Published June 8, 2006
Since 1925, Southern Baptists have been devoted to the Cooperative Program as the way we do missions and support the various ministries of our convention. Prior to 1925, Southern Baptists practiced societal missions where each entity head and each missionary was responsible for raising his own support.
Under this model some entities and missionaries flourished while others suffered. Southern Baptists agreed that the societal approach was not working and that cooperation was a better model. The Cooperative Program was born, and ever since, God has used the cooperative efforts of Southern Baptists to bless the ministries of this great evangelical, mission-committed denomination.
In more recent years, we have witnessed a fading devotion to the Cooperative Program on the part of some Southern Baptists. I remember a couple of years ago when Morris Chapman, CEO of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, stood before the Executive Committee and recounted the fact that not long ago Southern Baptists gave over 10% of their unrestricted offerings through the Cooperative Program. Then he noted that a decline in mission support began which led to 8% support then 7% support.
He then stated that we are currently below 7%. I’ll never forget his words or the urgency of his message: “If we continue this decline in support for the Cooperative Program, what shall become of us?”
Indeed, what shall become of us? No doubt, our seminaries will receive less financial support, not more, as they have requested. Our entities will all suffer which will be seen through increased termination of employees, decline in influence and eventual cessation of ministries. No doubt our mission boards will face some very difficult decisions. Missionaries will have to be brought home. Mission fields now being evangelized will be left without Southern Baptist missionaries. Indeed, what shall become of us?
We must act now while we still have time to reverse the trend. It is time for all hands on deck on the Southern Baptist ship of faith. We need bold and courageous Southern Baptist leaders, both elected and employed, who are profoundly committed to the Cooperative Program. Every entity leader should speak of the Cooperative Program constantly and express gratitude to Southern Baptists who endorse this method of mission support.
No entity leader should ever take any action that would imply that weak support, or no support, for the Cooperative Program is acceptable to any of us. Elected leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention must have a proven record of Cooperative Program support for the mission and ministries of our denomination. If we give an uncertain sound, how can we expect a unified effort on the part of Southern Baptists?
I have been so grateful for Bobby Welch, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, who has been a champion for the Cooperative Program. He has boldly challenged us to faithfulness through Cooperative Program support for our missionaries and various entities. He has been able to do this with credibility because for thirty years, this outstanding pastor has faithfully led his church to give 15% of its unrestricted offerings through the Cooperative Program.
As Bobby has said so powerfully, “We didn’t start giving 15% through the Cooperative Program thirty years ago because I wanted to be president of the Southern Baptist Convention one day. We did it because it was the right thing to do.”
It surely is the right thing to do! My prayer is that all Southern Baptists will possess the kind of commitment to the Cooperative Program that we have witnessed in our president of the past two years. Bobby Welch has been a blessing to my heart and an encouragement to my zeal for the Cooperative Program. He has been humble in spirit, enthusiastic in leadership, exemplary in service, selfless in sacrifice, effective in evangelism and unyielding as a champion for the Cooperative Program.
In my opinion we should settle for nothing less in our employed and elected leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention.
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