Just as historians look back to 1979 and the election of Adrian Rogers as the beginning of what is now known as "The Conservative Resurgence," I believe future historians will look back at the election of Frank Page in 2006 as the beginning of what will one day be called "The Great Commission Resurgence."
Tuesday I gave a report to the Board of Directors of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma regarding the incredible upsurge of Cooperative Program giving from Southern Baptist churches in Oklahoma. Bob Shelton, BGCO Stewardship Director, has led our Oklahoma state churches to concentrate on getting back to giving 10% of undesignated receipts to the Cooperative Program. This past year, for every one dollar of undesignated giving to SBC churches in Oklahoma, 9.7 cents was forwarded to the Cooperative Program. That is an increase from 8.9 percent of every dollar the year before. The current national average is 6.4 percent. That means in a church with a one million dollar budget, if that church were from an Oklahoma Southern Baptist church, it would give on average $97,000 to the Cooperative Program. Likewise, if that same million dollar budget were in a church that was a non-Oklahoma Southern Baptist church, it would give on average $64,000 to the Cooperative Program. That is a very significant difference.
One of the great saxophonists of years past was once asked why his music was so much better than the average saxophonist. He replied, "If it ain't in your heart, it can't come out your horn." Until we actually place the Great Commission at the center of our purpose for cooperation, as Oklahoma churches are now doing, we will continually snipe at one another over non-essentials and fragment and splinter in dizzyingly different directions as a convention.
If we are to reach our goal of an additional 3,000 missionaries on the mission field in the next few years, it will only occur through increased CP dollars and intentional cooperation with churches and people who may not see eye to eye with us on tertiary matters. When CP giving increases, all the ministries of the SBC (the IMB, the seminaries, the North American Mission Board, state conventions, etc.) will prosper. The Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma has received through June 30th of this year $430,000 more in Cooperative Program fund receipts than our state CP budget. Last year the BGCO took in more than 2.5 million dollars in receipts than we budgeted. At the end of the fiscal year we immediately forwarded half of that 2.5 million dollars to the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, which then forwarded it to our missions agencies, seminaries, and other national SBC ministries. When water in the harbor we call CP rises, all boats rise with it.
Cooperative Program dollars have been used in the state of Oklahoma in some incredible ways this past year. Our BGCO state offices keeps 60 percent of CP money sent to them from Oklahoma churches and forwards 40 percent to Nashville. Of that 40 percent sent to Nashville, the International Mission Board receives half, and the other agencies of the SBC divide the other half. We are working as a state to forward even more monies to our national agencies and in reality, due to our additional $1.25 million surplus gift last year, Oklahoma Southern Baptists gave almost 41 percent of our state Cooperative Program revenue to the national SBC agencies.
The money that stays in Oklahoma is put to tremendous use to impact lostness in our state. It would be too much to list all that Oklahoma does in terms of ministry, but suffice it to say, people in Oklahoma know about Southern Baptists - in positive terms. From the 40,000 young people who attend Falls Creek, to the professional television commercials produced by our staff and aired across the state and seen by 90% of television viewers, to the Disaster Relief response teams that spread across the nation representing Oklahoma, when people think of Southern Baptists in Oklahoma, there is a positive feeling.
And that is the way it should be.
The harmony among the pastors in Oklahoma is unprecedented. We don't always agree with each other, but we don't yell and scream at one another. We don't always see eye to eye, but we respect the other person and his/her views. We have a sweet spirit among us in our state.
And that is the way it should be.
In our Stewardship Committee meeting yesterday we discussed some very significant churches in Oklahoma that have tremendous potential to increase their missions giving through the CP. Someone mentioned Henderson Hills Baptist Church in Edmond, probably the largest Southern Baptist church in Oklahoma in terms of budget and attendance, and made mention of the fact that Henderson Hills, though they are in the top fifty churches in terms of CP giving, could be giving so much more.
I was quick to point out that for Henderson Hills to be a significant contributor to the Cooperative Program, they must know that their autonomy is respected, their cooperation is valued, and they feel appreciated by state churches and pastors. Too many Southern Baptists are quick to make an enemy of a fellow Southern Baptist because either a church or a pastor does not see eye to eye with the powers that be. Worse, some are so determined to narrow the doctrinal parameters of what it means to be a Baptist, or demand ideological conformity to narrow views of non-essential issues, that if Southern Baptists are not careful and we let those ideologues speak as if they were the official spokespersons for all Southern Baptists, then churches like Henderson Hills, or Cornerstone in Arlington, or other non-traditional Southern Baptist churches might begin to feel unwelcome. For a convention that is built on cooperation, large conservative SBC churches that are made to feel unwelcome because of demands for ideological conformity on tertiary issues is the death knell.
The Southern Baptist Convention would do well to follow the example of Oklahoma. Focus on cooperation. Focus on the Great Commission. Accept people and their tertiary differences. Keep Christ and the gospel central. When that happens, the harvest will come.
The Great Commission Resurgence has already begun.
Would to God that it continues for decades to come.
In His Grace,