By Kelly Boggs, Message Editor
Designated giving for any organization that depends on donations from individuals and/or businesses is a double-edge sword. While designated gifts do have their place in a non-profit organization, they can also be the death knell, especially for a church.
Designated money, for the uninitiated, is money specified to only be spent for that which the giver has designated. If the money is spent in other ways, it is not only unethical it is also illegal.
At some point during the modern church era congregations embraced the concept of a unified budget. Members were encouraged to give money to a general fund which was then dispersed according to a budget approved by the church.
All I have ever known is a unified budget process. That said, I have had to deal with individuals who wanted to designate their gifts and give only to particular ministries.
Each time someone wanted to designate their gifts, I would listen to the reasons. I would then explain that while they were certainly free to designate their money, I asked if they would prayerfully consider not specifying where their gifts could be spent.
I explained that if everyone designated their money the church could effectively become bankrupt.
While the church would theoretically be flush with money, because it was all designated, the church would not be able to spend the money where it was needed. Issues of maintenance would be neglected and areas necessary for the church to operate would be ignored.
The only designated giving I have ever supported was offerings the church voted to support. These have been SBC mission offerings, building programs and a few select special causes.
When it comes to giving beyond the local church to the Cooperative Program, I feel the same about designated giving. I do not like it. Never have; never will.
If I do not want the members of the church I pastor to designate their giving, how can I lead the church to designate money to the ministries made possible by the CP.
The Cooperative Program is what sets Southern Baptists apart from all other Baptists. There are a variety of Baptists in Louisiana, but not all of them choose to cooperate when it comes to missions and ministry.
I have no doubt that I agree doctrinally with a good many Baptists in The Bayou State who are not Southern Baptist. I have nothing against these brethren, but I am Southern Baptist because I believe we can accomplish more together than we could ever do working alone.
Do I think we are perfect? No. Do I think we are the only ministry on the block? No. I do believe, however, we are a good thing on the block. The Lord has used the CP to allow Southern Baptists to become the most prolific mission sending agency in the history of Christendom.
The subject of cooperation as it relates to giving has become a subject of discussion among Southern Baptists since it was learned that David Platt had been named president of the International Mission Board.
Those who are elated that Platt has been elected to lead the IMB have been quick to point out that his church gave 8.9 percent of its budget to SBC mission causes last year and is reported to be on track to give 13.8 percent this year.
The amount of money Platt’s church has given to mission causes is commendable. However, the point many ignore is practically all the money his church has given to SBC causes has been designated. That is, his church has chosen the ministries it will support in its state and beyond. At the same time it has also chosen what it will not support.
For some in the SBC, this is not an issue.
At the 2011 SBC Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Az., messengers voted to adopt a concept termed “Great Commission Giving.” In essence, GCG gave approval for churches to designate their money to SBC causes. I do not agree with the concept nor did I vote for it.
Platt’s church designated all but $25,000 to SBC causes; out of a budget of almost $9 million that is less than one percent, actually it is 0.28 percent, of the church’s total budget.
Pastor, if your members were to designate all but 0.28 percent of their giving to your church’s unified budget, how effectively could you minister to your community? You might have whiz-bang youth ministry or a stellar music program, but what would suffer?
The truth is that if all churches across the SBC were to follow the giving pattern of Platt’s church, most of the SBC would disappear and rapidly so. We might have a couple of incredible ministries, but most of the work that operates day-in and day-out would vanish.
My intent is not to disparage Platt. His passion for the Gospel and ability to communicate God’s truth are well known. Only Platt and his church know why they chose to designate their gifts.
I do want to underscore the problem inherent with designated giving at all levels in our convention. I also hope Platt comes to this understanding as well. After all, he has agreed to lead a ministry that is undergirded and strengthened by the CP.
I respect our SBC process. Platt has been chosen to be IMB president by trustees who were selected and approved by Southern Baptists.
I pledge to pray for David Platt and continue to strongly support the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Mission Offering so he will have the ability to lead our missionary force to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth.