Today, Jack Graham will speak at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, and a group of students plan a Baptist-style soft protest to demonstrate how entitled they think they are to his church’s money.
Graham is pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church, a Dallas-area megachurch that recently voted to escrow funds ordinarily designated to the Cooperative Program (CP), which funds Southern Baptist entities like New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. The reason they are escrowing funds is that it’s become apparent the nearly 4 million dollars of CP money that goes to the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission is going to purport a socially-progressive worldview opposed by many Southern Baptists, including those apparently at Prestonwood Baptist Church. According to Graham, this decision was not because the ERLC progressive-in-chief, Russell Moore, repeatedly attacked President Trump to the point of being called a “very nasty man” and losing all influence in the executive branch of government, nor was it because Russell Moore (a former Democratic staffer) repeatedly insulted Southern Baptists for supporting Trump. According to Graham it was an overall “leadership issue.”
While Graham did not go into specifics regarding this “leadership issue,” we might point out that Russell Moore remains on the Evangelical Immigration Table, even though other leaders left the organization after they discovered it’s funded by George Soros. Moore has been called “an open border zealot” by the press, and repeatedly pushes for amnesty for illegal aliens. He has called a border wall a “golden calf,” likening it to idolatry. Moore has given the thumbs up for Christians to attend gay wedding celebrations, and said that he himself would go to a gay wedding celebration. Moore has partnered the ERLC with the radical Humane Society to push animal rights. Moore has promoted a radical, animal rights activist, self-proclaimed feminist who says calling abortion murder is “unchristlike” as a research fellow at the ERLC and continues to promote her work. Moore invited Hillary Clinton to speak at the SBC pastor’s conference, but not any Southern Baptist Republican candidate for the presidential office. Moore basically turned the ERLC into a PAC for Rubio and campaigned heavily for him. Moore confused the ERLC mission statements which say he is to “support churches” with supporting Mosques, joining the ridiculously ecumenical Becket Fund in their amicus brief to ask the federal government to usurp local municipal zoning laws on behalf of a Mosque.
Yeah. To say it’s a “leadership issue” is putting it lightly.
And so, considering it’s a not-so-little-known fact in Southern Baptist life that entity trustees typically do little more than enjoy free finger-foods and nod their heads at meetings twice a year while their celebrities-in-chief do whatever they want, Jack Graham and Prestonwood decided to hold off on sending their dough to support the CP.
That simple act of common sense is refreshing in a Convention that thinks when a charitable organization loses money you should give more to it; when the International Mission Board lost 210 million dollars, the response Convention-wide was to take up special offerings. Could you imagine that being a sales-pitch for World Vision or UNICEF? If you saw the headline, “We’re massively irresponsible with money, so please give us more,” you’d laugh; that is, unless you’re a Southern Baptist, and then you pass the plate. We were taught that the Cooperative Program is a “sacred” effort, and from the earliest of stages of Southern Baptist life we were told that giving to the CP is God’s plan to win the world to Jesus.
But then, you find out that NAMB let their president, Bob Reccord, go for misplacing and misspending millions of dollars on things like staff retreats to the islands, ice sculptures and plane tickets to European movie premiers (read Spending God’s Money for those details), never publicly acknowledged his misdeeds and gave him a 500k severance package and paid a PR firm to help rebuild his reputation. And then you think to yourself that maybe the CP is the devil’s plan to waste money, rather than God’s plan to save souls.
And so, Graham and Prestonwood do something stewards of God’s money regularly do – they stop giving to an organization they feel is untrustworthy or doing a poor job. In Prestonwood’s case, they’re only setting that money in escrow to consider it further.
Cue the Bernie Sanders Generation
I recognize the guffaws and chortles from the students at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, being compared to Bernie Sanders supporters. After all, there is a myth out there that Southern Baptists can’t be liberal, self-entitled snowflakes because everybody knows that the only two ingredients of conservativism are believing in inerrancy and being pro-life. After all, this is the same mindset that allows these very same entitled ankle-biters to scoff at the notion Russell Moore could possibly be a progressive, in spite of all the progressive stuff he says and does on a repeated basis. By the standards of today’s Gospel Coalition-fed students, Noam Chomsky could be considered a conservative if he preached Scriptural inerrancy and passed out Right-to-Life literature. Nonetheless, here me out. These “protesting” students at NOBTS are nothing but a Baptist version of Bernie Babies.
