By Matt Tullos
Special Assistant to the Exec. Dir., TBMB
It’s Simple! Cooperating is How We Get Things Done.
For those of us who are seeking a church home, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with words like denominations, associations, conventions, and mission boards. What does it mean to be a Southern Baptist? The Southern Baptist Convention is a fellowship of over 47,000 churches scattered across the United States and its territories. This diverse group of congregations are called cooperating churches. A little bit overwhelming? Let’s break it down. Let’s begin with your local church. It’s a member of the SBC, which has its national offices in Nashville, Tennessee. Now, does that mean your church is governed by this one office? Absolutely not. It’s not a top-down organization, but rather a bottom up organization. Every Baptist Church is self-governing, but we really value cooperation and relationships. We need each other. There’s no getting around the fact that we can do so much more together than we could ever do as independent singular churches. What unites is, is a common faith and a common purpose.
To learn more about our common faith, check out the Baptist Faith and Message at sbc.net. Although not a creed that every church must adhere to, this is a good summary of what we Southern Baptists belief. And our common purpose is the great commission. It challenges us to go first to Jerusalem. Now, every church has a Jerusalem. In biblical terms, it’s any place that you could get to by donkey in a day, or for us, it’s a short drive in a few minutes. Southern Baptist churches call this the association. These churches, through their association, work to do missions and ministries together that they probably could not do individually. Each member church provides financial assistance directly to their local association to help fund cooperative ministries, like disaster relief, multicultural work, compassion ministry, outreach to vacation and recreation areas. Along with starting new missions, church leaders can also get all kinds of training, counsel and resources from the association.
Small churches realize that they can really benefit from the association because the association can assist them in a very personal way. Large churches realize the importance of the association because they have the opportunity to partner with smaller churches. The Director of Missions supports and encourages pastors. This is so important. Remember what I said earlier? This is not the guy who supervises pastors. It’s totally different. He serves pastors. It’s not an organizational relationship. It’s a more interpersonal relationship. Pastors need this. It can be a lonely job. It’s only logical, with over 3000 Southern Baptist churches in Tennessee, that we embrace the same cooperating spirit we find at the local level to the state level as well. In our state, we call this the Tennessee Baptist Convention. Our Tennessee Baptist Mission Board oversees the administration of all cooperating ministry in Tennessee. Our job is the make Christ Known through serving church. In Tennessee, we want to see 50,000 Tennesseans annually saved, baptized and set on the road to discipleship.
We’re praying for 500 Tennessee Baptist churches to be revitalized. We want to plant at least 1000 new churches in harvest fields and among unreached people groups in our state. How are these and other ministries funded? Each individual Baptist church in Tennessee decides how much to give through the cooperative program. In a nutshell, here’s how CP does it. Some of the funds stay here in the state. Another percentage goes to North American missions, and the remaining portion funds missions around the world. Thousands of Southern Baptist believers have taken the biblical challenge of giving at least 10% of what God has given them and give it back to God, to the work of the local church. We believe that a sign of a mission-minded church is the courageous decision of a church to give 10% or more to the cooperative program to join this great commission adventure. Yes, it all goes back to our call, to reach our town, our state, our nation, and our world with the good news that Jesus saves. There’s never been a greater opportunity than we have today or a greater strategy than working together.