EDITOR’S NOTE: Sunday, April 10, is Cooperative Program Sunday in the Southern Baptist Convention.
NASHVILLE (BP) — Southern Baptist churches are advancing the Gospel state by state — and around the world — through their commitment to the Cooperative Program.
From national and international mission boards to church-hosted evangelism training — amid a multitude of mission and ministry initiatives — the Cooperative Program plays a key role in introducing people near and far to Jesus.
Among those with a grassroots vantage point to see the broad scope of Cooperative Program outreach are many state convention leaders, to whom Baptist Press turned for their insights.
Here are seven leaders’ reflections. Baptist Press will relay additional leaders’ input as they are received.
Anthony Jordan, executive director, Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma:
The sun never sets on the work of the Cooperative Program, thus never setting on the ministries of churches that give through the CP. Oklahoma churches are making Kingdom differences. For example, together these churches fund Baptist Collegiate Ministry on 36 campuses across Oklahoma, reaching and developing the next generation for Kingdom impact. Or consider that each summer, 52,000-55,000 students and sponsors attend Falls Creek during eight weeks of camp; each year, 2,200-2,500 of those students come to faith in Christ with more than 1,000 committing to missions and ministry. Leaders of the IMB have said repeatedly that there is no place on earth where more missionaries have been called. Without question, Oklahoma Baptists can do more together than we can ever do alone. The Cooperative Program is Oklahoma Baptists united to carry the Gospel from the front door of the church to the ends of the earth.
Terry Dorsett, executive director, New England Baptist Convention:
In an era when declining baptisms is a matter of great concern among Southern Baptists, New England Baptists rejoice in how God is using the Cooperative Program to help propel evangelistic efforts across our region. Because of the faithful Cooperative Program giving of 350 churches across the six New England states, Bruce James, BCNE evangelism director, and Tim Buehner, BCNE mission mobilization director, have trained more than 1,800 people in the last year in a wide variety of evangelism efforts. James said, “We decided that instead of having one big annual evangelism conference, we would have a lot of smaller conferences that focused on various people groups around New England.” The BCNE helped sponsor, and fund, 24 small conferences that have had as few as 20 and as many as 150 people present. Though this approach may not feature a flashy big-name speaker, in the end, more people were trained and mobilized to do evangelism, which has resulted in the third year in a row of record baptisms in the BCNE. The Cooperative Program also helps us provide direct grants to churches for specific evangelistic projects. Without the Cooperative Program, many of our smaller churches would lack the training and resources needed to reach their communities the way they feel led to.
Jim Richards, executive director, Southern Baptists of Texas Convention:
Pastor Glen Pearce shared at the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Cooperative Luncheon on Feb. 29th the simple axiom that you can’t out-give God. When Glen became pastor of First Baptist Church in Iowa Park, Texas, the church was not meeting their bills. Cooperative Program was budgeted but other items received priority. At times staff was unable to get their salary checks. Even with this gloomy situation, pastor and people rallied to take care of God’s work. They decided to send the CP investment even when the income didn’t look promising. Several years later the church has returned to financial stability and renewed mission vision. Pastor Glen and the church rejoice in the provisions from God. It will take this type of sacrificial generosity from churches but we can reach our states and the nations through the CP.
Lynn Nikkel, executive director, Wyoming Southern Baptist Convention:
The Cooperative Program is the lifeline for Southern Baptist Great Commission advance. In Wyoming people are our greatest resource and the Cooperative Program provides ministry resources to churches through the Wyoming convention staff, both in the office and in the field. The Cooperative Program also provides materials and other resources for churches. Those people and material resources are possible through the support of churches and their members through CP giving. CP supports church planting, church evangelism projects, leadership development and support of churches in transition. As an example, for two years at the National High School Finals Rodeo, CP supported over 100 volunteers sharing the Gospel nearly 4,000 times, with over 275 reported salvation decisions. Twelve church plants and 16 seed congregations are another example of CP support. It’s true — together we can accomplish more than any of us can do on our own. Cooperation is key to Kingdom advance.
