Whither the Cooperative Program?

Whither? At least I didn’t say “ye olde Cooperative Program”. But sometimes it feels as though the Cooperative Program, the primary means by which Southern Baptists have funded their missionary and educational responsibilities for decades, has been relegated to an unnecessary relic of the past. Is that a good thing?
The percentage given by the average SBC church to the Cooperative Program (CP) has dropped over the years to just over 5%. Is that a good thing?
Some churches have, instead, adopted a more societal approach to missions. They tend to do direct mission work (or support those who do) instead of the more cooperative work of the CP.
There are several reasons given for this. “There is too much waste in the SBC, the state conventions keep too much at the state level”, etc. But it is worth noting that the state conventions keep less and send more on to national causes. It is worth noting that agencies work harder than ever to eliminate waste.
Every church can decide how much, if any, they want to give to the CP. I get that. But what would be the result of more giving to the CP? Much more money would go to the International Mission Board helping them fulfill their mission. Seminary students would have far less educational debt. State conventions would be better able to serve the spiritual needs of their region and might well send even higher percentages on to national needs. Isn’t that a good thing?
We should always carefully examine ways to make our denomination more effective stewards. But if we throw away our cooperative approach we ought at least to think about what we will replace it with. Might we one day wish we hadn’t lost the CP? Mightn’t we say “Alas!”

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