At various times, I have used this blog to point to the changing face of denominationalism in the 21st century. One example came across my desk this morning. This is the time of the year when Baptist churches present their budgets for the coming year to their congregations for adoption. Often these proposals are published in the church newsletter and released to the world.
One such church newsletter came in the mail today that included the church’s proposed 2009 budget. The item that stood out for me was the change in the amount allocated for “cooperative missions.” This is the amount (usually a percentage of projected budget gifts) that the church intends to send to a denominational group to support missions. This may be the Southern Baptist Convention, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, or some combination of the two and their respective state organizations. In so doing, the church relinquishes the control of these funds to another body—a convention, a fellowship, or a mission board, for example—to do ministry.
The church in my example plans to cut its cooperative missions giving by 75% in 2009. Part of that money will be reallocated to “strategic missions.” I am assuming that the church will distribute these “strategic missions” funds to support mission efforts—local, state, or national—that further the church’s chosen priorities in missions. Adjustments in other line items reflect a similar philosophy.
I present this case not to chastise this church for its decision (or anticipated decision; this is, after all a Baptist church, and we should never assume too much) but to use this as another example of a trend in missions giving on the part of churches across the nation. Many churches have taken control of missions rather than delegating this task to someone else. The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and the Tennessee CBF have contributed to this approach by encouraging churches to be “missional”—discovering God’s mission for your church and pursuing it. Well, they are doing it! They have found things that their church is passionate about, and they are reallocating resources to pursue those ministries.
This is the reality! We can fuss about it, agonize over it, or condemn it—but it is reality! Welcome to the 21st century church.