Jun

10

2009

Trevin Wax|3:42 am CT

Great Commission Resurgence: An Interview with Dr. Danny Akin (3)

akin-300x204This week, I am interviewing Dr. Danny Akin – president of Southeastern Seminary. Click here for parts 1 and 2.

Trevin Wax: Your Great Commission Resurgence document has a number of points related to the gospel. The document itself does not define the gospel. How you would define the gospel?

Daniel Akin: I define the gospel in my Axioms message as being the good news that Jesus Christ came from heaven, died on the cross having lived a perfect sinless life, bore then in His body the full penalty of our sins, was raised from the dead. Those who repent of sin and place their faith in the perfect work of Christ can and will be saved. There’s the gospel.

Trevin Wax: There has been a lot of discussion regarding the axiom that calls for a denominational restructuring. What specific areas do you think can be streamlined for maximum effectiveness?

Daniel Akin: Church planting.

If you, for example, wanted to be a church planter right now, and you wanted to work through the system, you would be interviewed and would seek funding from your local association, from the state convention where you want to go and plant a church, and from the North American Mission Board where you want to go and plant a church.

There is a three-tiered – not duplication – but triplication in this system that is only going to provide nominal funding for you to actually accomplish what you need to do. There are also strings attached to those funds that limit what you can do to earn additional income. You can’t be a tentmaker like the apostle Paul, working to compliment and supplement what you would need to live on.

Classic example. We just sent a student from here up into the Washington D.C. area to plant a church. He went through the three avenues I just described, and it took months to pull everything together. He was able to put together $36,000 for his first year. Try and live in Washington D.C. You can’t pay rent and utilities for $36,000 a year.

But he is informed by NAMB that if he received funding from them, he can do nothing more than occupy a part-time job. That’s insane. So he will have to do what everybody else does: raise funds outside our structure.

This is why a lot of people are getting frustrated. Let’s take a large church like Highview Baptist in Louisville. If they were to give 10% of their monies through the Cooperative Program, they would probably be giving somewhere around $400,000 a year. I’m not even counting Lottie Moon, Annie Armstrong or anything else they do. Let’s just say they give around $400,000 a year.

First and foremost, 60% of that money is going to stay in Kentucky. That money is never even going to get out of the state.

Then, let’s say they send Trevin Wax from Highview to be a church planter. You appeal to the Kentucky Baptist Convention for funding. Even though Highview has been giving around $260,000 to $280,000 a year for a number of years to that state convention, when you go to get funding, you’ll be lucky to get $12,000 a year from them for three years. After three years, they’re not going to give you another dime.

Suddenly Highview says, “What are we doing? What are we doing? Why should we give $280,000 a year to the Kentucky Baptist Convention when we try to plant a church? Why should we work through the system that we are funding if, because of the overhead and the bureaucracy and other things, we are only going to be able to get back from them maybe $25,000 to $30,000 over three years? That doesn’t sound like a good deal.” So all of a sudden, you have people saying, “We can do it better without partnering with a state convention.”

What part of Article 9 of the Great Commission Resurgence document is trying to say to our state conventions is: Look, we actually are your friend. We are on your side. Danny Akin and Johnny Hunt are not your enemies. But you cannot keep doing things the way you’ve been doing then, because these young guys are not like an older generation.

My parents came through World War II and Korea. They came through a period of time where you simply support the structures that are in place.

If you go to a church, for example, and your church goes through a split, do you leave? No, you don’t leave.

If you have to fire a pastor, do you leave? No, you don’t leave. You just stay because that’s your church.

You give to the government because you give to the government.

You give to the church because you give to the church.

You give to the Cooperative Program because you give to the Cooperative Program.

My generation (I’m 52 now) was less inclined to just give and trust that the folks you give money to will be good stewards of it. Your generation is not at all inclined to do that.

Your generation – and this is both good and bad – has very little loyalty to anything. I hope you have (and I do believe you have) a loyalty to the gospel. But your level of loyalty is very thin.

