By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
Every year at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention we hear the same pleas for increased giving through the Cooperative Program.
In fact, the Cooperative Program was a hot topic of conversation throughout the annual meeting, and it should have been. We do need to increase Cooperative Program giving. It’s the lifeline of missions in Tennessee, around our nation, and throughout the world.
But at the same time, there is another way to free up more dollars for missions and evangelism.
I say this almost every year though it falls upon deaf ears. But if we were to change SBC bylaws to call for an annual meeting every other year, think of the hundreds of thousands of dollars that could be saved and reallocated for missions and ministry needs around the world.
We had a good annual meeting in Baltimore this year. Fred Luter did a super job of presiding and he hit a home run with his president’s address on Tuesday night. Yet, for the second year in a row, attendance barely climbed over 5,000 messengers. Now in Baltimore, that was probably as many as we could have expected. For last year in Houston, however, it was dismal.
And don’t expect attendance to be higher next year in Columbus, Ohio. In fact, it may do well to reach 4,000 because it falls in a non-election presidential year.
Yet, the SBC and entities across the United States will shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars to rent facilities, staff the convention, etc.
That doesn’t even count the costs incurred by messengers who spend money for hotels, meals, and travel.
Honestly, for those who attended the meeting this year, was anything earthshaking done or accomplished that could not have waited until next year had we not been electing a new president? I don’t think so.
I hear the arguments that it is a time for fellowship and to meet old friends who live in other states. In years past, that argument might have had more validity. But in today’s electronic age you can keep up with your friends if you so desire. There is even technology that allows you to see an individual when you are speaking to them.
Fellowship is important but an every other year format will allow for the fellowship and for conducting business that must be done. In addition, state conventions can still have their annual meetings because the cost of those meetings typically are nowhere near that of an SBC annual meeting.
It’s time that we, as Baptists, practice what we preach. If we want to get more money to the missions field, we need to not only give more, but to practice that sacrifice that we are always asking of others.
We are doing that in Tennessee on the state convention level. We have made significant cuts in order to move closer to our goal of sending more money to national SBC causes.
It’s time for SBC entities to make some sacrifices and seriously consider a biannual format and start taking the steps necessary to make that happen. I don’t understand why SBC leaders are so unwilling to even consider a change? It’s not a new concept and I certainly am not the only person to advocate it.
I believe strongly, however, that if the average Southern Baptist in the pew saw their national leadership taking steps to get more dollars into the missions field, he or she might be willing to put a few more dollars in the offering plate. It’s an idea that deserves at least some serious consideration, not just lip service.