In the last issue of the Indiana Baptist Magazine, I talked about the shoulders that we stand on as we work to help Jesus build His church in Indiana. There have been great leaders across the board in our churches, our committees, teams and staff. We need to celebrate these lives and their commitment to do the same thing that we are committed to do, to take the gospel of Jesus to our communities and to work together as we seek, and pray and work to accomplish the “Great Commission.”

I feel compelled today to talk about a basic, foundational principle that should draw us all together. We stand as Southern Baptists in our beliefs as spelled out in the Baptist Faith & Message; but I have observed that there is some confusion about some basic principles related to how we function as a convention of independent, autonomous churches.

I understand the confusion. In our world today, we prefer a cafeteria approach to our lives. We want options and control over where our giving goes. What we have is the ability to give in really two categories – designated and undesignated giving (just like in your church). Our churches can choose to give to the Annie Armstrong Offering, or the Lottie Moon offering or the State Mission Offering or the Highland Lakes Offering, or to any specific group or individual mission work or ministry or they can give through the Cooperative Program. A few years ago, our national convention opened a door for our churches to “count” giving activity as “Great Commission Giving.” So giving toward any of these items (as example) would be counted as

“Great Commission Giving.”

Here is the confusion that I have run into. As churches honestly and sincerely give to any of these options, the assumption is that they are giving through the Cooperative Program. But that is not true.  Remember we can give just like at church to designated or undesignated options. When you give through your state convention a percentage of that goes to the national Southern Baptist Executive Board and counts as Cooperative Program, which helps the whole SBC family. This is comparable to the local church general budget. When your church gives to Annie Armstrong, Lottie Moon, State Mission Offering, the local association or other ministries like these then those gifts are considered Great Commission giving (or designated giving), but they do not support or count toward Cooperative Program giving. This is important because it informs us as to who is a “cooperating church” which speaks to the partnership of being part of the

State Convention of Baptists in Indiana. Churches that do not give through the Cooperative Program are non-cooperating churches.

To summarize, there is undesignated giving or Cooperative Program giving and designated giving or Great Commission giving which is anything other than CP giving.

I hope this helps clarify how these gifts are viewed and interpreted. It is our desire to serve you with your giving and make sure the offerings that your church makes are given the right designation and accounted for accurately. I really appreciate the great work that your SCBI Business Services office does for us. Thank you Kyle Brennan, Mary Brown and Michelle Hillard for all you do to serve our churches.

For 60 years, churches like yours have been giving through the Cooperative Program which has led to churches being planted, a 400 acre campground being purchased and buildings built on these grounds, young people who have Invited Jesus into their hearts, adults who have been trained in Sunday School, small groups, discipleship, worship and many other areas of local church ministry. AND we can thank the Lord God for allowing us to be debt free today.

It is always great to celebrate a major “mile marker” in the life of an organization/ministry. We gladly celebrate these past 60 years, and I want to encourage you to look at how you can be part of the next 60. We have been sharing with you via our web site and the Indiana Baptist Magazine about the next seven years with an emphasis called “Mile Markers 2025”.  These include eight markers and one overriding principle. The overriding principle is “Cooperation.” How can we all seek and find ways to work together to strengthen HIS church and to reach people with the good news of Jesus?

During the 2019 year, our convention-wide emphasis is on “Revitalizing Churches” and “Evangelism.” Go to our web site, and see how you and your church can help in these two areas of church life and health.

In our 2017 annual meeting and in our last two issues of the Indiana Baptist Magazine, I shared these markers with you. You can see them below. These are intended to be things that we can all agree with, that we can do together and that will help any church or association to be better at cooperation with each other. Just as a reminder and to keep these markers before us, they are: The Overriding, overarching Principle for all 8 markers is “Cooperation”

Churches Helping Churches

1. Revitalization Marker – By 2025 we can together help 224 of our churches move toward being led to a greater vitality and new life.

2. Evangelism Marker – Our goal is to see churches who will take the ESP 2020 Challenge to develop an evangelism strategy.

3. Cooperative Program Marker – Our goal is each church to take the 1% CP Challenge. Increase your churches giving through CP by 1% each year.

4. Equipping Marker – Our goal is to enlist our healthiest congregations who will commit to being a mentor church for other churches in their association and open up training opportunities in their association or regional area.

5. Mission Partnership Marker – Our goal is to see that “the sun never sets on the work of SCBI mission work.”

6. Planting Marker – Plant 20 churches each year, which would be 140 new church plants over the next 7 years.

7. Leadership Development Marker – With this goal, we want to continue to follow our strategic plan to develop leaders in our convention. This plan has four layers.

8. Highland Lakes Camp Marker – Our goal is to see God bring salvation to students and leaders, to expand our facilities, to see HLBC used more and more for equipping opportunities.

My prayer is that we will all choose to pray for each other. Pray for our churches. Pray for our pastors and church planters. Pray for the Holy Spirit to be present in us and in the Church Body each Sunday. And pray a prayer of thanks for those on whose shoulders we stand.

Be sure to put the 2018 SCBI Annual Meeting on your calendar now. It is OUR 60th Anniversary!

October 8-9, 2018, Highland Lakes Baptist Camp.

In HIS Love,

Dr. Steve McNeil