Published March 27, 2008
DULUTH — Ben Foxworth has experienced the benefits of the Cooperative Program. It’s a big part of why Ellaville Baptist, where he’s pastor, will continue to give 18% to it despite a slow economy and rising prices.
“I don’t know every church’s situation, but in terms of CP giving I’d never encourage a church to cut back,” he emphasized. “I’m a graduate of New Orleans Seminary. My oldest daughter goes to Boyce College [at Southern Seminary]. The Cooperative Program made them both possible.”
The Cooperative Program is Southern Baptists’ unified method of supporting missions and ministry efforts of state conventions, as well as those of its national and international missionaries and its agencies.
About 230 miles away near the Tennessee line, First Baptist Epworth allocates a whopping 24% of its budget to CP.
“The church has always been very missions minded,” said Doug Simonds, minister of music and senior adults. “It’s a very giving congregation.”
Part of something big
First Baptist Epworth’s WMU director, Nancy Poore, can be credited with keeping missions in front of church members. In her role she oversees a food pantry, sending items to a Native American reservation, and annual projects such as Operation Shoebox. Last November her group purchased five water purifiers to be sent to Nigeria, Ecuador, Tijuana, Utah, and another location unable to be identified for security reasons.
“We love to be involved in missions any way we can,” she said.
With an average Sunday School attendance of 50, it would appear Pleasant Grove Baptist Church in rural Floyd County couldn’t make much of a missions splash. WMU director Gail Silver is quick to counter that assertion.
“We take a team of youth and adults on missions every year,” said Silver, whose church gives 13% of its budget to CP. “Everyone who goes has their trip funded through the church. It’s a great experience for everyone that they bring back here when we’re stocking the association food closet or singing in nursing homes.”
Silver added that commitment to the Cooperative Program helps small churches such as hers make a bigger impact.
“Even though we’re small, we’re part of something very large. It’s not just Southern Baptist work; it’s God’s work. We can give our dollars to help people all over the world tell others about Jesus.”? Those sentiments are being echoed in other congregations across the state, as well.
In Kingsland, First Baptist pastor Rick Brodie says his congregation has “no plans to cut CP giving.” The church has long been recognized as a supporter of the denomination’s missions and its missionaries and gives 18% to the Cooperative Program.
“We’re not sure how gas prices might affect our budget, but we’re committed. There have been no changes to our budget,” he said.
“The people in charge of programs and ministries are just having to plan a little better right now in how money is spent. I’d suggest for pastors to look carefully at the purpose of their programs and ministries and prioritize them according to their point of view.”
Across the state in Colquitt, First Baptist pastor Carl Marshall says the congregation’s 12 percent support of the CP “won’t change … unless it goes up.”
“Our church budget hasn’t been affected [by the slowing economy] yet, but that doesn’t mean it won’t. Missions is a priority and [CP] is the number one item in our budget. That’s the way it’s been for the 48 years I’ve been a pastor.
“If we don’t carry out that part of the Great Commission, I don’t think we can expect God to bless us like He wants.”
Jay Moore, pastor of Jefferson Street Baptist in Dublin whose congregation gives 14%, echoed those sentiments.
“I’ve done my best to educate our people on the importance of giving. It’s our little part of being able to do things we otherwise couldn’t do. Through the Cooperative Program I can support a missionary in places our teams from church couldn’t go.”
Foxworth conceded the economy as an unavoidable element to ministry spending, but maintained the importance of a focus on the gospel.
“Sure it affects our budget,” he said. “We don’t go on very long trips [in the church van] but we still go.
“Our giving hasn’t increased dramatically. If we have to find creative ways to reach others, we’ll do that. We’re not going to let gas prices dictate the way we minister.
“We’re still going to go where we need to go and do what we need to do. As long as we’re faithful God’s going to find a way.”
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