Vocal CP cutter to be SBC president nominee
    March 13 2010 by Scott Barkley

    DULUTH — Marietta, Ga., pastor Bryant Wright will be nominated as president of the Southern Baptist Convention during the SBC's annual meeting June 15-16 in Orlando, Fla.

    David Uth, pastor of First Baptist Church, Orlando, Fla., announced through the Florida Baptist Witness that Wright will be a candidate.

    Wright, pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church, is the first candidate to announce intentions to succeed current SBC president Johnny Hunt, who is ineligible for a third term.

    Wright, the 2007 Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference president, is “uniquely positioned to continue the much-needed focus on the Great Commission as set forth by Johnny Hunt and the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force,” Uth told the Witness.

    Wright's church, formerly a strong supporter of the Cooperative Program, the missions funding mechanism of the Southern Baptist Convention which he seeks to lead, has announced a significant decrease in CP support in favor of designating mission gifts to the International Mission Board.  

    Johnson Ferry reported 459 baptisms with an average weekly worship attendance of 4,383, according to the 2009 Annual Church Profile. The church also gave $638,992, or 3.9 percent of undesignated gifts, to the Cooperative Program for 2009, a decrease from 4.9 percent of undesignated giving in 2008 and 5.1 percent given in 2007.

    Since 1982 Johnson Ferry had given 10 percent of church receipts to CP. In 1997 10 percent was still given to CP “causes,” with 7 percent going to the GBC and 3 percent going to the IMB through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. Beginning in December 2003, that figure went to 5 percent GBC, 5 percent IMB. In April 2009 the church gave 7 percent to CP causes, with a 3.5 percent split between the GBC and IMB.

    For the last ten years the church’s CP causes summary of $14,964,426 breaks down as follows:

    • GBC $7,774,046

    • IMB Lottie Moon $5,548,547

    • Noonday Association (1 percent) $1,348,898

    • Annie Armstrong Offering $109,249

    • Georgia Baptist Children’s Home $135,278

    Truett-McConnell College $13,408

    •New Orleans Seminary (Katrina Relief) $35,000

    The church reported giving $1,420,441 through the Cooperative Program, the Witness stated. But half was given through the Georgia Baptist Convention and half given directly to the International Mission Board, according to Joe Shadden, Johnson Ferry’s finance manager.

    In a guest commentary of the Nov. 5 issue of The Index, Wright proposed that each state convention keep no more than 25-30 percent of CP funds in-state so 50 percent can go to international missions. He went on to explain how after many years of Johnson Ferry giving 10 percent to the Cooperative Program, the church began to alter that number considerably.

    “[A]s our lay volunteers began to go in great numbers on mission trips and to partner with ministries around the world, they were absolutely appalled to find how high a percentage of our CP dollars stayed in the state and how little actually wound up on the international mission field. So several years ago, we began to dramatically shift the funding to Southern Baptist mission causes by giving 5 percent of the church budget to the CP and 5 percent directly to the IMB in what is considered a monthly gift to the Lottie Moon offering,” Wright wrote.

    “We’d prefer that the full amount we give to Southern Baptist mission causes go through the CP,” he continued, “but until the formulas change dramatically and most of the dollars go to international missions, we’ll keep giving directly to international mission causes, and that percentage may even increase in the days ahead. Our lay leaders in missions are “chomping at the bit” to do so today.”

    Shadden told the Witness during the 2009 budget year Johnson Ferry reduced CP and IMB gifts from 5 percent to 3.5 percent each as part of an overall budget reduction in response to the economic recession. With total undesignated receipts of $16,074,014 in 2009, the church gave 4.4 percent through CP and 4.4 percent to the IMB.

    According to the 2009 ACP, the church gave a total of $3,048,759 in missions gifts, with $12,859 in designated gifts for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering in addition to the church’s budgeted LMCO gifts, $20,565 for the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions, and $160,740 for associational missions.

    Wright is the founding pastor of Johnson Ferry, which began in 1981 with 20 families meeting in a doctor’s office. 

    Scott Barkley
     is production editor of the Georgia Baptist Index


    3/13/2010 11:25:00 AM by Scott Barkley | with 8 comments

That's fine as far as it goes. But if this same deacon, elected chair, advocates to fellow members they should do similarly you don't have a church with wide ministry to its members and community, you have a parachurch fund raising organization for whatever the deacon's focus is. Is it "gospel centered" to care for the widows and orphans in your church? To educate your youth and children in Christian doctrine? To provide a worship center? To hold ESL classes in your education space for immigrants?

