by Joe Conway
NASHVILLE – The significant role of the Cooperative Program in Southern Baptist life took center stage at the 2015 Send North America Conference during a main session panel discussion led by Kevin Ezell on Aug. 4.
Ezell, president of the North America Mission Board (NAMB) was joined on the platform by Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary President Danny Akin, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Al Mohler and Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ELRC) President Russell Moore.
“Each one of these men would tell you—we cannot do what we do, and David [Platt] and the IMB [International Mission Board] cannot do what they do, if it were not for the sacrificial gifts of people in churches who give faithfully every Sunday,” said Ezell, who added that he is equally appreciative of “churches who make a commitment to something called the Cooperative Program. As they give to that, part of that goes to support the International Mission Board, the North American Mission Board, the ELRC and all the seminaries.”
Ezell asked the panelists to share what it means to them to be part of the Southern Baptist family.
“Southern Baptists … have a passion to see the gospel go to the underserved and unreached areas of the North America and around the world,” said Akin. “I can’t think of a better agenda to have, or better brothers and sisters to join together to serve the Lord Jesus to see that accomplished. It takes us all coming together and doing our part.”
“Southern Baptists immediately respond to crisis like an earthquake in Nepal,” said Moore. “The heart of Southern Baptist is to serve. They are first in and last out in disasters, staying until the end, and while they are doing that they are sharing the gospel.”
“My first response is gratitude when I think of what Southern Baptist provide,” Mohler said. Mohler shared that he had benefited from the SBC even before he was born.
“It was VBS, mission camps, all this put together,” said Mohler of his SBC heritage. “What I would say to young church planters–you are going to belong to somebody. There is no way you are going to do this by yourself. I’m just so thankful that Southern Baptists have been doing this for a very long time.
“That explains why … you have six seminaries with over 15,000 students. That didn’t just happen. Somebody has to come up with a plan. The Cooperative Program is so much a part of that. How else are you going to give to the local church and have it reach so many different places without you having to think about it all the time? Eighty-plus-year-old ladies in Arkansas giving out of their annuity checks made it possible for 13,000, largely very young, people to be in here, and they did not have to orchestrate it, but they want to be a part of it.”
Mohler added that the Cooperative Program makes missions possible through not only seminaries and national entities, but Baptist state conventions, as well. “We can go to sleep at night knowing that somebody is telling somebody about Jesus because of the Cooperative Program,” said Mohler.
Ezell said he wanted to remind church planters that they are not alone.
“What I share with most church planters–the beautiful thing about being a part of a family is you are not alone–you are not alone,” said Ezell. “If you’re in Detroit, or you’re in Maine, or you’re in Albuquerque or you’re in California, you are part of a family. We come together from so many different perspectives, I just appreciate the heart and the way you have done that.
“The real purpose of this was to get the family all together to lift up the name of Jesus. We are connecting with people who are like-minded and like-hearted,” said Ezell.
“Make sure you have friends in ministry that you are going to spend the rest of your life with,” said Mohler. “That you are going to be a text or a phone call away from–that you will be thinking about every day and praying for every day. They will be friends in ministry for life.”
To view the entire panel discussion, visit https://vimeo.com/135725021.
To discover more about the Cooperative Program, visit http://www.sbc.net/cp.
Joe Conway writes for the North American Mission Board.