By Erin Roach, Baptist Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–The Cooperative Program is the greatest missions funding mechanism in the history of Christendom and must be supported by sacrificial giving, Morris H. Chapman said in his final address to the Executive Committee in Nashville, Tenn., Feb. 22.
“The Cooperative Program is a highly valued resource for missions, ministries and theological education,” said Chapman, who has announced his plans to retire as Executive Committee president in September.
Southern Baptists’ combined giving results in 86 percent of every dollar received for national causes going to the International Mission Board and the North American Mission Board, Chapman said.
This includes all Cooperative Program gifts, mission offerings and designated offerings to SBC entities.
“We can rejoice in the 86 percent that is being given to our mission boards from all the combined offerings that come to the Southern Baptist Convention,” Chapman said.
The remaining 14 percent is used to support theological education in six seminaries, as well as the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and facilitating ministries (SBC operating budget).
The Southern Baptist Convention has a need for “highly respected and greatly loved pastors who will stand up and declare the Cooperative Program for the missions and theological educational lifeline that it is and ask all pastors to do the same in their churches,” Chapman said.
As he departs his role as Executive Committee president, Chapman said his prayer will be that the Cooperative Program will reach greater heights than ever since its inception in 1925. The Cooperative Program, he said, is a unique gift from God.
“Many other denominations wish they knew how to receive it, how to spend it, how to get it together. None have ever been successful. I don’t know why God chose to give the Cooperative Program to us, but it is a treasure,” he said.
Chapman advised against shifting funds from one ministry to another amid financial challenges.
“[CP] reallocation among the SBC entities is not the road to revival, nor will it create drastic changes in the witness of our convention. Reallocation to one entity takes away from another entity,” Chapman said. “The pie cannot be stretched any further than 100 percent. The amount of the gifts must increase. That’s the answer.
“The decline of the Cooperative Program is rooted in the failure of today’s church members to practice biblical stewardship and the failure of pastors to cast a vision that stirs the hearts of God’s people to engage in direct missions sponsored by the church and to give generously through the Cooperative Program in order that our collective witness will be an eternal flame for Christ,” Chapman said.
In just over one decade, the average percentage of undesignated receipts that churches give through the Cooperative Program has declined from 10 percent to 6 percent.
“If our churches would raise their Cooperative Program gifts by an average of 1 percent, the Cooperative Program increase for all SBC entities would be $36 million in a given year. The International Mission Board alone would receive half of that amount or $18 million. The six seminaries would receive roughly $1 million,” Chapman said.
He pointed to the parable of the widow’s mite in Mark 12, where the woman gave to God all of the money she owned. Though the amount was small, the sacrifice was enormous.
“Jesus had designed the teaching moment to illustrate that people usually look at the amount to determine Kingdom worth, when instead they should be looking either to the proportion or the sacrifice,” Chapman said. “… The greater lesson to be learned from God’s Word is that our giving is to be sacrificial.”
A lack of sacrificial giving among Southern Baptists in general is a matter of the heart, Chapman said, and it must be corrected if the convention hopes for a stable future.
“In my opinion, the old Southern Baptist ship of Zion is not sailing steadily. It is being battered by the winds and the waves, but that’s not unusual for this old ship,” Chapman said. “In the years I have served you, I sought to add ballasts in one place or another to give the seafaring craft increased stability.
“But it appears that we have seldom sailed on glassy seas and maybe never will. Perhaps I sought in times to do the impossible. … I do believe, however, that someone had to be at the helm of the ship and I am thankful God gave me the opportunity to do my best although we may not have reached perfectly peaceful waters and a safe harbor.
“Today in America, I fear that too much is all about us rather than all about God. The present generations have convinced themselves that it is, after all, about them,” Chapman said. “When Satan catches us off stride, sleeping at the wheel or staring into space, the father of lies leaps into action to keep us from taking the leap of faith required to refocus upon Jesus and not ourselves.
“May we all together as Southern Baptists sail the seas more effectively in the years to come.”