Southern Baptist Convention

Though some use the word “affiliation” to describe the loose-knit, cooperative relationship between the SBC and cooperating Baptist churches, it must always be heard in a non-connectional way, for each Baptist body is fully autonomous and retains its independence. The Convention claims no ecclesiastical authority over any local church. Since we associate with one another through voluntary cooperation, the SBC uses the term “cooperating church.” This document describes the mutual benefits that accrue through this voluntary cooperation.

Positive Benefits from Cooperating Churches that Benefit the Convention

  • Financial contributions through the Cooperative Program and special offerings help underwrite the world’s most effective mission sending agencies in the history of Christendom, the nation’s largest consortium of theological seminaries, and the godly influence the ERLC brings to the halls of justice across the nation.
  • Members of Cooperating local churches become part of the base from which SBC leaders are drawn.
  • Members of Cooperating churches become the volunteer base of the Convention. Being informed of SBC initiatives, they may choose to give of their time, talents, and resources to the various ministry initiatives of the Convention and its entities.
  • The credibility and ministry of the local church contributes positively (hopefully) to the public image of the Southern Baptist Convention.
  • The networking and fellowship of the members of Cooperating churches promotes a sense of accomplishment that the Convention is making a difference in people’s lives.

Benefits that Accrue to Local Churches Cooperating with the SBC

The Most Important Benefits to the Church Are Spiritual and Intangible

  • Cooperating churches contribute to the synergy generated when thousands of like-minded churches and millions of like-minded believers band together to accomplish Kingdom-sized initiatives.
  • Cooperating churches are part of a networking fellowship that promotes a strong esprit de corps with like-minded men and women across the country and the world.
  • Cooperating churches are part of a broadly recognized denomination that has high impact ministries at home and abroad in missions, education, ethics, and religious liberty.

Ethical Dimensions of Cooperative Giving that Benefit the Whole of the SBC

Financial contributions through the Cooperative Program and special offerings help underwrite two of the most effective missions sending organizations in North America, the nation’s largest consortium of theological seminaries, the godly influence ERLC brings to the public square and the halls of justice across the nation, and other vibrant ministries.

Churches that contribute to these ministries do so to make a maximum impact for Kingdom purposes. On occasion, a pastor asks about his church making a minimal contribution to Convention work simply to qualify for the various benefits cooperating churches receive. Our response to this is consistent: such a request raises ethical questions about the motivation for becoming Southern Baptist. Not only is such a self-serving motivation short-sighted; it also runs counter to the biblical model of self-giving sacrifice and service.

In his second letter to the Corinthian church, the Apostle Paul underscored this principle of self-giving sacrifice by pointing to the value of equitable giving (as opposed to the minimalist giving that often marks the world’s approach). He stated,

For if the eagerness [to give] is there, it is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have. It is not that there may be relief for others and hardship for you, but it is a question of
 equality—at the present time your surplus is available for their need, so their abundance 
may also become available for our need, so there may be equality. As it has been written: The person who gathered much did not have too much, and the person who gathered little did not have too little (2 Corinthians 8:12-15).

In regard to sacrificial giving, Jesus was more to the point: It is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35). He also taught, To whom much is given, much shall be required (Luke 12:48). He concluded one of His most well-known teachings on giving by pointing out that the way we give governs how we will be blessed: Give, and it will be given to you; a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over—will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you (Luke 6:38).

As it pertains to Cooperative Program support for SBC ministries, the ethical question these teachings pose could be stated this way: Should we expect others to be burdened financially so that our way may be made easier? While the Convention has always left it up to the local church to determine for itself its missions giving strategy, both common sense and biblical examples indicate that if every church gave as little as possible in order to gain maximum personal benefit, the entire enterprise from which these benefits flow would quickly come to an end.

Long-term Tangible Benefits All Churches Experience

These benefits begin at the SBC annual meeting following the close of the fiscal year in which initial contributions were made to the SBC.

  • Cooperating churches qualify for messengers to be seated at the SBC Annual Meeting.
  • Cooperating churches may qualify for the seminary discount to endorsed students, as administered through the finance offices of the six SBC seminaries.
  • Cooperating churches qualify for GuideStone retirement supplements provided by state conventions to employees of its Cooperating churches.
  • Church employees of cooperating churches qualify for enrollment in GuideStone health, disability, and life insurance plans.
  • Cooperating churches are given a Web presence with a posting on Church Search.
  • Cooperating churches are granted the privilege to post in Job Search.
  • Pastors and other ordained staff of all Cooperating churches qualify for listing in the Ministers List of SBC pastors and staff, with certain exceptions.
  • Cooperating churches are qualified to have church members selected to serve on the various boards and committees of the Convention.
  • Members of Cooperating churches are provided access to participate in specific missions and ministry projects of the SBC and its entities.

Tangible Benefits for New Church-Starts and Churches New to the SBC

  • When new church starts are begun by existing Southern Baptist churches, the newly constituted churches are covered by the 501(c)(3) IRS exemption granted to all cooperating SBC churches.
  • Existing churches that choose to cooperate with the SBC that do not already have a 501(c)(3) tax exempt status are granted coverage under the SBC umbrella once they are recognized by one of our cooperating Baptist state conventions; or once they submit a letter to the SBC Executive Committee affirming the church is in friendly cooperation with the SBC and establish a track record of financial contributions to SBC causes.
  • Cooperating churches are assigned a LifeWay account with a unique 7-digit number that identifies the church as qualifying for the SBC ministerial discount through LifeWay’s retail stores.
  • Pastors and other staff of Cooperating churches receive a free subscription to SBC LIFE, on request.