Therefore, if you do not believe in these various entities, if you have an option, then you are not going to give. That is what Article 9 is trying to help those who are in a position of leadership right now understand.

We can’t keep doing it like this because these guys aren’t going to participate. They are not going to buy into this. They are not going to support this, and this is not going to work.

Tomorrow, we’ll discuss the rise of Reformed theology in the Southern Baptist Convention and the relationship between Southern Baptists and the wider world of evangelicalism.

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7 Comments

  1. Trevin,

    Thanks for these interviews. I appreciate what Dr. Aiken has to say. I just saw him at the Advance09 Conference and he gave a good message there too.

    I believe Dr. Aiken is correct. Looking forward to the rest of the interview.

  2. Trevin,

    There is dead on and then there is DEAD ON.

    Danny Akin is DEAD ON. I think he understands what is going on among young leaders, potential young leaders and potential “I’m leaving the SBC” young leaders.

    Thanks for the interview.

  3. Thanks for your blog and for your interview with Dr. Akin. I appreciate his willingness to share and elaborate on his views.

    I work for the Kentucky Baptist Convention as communications director so I just wanted to clarify for your readers that although Dr. Aiken specifically mentioned the KBC and Highview Baptist Church in the example he used in the post, he also indicated that he was just speaking hypothetically. The specific numbers used in the example are very inaccurate and shouldn’t be taken to represent the actual giving patterns of the church or the Convention. I don’t think Dr. Aiken intended for those to be taken literally but were just used to make a point.

    One other comment I’d make about this post is a bit more philosophical regarding the Cooperative Progam in general. I’m hoping that readers are realizing that the Cooperative Program is about something much bigger than any one particular tactic for reaching our world for Christ. For instance, church planting is a greatly-needed and wonderful thing and the KBC is extremely active in this area (our numerous high impact church plants receive as much $100,000 to help them get started and establish roots). I think that measuring what a church gives to support missions all across the nation and world in comparison to what it might give to sponsor a new church is an unfair comparison. I am very much a believer in churches giving to both support missions on a broader level through CP as well as carrying out its own God-given mission assignment, i.e. helping to plant a church.

    When a church gives through the Cooperative Program, it is supporting a truly mind-boggling number of missions activities and ministries around the world as well as helping to provide funds used to strengthen churches so that they grow or remain healthy and strong. I am privileged to be in a place where I get to see the Cooperative Program in action every day and can attest to the fact that it truly is the most effective and efficient missions supporting system ever devised. Through the Cooperative Program, every giving church (no matter how large or small) is working to share the Gospel all over the world every day.

    Does that mean CP is perfect? Certainly not. Every state convention, seminary, national SBC entity, church and individual Christian should always be looking for better ways to serve and it is my prayer that the current discussion in Southern Baptist life will help to reenergize us all about the mission that Jesus has given us.

  4. Robert,

    Thanks for weighing in. It is staggering to think about all the ministries that the CP funds. And yes, readers should note that the Highview situation is all hypothetical. Also, I am not a church planter, and I do not even live in KY. :)

  5. Mr. Reeves,

    Thanks for your reply. You are certainly right that Dr. Akin gave a hypothetical situation about Highview (I am a member and minister there), but what is not hypothetical in this interview is:

    1. KBC keeps 64% of CP dollars in state.

    2. Dr. Akin is making the point that you also mention in your comments that young people feel that states (and the CP) are doing TOO MUCH. It seems that you feel this is a good thing, while Dr. Akin is making the point that younger people do not for the most part (some of these ministries young people don’t really care about b/c they don’t see them as missions or strengthening churches and thus will stop giving and cooperating because they feel it is a waste of their people’s money). Dr. Akin says in the interview that he’s trying to help the state conventions by getting them to realize brand loyalty does not exist among the younger generation and if entities want to thrive they need to convince younger ministers that certain ministries and programs are needed.

