GCR Component #6: Breaking the 50% Barrier

On the eve of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force's final report, here are some of my thoughts on the last section of the progress report.

In the current system, half of the funds that reach the national level of the cooperative program go to the International Mission Board. This rightly reflects that our primary reason for cooperating together as a convention is for the purpose of getting the gospel to the ends of the earth.

In order to show an even greater emphasis on international missions, the GCR task force has recommended that this percentage be increased from 50% to 51%.

The text of Component #6:

We believe in order for us to work together more faithfully and effectively towards the fulfillment of the Great Commission, that a greater percentage of total Cooperative Program funds should be directed to the work of the International Mission Board. Therefore, we will ask Southern Baptists to support this goal by affirming an intention to raise the International Mission Board allocation for the 2011-2012 budget year to 51%, a move that is both symbolic and substantial. At the same time, we will ask Southern Baptists to reduce the percentage allocated to Facilitating Ministries by 1% as part of our initial effort to send a greater percentage of total Southern Baptist Convention mission funds to the nations.

Note the language that says this increase will be both "symbolic and substantial." They say it will be substantial because, though one percent doesn't sound like much, when we're talking about a budget of just over 204 million dollars, it does mean a lot of money. To be specific, we're talking about just over two million dollars going to the IMB from this change alone. That is a substantial increase, even for an organization with a budget of over 317 million when the IMB is being forced to suspend some programs and hold trained missionaries off the field because the money is not there to send them.

In my opinion even more important than the substance of the increase is the symbolism of the fact that, as the report states, "for the first time, in our history, more than one-half of all monies that come from our churches through the SBC cooperative program will go to the reaching of the nations." In recent years, when percentages have been altered, the IMB was left out of those entities receiving an increase. It seemed like they had reached the magic number, the invisible ceiling of 50% and they would never see an increase in that number.

So I am very thankful that the task force is recommending we do away with this limit. In future years, as giving begins to increase again, I hope it will climb even further (growing at a slightly faster rate than other entities). Or, in case of a continued decline, I also hope the numbers can be adjusted so that the decline is absorbed in other areas rather than international missions.

Where Does This 1% Come From?
If the IMB portion is increased by one percent, that percentage point must be cut somewhere else: Facilitating ministries, according to the report. That means the Executive Committee. Luckily, part of component #4 was eliminating CP promotion and stewardship education from the role of the Executive Committee. That reduction of responsibilities paves the way for the IMB increase.

You can imagine those in and close to the Executive Committee haven't been too pleased with what will amount to a significant reduction in their budget. In fact, some have claimed this change will "gut" the work of the Executive Committee. Do you hear that sound? It's the sound of millions of Southern Baptists weeping because the work of the Executive Committee is so near and dear to their hearts. They just can't bear to see it "gutted."

Now that you've stopped laughing, it shouldn't take you long to realize that this kind of change is exactly what the GCR Task Force was called to do - make recommendations to get more of our money to actual ministries while spending less on things that aren't necessary. That means some painful cuts in some areas that may be doing good work, but just are not essential to our mission.

I'm looking forward to tomorrow's final report. It should be released by 9:30 Eastern time on the website http://www.pray4gcr.com/.

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