EDITOR’S NOTE: O.S. Hawkins, president of GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, writes about the significance of the Cooperative Program to the viability of the SBC’s financial services entity. October is Cooperative Program Emphasis Month in the SBC.
by O.S. Hawkins
DALLAS (BP) — GuideStone Financial Resources, as we know it, would not exist were it not for the Cooperative Program.
That statement may seem odd coming from the president of an entity that, since 2008, has returned more than $10 million in Cooperative Program receipts for missions and ministry — and receives no money today — but it’s absolutely true.
The Cooperative Program unifies us as a people, unites us in a common mission and joins our hearts together in the cause of fulfilling the Great Commission.
The vast number of GuideStone employees — even those whose employment conditions don’t explicitly require it — choose to worship in and give their time, talent and treasure in Southern Baptist churches faithful to the Cooperative Program. Why do we support this mission when there’s no direct financial benefit to GuideStone? Simply because the Cooperative Program is the most effective means yet devised to carry out the supernatural task God has placed before us of taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth.
Here are some of the enduring values of the Cooperative Program:
It broadens our reach.
When people outside our convention hear “Southern Baptist,” certain things come to mind. Fidelity to the inerrant Word of God. Commitment to missions. A heart for service to others. All of these things are manifested in the Southern Baptist Convention because of our combined efforts through the Cooperative Program. In 2004, Southern Baptists enabled GuideStone to begin serving the needs of likeminded denominations and churches. Then again in 2013, the convention enabled us to serve those in the pew — as we have those in the pulpit — by making our nationally recognized investments available for retail investing. Both of these expansions allowed us to recognize additional economies of scale for the benefit of the Southern Baptist pastor at the crossroads.
How does the Cooperative Program help in those efforts? When GuideStone began reaching out to these likeminded entities and denominations, we did not have to answer questions about our capabilities. These organizations knew our key partners in SBC life as well as the services we provided for them. Our mission boards are the gold standard in mission-sending entities. Our seminaries are among the largest in the land. Our disaster relief ministry is called upon in times of national trial and need because governments and aid organizations know that Southern Baptists, as a people of God, can be counted on. In large measure, we are able to do our work in such dimensions thanks to the Cooperative Program.
It bolsters our resolve.
When we sit down to talk to our key convention leadership, we are always so thankful for the work God is doing through the Southern Baptist Convention. Because of Southern Baptists’ commitment to doctrinal fidelity, our churches are committed to giving, and that giving allows our leadership to attempt new things for the cause of Christ. For GuideStone, that means joining with our partners at the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission in standing up on behalf of pastors against the contraceptive mandate that would require us to provide abortion-causing drugs in our health plans, or on behalf of pastors as we fight for the housing allowance. Because of the Cooperative Program, we have partners we can trust to fulfill our educational and missional causes.
It bestows our resources.
We all must view life with eternity on our hearts. Through the Cooperative Program, we as Southern Baptists impact the eternity of untold millions. Seeds planted by missionaries today may burst forth into revivals half a world away tomorrow. Cooperative Program monies used to offset tuition for our seminary students today train the leaders of tomorrow, most of whom will have an impact on two or three generations to come. For GuideStone, the Cooperative Program continues to prepare our participants today for ministry tomorrow, even as our participants trust us today to help them prepare financially for tomorrow.
During a quarter century in the pastorate, I have been part of leading every type of church — from the concrete canyons of downtown Dallas and the historic First Baptist Church there to our first pastorate at the rural, western Oklahoma outpost of Hobart. Do you know the one commonality of pastoring one of the largest churches in our denomination and one of the average-sized churches in our denomination? The Cooperative Program. Through it, in both Dallas and Hobart, we were part of that effort of missions and education. Because of it, Southern Baptist churches for nearly 90 years have been able to “have the same love, share the same feelings and focus on one goal” (Philippians 2:2) — taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth.
Reprinted from Baptist Press (www.baptistpress.com), news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.