Over recent weeks I watched closely the giving patterns of the churches of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. I wish I had better news to report. Our financial struggles continue as noted below:
Cooperative Program Reports
Actual BGCT CP $17,242,761
YTD Budget $19,089,779
YTD Last Year $19,180,123
YTD Comparison to Budget = 90.32%
YTD Comparison to Last Year = -11.10%
As you can see the giving of our churches continues to decline at an alarming rate. As president of the convention it is hard to see and accept. I had hoped and prayed that over the last two years we could turn the tide and that we would be making positive strides into the future.
The hardest thing about interpreting financial numbers is trying to unlock their meaning. Standard thinking would relate the decline in giving to the national charitable trends. During these difficult economic times people are giving less due to fear or due to loss of jobs and income. Without doubt there is truth to this to some extent. Before we panic and try to change course by seeking a silver bullet solution we must admit our ship floats in the same sea with other charitable organizations. We thrive together. We struggle together.
However, I believe greater forces work among us. As the world has gotten flatter, and churches have begun to embrace world-wide missions in a much more “hands on” way. I believe many churches have chosen to keep their mission dollars at home to fund their own mission endeavors. Since most of our churches have limited resources, this appears a wise and prudent decision for many leaders. The recent struggles of denominations and conventions have also fueled this movement. One cannot argue with the logic of controlling your mission dollars by your own passions and priorities. However as a pastor leader I have always tried to have a “both/and” attitude toward missions. I believe in the “hands on” approach, but I also believe in the value of cooperative efforts, especially when you think of the multiplication of your dollars through the work of the BGCT and its institutions and ministries.
My greater fear is for those churches and leaders who in these difficult times have chosen to keep their dollars at home and to make ends meet by cutting their mission giving all together. I believe mission giving is critical in the life of a local church. It helps to keep the eyes of the church focused outward rather than inward. Over twenty-eight years of ministry I have known good times and lean times, but one thing I have never been willing to do in lean times was to cut back on mission giving. I believe this shows a lack of faith and vision. It is a risk worth taking to keep giving when everything around you screams to cut back. Remember every good and perfect gift comes from above.
Not far from the home of Jesus is a sea apply named the “Dead Sea.” This stagnate body of salty water receives but does not give. Fresh waters flows in but nothing flows out. I fear the Dead Sea is a parable of our day. We receive and receive, but we keep too much and pass on very little.
Where your mission dollars goes is a decision each of us must make, but please give so that the nations may hear, and that Texas can be shaped by the presence of Christ. I was challenged by this quote from Johnny Hunt former president of the Southern Baptist Convention–
“Will we give up the American Dream for the sake of the Great Commission.”
I pray we will. I pray each of our churches will be streams of living water to the nations–and I pray the LORD will help us do it together!