October is designated as Cooperative Program Month in the Southern Baptist
Convention. The following commentary is presented in support of that emphasis.
There is a scene in the movie “Dave” in which the lead character
demonstrates an hydraulic tool used at a factory.
Once positioning himself properly, the character is able to move his arms and
have the vastly-extended metal arms of the tool mirror those movements.
As he does so, he looks at those viewing the display and jokingly moves his
own arms apart, while saying, “I once caught a fish this big!”
Of course, the viewing crowd laughs as the arms of the machine spread out to
three or four times the width that the mans own arms indicate. It is a
It also is a fitting way to describe the ongoing impact of the Southern Baptist
Ask the average Southern Baptist how far his or her missions arms will reach.
Perhaps you will find one who has considerable experience, someone who can
talk about volunteer trips taken to other parts of the United States or to other
More often than not, you probably will find someone who may have taken one
trip or even none, whose physical reach may have been limited to their own setting.
But then, you may find one who understands the Cooperative Program, who knows
that the true answer to that question for any Southern Baptist is clear –
“My missions arms reach all the way around the world.”
That is no exaggeration.
Through the Cooperative Program plan, the missions arms of Southern Baptists
do reach around the world.
Each week, as Southern Baptists give to their local church, they also are reaching
out across their state, their nation and even their world.
Here is how it works.
The church takes a weekly offering to support its various ministries and programs.
However, it also sends a percentage of the offering to the state convention
– oftentimes about 10 percent as a sort of tithe.
The state convention receives the gifts from all the churches and uses them
to fund their own ministries and programs. However, the state also sends on
some to the Southern Baptist Convention – 35.25 percent of all church gifts
the state convention receives in Louisiana.
In turn, the Southern Baptist Convention uses the money received to fund national
and worldwide ministries and missionary efforts.
So, that a $1 or $10 or $100 bill that is placed in the offering plate each
week in First Baptist Church of Anytown, La., ends up at a crisis pregnancy
center in Oregon and at a ministry center on an Indian reservation in South
Dakota and at a ministerial training center in East Asia and in the hands of
a church planter in South America.
Really. It does.
And no one else does it that way – only Southern Baptists. Only they have
managed to work together and stand together long and hard enough to establish
something like the Cooperative Program.
They have done it for more than 75 years now – indeed, it has almost been
And in doing so, they have been able to take the gospel throughout the nations
of the world.
They have been able to fund ministries where others have tried – and failed.
They have placed thousands of missionaries on the field – workers who
know they are fully supported, workers who do not have to spend half of their
time raising money in order to be able to stay where God has called them.
But now, leaders are warning that some people are failing to understand the
need. Indeed, some churches simply are failing to focus the people on the power
and genius of the Cooperative Program.
That is why October is so important.
Each year, October is set aside as Cooperative Program Month, a time to refocus
on – and recommit to – a unified giving plan that has been called
“a gift of God.”
The emphasis is important – and needed.
As one Louisiana Baptist Convention leader said last week – “The
Cooperative Program is not something we can mention once and then let it go.
… It has to be an ongoing, almost every week, every month education process.
“There are folks who are members of our churches, who have been members
a long time who still ask, What is the Cooperative Program?”
continued Randy Tompkins, LBC director of stewardship and the Cooperative Program.
“We also have a lot of folks giving out of duty and not out of love. …
What we want to help people see is that supporting missions is an expression
of our love for God.”
In other words, it is time to tell the story, time to remind people of the
need, time to help them understand what the Cooperative Program really is about
– expressing ones own love for God by enabling the spread of Gods
love across the state, nation and world.
Bottom line, it is time every Southern Baptist realizes that there are some
pretty big “missions fish” out there to be caught – and now is
the time to take the “Cooperative Program pole” down and do just that.