David Uth, pastor of First Baptist Church in Orlando, at lunch on the field with an international missionary, listened as the man began to weep when speaking of trying to reach 65 million people with a budget of $3,500.
“It really just broke my heart, to be quite honest,” Uth said.
In a Feb. 17 telephone interview, Uth told Florida Baptist Witness that his five years as a member of the board, and his travel to the mission field, served to “open his eyes” to urgent needs and softened his heart in a way that has caused him and the leadership of his church to look at how they contribute to Southern Baptist mission causes.
Uth also serves as the chairman of the search team for the president of the International Mission Board, a position he assumed last month after Tom Elliff, the current president, announced he would step down when a replacement is found.
Elliff, at a press conference following his Feb. 26 announcement, said one of the greatest challenges to the next president will be to address funding for the missionary force at a time when the Cooperative Program, Southern Baptists’ traditional mechanism for funding missions, has declined rapidly.
“We have recognized and realized that if our only funding mechanism to missions is CP, we’re in deep trouble,” Uth told the Witness. “It cannot be the only funding mechanism. In other words, we must open up the windows and doors so that funds can flow to the mission on the hearts of the people of the Southern Baptist Convention from every possible place. And as long as we restrict the giving to the CP, we will face one of the greatest challenges ever because of what we know to be true over the last 30 years.”
Last May, IMB trustees “overwhelmingly” approved a resolution calling on the SBC Executive Committee for an “aggressive, proactive and prompt” response to the challenges of missionary and mobilization and support.
A Baptist Press story reported that the resolution calls on the Executive Committee to begin providing proposals for a change related to the resolution as early as the SBC’s 2014 annual meeting.
Uth, who was elected as the president of the Florida Baptist State Convention in 2010 and re-elected in 2011, and whose church was a leader in giving to the Cooperative Program at that time, told the Witness he and his financial team have met with key SBC leaders this past year as they have “re-evaluated” all of their giving—inside and outside of the church—including giving through the Cooperative Program.
And the “best option,” Uth said he and church leaders decided on, was to separate the amount formerly earmarked and sent to the Florida Baptist Convention to be distributed through the Cooperative Program—and instead disburse two checks—one that is sent to the Florida Baptist Convention to be used in Cooperative Program ministries supported by the state Convention; and another check disbursed to the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee to be used to send funds to Southern Baptist entities supported by the Cooperative Program at the same percentage provided for in each year’s SBC annual meeting budget.
Uth said First Baptist Orlando will designate these gifts received in 2013, totaling more than $900,000, as “Great Commission Giving,” a designation that was provided for in the report of the Great Commission Task Force and approved by messengers to the SBC annual meeting in 2010.
“I just think it was a wise move on the part of our Convention to say ... we need to recognize Great Commission Giving,” he said.
“Great Commission Giving” is a category listed on the “Annual Church Profile,” a document voluntarily filed by churches each year that collects statistical data (based on the Oct. 1-Sept. 30 church year) such as church membership and contributions to various Southern Baptist causes.
The Florida Baptist Witness and most other state Baptist newspapers do not currently carry a report of Great Commission Giving or other ACP data, but instead rely on actual financial reports of CP giving (based on the calendar year) provided by state conventions when reporting on CP giving. The Florida Baptist Convention anticipates at some point listing Great Commission Giving along with other ACP data, in the Florida Baptist Annual produced by the Florida Baptist Convention and provided yearly to each Florida Baptist State Convention church, according to a Convention spokesperson.
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