EDITOR'S NOTE: I recently read an article by Jim Richards, the Executive Director of the SBCT, and wanted to share with you the heart of his message. He has accurately captured the purpose and power of giving through the Cooperative Program of the Southern Baptist Convention. It is my desire that all of the Michigan Baptist family would be “All In” when it comes to “punching holes in the darkness” through the Cooperative Program. – Tim Patterson
GRAPEVINE, TX – SBTC President Juan Sanchez issued a challenge in the last TEXAN. He sent out a video with the same message. He wants every church to be “All In” through the Cooperative Program during our celebration year of 2018. The SBTC will be 20 years old this November. The Cooperative Program makes it possible to reach Texas and touch the world together. Church plants, evangelism strategies, revitalization, over 100 local church ministries and much more are accomplished through the CP.
Although Hurricane Harvey and a downturn in the oil economy have impacted some churches, God has sustained the ministry efforts through 2017. There are ways for more churches to be involved to help with the work in Texas and beyond. Let me suggest five ways for Southern Baptists to be “All In.”
1. Pastors, please speak about the Cooperative Program to your congregations.
By explaining what it is and how it accomplishes Great Commission ministry, you will motivate your people to become more generous. Sunday morning has become the one major gathering of churches in most Southern Baptist contexts. People know what the pastor values. If he endorses the Cooperative Program on Sunday morning there will be greater participation by church members.
2. Laypersons need better education about the Cooperative Program.
This includes an understanding of how CP works and to know what it does. Lay involvement in the Southern Baptist Convention has reached an all-time low. If laypersons fully grasp what the CP does in reaching the nations, more will participate. Since the CP is not a direct appeal to wealthy donors, there is no threat to the local church’s ministry. It seems reasonable that church members will give more through the church if they are invested beyond their community. Small groups, one-on-one instruction or involvement in convention life at a state or national level would expose church members to the greatest missions funding tool ever devised.
3. Debt is one of the greatest hindrances to gospel advance.
Building costs are exorbitant. Sometimes a church funds its building program by reducing missions giving. The Cooperative Program seems impersonal, making it the easiest target for reductions. The Southern Baptists of Texas Foundation can help with loans and provide stewardship resources to assist a church in making good decisions without harming mission work through the CP. The Cooperative Program is people. There are over 3,000 international missionaries, 15,000 seminary students and 100-plus SBTC church planters depending on the CP. To each one of them, the CP is personal.
4. Unashamed identification of churches as Southern Baptist is essential.
Even without “Baptist” in the name of the church, there needs to be an honest expression of theological affinity to the Baptist Faith and Message (2000). Southern Baptist churches should participate in the Cooperative Program. The SBC is like a bicycle. It has two wheels, doctrinal agreement and shared funding. A bicycle has to keep moving or it will tip over. Both wheels have to turn. The SBC will cease to exist if either element disappears. Before the Conservative Resurgence the liberal\moderate faction wanted to make the SBC solely turn on one wheel, the Cooperative Program. Doctrinal compatibility took a back seat if present at all. Now, with biblical inerrantists in SBC leadership, doctrinal affirmation is expected but we hear less emphasis on the Cooperative Program as a shared giving plan to assist each church in carrying out the Great Commission. Unless there is a return to cooperative giving, the SBC will be nothing more than the Baptist Bible Fellowship.
5. Continue to give CP while you go!
Before the creation of the Cooperative Program, churches were constantly bombarded by ministries requesting funds. This approach is known as the “societal” method. Larger churches and wealthy members were called upon to undergird the work of the convention. We have seen more direct mission efforts by churches in the last 25 years than in all the years preceding. There are wonderful benefits to the mission trips with hands-on involvement. My doctoral project and paper were about establishing a mission trip ministry in the local church. It is not either/or but both/and. Yet some churches have chosen to give to direct mission projects by omitting or reducing the Cooperative Program. There are not enough large churches or wealthy individuals to sustain the Southern Baptist system of cooperative giving. Local churches give through the CP to enable ministries in North America and around the world. Without local churches investing in Great Commission ministries through the Cooperative Program, the greatest mission and ministry force the evangelical world has ever known will unravel.
Generosity is not about keeping the Southern Baptist Convention alive. It is about reaching 18 million lost people in Texas. It is about planting churches across North America. It is about training the next generation of leaders. It is about sending missionaries with the gospel to the hardest-to-reach places on the planet. April 8 is Cooperative Program Sunday. If this date does not work for you, plan to observe CP Sunday on another date. Join with other SBTC churches and be “All In” with the Cooperative Program.
(Special thanks to Dr. Jim Richards for his outstanding article on cooperative ministry.)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Jim Richards serves as Executive Director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.