NEW ORLEANS — For 178 years, Southern Baptists have cooperated in fulfilling the Great Commission and the Great Commandment, Willie McLaurin told messengers Tuesday afternoon in New Orleans. The interim president and CEO for the Southern Baptist Executive Committee (EC) called Southern Baptists to renewed cooperation and a deeper dependence on Jesus in their work together.
“Generations come and generations go, but our mission has not changed. In fact, it must not change,” McLaurin said. “Brothers and sisters, we must move forward together.”
A call to renewed cooperation
McLaurin called Southern Baptists to reignite their passion and purpose for the Great Commission and warned against what he called “mission drift.” He urged the SBC to focus on reaching and mobilizing the next generation, who will lead the convention’s Great Commission ministries in the years to come. And he asked for a renewed commitment to the Cooperative Program (CP), Southern Baptists’ unified channel for missions giving.
Noting giving to local churches is increasing, McLaurin acknowledged the reality of a steady, 30-year decline in CP receipts. In 1993, the overall average percentage of giving through the CP per church was 9.62%, McLaurin said. Today, that average is 4.5%.
“While we all are searching for creative ways to do more with less, we must forge a new path forward if we are going to reverse the decline and reinvigorate our commitment to cooperative giving.”
McLaurin noted the EC’s newest ministry assignment to elevate prayer among local churches and called Southern Baptists to desperately depend on Jesus.
“If we depend on the organization, we’ll get what the organization can do. If we depend on our money, we’ll get what money can do. If we depend on our education, we’ll get what education can do. If we depend on our convention, we’ll get what our convention can do. But if we depend on prayer, we’ll get what only God can do.”
Addressing “the elephant in the room,” McLaurin said trust in organizations has been significantly diminished in our culture and certainly in our network. “Leaders must own that,” he said. “Why? Because we cannot successfully accomplish what we say we are about as Southern Baptists without trust. Cooperation is built on trust.”
To close his part of the report, McLaurin introduced a video highlighting Southern Baptist Disaster Relief ministry after severe flooding in Tennessee. Scott Brown, associational mission strategist for Wilson County Baptist Association, joined McLaurin to thank Southern Baptists.
“Thank you to every hero who wears that yellow hat of Disaster Relief,” he said. “Thank you to every giver for every gift, to every laborer for all your labors. And thank you to every pray-er, for all your prayers.
“Thank you, my friends, for having our backs when we needed it most.”
Budgets approved, Bylaw 20 amended
Messengers considered three recommendations from the EC Tuesday afternoon, adopting the 2023-2024 SBC Cooperative Program Allocation Budget in the amount of $195,250,000, and the 2023-2024 SBC Executive Committee and SBC Operating Budget in the amount of $8,305,500.
Messengers also voted in favor of the EC’s recommendation to amend SBC Bylaw 20 to task the Resolutions Committee to release its initial report no later than 10 days prior to the annual meeting, with the final report to be published in the first day’s Bulletin.
The second part of the EC’s report is scheduled for 10:25 a.m. Wednesday. B&R
EDITOR’S NOTE — This article is part of the team coverage of Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting and Executive Committee events by staff members from The Baptist Record, Baptist & Reflector, Baptist Message, Illinois Baptist State Association, The Alabama Baptist and The Baptist Paper.