Fred Hewett, executive director, Montana Southern Baptist Convention:
The amazing part of the Cooperative Program for us in Montana is found in fact that many of the churches in our Montana convention are small, remote and feel rather isolated from the heartbeat of Southern Baptist life. Yet, by giving to missions through CP, even the smallest, most isolated church in Montana touches people living in the most isolated and remote places of the planet. This is an incredible reality and sets us apart from other mission-minded evangelicals. This fact of CP has resonated very strongly with Montana Baptists.
Gary Hollingsworth, executive director, South Carolina Baptist Convention:
Since its inception in 1925, the Cooperative Program has provided a consistent channel of both financial and strategic opportunities for Southern Baptists to impact the world with the Gospel. Our culture is marked more and more by change, and in many ways, chaos. Kingdom partnership through the Cooperative Program brings stability into our ever-changing world. Here in South Carolina, the Cooperative Program allows churches to do more together than any one of them could ever do alone. The genius is that regardless of the size, style or setting, every church can be a part of getting the Gospel to every person, beginning at home and stretching across the globe. I personally thank God for the many ways the Cooperative Program has impacted my own life and ministry and pray that future generations of Southern Baptist ministers and leaders will see the value added by heartily supporting the Cooperative Program. While we know God never changes, the world does, and the Cooperative Program is a stabilizing ministry factor in today’s chaotic world.
Bob Mills, executive director, Kansas-Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptists:
Every once in a while, a people of God stumble across something that proves to be an act of genius. In 1925 our Southern Baptist forefathers instituted a mission funding process called the Cooperative Program. Soon after its inception, the United States was plunged into the Great Depression. CP survived and thrived. CP proved itself as a consistent way to finance missions through all kinds of conflicts from World War II to Afghanistan. CP has survived the ups and downs of the economy, denominational strife and denominational restructuring. I am convinced that it is still the best way any group of believes has come upon to fund the Great Commission efforts of God’s people.
Paul Chitwood, executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention:
Orphan care is only one ministry in a very long list of all the mission work accomplished through Cooperative Program offerings from Kentucky Baptist Convention churches. But the plight of orphans is no trivial matter in the eyes of God nor in the eyes of Kentucky Baptists. Currently more than 900 hurting kids in Kentucky are touched by the orphan care ministry we call Sunrise Children’s Services. While most of these 900 aren’t orphans in the traditional sense, their plight may be worse. Rather than experiencing their parents’ loss of life, the lives of these children were at risk at the hands of their parents, so much so that Child Protective Services determined these kids are no longer safe in their parents’ care. Yet, true to His nature, God has answered the cries of the fatherless and, through every church that gives through the Cooperative Program, provided a loving touch to heal the brokenhearted.
Randy Adams, executive director of the Northwest Baptist Convention:
The Pathway Church in Tacoma, Wash., started six years ago, thanks in large part to the Cooperative Program gifts of Southern Baptists in the Northwest and across the nation. The pastor received training and support through CP-supported church planting missionaries, and he himself received funding through CP. The Northwest Baptist Convention has a mission partnership in East Asia and, last November, The Pathway Church sent a team to work with an IMB missionary there. The missionary told them about a “tentmaker missions opportunity” for someone who could teach flying lessons in English. All eyes turned to a female mission team member who was a U.S. Navy pilot. She was preparing to leave the Navy, which she did, and on Feb. 21 of this year she moved to East Asia to see if serving God through this flight school was His next big plan for her. That is CP missions!
Tim Lubinus, executive director of the Baptist Convention of Iowa:
I led a training session recently with three of Iowa’s newest church planters on the topic of developing a church discipleship ministry. The encouraging thing is that all three church planters were carefully selected and developed at local churches in Iowa. We are seeing more and more churches fulfill their responsibility to disciple believers and give them vision and support to reach new communities for Christ. The Cooperative Program provides the structure to bring together the resources of the Baptist Convention of Iowa churches. Working together we each contribute the necessary elements of a healthy church plant: selecting and developing church planters, recruiting a core team, providing vision, leading specific training and contributing financially. The Cooperative Program enables the Baptist Convention of Iowa to partner with churches from across the nation to reach new communities for Christ. This has been an essential partnership with our convention since its founding 20 years ago.
