Convention responds to Baptist Press story

Published May 01, 2012

FRESNO – California Southern Baptist Convention leaders say information in an April 12 Baptist Press story concerning the Convention’s church planting efforts are misleading and inaccurate.

Fermin A. Whittaker, CSBC executive director, said two paragraphs in the article, entitled “NAMB addressing tensions regarding strategy,” need “correcting and clarification.”

In one reference, the article reported CSBC was concerned “NAMB’s decision to move more resources to church planting would adversely impact many effective ministries in the state, primarily by eliminating jobs.”

Whittaker said he was “saddened” that “missionary positions” were only characterized as “jobs. These 12 ministry evangelism (‘Love Loud’) missionaries are effective ministers in California. Some of them have given 30 years to Southern Baptists and have been instrumental in training, mobilizing and reaching hundreds, if not thousands, for Christ.”

Whittaker added he was concerned about losing the positions because “California Southern Baptists don’t necessarily believe church starting is the only way to reach Californians for Christ.”

He noted that in 2011 the 12 eliminated evangelism missionaries reported 9,032 professions of faith and confirmed 1,637 baptisms through their efforts. Also important, Whittaker added, the missionaries were instrumental in engaging almost 16,000 volunteers from CSBC congregations in ministry.

“If we really want to reach California and North America, we will never do it solely through church planting, and need these types of ministries to mobilize church members to get outside the walls of our church buildings and tell others about Jesus while ministering in His name,” Whittaker declared.

He added he was “disappointed” that Baptist Press wrongly reported the amount in the Convention’s budget for church planting. The story stated, “California currently allocates 3.2 percent of its budget to church planting, which the convention’s Focus 21 Task Force had signaled a need to increase.”

The percentage refers to “church planting” efforts when in reality the task force sought to measure resources going to “church planters.”

“There is an important distinction between the church planting budget and the amount from the budget which goes to church planters,” Whittaker said.

Steve Pearson, CSBC chief financial officer, explained the task force included the “3.2 percent” in their report as the “percentage of California Cooperative Program dollars” going to “church planters” and not “the percent of its budget to church planting.”

Pearson said Cooperative Program gifts are only one element in the budget. Also included in the CSBC budget for church planting are California Mission Offering gifts, matching dollars from NAMB, gifts for church planting and trust and endowment income.

“When all of that is compiled, the church planting budget in California is $3,351,864, or 30.3 percent, of the total budget for CSBC ministries. CSBC invests about 28.5 percent, or more than $950,000, of the ‘church planting budget’ in ‘church planters’ annually.”

Pearson noted CSBC “prioritizes” church planting since that budget is $1 million more than any other CSBC ministry group.

Whittaker added that CSBC started 124 new churches in 2011 and is consistently a leader among state Baptist conventions for starting churches.

“There is no way CSBC could start 124 churches a year with only 3.2 percent of our budget.”

Whittaker also noted California is “one of the most lost areas in the world and California Southern Baptists are committed to reaching the world in California through a variety of ministries, which includes church planting.”

“God wants us to engage Him with our concerns, especially about winning souls in our state through a variety of ministries. Through prayer, God imparts what He wants us to do to support reaching the lost in California. CSBC is appreciative of all gifts we receive for mission and ministry in our state whether through CMO or the Cooperative Program.”

McCullough noted churches will be encouraged to make a commitment to support CMO in 2012. Churches also will be encouraged to set a goal of at least $1,000.

Materials are mailed each year in the summer for churches to use in September, but the prayer and offering emphasis can be observed any time during the year.

“September is the time when most state Baptist conventions encourage their state mission emphasis because of other Southern Baptist special mission offerings,” McCullough explained.

He added that materials for use by churches – posters, bulletin inserts/prayer guides, videos, etc. – will be available soon and are always free to churches. Other resources can be found on the CMO Website, www.calmissions.com, to help churches promote the emphasis.

McCullough encouraged Convention church/mission leaders to look for information in the mail and through CSBC communication tools about the California Mission Offering.