One of the the things I want to do in my time of service with the Southern Baptist Convention is to encourage greater support for the cooperative program (CP). Oddly enough, more attention than ever has been paid to the CP through some recent dust ups with churches and the ERLC- one of our SBC agencies. Perhaps the CP is being rediscovered.
Every church in the SBC can decide how much- if any- they give to missions through the cooperative program. Every state convention can decide how much they forward on to national agencies. Every convention can debate the percentages that each agency should receive. But, I contend, the CP remains a marvel of opportunity. Here are some of the blessings of this method of mission giving.
First, the CP has been remarkably efficient. Every church, regardless of size or budget, can participate in worldwide missions through this avenue. It allows churches to participate in the work of their state convention and national agencies. Just over 97% of the total forwarded through the state conventions ends up with one of our mission boards or seminaries or agencies. 2.99% is all that is kept by the Executive Committee for their work–which includes the annual meeting.
Second, the CP provides our mission boards and agencies the opportunity to focus on something more than just fund raising. In fact, our cooperative missions strategy (as opposed to the societal approach) means our international missionaries can be missionaries rather than fund raisers. Being a good missionary does not necessarily mean one is a good fund raiser and being a good fund raiser does not necessarily mean one is a good missionary. All of our entities deal with funding issues, but the CP allows them to focus more attention on what they really exist to accomplish.
Third, the CP promotes cooperation and connection. We will always have disagreements. If the allocations were made only by me they would probably be different than if they were made only by you. But our cooperative methodology promotes a big picture focus and “we are all in this together” mentality. We are more connected by our involvement in our mission enterprise. Through the CP we all have a stake in each of our seminaries and agencies. Unity becomes something of a de facto need for our churches. Agencies are intrinsically connected by this funding mechanism. Perhaps nothing save common theology connects us more as a denomination than does the cooperative program.
For a time it seemed the cooperative program was being devalued by many in our SBC. I thought it was perhaps to be regulated to the scrap heap of former things. But there is a slow rise in giving through it by our churches. There seems to be a new recognition of its value. And, perhaps there is more talk of it now than we have seen in quite some time. Maybe the cooperative program- this marvel of opportunity- has been rediscovered.