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Untutored Courage in Warfare: The Importance of the Cooperative Program

 

Justin Veneman

Willie Jacobs, center, national missionary for the North American Mission Board in Memphis, talks with Michael Ellis Sr., left, senior pastor at Impact Baptist Church and Ministries. Jacobs coordinates the planting of new churches in the Memphis Delta region, which includes parts of Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Missouri. In his commentary, Thomas Rush maintains that the SBC’s international missions outreach will eventually be crippled if Southern Baptists weaken their evangelistic outreach at home. He believes that the solution to Southern Baptist funding issues is not found in redirecting more money to international missions but challenging churches to give more to the Cooperative Program so all ministries can benefit equally. Drawing on extensive military experience, he says that neglecting the homeland would prove disastrous to worldwide missions.

One of America’s great military strategists of the Second World War, General George S. Patton, once said, “Untutored courage is useless in the face of educated bullets.” His point was that the very best in military training and preparedness was essential if the troops in the field of battle were to be successful.

One of his foes, another great military mind, Erwin Rommel, was known to have said, “The best form of welfare for troops is first class training, for this saves unnecessary casualties.”

Again, the point was that in warfare it is the best-trained, best-supplied, most knowledgeable soldiers who win the day. Courage is a great thing but courageous soldiers who lack the support of the home front and are not as well trained as their foe end up defeated on the field of battle.

You may ask, what does this have to do with the Cooperative Program? Well, everything really. What we seem to have lost is the awareness that we are at war. What is weighed in the balance is not national boundaries, financial gain or loss, or freedom in a political light, but the souls of lost men and women around the world.

Consequently, we as Southern Baptists must answer this significant question: What is the best way to get to and be successful on the front line of missions? We must be careful never to let the enemy force us to fight on the field of his choice – we need to take the battle to him and that takes knowledge of the enemy’s

strategy. One of those strategies is to divide and conquer.

This is no time for us to bicker. We do not need to reinvent ourselves. We need to take a proven and effective strategy for taking the Gospel to the nations, the Cooperative Program, and make it work better. We might also remember that the United States is a nation desperately in need of the Gospel.

Recently IMB President Jerry Rankin lamented in his blog that some Baptist leaders and entities are of the opinion “that the purpose of our denomination is not the Great Commission but cooperation.” Well, it had better be both of those things or we will lose the battle. Some seem to be of the opinion that we should just throw all of our resources at international missions surmising that the Great Commission is primarily an “uttermost” endeavor.

As a military veteran of 28 years, including the current War on Terror, I know a little about warfare. Serving in a Joint Task Force, made up of all the military services, I learned firsthand the importance of cooperation.

Of course, we all knew the mission – defending the United States of America while helping to promote American interests globally. None of the military leaders I served with had any doubt about the primary mission. But each of them also knew that the best avenue to success was a “joint” effort.

Comparing our current climate in SBC life with this analogy reveals something we should seriously consider. Many are advocating that each church decide what part of the

“mission” is important enough to give to. This would serve to cause the various entities of our convention to seek out their support individually, thus returning us to the old “societal” method of missions support.

This is like the Joint Chiefs of Staff going to Congress and saying, “We’ve decided to close all of our bases at home and will be concentrating all of our efforts overseas. All troops, equipment, and supplies will be sent to the front. All recruiting and training commands will be shut down. We’ve got to get everyone on the most important task, defeating the enemy overseas.”

You may argue the case is overstated but I submit that, if we are not careful, that is exactly what will happen.

I don’t think anyone would argue that in an organization the size of the U.S. military, or the SBC, there would not be some areas for improvement. Where we find bureaucracy we should do our best to eliminate it.

I am glad to be part of the Georgia Baptist Convention. I have been privileged to serve on the Executive Committee and the Administration Committee. The GBC has worked diligently to cut costs and take a high degree of responsibility for the funds contributed by Georgia Baptists.

I am offended at the suggestion that CP dollars kept at the state level are not Great Commission dollars. The GBC is on the cutting edge of the Great Commission. The battle we are waging is not entirely being fought on foreign soil, any more so than the War on Terror is entirely a foreign affair. We are in great need of strengthening our churches at home.

If we wish to remain a viable missionary denomination then it is imperative the Great Commission Resurgence start at home. We will never be more effective overseas than we are right in our own backyard.

A disturbing trend has been noticed among some of our leading Georgia churches that have been strong CP supporters. These churches are decreasing giving to the Cooperative Program and taking those funds and giving them directly to the IMB and other mission causes. While we certainly maintain the right of every autonomous GBC church to give its mission dollars as they feel led by the Lord, we as a denomination must recognize that such giving, if followed by other churches, will eventually lead to the breakdown of our overall mission effort.

The Cooperative Program has been the great genius of the Southern Baptist missionary endeavor. It has served us extremely well for 85 years. It is not time to dismantle the system; it is time to increase giving to the CP and get each of our entities and agencies to talk to one another in the hopes of improving everything we do to win the lost to Christ at home and abroad. We need a convention president who shares these convictions.

It is the local church that is the foundation and backbone of our missionary endeavor. Our denomination must support the local church and help it remain strong so that in the days to come there will be missionaries to send!

Working together for a Great Commission Resurgence is a great idea. Let’s do it using a proven method, the Cooperative Program – a “Joint Task Force” more than capable of defeating our enemy.

Rush is pastor of Berean Baptist church in Social Circle.