by Rusty Hart
When we think of the Cooperative Program, our focus is usually on the impact we can have upon the world. While we rightfully place the vision on the lost, the reality is that the Cooperative Program can have a lasting IMPACT upon each individual and each local church that participates.
Increases awareness of what God is doing in our world.
We live in a world where people tell us that God is irrelevant and no one is interested in hearing about Him. Many church members are convinced that yesterday’s Good News isn’t worth repeating any more. Through the Cooperative Program, we are seeing hundreds of thousands come to Christ each year and it reminds us that God is still moving among us. When we see the miracle of salvation in lives all across the globe, we see the greatness of our God and we know for certain that He still holds the world (and us) in His hands.
Motivates personal commitment to evangelism.
When we make missions a priority and begin to catch a vision for what God can do, we become more motivated to share the Gospel. Whether in the course of our daily routine, in the ministry of our local church, or through an evangelistic event or mission trip, evangelism becomes a part of who we are.
Prepares churches to reach the lost around them.
Most churches fail to understand that the Cooperative Program gives back to churches. Should a time come when the church has legal, financial, or other needs, the State Convention stands by with the help needed. If a church needs guidance about ministry decisions or extra manpower for an evangelistic event, someone is there to help. The reality is that because of the ministries of the Cooperative Program, churches are never alone. CP is continually strengthening churches to be better prepared to reach the lost around them.
Allows for practical involvement in missions.
The Cooperative Program gives us the opportunity to make missions personal. With over 12,000 missionaries in North America and around the world, we have the unique chance to get personally involved through prayer, by sending resources and materials, or by going to lend a helping hand. As God lays certain places on our hearts, we have the opportunity to connect to our missionaries there and share first hand in what God is doing. CP allows us to take missions from something we read on a page to something we live out in a practical way.
Connects churches together for maximum potential.
Regardless of size, the Cooperative Program takes churches to places they might never go, and helps them share with people they might never meet face to face. The smallest church can play a vital part in world missions through their faithful giving. Even if a church takes multiple mission trips around the world or leads its own missions efforts, CP multiplies that church’s ability to literally reach the entire world. CP beautifully connects all of our churches in a way that allows for maximum effectiveness in taking the Gospel to the world.
Ties each individual and every church to fulfilling the Great Commission.
When a church is committed to CP, they are a part of a comprehensive strategy to fulfill the Great Commission. From training future leaders at our colleges and seminaries, to sending missionaries through our mission boards. From meeting practical needs through children’s homes and disaster relief efforts, to sharing the Gospel message in youth camps, evangelistic events, and strengthening churches. Southern Baptists are truly changing the world through the Cooperative Program.
The key to a church receiving the maximum impact of its involvement in the Cooperative Program is simple. It is taking every opportunity to make sure that its members understand CP and all that God is doing through it around the world. When we realize that God takes our offerings, combines them with the gifts received in Southern Baptist churches literally around the world, then blesses the ministry of these funds by using them to bring thousands upon thousands of people into the Kingdom each year, we see that the Cooperative Program is truly changing the world. Now that is something to be excited about and involved in!
This article originally appeared in the August 8th issue of the Arkansas Baptist News, the news agency of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention. Rusty Hart and his wife, Lori, served with the International Mission Board in Russia for 8 ½ years before joining the ABSC staff in 2010. They live in Little Rock with their three daughters, Laura, Megan, and Hannah.