Monday, May 25, 2009

"Tom come lately"?

Ascol's Critique of SBC's
Cooperative Program Not New

Tom Ascol, director of the "Founders Ministries," has of late been reversing his scope of focus by at least writing favorably about "church planting" and the "Great Commission Resurgence" proposed by Dr. Daniel Akin of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and more recently puffed by Dr. Johnny Hunt, President of the Southern Baptist Convention. Up till more recent times, Ascol's and the Founders' "purpose" has been theological "reform," seeking to make Hybrid Calvinists out of alleged Arminian Southern Baptist pastors and churches.

In Ascol's latest post, the successor of Ernest Reisinger, Founder of the Founders, says the following about the Cooperative Program of the Southern Baptist Convention:

The IMB announcement that financial shortfalls are forcing a reduction in the number of missionaries that we will send to hard places this year highlights the timeliness of the GCR call. I first wrote about this in December 2008, noting that it is time for Southern Baptists to get serious about the allocation of Cooperative Program dollars. Three years prior to that, I showed how money given through state conventions to the Cooperative Program (CP) actually is allocated. The little-known fact is that most CP dollars are used by the state conventions through which they are given. Less that 40% actually reaches Nashville and less than 20% gets to the IMB.
Now the trustees of the IMB are forced to announce (through tears, according to the BP report) that there is not enough money to appoint all of those who are willing, equipped and ready to be sent by their churches. Can we sit back and let this happen? Isn't it past time for Southern Baptists to reevaluate the structures of our convention organization and see how we can improve our financial stewardship?

Yes, Tom, it is "past time." But this is nothing new. You have not made a major discovery of some sort. It has been "time" for years now.

Ascol -- and any others -- who have begun recently to critically evaluate the SBC program are "Johnny-come-latelies," so far as some are concerned. At least a few of us are still around from the 1950s and 1960s who complained about the deficiencies of the Cooperative Program long before the Founders Ministries was born.

For instance, back in the early 1960s, I put together and published a collection of SBC news items and other materials entitled, The Southern Baptist Convention and the Cooperative Program, which documented numerous deficiencies in "The Program." To do this, one merits being branded, "An uncooperating Baptist."

Among other things, there was a photographically-reproduced letter from the Foreign Mission Board of the SBC, headed by Baker J. Cauthen. This letter, dated September 14, 1959, revealed that the "active" or "locatable" SBC membership at that time (9,206,756) gave an average of less than $1.00 per Sunday to "all causes" of which only 15.5 cents per Sunday was for "all missionary causes" -- thru the Cooperative Program.

But more startling was the fact that barely over 3 cents per Sunday ($1.67 average per member, yearly) went to "foreign missions," according to the letter, signed by Eugene Hill.

And what was the prevailing attitude of Southern Baptist leaders and pastors at that time to such depressing stats? They persisted in declaring that the "The Program" was both "scriptural and reasonable" (E. S. James, The Baptist Standard, Sept. 26, 1952). The Alabama Baptist state paper alleged, "Any criticism of the Cooperative Program must stem from jealousy or a spirit of individualism" (Nov. 1, 1962). A tract written by Albert McClellan and published by the SBC pronounced the Cooperative Program to be "the Holy Spirit's way of doing missions."

Chances are, SBC ministers such as Ascol, Johnny Hunt, and Wade Burleson will never really get around to making any serious changes to the Cooperative Program. They will probably "line up" with what the Baptist Standard once said: "The Cooperative Program has made us what we are, and the Cooperative Program will carry us onward, if we stay with it," and with what the Mississippi Baptist Record said, "Were it not for our Cooperative Program our whole misson program would collapse."

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