Tennessee Baptist Convention

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The Cooperative Program Begins with Granny Tate

Randy C. Davis

Everybody has their love language. Granny Tate expressed hers by twisting your ear.

Hard.

Granny Tate was a tiny lady, but she was a giant to me. She really did twist your ear as an expression of love. I wouldn’t have minded if she had been a hugger. She was my Sunday School teacher at Shiloh Baptist Church, Saraland, Ala., when I was 11 years old. Even as a 6-foot plus senior in high school, I’d bend down so she could twist my ear. If Granny wasn’t twisting your ear, you weren’t cool. We loved that woman.

I have the privilege of going back to Shiloh in October to preach at the church’s 75th anniversary. I’ve been reflecting on how that church and its people had a profound impact on my life. Granny Tate tops the list.

Granny used to bring her offering envelope to Sunday School, tithe check included. Looking back, I can’t imagine that Granny Tate’s tithe could have been more than about $10 or $11 each week. I didn’t know then how such a seemingly small amount could mean everything in reaching the world for Christ.

We are in our budgeting process here at the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board and last week the Budget and Ministry Committee considered a proposed 2018-2019 TBC Cooperative Program budget recommendation that will go to our September Board meeting then to messengers at the 2018 Summit. The budget is just beyond $34 million. That’s a lot of money. But to me, I see it as the sum total of a whole bunch of Granny Tates faithfully giving to advance the gospel. We here at TBMB have a responsibility to make sure every penny is used wisely in the TBMB ministry or allocated as directed by messengers at the convention.

I’ve traveled more than 350,000 miles across Tennessee over the past eight-plus years and I’ve gotten to know Tennessee Baptists from every size church imaginable. We’ve got churches that give hundreds of thousands of dollars through the Cooperative Program and churches that give hundreds. But it’s never been about equal giving, has it? The Cooperative Program has always been about the Great Commission, biblical stewardship and equal sacrifice.

When Tennessee Baptists give through their churches, a portion of that giving (94 percent on average) stays at the church to enable local ministry. The designated Cooperative Program amount is then forwarded to the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board where we then forward more than 46 percent of those funds to the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee to support the International and North American Mission Boards, six seminaries and the Ethic and Religious Liberties Commission.

The portion that stays here in Tennessee supports Tennessee Baptist Children’s Homes, Tennessee Baptist Adult Homes, Carson-Newman University, Union University and Tennessee Baptist Foundation. Tennessee Baptist Mission Board uses the majority of the funds to support Tennessee Baptist churches. But that is a vague statement, isn’t it? I often encounter people who don’t fully understand the Cooperative Program or how that money is used, so here’s a snapshot of the work Tennessee Baptists support.

CP funds invested through the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board have been used to:

  • Sustain Baptist Collegiate Ministries on more than 20 Tennessee campuses where thousands of young adults hear the gospel and hundreds have given their lives to Christ over the past few years.
  • Help more than 300 of our TBC churches engage in a revitalization process.
  • Plant more than 300 new churches in the past five years.
  • Engage with the gospel more than 46 of the 145 global people groups now living in Tennessee.
  • Enable more than 8,000 youth to attend the Youth Evangelism Conference each year where hundreds annually make decisions for Christ.
  • Maintain a disaster relief ministry that has provided help, encouragement and the gospel to countless thousands of people who have been left reeling in the wake of disaster.
  • Facilitate conference centers and a camping ministry that sees 300 to 500 decisions for Christ each year.
  • Train hundreds of leaders annually in reaching children and youth through Vacation Bible School.

Notice, every ministry listed is a means of introducing people to a saving faith in Jesus Christ. In other words, the Cooperative Program enables even the smallest-membership church to have a huge part in reaching Tennessee, and reaching the nations, for Christ. No other opportunity allows individual churches to have such a far-reaching gospel impact as the Cooperative Program. We really can do more together than we can apart.

But we must never forget that all that Great Commission work begins with people like Granny Tate.

I sure haven’t.

It is a joy to be on this journey with you.