By Norm Miller
PHOENIX, (BP)–A pastor, a seminary student and Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, delivered a challenge for renewed commitment to unified ministry through the SBC’s Cooperative Program.
The pastor and seminary student were part of the Executive Committee report to the SBC annual meeting in which Page urged Southern Baptist churches to magnify their impact nationally and internationally by even a 1 percent-of-budget increase in support for CP.
Kevin White, pastor of First Baptist Church in Longview, Wash., thanked Southern Baptists “for giving so sacrificially so that my family might know Jesus Christ. I am the product of your sacrifice and your giving to the Cooperative Program.”
White was 4 years old, living in a mining town of 80 people in northern Nevada, when a CP-funded missionary began visiting and repeatedly witnessing to White’s father.
The missionary “never gave up…. And through his devotion, my family came to Jesus Christ,” White said. “I watched a radical change in my father,” who five years later was pastor of a church the missionary planted in the remote town. White said his father also planted several other churches, primarily among Native Americans, during the next 35 years.
White himself also became a church planter, as will his son, a recent seminary graduate, who will soon engage in church planting among an unreached people group overseas. ”
Three generations so far because you gave. Thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart,” White said tearfully, his voice cracking.
Quincy Jones, a student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, said: “Is our vision of the Cooperative Program the Lord’s vision? … Could the Cooperative Program actually be about more than numbers and dollars [and] actually be about a special stewardship from God given to Southern Baptists?”
The questions — part of an initiative started at Southwestern by Jones — should “stimulate a greater awareness and appreciation for the unprecedented resources and impact Southern Baptists have through this incredible mechanism for ministry called the Cooperative Program,” he said.
The initiative’s goal is “to burn the historic vision of the CP upon the hearts and minds of students in such a way that we graduate with a real commitment to continue this extraordinary stewardship of the Gospel given to Southern Baptists by God,” the father of five added.
Jones said he and his wife Rhonda, who was standing next to him, came from an independent church background and so appreciate the value of cooperative missions. “We look around us, and we get it,” Jones said. “We have caught the vision, and we want to help promote that vision so the impact of the SBC will continue and be even greater for the sake of the Gospel as we press ahead into the 21st century.
“So we thank you, Southern Baptists, for the investment in our lives and in the lives of countless others through your commitment to this incomparable stewardship of the Gospel that we call the Cooperative Program,” Jones said.
Page echoed that sentiment on behalf of all the annual meeting messengers June 14.
“I know all of you could stand here, and in some way or another share the impact of the Cooperative Program upon your life,” Page said. “I certainly can as well.
“What we do together, we do to the glory of God,” Page said. “And He is using cooperative ministry, unified ministry, in a mighty way across this land. Let’s not forget that.”
Despite the level of unified ministry underway, Page said the SBC has “been headed in the wrong direction, in several ways. Our convention is fracturing into various groups, some theological, most methodological.
“I believe our unity affects our evangelism,” Page said. “And it’s time to come together in a principle of unified ministry.
“It is natural to have an individualistic mindset. And in the 21st century, that has reached epic proportions. Everyone thinks they can do best what they do by themselves. Some of our churches have adopted a fortress mentality. That is sad,” Page said. “We need to recommit to a principle of unified ministry. To accomplish this, and to do better at what we’re doing together, we’re asking you … and we’re challenging you, would you please do more than you’ve done before?
“Our Cooperative Program ministries have decreased every year for many years. We challenge you; we encourage you to raise your Cooperative Program support,'” Page said. “Would you do that? One percent next year. We have churches that have already said, ‘We will be a part of this. We will join in raising our Cooperative Program support by 1 percent next year.'”
Page introduced a video showing that a 1 percent-of-budget increase in Cooperative Program giving from all SBC churches would add $100 million to the CP.
This would allow hundreds of churches to be planted across the United States, Page said. Internationally, 380 missionaries could be commissioned to begin reaching the 3,800 unengaged people groups worldwide. A 1 percent increase could boost seminary student enrollment by 16,000 students.
“I’m excited that almost all of our state executive directors have made a promise to move their states to giving more to reach the lost in the world as well as in their own states,” Page said.
“Hear it and hear it well,” he said. “We need a revival of total mission support, including a renewed commitment to unified ministry through the Cooperative Program.”
Norm Miller is a freelance writer based in Richmond, Va.