Churches do not give to the Cooperative Program (CP).
Rather, churches fund missions, church planting and numerous other ministries through the Cooperative Program.
CP is not a destination for dollars but a channel for missions support.
CP allows churches to set aside a percentage of their income into a shared pool of funds so that, in partnership with other Baptists, they can accomplish a wide range of kingdom ministries they could not possibly accomplish alone.
Through the Cooperative Program, North Carolina Baptists partner with some 16 million Baptists in 46,000 churches for the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) three primary ministries: international missions, North American missions and the six SBC seminaries, including Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary here in our state.
So that’s CP. A church agrees on a budget and sends money through that budget to support a variety of ministries. It’s that simple. It’s common sense.
Here are six “common sense” reasons to support the Cooperative Program:
1. CP is biblical.
From the book of Acts in the New Testament, we see how the early churches cooperated to send and support missionaries.
2. CP allows churches of all sizes to contribute.
Small churches that could not send even one missionary can have a part in the greatest missions support system ever created. But even big-budget churches with thousands of members can accomplish more in partnership with other churches than they could manage alone.
3. CP is amazingly effective.
Since it started in 1925, CP has enabled thousands of independent-minded, autonomous churches to unite together in missions and ministry causes. CP has enabled Baptists to establish schools, hospitals, orphanages and many other ministries we agreed on, all while leaving the autonomy of local churches unimpeded.
4. CP has enabled Baptists to do big stuff.
Consider that our churches – where the overwhelming majority average well under 200 members – established some huge ministries. When Baptists decided they needed seminaries to train pastors and missionaries, they established six of them. Now all six SBC seminaries rank among the nation’s top 10 seminaries by enrollment, collectively equipping more than 18,000 students.
Consider that our International Mission Board (IMB) sends thousands of missionaries into some of the world’s most dangerous places to share the gospel. The IMB has also been a leader in identifying unreached people groups and figuring out how to get the gospel to them.
Consider that through our North American Mission Board, we as Southern Baptists helped start about 40 percent of all new churches that were started in the United States last year. That works out to an average of two new churches every day, 365 days a year.
5. CP is efficient.
Every financing system has costs, whether you call it overhead or administrative costs. Administration and overhead of the SBC comes to less than 3 percent of its budget. And that includes having those huge annual meetings in June each year.
State conventions’ costs are similar. While some of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s (BSC) staff are focused on administration or support, most are directly involved in ministries that help existing churches minister more effectively or help new churches get started.
In other words, they are focused on ministry, not overhead. Compared with most non-profits, BSC’s overhead is shockingly low.
6. CP is flexible.
We all talk about how rapid change is these days. Turns out that the seemingly old-fashioned system of having an annual meeting to set next year’s budget is quite compatible with a changing society.
Ministries can be added, dropped or otherwise adapted as conditions change. For example, the 2017 budget is quite different from the one 10 years ago.
Many churches will recognize Sunday, April 9 as Cooperative Program Sunday. It might be a good day to ponder and thank God for what a bunch of autonomous Baptist churches have been able to do together by following what the Bible teaches and being willing to partner with other Baptists.
It might also be a good day to ask God what He may be leading your church do in the future. Consider that if all of the approximately 4,300 churches in our state that are affiliated with the BSC increased CP giving by just 1 percent, it would produce an additional $6 million each year for missions and ministry.
Given all this, doesn’t supporting CP seem to be a good idea for your church? And doesn’t increasing your church’s Cooperative Program giving just seem like common sense?
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mike Creswell serves as a senior consultant with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.)