Essentially, in a typical Bernie-generation case of oh-so-typical slacktivism, the kids are getting together to wear matching t-shirts (there’s little more Baptist than that) to “stick it to the man,” or in more polite candor, send a polite message to Jack Graham that they want his money.
Of course the students at New Orleans Baptist Theological seminary love the Cooperative Program. The CP is like a strong centralized government, and the executive committee serves as an Internal Revenue Service that takes money from hardworking Southern Baptists, puts into a singular coffer, and then disperses it among a number of entities including seminaries, missions organizations, the ERLC and more. Little by little, the spare change from grandma’s milk and egg money then is filtered down through the top-heavy structure to the little people, after each organization and entity to touch the money skims a little bit for their own overhead and bureaucratic expense. That’s how the CP works.
I’ve seen a state executive director (Fred Hewitt) spring for lunch of a hundred pastors – to the whoops and hollers from the pastors – while the blessing prayed over the meal was sure to thank the Cooperative Program for the grub. I’ve had state denominational officials hand me money from NAMB who handed them money from the CP, who explained that I had to stop criticizing them if I were to receive it. Here’s how it works – the SBC takes money from local churches, and then gives a smaller amount back to various causes, after taking some for their expenses. Then, they expect you to say thank you for taking your money and giving you some of it back.
However, the dolling out of CP funds isn’t always equitable. For example, church planters might receive a stipend that their failing relationship-evangelism church plant will never return to the SBC coffers. Obviously, we wouldn’t expect a “return” on the funds given to missions, and neither would it ever be likely. But there are some – for example, the many people employed in redundant positions inside denominational offices – who receive CP funds and are eager to sing the praises of the system that keeps them fed. It’s God’s work, after all.
There are also seminary students who receive subsidization towards tuition for attending Southern Baptist seminaries while being members of Southern Baptist churches. The subsidies are paid for by megachurches like Jack Graham’s and by the aforementioned grandmas in rural churches all across the country. Those subsidies are given, and students sit through a number of propagandic classes on the important of the Cooperative Program, and they become lifers, then promoting the CP to their churches as they become pastors. Consider this tweet from the Dean of the Billy Graham School of Mission at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, quoting Danny Akin, President of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary…
Do you get it? If you’ve ever taken “our” CP money, ad then you criticize the CP (or implicitly, fail to support it in the future), then you’re a “hypocrite.” We own you now, suckers! That is how the system works, and that is what is being fostered in our seminaries.
Here’s the issue. The guy (gal?) on the left, a Bernie
Sanders supporter, is not entitled to the money of the guy on the right, just because they want their college paid for. The guy on the right makes a lot more money, but it’s actually his business what he does with his own money. The college hipster on the left may squawk and squeak about how much they love high taxes on others in order to pay for their degree in Gender Studies, but that’s just because they’re self-indulgent brats who never learned that stealing is wrong. We (most of us, as Southern Baptists, except for maybe Dwight McKissic or somebody like that) would probably realize that an entitlement complex is not in accordance with a Biblical worldview. Demanding something while not being simultaneously grateful for what is given is for kids indoctrinated by the public schools who think government prints money from their magic unicorn cave and not redistributed from people who earned it.
So then, here’s Jack Graham at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, whose church has given millions upon millions to the Cooperative Program over the years. Then, there’s an issue that arises in which Graham’s church doesn’t believe they can be good stewards of God’s resources by continuing to give to the CP without further studying the issue and seeking resolution. And what he’ll find at NOBTS today is a crowd of petulant, self- indulgent snowflakes with an entitlement complex, using their t-shirts to engage in virtue-signaling to each other how much they love
the Gospel other people’s money.
It’s a hissy fit, it has nothing to do with the Great Commission, and everything to do with how they might personally benefit from God’s money. This type of mind-numbing sycophancy in which money is expected – nay, demanded – to feed a bloated, money-wasting bureaucracy regardless of whether or not we agree with what it is doing is precisely why the SBC is in the shape it’s in.
To be clear, the SBC is not in danger because a church like Prestonwood decides to steward God’s money. The SBC is in danger because of the Bernie Sanders mentality fostered in Southern Baptist institutions that demands God’s money feed their personal visions outside of actual accountability.