No matter the size of the congregation, every church has a responsibility to do its part in fulfilling the Great Commission. “Every church can do something, and every church can do more.” Those words continuously bubbled in my heart as a bivocational pastor of a smaller-membership church in Tennessee.
That local church could not afford to fully fund an International Mission Board missionary. That local church was not able to provide salary and benefits to fund a church planter or pay the tuition of a seminary student.
But that local church was not helpless, because the congregation understood that they were called to participate in Great Commission work. In our local church we preached and practiced biblical stewardship. We unashamedly challenged believers to trust God with the tithe. Church members were equipped in wise spending and preparing for the future.
Our local church was a part of a larger network of churches that pooled their resources together to accomplish more than we could have ever accomplish by ourselves. The Southern Baptist Convention is a network of 47,500 churches united around the common cause of advancing the Good News.
For 95 years, Southern Baptist churches have united to fund missions and ministries at home and around the globe through the Cooperative Program. The Cooperative Program is Southern Baptists’ unified plan of giving, through which cooperating Southern Baptist churches give a percentage of their undesignated receipts in support of their respective state conventions and the Southern Baptist Convention’s missions and ministries.
The local church is essential to advancing the gospel. Every church must prioritize, elevate and accelerate the mission of God. As Southern Baptists, we are people of mission. Our Great Commission mandate is just as real today as it was when Jesus proclaimed it. You and your church are vital to the ongoing work of reaching our world with the Gospel. (Mark 16:15)
The Cooperative Program is the fuel that literally energizes and empowers everything we do. How can your church join with other churches to fulfil this mission?
Every church should spend time seeking the guidance of the Lord concerning the expenditure of every financial gift that is received. Each week worshipers bring their gifts to the local church to honor God as an act of worship. The local church must seek the heart of God through prayer. God reveals His will to a people that seek after Him.
The pastor must lead the church in asking, “Lord how would you have us manage the resources that you have entrusted to us?”
When we seek God in prayer regarding the distribution of kingdom resources, we acknowledge that God is the owner and we own absolutely nothing. We acknowledge our desperate dependence upon a high holy Other.
Scripture teaches that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. (Romans 10:17) The local church pastor would benefit tremendously from preaching and teaching about the mission of God. The preaching and teaching should also point believers to commit to doing their part in advancement of the gospel around the world.
As a local church pastor, I boldly and powerfully proclaimed that the tithe (10%) of our gross income belongs to God. Each believer should set aside the tithe and ask God’s direction on the sacrificial offering.
A pastor friend, now deceased, really challenged my family and me in this area. He challenged us to adopt the planned growth in giving model. We started giving an additional 1% of our income as an offering, and each year we have worked toward increasing that giving. Some years, the increase is ½%; other years it is a full 1%. I share that to say that our family’s conviction began with our pastor faithfully preaching on biblical stewardship. If we ever expect the next generation to practice stewardship, then we must preach and teach on stewardship.
James said, “Be ye doers of the Word and not hearers only” (James 1:22). If every church would purpose in its heart to do its part, we could do so much more. We desperately need more missionaries mobilized around the world to reach unreached people groups. We could train so many more students for ministry through our seminaries. Together we could advance the Good News in every town, every city, every state and every nation.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Willie McLaurin is vice president for Great Commission Relations and Mobilization with the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee. April 26 is Cooperative Program Sunday in the Southern Baptist Convention.)