By Marv Knox
LUBBOCK–Bob Campbell sounded like the stereotypical long, tall Texas pastor when he delivered his Baptist General Convention of Texas president's address Nov. 10.
He bragged on his church.
“I am here tonight to tell you that my church–Westbury Baptist Church in Houston–is doing greater things than Jesus did during his earthly life,” Campbell proclaimed.
|BGCT President Bob Campbell illustrates the impact of cooperative giving through the Baptist General Convention of Texas by telling all the things his Houston church does through the BGCT. (Nan Dickson/BGCT Photo)|
Such a claim “sounds almost blasphemous,” he admitted. “How could anyone ever do more than God?”
Yet that's exactly what Jesus intended for churches to do, he stressed, citing a litany of Westbury's accomplishments in the past year.
Those feats included providing $100,000 to start churches in Amarillo, praying for all the 1,800 employees at Baptist St. Anthony's Hospital in Amarillo, buying medicine in Guatemala, sending medical personnel to Bulgaria, placing shoes on Latvian orphans' feet, writing legislation for foster care in 27 nations and holding hands of 150,000 medical patients in Dallas-Fort Worth.
“You might be saying to yourself about now: 'I have heard preachers tend to exaggerate, but this is ridiculous. How could one church do all that?'” Campbell conceded.
“Well, … Westbury Baptist Church in Houston takes seriously the fact that Jesus said: 'Anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these.'”
Campbell's church accomplishes Jesus' challenge by working with 5,717 other BGCT churches to support the convention's Cooperative Program budget, he said.
Last year, for example, those churches contributed $25 million to 23 BGCT benevolence and education ministries that operate across Texas and around the globe and have combined budgets of $4.3 billion.
In Texas alone, those schools and benevolence agencies minister in more than 100 locations, Campbell said, noting they directly served 2.5 million Texans, not counting their family members.
“That is one out of every 10 Texans,” Campbell reported. “This does not include what was done in partnership ministries and in these institutions reaching out to work for Christ around the world.
“These are Baptists … doing what Jesus did–BGCT Baptist work. And Christ wanted it to happen. He wanted us to do more than he ever did while he was confined to his earthly body.”
For a large part of his address, Campbell illustrated how churches that support the BGCT Cooperative Program fulfill Jesus' audacious desire through the convention's institutions. He named every one, including hospital systems, child-care agencies, facilities that care for the elderly, an academy, universities, seminaries and other ministry-training institutions.
Texas Baptist churches, like Westbury, have a hand in all these ministries because they contribute to the BGCT Cooperative Program, he reiterated.
Because church members believe in and want to support these ministries, Westbury contributes to the BGCT Adopted Budget, which channels 79 percent of receipts to state convention causes, Campbell said.
In addition, the church allows individual church members to decide where they want the additional 21 percent–the “worldwide” portion–of their missions contribution to go, he added. According to BGCT practice, that portion can be allocated to the Southern Baptist Convention, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, the state convention or selected other causes.
“The members–not the pastor, not the finance committee, not the deacon body, not even the church itself–decide where he or she wants that 21 percent to go. Under the Holy Spirit, they can decide that,” he noted. “I challenge you to practice priesthood of the believer. Let your people decide; stop deciding for them. Trust God and trust your people.”
Some churches have not chosen to participate in the convention's Adopted Budget and consequently allocate less than 79 percent of their Cooperative Program gifts to the BGCT, Campbell said.
“That is hurting every ministry I have spoken about,” he lamented.
Campbell challenged those churches to compare how they allocate Cooperative Program gifts between state and worldwide causes to how they divide their church budget between local and Cooperative Program causes.
“You feel it is wrong for Texas Baptists to keep 79 percent of their mission offering for use in Texas and in its worldwide ministries,” he said. “Does your church send 21 percent (of its budget) to worldwide ministries and missions through the Cooperative Program? Why not?
“Do you think you need more than 79 percent of your budget offerings to do ministry in and around your local church? Does that seem like good Christian practice to you?
“Then it is not wrong for Texas Baptists to spend 79 percent here in Texas and in its worldwide ministries.”
During the past two years, since the BGCT Adopted Budget established the 79/21 division between state and worldwide causes, the Southern Baptist Convention has “criticized and complained” about the decision, Campbell said.
However, those complaints ignore several important factors, he said.
First, 10.5 million Texans “have no religious affiliation at all,” he said, noting, “That is 45 percent of Texans who need Christ.”
Second, the SBC “remained totally silent” when other state conventions reduced their gifts to the SBC, “but they openly criticized the BGCT for trying to retain enough money to reach the 10.5 million unchurched Texans.”
Third, the BGCT already doesn't have enough money to start churches. For example, when Westbury tried to start its fifth mission congregation, it was told the BGCT doesn't have enough money to help with the church start, he said. Meanwhile, Union Baptist Association has told Westbury it needs to start three Hispanic congregations.
“Tell your church about all you have seen here these days,” Campbell told about 3,000 participants in the BGCT meeting. “Plead with them to help increase the giving so that we can continue this work that reaches all over Texas and beyond our borders to other states and countries around the world.
“Ask your people to give 79 percent of their Cooperative Program dollars to the BGCT. God will thank you for it. You can be sure that by doing so, your church will be advancing the kingdom of God.”