By Matt Tullos
Yes, Southern Baptists are legendary for lots of reasons. We are the largest protestant association of churches. People see our Disaster Relief hats, trucks and chain saws on the news, and traveling down the interstate.
Our seminaries train over 23,000 students every year. And some would say we invented the casserole! But the greatest thing about being a Southern Baptist often flies under the radar. We work together. While each Baptist church is autonomous with no real hierarchy, we realize that the glue of our partnership is cooperative giving.
And because churches give cooperatively, we comprise the greatest missions movement in the long history of the church. We know we can do so much more together, and the Cooperative Program makes it all happen.
It’s been an unofficial tradition that we celebrate the Cooperative Program in October, and this is a great time to cast a worldwide vision for giving. Here are five great advantages of working together:
(1) Every church gets in on the action. The genius of the Cooperative Program is that no matter how small or large your church is, you have an opportunity to do missions all over Tennessee and around the world. Is your church planting a church in Istanbul, Turkey, and Memphis, Tenn.? If your church gives through the Cooperative Program, then you are doing both and a million other things!
(2) The Cooperative Program is balanced and comprehensive. Before CP, Baptist churches were onstantly trying to field requests of financial support for missions and ministries. Think about it. Seminaries, universities, independent self-funded missionaries and organizations, disaster efforts, children’s homes, college ministries, and campgrounds were all presenting their cases of why the local church should give to their mission. With CP, a church can unify all their mission funds and have a balanced approach where everyone gets a share of the funds. It’s a “set it and forget it” concept. (But really, let’s not actually forget it. It’s too wonderful to forget!)
(3) The Cooperative Program gives verification and integrity. When a church gives through the Cooperative Program, you can be sure that there is oversite and accountability in missions funding. We’ve all heard the stories of organizations receiving money from a local church and later the church realizes that the money they sent didn’t go to the places the church intended it to go. Not so with the CP. CP partners are accountable to the churches who give. There is transparency and the funding is systematic.
(4) The Cooperative Program provides cover for our missionaries in dangerous locations. Through CP a missionary doesn’t have to promote what they are doing. They remain safely on the field without having to reveal their mission to anyone other than the IMB. They can focus on their mission with an added layer of safety.
(5) The Cooperative Program keeps the main thing the main thing. Let’s face it. We are a diverse group of churches with different types of buildings, worship styles, and minor theological differences. This is nothing new. We have choir robes, holey jeans, outdoor worship, sanctuaries, middle school locations, responsive readings, hymns, coats and ties, ethnic, rural, urban, cowboy and traditional churches. We agree on the essentials and the Cooperative Program is the connector so that we can all do Great Commission work together.
October is a great time to educate and celebrate CP! Create a customized strategy for CP awareness as you roll into fall. Many churches are approving budgets for the coming year and so this also helps cast a vision for global impact through allocating budget funds into the Cooperative Program.
Perhaps your church leaders will decide to consider increasing the amount allocated to the CP. Many churches find that when the church members understand how CP funds our missionaries, they see an increase in stewardship enthusiasm. Do you have any questions about CP? Give me a call. My cell number is 615-730-4809. I’d love to have a conversation with you on one of my all-time favorite subjects.
We hope you’ll let your church in on the best kept secret of missions, the Cooperative Program. Let’s celebrate it and advance the gospel together.
Matt Tullos is assistant to the executive director at the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board and former Louisiana Baptist associate communications director. This editorial first appeared in the Baptist and Reflector newsjournal.