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CP: as vital as ever

 

Every dollar given through the Cooperative Program in a local church can reach around the world. CP today invites 16 million Southern Baptists to participate in a dynamic Acts 1:8 strategy that includes supporting more than 11,000 missionaries worldwide in about 120 countries.

 

ATLANTA — If you plan to accomplish something big, you will likely have to invite others to join you. That basic tenet of leadership emerged early in the Southern Baptist Convention.

By the 1920s, churches knew that something was missing. With both domestic and overseas mission boards, along with other new agencies, educational institutions, and hospitals, Southern Baptists were competing amongst themselves. Each agency had to raise their financial support to accomplish its ministry assignment, much like some mission agencies still operate today.

The solution was to take each ministry’s message to the people, primarily pulpit by pulpit. By regularly visiting churches, preaching, and telling the story about their ministry, a trend emerged. The best speakers raised the most money. So agency funding wasn’t based upon denominational priorities. Instead, the uneven collection of donations stemmed from a leader’s charisma and oratory skills.

Since 1925, Southern Baptist’s commitment to the Cooperative Program has generated more than $14 billion. Georgia Baptists have given more than $1.3 billion.

Southern Baptists in the early 20th century recognized the shortcomings of their financial plan and looked for solutions. At the 1925 Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) meeting in Memphis, TN, messengers initiated a systematic and sacrificial approach called the Cooperative Program (CP).

The SBC encouraged each church to support missions and other ministries through CP by voluntarily forwarding a portion – usually 10 percent – of their undesignated tithes and offerings to their state Baptist convention. In turn, state Baptist conventions would forward a portion of their receipts to the Southern Baptist Convention for distribution to convention-wide agencies such as the Foreign (now International) and Home (now North American) Mission Boards.

Every dollar given through CP in a local church can reach around the world. CP today invites 16 million Southern Baptists to participate in a dynamic Acts 1:8 strategy that includes supporting more than 11,000 missionaries worldwide in about 120 countries.

Since 1925, Southern Baptist’s commitment to CP has generated more than $14 billion. Georgia Baptists have given more than $1.3 billion.

By most accounts, that’s big.

On April 14, Georgia Baptist churches can again unite to celebrate CP+me Missions Sunday. “CP+me Missions Sunday is an integral part of helping your church to understand how your missions giving goes to support missionaries all over Georgia, throughout the United States, and around the world,” says Buck Burch, a Georgia Baptist state missionary responsible for missions awareness.

“In a day when so many independent voices speak to varied missions projects, it is good to know that Southern Baptists are still committed to a holistic approach to fulfilling the Great Commission by making sure their missionaries are supported worldwide and locally,” adds Burch, who is a former International Mission Board (IMB) missionary to Russia.

Georgia is the largest landmass state east of the Mississippi River, the ninth most populous state in the nation, and the second most populous state in the southeast. As the formation state for the SBC, Georgia Baptists have been among the nation’s most consistent and generous CP participants. Given Georgia’s level of lostness, the CP vision is as vital today as ever.

“There is no doubt in my mind that the greatest, most pressing need in our convention, in Georgia and throughout the SBC is to plant churches and revitalize existing churches,” says J. Robert White, Georgia Baptist Convention executive director.

“Georgia Baptists need to be planting and evangelizing aggressively. My desire is to see at least 100 church plants and 50,000 baptisms every year in Georgia. We have work to do,” White adds while noting the need for a strong CP.

Southern Baptists’ cooperative mission method unites churches across North America and pays kingdom dividends.

“It would be impossible for any single mission society to get as much financial support as any one of the components within the CP budget gets without devoting additional amounts of personnel and resources for promotion and fund-raising,” Burch says.

“The uniqueness of the Cooperative Program is two-fold: the ability to support the largest single Protestant missionary force in the world without their having to take time off from mission work to raise their own funds, and the built-in accountability that ensures proper allocation of those resources to a simultaneous global and local missions thrust.”

Jim Burton is a photojournalist living in Cumming, and the bivocational pastor of Suwanee International Fellowship, in Suwanee. You can learn more about CP+me Missions Sunday by visiting http://tinyurl.com/missionsundayideas or by calling 1.800.746.4422, ext. 296. Available resources include brochures, a video, and a Missionary