Rob Lee, executive director of the Utah-Idaho Southern Baptist Convention:
CP is being used to transform one life at a time among unreached people here in Utah and Idaho, across North America and the world. Through your faithful giving to the Cooperative Program, the Utah-Idaho Southern Baptist Convention is able to support starting new churches. Just this past year we saw 10 new churches planted. Currently we have 20 church plants supported by the Cooperative Program — the most at one time in our history. Through the Cooperative Program we are reaching people groups who call Utah home. Our Chin (Burmese) church plant is reaching refugees with the Gospel. We have started an Urdu-speaking church and God is blessing five new Hispanic plants. We are seeing cowboy churches starting in eastern Idaho reaching the indigenous peoples through a church planter supported by the Cooperative Program. He is pastoring three cowboy church plants, an existing cowboy church and has just started a new Anglo church.
J. Robert White, executive director of the Georgia Baptist Convention:
The Georgia Baptist Mission Board is currently promoting the theme “CP Beyond” to reflect four enduring components of the Cooperative Program. When I tithe through my local church, I give beyond myself through a covenant community committed to cooperative missions. As my church partners in association with sister Baptist churches, our CP giving connects us in mission with those beyond ourselves to reach the lost in Georgia, our spiritual Judea. Because we are Southern Baptists, our CP gifts go through the Georgia Baptist Mission Board beyond Georgia in mission to reach our Samaria and the uttermost parts of the earth. And our CP giving connects us with those who came before us and beyond now with those who will be called as missionaries after us, securing a missional avenue for future generations. No matter what the economic outlook, the Cooperative Program still allows us to reach beyond one offering.
Leo Endel, executive director of the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention:
Use the word “strategy” in most churches and people’s eyes immediately glaze over. Yet, we see strategy planned and executed throughout the entire Bible. A few years ago, while studying the apostle Paul’s offering for the Jerusalem saints (Acts 24:17; Romans 15:25-28; 1 Corinthians 16:1-4; 2 Corinthians 8-9), I was surprised to see the clear strategy steps through which Paul planned and received a missionary offering to display God’s glorious Messiah and win his people, Israel, to Jesus. Paul’s missionary offering was based on a number of principles:
1) It was a familiar style of offering. Jewish communities scattered around the Roman world gave annually for the upkeep of the temple in Jerusalem through an offering called the Temple Tax (Nehemiah 10:32).
2) It was a voluntary offering (1 Corinthians 16:1; 2 Corinthians 9:5,15, 8:8, 9:7). Individuals and churches decided how much to give. Paul didn’t demand a set amount.
3) Yet, it was an obligated offering. “They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them in their material blessings” (Romans 15:27).
4) It was a cooperative offering. Many churches pooled their resources together to help the missionary cause (Acts 16-17; 1 Corinthians 16:1, 2 Corinthians 8:11).
5) It was an accountable offering (1 Corinthians 16:3). Paul took the offerings, verification letters, and people who could assure the funds delivered matched the funds given.
6) It was a systematic offering. “On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come” (1 Corinthians 16:2).
7) It was a missionary offering. Careful reading of the passages that mention the offering (especially Romans 15:5 and 2 Corinthians 9:10) coupled with the Old Testament metaphors (Isaiah 55:10 and Hosea 10:12) reveal that Paul’s offering was a missionary offering.
Remarkably, the principles of Paul’s strategy provide the biblical basis for Southern Baptists’ mission funding through the Cooperative Program.
Compiled by Art Toalston, senior editor of Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Reprinted from Baptist Press (www.baptistpress.com).
Baptist Press (BP) is the official news service of the Southern Baptist Convention and provides news to the 42 state Baptist papers. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally.