Southern Baptist Convention Leader Visits MC
March 24, 2009America's financial crisis is really a time of opportunity for churches across the nation, says a longtime leader with the Southern Baptist Convention.
"I encourage pastors to challenge the people that such time is a time of faith, not fear," said Morris Chapman, president and chief executive officer of the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee.
Dr. Chapman on Tuesday was wrapping up two days of lectures and interviews at Mississippi College, his alma mater. The Kosciusko native spoke to pastors, MC professors, Christian studies students, mission leaders and others during his stops on the Clinton campus.
The nation's economic meltdown stretching from Wall Street to Main Street since September is impacting tithing to churches and other donations that support everything from college scholarships to mission trips.
Receipts for the Cooperative Program are running about 3.2 percent less than last year, Chapman said. The Cooperative Program is the financial channel of cooperation between state conventions and the Nashville-based Southern Baptist Convention. His group works with 41 state conventions. The organization's more than 16 million members worship at more than 42,000 churches nationwide.
Despite the bad economy, Chapman said he is very grateful that "we are seeing a small downtick" in receipts from October through the end of February.
During this time, most churches are holding off on larger expenditures. "Nobody knows how long this will last," he said during an interview after a noon luncheon speech at Alumni Hall.
While some major expenditures are being postponed, Chapman said churches typically are not curtailing their mission efforts in the United States and around the globe.
"We know people are struggling," said the 1963 MC graduate, but also noted that Southern Baptists remain very faithful around the world.
Chapman earlier Tuesday took time for a morning guest appearance on MC's campus radio station Star 93.5.
The president and CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention since 1992, Chapman also recalled his roots in Attala County, and what brought him to MC as a young man.
"At the age of 12, God called me into the ministry," Chapman said during an interview at Alumni Hall. So when he enrolled at high school in Mississippi, he felt that God would want him to attend a Christian university. "It was a simple decision to choose MC."
Photo: Dr. Morris Chapman (left) with Dr. Eric Pratt, MC vice president for Christian development