By Ken Stalls, BCM/D President and Pastor of South End Baptist Church, Frederick, Md.
Do you know what our denomination’s focus is for April 10th? If you do not know, it is Cooperative Program (CP) Day. I am a huge fan of CP. I was saved in a church that was started with CP funds. I graduated from a Southern Baptist College that benefited from CP funds. I graduated from a seminary that received major funding from CP. As a former director of missions, I funneled much needed support from CP for new starts and mission and ministry pastors. Every area of my life has in some way benefited from the Cooperative Program.
The Cooperative Program is a vital part of who we are as Southern Baptists. Since our beginning in 1845, we have had one mission and that is the Great Commission that Jesus gave us in Matt. 28:19-20. Initially, we funded this endeavor by special appeals to churches through what we would call the “societal” approach. Each entity would often seek support from the churches. This resulted in severe financial deficits, competition among entities, overlapping pledge campaigns and frequent emergency appeals which overwhelmed the churches and under supported the mission efforts.
In 1919, leaders of our convention proposed the 75 Million Campaign, a 5-year pledge campaign that for the first time included the missions and ministries of all the state conventions as well as that of the SBC. Even though that effort fell short of its goals, a God-given partnership of missions support was conceived called the Cooperative Program. The genius of CP has enabled us to fund missions around the world better than any other method.
Each church prayerfully makes the decision how much, if any, of their undesignated gifts will be given to reach the lost through the Cooperative Program. Whatever the local church decides to give is sent to the State Convention – Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware (BCM/D) office. In the annual meeting of the BCM/D, the messengers decide what percentage of CP gifts will be forwarded on to our National Convention – Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). That is currently a matter of prayerful discussion and the decisions we make will affect missions here and around the globe. The SBC, in our annual meeting, decides how much of the CP gifts will go to International Missions, North American Missions, entities dedicated to the training of pastors and other ministry leaders, relief for retired ministers and their widows, and other ministry-related needs. The bottom line is that the Cooperative Program enables people around the globe to hear the Gospel and receive and follow Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.
In order for this to succeed, we must all work together. The International Mission Board (IMB) supports approximately 5,624 missionaries who are engaging 655 people groups of populations greater than 100,000 souls worldwide. The North American Mission Board (NAMB) supports over 5,300 missionaries all over North America. All together, Southern Baptists saw 855,756 new believers baptized in 2009. Our six seminaries educate in excess of 16,000 pastors, missionaries and future church leaders each year. There is no single church that could do all this, but together, we can.
You might be asking what can I do to help this effort?
You can pray regularly for your Southern Baptist missionaries in our convention and around the globe.
You can go—be involved in some sort of missions endeavor. Talk with your pastor about opportunities available to you (many of which are funded fully or partially by CP).
You can give. Out of your love for our Lord, you can give regularly to Him through your church.
You can encourage your church to consider increasing its participation in Cooperative Program giving. Paul wrote to the believers at Corinth, “But just as you excel in everything…see that you also excel in this grace of giving” 2 Cor. 8:7 (NIV). We all want desperately to see the lost won to Christ worldwide. I am convinced that there is no better way to financially make this possible than through our own Cooperative Program.