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.
The Most Important Benefits to the Church Are Spiritual and Intangible
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.
Tangible Benefits for New Church-Starts and Churches New to the SBC