With all of the spiritual and religious choices that permeate our society, It can be hard to choose which faith, which church, which denomination, which variety, will speak to you and your family. I want to take a moment and share the direction my wife and I chose for our family. I also, want to share the reasons why we chose this particular direction for our family. My wife and I are Christians, and we choose to be a part of the Southern Baptist, a denomination of Christianity. The Southern Baptist are a collection of like minded baptist congregations that pool our resources to cooperate in mission and ministry for the gospel of Jesus Christ. Currently, I am the pastor and we attend Sunnyside Baptist Church in Toccoa Georgia.
Have you ever watched a big time free agent athlete sign the one hundred million dollar contract? The athlete attends a news conference to be handed a jersey where fifty cameras take hundreds of pictures. The athlete then sits in front of multiple video cameras as says, “This is not about the money. I love this city, this team, these coaches…yada, yada, yada.” While the athlete is speaking everyone in the room is thinking, it’s one hundred million dollars…it is most certainly about the money. I always hope one of these athletes will one day be honest and say, “Did you count all those zeroes? I’d play on the moon for that many zeroes.”
Well let me share freely and honestly, the first reason why we choose to be a part of the Southern Baptist is all about the money. When I say it is about the money, I do not mean the salary that I make; although, I am very grateful for my church that pays me to do what I love. The money I am talking about is the money we give to our denominational leadership that they in turn use for ministry.
You might think the examination of a financial report to be an odd first place to look when choosing a religious denomination. One might look at the denomination’s statement on what they believe, their history, their leadership, or some other spot, but stick with me. You can put anything into a statement of faith. It is easy to write what you believe. It is easy to write how you think you should live. It is easy to say whatever to get people through the door. Your bank account doesn’t lie. You give me an hour in your bank account, and I can tell you your priorities. You work hard for your money, and you spend that hard earned money on what is important to you. You can tell me over and over how much you love helping the needy, but if you spent $1000 dollars on shoes last year, and gave only spare change to that one homeless guy, your bank account tells the truth.
I not only care what the Southern Baptists say they believe. I want to see proof of what they believe. I want to see proof of their priorities. I want to see them put their money where their mouth is, which is becoming a rarer event these days.
So let’s examine where Southern Baptist’s priorities lie. Money given to the Southern Baptist is placed into what we call the Cooperative Program. 11% of the money given to Sunnyside Baptist Church goes into this Cooperative Program. Southern Baptist break the Cooperative Program monies into four categories: World Mission Ministries, Theological Education Ministries, Christian Ethics and Religious Liberty Ministries, and Facilitating Ministries.
The World Mission Ministries is our mission work. Southern Baptist have two mission organizations the North American Mission Board and the International Mission Board. These groups through charitable aid, church planting, education, etc. seek to spread the gospel of Jesus throughout the world. The Theological Education Ministries support the 6 Southern Baptist Seminaries training people in the gospel. The Christian Ethics and Religious Liberty Ministries seeks to engage culture and equip churches to live the gospel in their communities. The Facilitating Ministries is the operating budget, the salaries of denominational employees, electric bills, web site maintenance, etc.
These are the four priorities of the Southern Baptist, and the percentage of spending will show us how important each one is. These percentage are from the 2014-2015 fiscal year.
World Missions Ministries receive over %73 of all giving to the Cooperative program split closely to %51 to International Missions and %22 to North American Missions.
Theological Education Ministries receive over %22 of all giving, mostly helping to cover the cost of tuition for baptist students. I am going back to school, to Midwestern, one of our six seminaries. I would not be able to afford this without the help of Southern Baptist giving.
The Facilitating Ministries receive a little less than %3 of all giving. %3 is an amazingly low percentage going toward the operating cost of a non-profit, charitable, or religious organization.
The Christian Ethics and Religious Liberty Ministries receive a little more than %1.5 of the budget.
This budget breakdown clearly shows three things to my wife and I, which is why we love our denomination. First, taking the gospel of Jesus Christ is our highest priority. 73 cents of every dollar given goes to missionary efforts. As a couple who believe the gospel of Jesus Christ can powerfully transform lives and communities, we want our denomination’s highest priority to be mission ministries.
Next, the second highest priority of Southern Baptist is to educate and equip men and women to lead the church to impact communities for the gospel of Jesus Christ. We love this priority. Un-equipped, un-trained, men and women will have a more difficult time reaching their community with the gospel than those equipped though a strong education.
Finally, a 3% operating budget shows incredible operating efficiency and dedication to their higher priorities. To put this into perspective, the administrative expense of Make-A-Wish America are 10.6%, ALSAC – St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital are 10.8%, and American Red Cross are 3.5%. I am not putting down any of those charities. I have great respect for all three. I am using them as examples to show just how incredibly low the operating expenses of the Southern Baptists are, and I am grateful for this.
My wife and I are Southern Baptist because of the money. When we give money to our denominational leadership 97 cents of every dollar is given to ministries. Southern Baptist’s two highest priorities are sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ and educating men and women to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. They do not just state this in a creed or confession. They prove it through their bank account.
Thank you for reading, Preacher Jesse