The Cooperative Program was adopted in Memphis by 5,600 messengers meeting for the Southern Baptist Convention in May, 1925. At the time, a group of incredible leaders from the annals of Baptist history, including M. E. Dodd, B. D. Gray, I. J. Van Ness, Mrs. W. C. James, E. Y. Mullins, L. R. Scarborough, A. J. Barton, W. H. Baylor, among others, formed what was called the Future Program Commission. Their report is now the Cooperative Program. According to men like Scarborough, George W. Truett and J. B. Gambrell, the convention was attempting to “build on a spirit of unity and sacrifice.” The Cooperative Program was intended to be, and is now, our unified giving mechanism to support missions, education, and benevolent ministries. For more than eight decades, Southern Baptists have given systematically and sacrificially to build some of the greatest educational institutions, benevolent ministries, and missionary-sending organizations known since the birth of the church at Pentecost. We must, as pastors and leaders, help equip and educate our people to know why we give through the Cooperative Program to support Great Commission work.
Dr. Ed Stetzer, in an article entitled “Cooperating Together,” gave a succinct reason why the church he pastors, Grace Church, gives through the Cooperative Program. In this article, Dr. Stetzer wrote:
“As leaders of the church, we believe in what we are doing together in our convention. The Cooperative Program gives our church the opportunity to partner with other churches in our denominational family to be involved in all kinds of work. Though there is no set number (nor should there be), we send (through the Cooperative Program) 10% of our undesignated giving because we are glad to be a part of something bigger than ourselves.
Here are four reasons I think other churches should consider doing the same:
The convention is seeking to prioritize delivering the gospel to the nations. That priority was there already, and it is growing even stronger. We need to show my support as well. That provokes me.
Due to the resurgence of Biblical authority in our convention, we can have confidence that the missionaries and strategies we support will be in line with our convictions. That reassures me.
Denominations (and their infrastructure) can be very effective tools for ministry. I’ve written on denominationalism extensively in Christianity Today, so I will just refer you there for more information. That reminds me.
The mission is not just about my church. There are orphans in children’s homes, students in classrooms, and missionaries on the field—and they all matter. That convicts me.”
Next week, I will share how the Cooperative Program impacts missions and ministries right here in Tennessee.
It is a joy to be on this journey with you…cooperating together.
Randy C. Davis