By: Danny Akin & Ryan Hutchinson
In 2006 America was facing a decision about the Iraq war. Casualties were mounting and pessimism regarding the outcome of the war was increasing. A lack of direction appeared to exist and a change in strategy had to occur. In early 2007, a new plan was put forward and announced by President George W. Bush. The new plan was to dramatically increase troop levels on the ground in Iraq in an attempt to squash insurgent violence and decrease the number of lives lost as Iraq was rebuilt. By most accounts, the surge in troops was a success. Insurgent violence and troop deaths dramatically decreased.
While putting more bodies towards a task is not always the best recipe for success, it was in Iraq and it is true when it comes to the spreading of the gospel. Paul is clear in Romans 10:14-15, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’” According to the Joshua Project (www.joshuaproject.net), 2.7 billion people make up the population of the 6,693 unreached people groups. God in His sovereignty has chosen His children to carry the message of the gospel to them. So how do we get the gospel shared with 2.7 billion people? Put more “feet” on the ground. What is one major way we can put more beautiful feet on the ground? We can allocate more resources to the work of the International Mission Board (IMB).
The Great Commission Resurgence Task Force (GCRTF) Recommendation #7 to the Southern Baptist Convention calls for an increase from 50% to 51% in the allocation of Cooperative Program (CP) funds for the IMB. While the GCRTF recognizes this is only a drop in the bucket, the goal is to re-engage Southern Baptists by moving them out of their comfort zone and gain momentum to give more for these efforts. The comfort zone that we are in is 20+ years of giving the same percentage towards our efforts through the IMB. At one point in time during the 1960’s Southern Baptists were actually giving a little over 52% of the basic CP budget to the IMB. However, the percentage has remained at 50% for over 20 years. A move to 51% would provide the IMB with approximately $2 million more in CP funding based on the most recent receipts. $2 million might seem like a lot of extra money, but it represents a minuscule 0.6% of the IMB’s operating budget. Therefore, the move to 51% should only serve as a launching point for Southern Baptists in our efforts to participate in spreading the gospel around the world.
What Southern Baptists must decide next is how to make the 51% result in more than $2 million in additional funding for the IMB. Percentages are great tools, but they only represent part of the story. Based on giving to the Cooperative Program in 1990, the 50% received by the IMB twenty years ago actually represents a loss in purchasing power of $15 million when numbers are adjusted for inflation, even though they are still receiving 50% in the CP allocation today. Another way to look at percentages is that one could give 15% of $100,000 towards Kingdom causes while another could give 10% of $500,000, and far out give the actual dollars the first contributed. Southern Baptists need a multipronged attack to help reach the 2.7 billion needing to hear the gospel. In the words of Dave Ramsey, moving to 51% is “baby step” number one. Turning that 51% into $30 or $40 or $50 million more rather than $2 million is where the real work comes into play. Following the start of the CP, the state conventions estimated the percentage of dollars they were going to send to the Southern Baptist Convention in 1927. The average percentage of dollars projected to be sent was 47.1%. That number calculated from the 2009 SBC Annual is 37.2%. If the same average percentage was in place today as in 1927, the IMB would receive an additional $27 million in CP funding. So as not to look solely towards the state conventions, turning the 51% into more than $2 million is the task of every wallet and pocketbook of Southern Baptists across our nation. Spreading the gospel in America is a low cost effort. However, the way we spend our dollars we make it one of the most expensive Kingdom ventures on the face of the planet. There are millions of Southern Baptists and other committed evangelicals parked in every city of this nation. According to the latest research, it takes $0 to spread the gospel to your family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. However, getting the gospel to an area where no believers exist takes money to put people and resources in place and on the ground.
Of course, any time a change is made to the CP allocation someone loses money. In this recommendation the GCRTF is recommending that the 1% come from the allocation received by the Executive Committee (EC). The $2 million they will lose represents 21% of the EC’s total budget. Therefore, the EC will need to make significant decisions regarding personnel and resources. Some of these are addressed with the other recommendations of the GCRTF, but in the end we are making a decision between missionaries and support efforts.
The Great Commission is the call of our Savior. We are commanded to make disciples of all nations. The gospel is freely and widely accessible in the United States due to the centuries preceding us where believers put forth the effort to move the spread of the gospel beyond their territorial borders. In Matthew 24:14 Jesus Christ proclaimed, “This good news of the Kingdom will be proclaimed in all of the world as a testimony to all nations. And then the end will come.” We are given two promises by Christ. The gospel will be heard by all nations and an end is coming. What lies before us is a decision for Southern Baptists to honor our Savior, and serve as one group of His children with beautiful feet.
Our prayer is that Southern Baptists will approve Recommendation 7 and allocate more resources to the IMB. However, we also hope and pray that Southern Baptists also will multiply the impact of that 51% and turn $2 million into tens of millions of dollars more.