at Synergism Today (for posts about Rick, click here), entitled Test the Trustees. If even the “Traditionalist” flagship of Synergism Today is calling baloney on The System™, The System™ might just be broken. These are people who, ordinarily at least, revel in the bureaucratic system and are slow to publicly criticize it. And then, low and behold, Ergun Caner’s recently-dismissed propagandist (for posts about Lumpkins, click here) crawled out from whatever rock from which he was hiding in Arkansas to advocate for the same type of piecemeal approach to funding the CP advocated by the Pulpit & Pen‘s Seth Dunn in his ebook, Road to Serfdom. Lumpkins wrote…

I personally will not advocate one extra dollar for either the Cooperative Program or the annual global missions offering from our church. Nothing. Not a single dollar more. If the church decides to give more, it will not be due to my advocacy for more. For my part, Southern Baptists now have a serious breach of integrity in both its means of giving (Cooperative Program) and its entities’ spending (IMB). Besides other issues I’ve cataloged on this site through the years, we now have entities announcing gargantuan deficits brought upon us by flagrant, irresponsible overspending in their budgets.

Maybe the defiant Intelligentsia shouting “Feed me!” like Audrey II in Little Shop of Horrors aren’t too afraid of Patrick, Lumpkins and Hall agreeing on the abject absurdity of blaming terrible financial management on rank-and-file Southern Baptists. Maybe Lumpkins agreeing with us alone should make us reconsider our position. But given the facts, it seems that those clearly to blame for this situation are pointing fingers at the people who keep them afloat with their tithes and offerings – and some will actually buy the argument.

Don’t. Resist. Fight back. Give to organizations that can be trusted, and be a good steward of God’s resources.