One of our younger leaders in North Carolina recently told me about discussions he has participated in with other young ministers interested in church planting. He said the conversations often feature a popular missions and church planting network with several hundred churches globally and a budget of around $5 million.
Our leader said he usually raises a question. “Wouldn’t you be excited if there was a missions and church planting network with the organizational tools to mobilize tens of thousands of churches and harness a budget of a few hundred million dollars for the sake of the gospel?”
“We already have that,” he explains. “It’s called the Southern Baptist Convention.”
Our International Mission Board (IMB) and North American Mission Board (NAMB) focus almost exclusively on areas where there is least gospel presence. This year Southern Baptists will give $260 million to the IMB through the Cooperative Program (CP) and through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. The North American Mission Board will receive over $100 million through the CP and Annie Armstrong Easter Offering.
Yet, not all missions and church planting among unreached people groups takes place through the IMB and NAMB. Reaching the unreached in North Carolina falls almost exclusively on the shoulders of our state convention and its churches.
We have 1.5 million people in North Carolina who were born outside of the United States. There are pockets of lostness in our state that rival those of any major area in the world. Our N.C. missionaries are targeting those pockets by working with our churches to reach people.
The young leader had one more thing to say about funding missions and church planting: “We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. The Cooperative Program is still effective and relevant.”
I believe the Cooperative Program makes more sense now than ever. It is more effective because we can do more together than any church can do by itself. Few churches could afford to sustain just one missionary by themselves. But even the smallest Southern Baptist church can accurately say that they have over 4,000 missionaries internationally and they help start hundreds of churches every year in the U.S.
Because of the Cooperative Program, missionaries can go without the burden of raising their own funds. It takes months or years for a missionary in other evangelical mission organizations to raise their own support. We fully fund our international missionaries. They can concentrate on reaching the lost without having to worry about raising money to stay on the field.
Students at our seminaries can go at half the price of other evangelical schools because of the support given by the CP. We don’t want future pastors to be handcuffed by unnecessary debt to finance their education.
The Cooperative Program not only sends out a vast mission force, and not only trains a constant stream of new Christian workers, but it also meets so many practical needs in our nation. As a pastor I receive appeals to take care of orphans or feed those who are hungry on a regular basis. We are caring for thousands of children in our children’s homes. We are there with our food trucks to feed people when disaster strikes.
If you are looking for a balance of both Great Commission and Great Commandment ministries, then support the Cooperative Program. You will reach the lost, disciple the saved and love your neighbors.
Many of our churches will soon begin their budgeting processes. While you are looking for ways to impact the world and our nation, don’t forget a proven way that has been changing lives since 1925.
Include a commitment to the Cooperative Program as your first effort in missions. You can still find other ways to tailor mission efforts for your church. But start by funding the CP. It is the lifeline of all we do as Southern Baptists.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Steve Scoggins is senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Hendersonville and president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.)