    3. You write that the CP is the most “effecient missions supporting system ever devised” and that through CP giving churches are “working to share the Gospel all over the world every day.” While I do agree with that and love the CP system, that is becoming LESS true as IMB has indicated they aren’t able to send people who are willing to go. If states started giving 50% then we could send more missionaries to pioneer fields rather than keep those funds in fields with less people and thousands of churches. I know Dr. Chapman made the argument that it’s the local churches fault b/c they are decreasing their % of CP dollars and that’s why we are sending less missionaries. However, the reason why many churches are doing this is b/c the states are keeping so much in state. Also, the convention SHOULD exist first and foremost to serve the churches, not vice versa.

  6. Trevin,

    Thank you for posting this interview with Dr. Aiken. Reading the interview has been a breath of fresh air, especially with it coming from a leader within our Convention.

  7. Thanks Jon,

    I think we’re all on the same page in terms of wanting to be more efficient and effective. All of us – state conventions, national SBC organizations, seminaries, local churches, individual Christians – all need to be constantly looking at ways in which can improve. As I have shared on some other blogs, it is exciting to see the passion that has been generated by the GCR document and the ensuing conversation. I think that if this GCR discussion helps us become reenergized about the mission Jesus gave us all, it will have been a tremendous blessing.

    Discussing the division of CP resources is a completely legitimate and important process and I agree that the churches must always come first. One of the reasons we have such a large elected Mission Board in our state (a little over 170 people now) is to ensure that every association, region of the state and churches of all sizes are fully represented in all of the decision making processes. Budget goals are voted on by the messengers to the annual Kentucky Baptist Convention meeting based on recommendations of the Mission Board. The Board’s Business and Finance Committee and then the full board itself spends a great deal of time each year working on making difficult decisions about how to best use CP gifts for God’s glory.

    In Kentucky, CP gifts through the churches are basically divided three ways. The largest piece of the pie (just over 37 percent) goes to the SBC followed by a slightly smaller slice (36.5 percent) that goes to the Kentucky Baptist Mission Board for its work. Then the smallest piece of the pie (26.4 percent) goes to Christian education and KBC entities such as our children’s ministries, camps, foundation, etc.

    In addition to supporting SBC mission causes through the CP, Kentucky churches are also supporting the International Mission Board and North American Mission Board through the special offerings. The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering from Kentucky was more than $4 million this past year and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering was almost $2 million which effectively doubles what the SBC mission boards receive from Kentucky churches.

    At least here in the KBC, we are working with fewer dollars than in the past. In the 11 years that I have been with the convention, Cooperative Program giving has never matched the inflation rate and we have seen the average percentage of undesignated giving from the churches to the Cooperative Program decline from 9.3 percent in 1998 to just under 7 percent last year. At the same time, the Convention has moved to increase the percentage it sends to the SBC. The percentage going to the SBC will increase slightly in the coming budget year and we also have a process in place now for increasing the percentage that goes to the SBC as church giving increases.

    On the question of whether the state conventions are doing “too much,” you are right in that we have to constantly be evaluating how we go about the work of the Great Commission. This is a good practice for every organization. Our state did just that recently with our Kentucky Baptists Connect process five years ago which was a grassroots-shaped process to establish priorities and set goals. That process and an earlier internal process has led us to reorganize Mission Board staff work twice in the last decade. We’ve just recently completed and the Mission Board has approved an extension of Kentucky Baptists Connect to go through 2012 with updated objectives and goals that are monitored by a Missions Advisory Committee appointed by the Convention president.

    I apologize for such a long post and I hope it hasn’t come across as argumentative or defensive because that is certainly not my desire. I think this is a great conversation and appreciate the hearts of everyone toward finding the best ways to reach our world for Christ. I came to Christ myself through the ministry of a Southern Baptist missionary in Okinawa so I am especially appreciative of and desirous of helping our international missions efforts.

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