The CP yardstick is an important metric only for those who seek to lead the organization. If they haven't demonstrated support for it, they should not lead it.
3/16/2010 3:36:10 PM

Brent Hobbs
Norm, you may find this answer hard to believe, but I will try and answer as honestly as I can.

If a deacon designated all giving to, let's say Lottie Moon, rather than giving to the church general budget, I would actually be glad for it. If he designated it to, say building upkeep, I would have a problem with it. But the problem wouldn't be with designating, it would be with his priorities. My next question would be to him, "Why do you not feel that our general budget is worthy of your support?" And if he had sensible, gospel-centered reasons for designating his giving, I would do what I could to bring our church budget into line with those gospel-centered priorities. Hopefully in doing so, he would begin to once again see the church budget as worthy of his support.

I think there's a good analogy there.
3/15/2010 11:17:28 PM

Thomas Kiker
I don't know that I disagree with anything you say in your response Norman, I just don't think it fair that leaders be judged as "CP Cutting" when what they are really doing is getting more money to the nations. I don't really see the vision for NAMB that the Task force is trying to present and will listen and read more intently as the convention nears.
3/15/2010 2:43:05 PM

Thomas, I am similarly impatient with waste. But what some see as waste might be a necessary deployment of people "on the ground." (I hate that phrase and can't believe I just used it.) Let me ask this: If the GCR recommendations end up killing the smaller state conventions and the North American Mission Board redeploys to seven regional centers, what does NAMB need in those centers? People. People who are on site, who know the churches, who have networks, etc. Hmmm, sounds suspiciously like associations and state conventions. While the GCR task force says "return" power to the churches (I never knew anyone in Baptist life wrested power from the churches) and that churches best plant churches, it suggests a national entity become a national church planting czar. (getting all the cliches in here). While the GCRTF suggests "saving" money from cooperative agreements for NAMB to use in planting churches, it seems historically ignorant not to realize the prime use of cooperative agreements is...wait for it...to plant churches. I'm in favor of a self-examination such as the GCRTF is doing. I'm also more willing to hear with open mind the recommendations of those who have demonstrated support of the Southern Baptist Convention over the recommendations of those who have not.
3/15/2010 1:57:31 PM

Thomas Kiker
Norman your illustration of a deacon chair bypassing the local church fails to capture the issue here. There is an uprising in the convention that is fed up with the waste that goes on between association, state, and national efforts. My generation and younger are tired of the bureaucracy and want to see the nations reached. I personally praise the efforts of a church to get more money to the nations and the wonderful missionaries we have on the field and those patiently, submitted waiting to go. I love the cooperative program but I love the nations more. I dare say Georgia has its fair share of Gospel resources, but what about the rest of the world?
3/15/2010 1:35:29 PM

Johnson's Ferry evidently is a great church; significant number of baptisms, active congregation involved in missions, generous in giving to the mission projects its involved with. But being president of the Southern Baptist Convention should presuppose and require that an individual is clearly and strongly supportive of the Southern Baptist Convention. To elect a person who advocates by example that the broad ministries of the SBC and his own state convention be defunded would be self defeating for those who love the Convention and appreciate its ministries. Would you advocate election as deacon chair in your church a man who vocally advocates diminished giving to your general budget in favor of his personal preference project?
3/14/2010 9:25:59 AM

Brent Hobbs
[i]“We’d prefer that the full amount we give to Southern Baptist mission causes go through the CP,” he continued, “but until the formulas change dramatically and most of the dollars go to international missions, we’ll keep giving directly to international mission causes, and that percentage may even increase in the days ahead. Our lay leaders in missions are “chomping at the bit” to do so today.”[/i]

It may be that the CP can be used as a club to end any possibility that this guy will be elected SBC president. But I hope everyone who looks at this article as an "expose" can read the handwriting on the wall. Either CP distributions are going to change, or churches are going to change them for you. I'm glad for his courage in speaking out on this and him leading a church to give 18.9% of its budget to missions causes, SBC or other.
3/14/2010 8:19:31 AM

George T. Russ
Thank you Norman, for including this. It is very helpful to see where we are going.
3/13/2010 8:19:05 PM

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