Editor’s Note: This article was originally written by Ronnie Floyd, President/CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee for the Baptist Press.
Last week, I introduced Vision 2025 and our opportunity to cooperate as Baptists on five strategic actions to stand tall with a passionate vision of reaching every person for Jesus Christ in every town, every city, every state, and every nation.
Being all in on Vision 2025 begins now. I believe our five Strategic Actions are things in which every church of every size, every ethnicity, and every language can participate. These five Strategic Actions involve increasing our missionaries around the world, adding new churches in America, calling out the called, reaching and baptizing more teenagers, and funding this vision. You can read more detail on these actions here.
I’d like to go deeper on Strategic Action #5 today.
Strategic Action #5:
Increase our annual giving in successive years to establish a new pattern of growth that will lead us to reach and surpass $500 million through the Cooperative Program to achieve these Great Commission goals.
While this may be listed last, it is the one that allows all the others to take place. The Cooperative Program is the catalyst for our Great Commission vision. Without our work together through the Cooperative Program, none of this happens.
Please understand, we know we find ourselves in a different world than last year or any other time in our generation. Never before in most of our lifetimes have we walked through a global pandemic. Therefore, our goal of increasing annual giving in successive years to establish a new path of growth is imperative and may cause us to see a turnaround in Total Cooperative Program Giving.
When speaking of Total Cooperative Program giving, I am referring to the financial resources our churches give through the Cooperative Program. Those monies contribute to Great Commission work regionally, across your own state, our nation, and all the nations around the world. Let me show you what has been happening with our Cooperative Program giving over the past twenty years.
The image below shows something I believe is very important. The box in red shows the years of the Great Recession of 2008-2009. Do you see the decline after this and its lagging effect?
Since this decline began, Total Cooperative Program giving has not recovered to its pre-recession levels. In fact, it has not recovered as fast as other areas of philanthropy in the secular world. We typically trail the growth of the GDP, philanthropic giving, individual giving, and religious giving. While we are grateful God has provided, we are not at the level of the others since 2008-2009.
Since this is true, we have a glimpse of good news. If we can begin to realize the capacity we have to grow and catch up with the overall gains in giving already occurring, we have a future with great possibilities.
We must discipline ourselves in sharpening our focus on our eternal mission of sharing Good News with the whole world and stay consistent with our message of reaching every person for Jesus Christ in every town, every city, every state, and every nation. This is our greater cause.
In the fiscal year ending in September 2020, we were impacted by the pandemic for the six months of April through September. This present fiscal year of 2020-2021, we project a revised budget with a three percent decrease in comparison to last year. After the first four months, it appears we have budgeted correctly.
We can see in the next graphic that our 2020 fiscal year ended ahead of the year before; but with 2021, we may reach all the way down to $452.5 million due to the full effects of the pandemic. Yet, as we move forward, we project our fiscal year of 2022 will begin moving us up in Total Cooperative Program Giving.
Please note 2023. In order to recover from the pandemic and move forward in funding all of our Great Commission work along with the needs of Vision 2025, we must work diligently to start growing the Cooperative Program at a level of 2.65% beginning in 2023.
Based off these projections, we have the potential to begin seeing significant upward growth in 2023, 2024, and 2025. Yes, the pandemic has set us back. However, I believe when our churches hear the vision before us, we will begin to see progress and an upsurge in giving.
We need to show you when we may have the capacity to see this breakthrough. It is an important goal to see reached by the end of Vision 2025. We believe we have the potential, if recovery occurs and an increase returns, that in the fiscal year 2023-2024, we have the capacity to see a breakthrough and growth in our Total Cooperative Program Giving.
Please look at the red line across the graphic below. It marks where that breakthrough occurs. If we can see this glimmer of hope and the vision is moving forward, then perhaps it will lead us to greater giving in the years ahead. We are hopeful as we cast a vision for our greater cause.
Let’s take a look at individual church giving. People give to the church. Then, the church gives through the Cooperative Program to further our mission together. The amount given is determined by each individual church.
The chart below breaks things down. We can compare 2008, the beginning of the Great Recession, and 2019. We now have fewer churches who are giving through the Cooperative Program and the ones who are, are giving a smaller percentage than in 2008.
What problems does this reveal?
- We are not engaging our churches effectively.
- We are not communicating with our churches effectively.
- We are not sharing and living a consistent message of who we are with the churches because we keep walking on our own message.
- We are not providing the churches with a concise and compelling Great Commission vision that will move them to support it.
However, to pastors and churches, help is on the way. For the greater cause, we need to learn from this data and listen to every church—from the smallest membership churches to the largest membership churches.
The growth of the Cooperative Program is the certain way each of our churches can participate in funding these strategic actions of Vision 2025.
I extend to all of you the invitation to not only adopt Vision 2025, but to commit to promote, advance, and pursue this unified Great Commission vision together. Southern Baptists cooperate together for the greater cause—the propagation of the gospel to every person in the world.
We must begin to take this vision everywhere and listen to pastors, churches, associational mission strategists, state convention leaders, and national entities about how each one of us can own this vision personally and in ministry collectively. We must do this because this is our greater cause.
Together, we can do this to the glory of God.