Cooperative Program giving from Southern Baptists in Texas supports the ministries of both the Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT) and the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). Recently, certain SBC critics in Texas have been suggesting that Baptists in Texas should cut back on their support of SBC missions and keep more of the money in Texas. To justify this, some Texas leaders have pointed to the fact that the population in Texas is approaching 21 million persons, millions of them without Christ. Others have talked about the need for more money for children's services. Still others have questioned the amount of funding for SBC seminaries versus funding for Texas affiliated theological schools. Are there more pressing needs for BGCT ministries than SBC ministries?
What are the facts?
There are no doubt great needs for Baptist ministries in Texas — from evangelism to compassion ministries to Christian higher education. But those needs are not enough to justify cutting the gifts already allocated for missions outside of Texas. Consider the following:
The average percentage that Baptist churches give to the Cooperative Program is about 8.3% of their undesignated contributions. This means that around 91.7% of Baptist money in Texas goes to local church ministries and missions, associational missions in Texas, and local projects. Of the amount given through the traditional track of the Cooperative Program, 67% goes to the BGCT and 33% goes to the SBC (see chart on the last page of this article for actual distribution). Of the undesignated gifts to Southern Baptist churches in Texas, approximately 97% stays in Texas. (The equivalent of approximately another 3% is given by Baptist churches in Texas designated to the Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong Offerings.) Is $0.03 of each dollar too much to go toward national and international missions?
Texas has a population of approximately 20 million. Over 2.7 million of the citizens are Southern Baptists or more than 1 of every 8 Texans. The population of California is 33 million with a Southern Baptist membership of 334,000 or 1 of every 100 Californians. The population of New York is 18 million with a Southern Baptist membership of 27,000 or 1 of every 667 New Yorkers. There are 5,000 Southern Baptist churches in Texas or 1 for every 4,000 citizens. There are 1,385 Southern Baptist churches in California or 1 for every 24,000 citizens. There are 264 Southern Baptist churches in New York or 1 for every 68,000 citizens. The budget for BGCT is over $51 million compared to $7.2 million for the California Southern Baptist Convention and $2.7 million for the Baptist Convention of New York. The contrast is more striking when you take into consideration the large population of other evangelical Christians in Texas whose ratio against the population of Texas is also much greater than these groups' ratios against the populations of California or New York. It is obvious that there are much greater resources per capita for Christian ministry and witness in Texas than other major population centers of the United States. Incidentally, Baptist leaders in California and New York are challenging their constituencies to give a larger, not smaller, percentage to the Southern Baptist portion of the Cooperative Program.
3. TEXAS NEEDS VERSUS WORLD NEEDS.
An even more drastic picture emerges when Texas resources in churches, church members, and finances are compared to available Christian resources around the globe. While it is commendable that we have over 4,000 international missionaries, with a world population now exceeding 6 billion, we are only beginning to provide the Christian witness needed by the burgeoning lost population of the world. We are not suggesting giving to the BGCT be ignored. But, the Lord Jesus said, "from everyone who has been given much shall much be required."1 Do you really believe it is time to cut national and international giving? We have confidence that Southern Baptists in Texas recognize the needs of the world are too great to divert world missions gifts for Texas needs.
The Texas Baptist Standard recently printed an article (8-7-00) entitled "Funding debate questions equity of money sent to SBC vs. Texas needs." It noted anti-SBC leaders are making much of the fact that more Baptist money from Texas gets to Southern Seminary which has only 34 students from Texas than to the two new Texas Baptist divinity schools which have 300 students from Texas. The implication of this argument is that Baptists in Texas are paying more than their fair share of seminary training. However, approximately 1,750 (14.5%) of the 12,000 students enrolled in the six SBC seminaries are from Texas and about 14% of the CP receipts for seminary education is from Texas churches. If equity is the goal, giving from Texas for theological education of Texas students is just a fraction low.
The worse implication, however, of this "equity" argument is that it makes selfishness the motivation for giving to the CP. The Standard article quoted the deans of Truett Seminary and Logsdon School of Theology (both of which are affiliated with BGCT institutions) as describing their schools as "heavily Texas focused, drawing students primarily from Texas and sending ministers primarily into Texas churches to serve." Is this really how we want to make our decisions about missions giving — based on whether we get any direct benefit? Would these two deans be pleased if the many churches in Texas who have no members enrolled in Truett or Logsdon refused to give any money to those schools because they are not directly serving their church? Or should the Baptists in Kentucky not support Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth because it is full of Texas students but not Kentucky students?
The real heart of Baptists in Texas is exemplified by the 1,600 Texas-related students at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (which historically provides the majority of our international missionaries) who are preparing to go anywhere God calls them. Southern Baptists from all over the country are giving sacrificially to train and support ministers and missionaries regardless of which state they call home. This is how the Cooperative Program works. It has been a way to fund those ministries in areas where Baptist witness is not as strong as it is in the South. And, it has been a way to prepare God-called men and women, not just to stay in their home state, but to go anywhere in the world God leads them.
What a disaster if all state conventions said, "We will only support those things that benefit our own people." If the support for missions in Texas is not keeping pace with the needs, why not appeal to the generosity of the faithful Southern Baptists in Texas? We believe they will rise to the challenge. But it is wrong to attempt to divert resources from the small percentage that has been supporting world ministries. Jesus sent us not only to "Jerusalem and Judea" but also to "Samaria and the uttermost part of the world." A self-centered, Texas-first mentality has never been the attitude of everyday Southern Baptists in Texas and we don't believe it is now.
In summary, why should funds not be diverted from the SBC to stay in Texas?
- The needs in Texas are great but the needs in the rest of the country and the world are greater.
- The resources per capita are much, much greater in Texas than in most of the U.S. and the world.
- The great preponderance of the churches' gifts is already utilized in Texas.
- The ministries performed by the national and international agencies of the Southern Baptist Convention are second to none and depend on the faithful support of Southern Baptist churches all over the nation, especially those in Texas.
If you agree that support should not be diverted from the SBC, talk to your church leaders and your state convention leaders. The SBC is committed to providing resources and information to the churches for these discussions. If the sad event occurs that your gifts to the SBC cannot be made easily and efficiently through your state convention, the SBC will make it possible for you to have such a channel of giving through other means. However, you can help make such an action unnecessary by persuading your state convention to maintain its historic and traditional agreements with the Southern Baptist Convention. Don't let our great partnership be destroyed.
-- 1 Luke 12:48.