I am a product of the Cooperative Program (CP).  I admit it and am proud of it. I was reared in a home where my father’s salary came whole or in part from gifts through the CP; my first ministry experience as a summer missionary was paid through CP gifts; I received a scholarship to college through the CP; later, in seminary, I received a substantial tuition benefit from the CP; while I was serving as a pastor, a mission of our church received funding through the CP; while serving on the State Convention staff, my compensation was totally funded through the CP; now, on a Seminary staff, a large percentage of my compensation comes through the CP.
As a beneficiary of the CP, I know the value and impact of it. I love the CP, and here’s why:
- I love the CP because I love Scripture. We have a mandate from Scripture to support missions around the world. The destinations of our mission described in Acts 1:8 are not multiple choice. We are simultaneously responsible for missions where we live and around the world. Very simply stated, the CP is the best vehicle that I’ve seen to be obedient to our Scriptural mandate.
- I love the CP because I love missions. Missions is the heartbeat of Southern Baptists. Moreover, we have the greatest missions supporting vehicle in the history of Christianity in the CP. When you consider what we have done and what we can do through the CP, the choice to me is obvious.
- I love the CP because I love seminary students. Today over 15,000 students studying at our six Southern Baptist seminaries receive a substantial discount on their tuition from the CP. These are our future pastors, missionaries, and church workers. They are the future of our denomination. Our gifts through the CP help make their education affordable.
- I love the CP because I love churches. State conventions don’t plant churches; churches plant churches. But the State Convention does come along side new church plants and others being revitalized with funds provided through the CP.
- I love the CP because I love pastors. Many pastors around the country receive pastoral assistance from funds provided through the CP. Some would not be able to continue serving if it were not for that assistance.
- I love the CP because I love truth. We live in a confusing and confused world. As people of the Book, Southern Baptists base how we live on the truth of God’s Word. We also want to inform voters and leverage the weight of our influence on politicians on issues important to us because of that truth. The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, supported by the CP is that voice. Every day, our voice is heard in Washington DC and around the world because faithful Southern Baptists give.
- I love the CP because I love cooperation. As Southern Baptists, we know that we can do more together than any one of us can do alone. The needs are too great for any one church to meet alone. We need each other and Southern Baptists have a long and distinguished history of doing God’s work together.
CP is not a destination, it is a vehicle. We don’t give TO the CP; we give to missions and ministry causes THROUGH the CP. That’s something all Southern Baptists can celebrate.
So, here are my conclusions and my challenge to all Southern Baptists:
- Pastors should be teaching their congregations about the CP.
- Students should be learning about the CP.
- Churches should be giving generously through the CP.
- Church members should be aware of how much their church gives through the CP.
- State Conventions should be evaluating their budget priorities towards the goal of increasing the amount they pass on to the Southern Baptist Convention.
- The Denomination and its staff should be thoroughly informed, passionately supportive, and actively promoting the CP.
- And Southern Baptists should celebrate the CP.
I’ve heard of people, and sadly met a few, who had a skewed means of justifying disobedience in giving. The scenario might go something like this: the church or someone in the church did something with which they disagreed, so they quit giving to the church. The rationale for that has always escaped me. It’s like saying, “I’m going to be disobedient to God because I think someone in the church did something disobedient to God.” But, wait … does one really justify the other? Essentially, they are saying, “I’m going to risk God’s judgment on my family in an effort to enforce my will on the church.”
Similarly, I’ve seen pastors and churches do the same thing with their CP giving. The rationale might be different, but the outcome is the same – reducing or withholding giving because someone did something with which I disagreed. I’m not necessarily equating tithing with missions giving; although, they are both commanded in Scripture, and there is an obvious parallel.
With the challenges against the family and the lostness of the world, this is not the time to boycott God’s command because of our self-interests. This is not the time to reduce giving to reallocate missions money for other purposes. This is not the time to abandon (or reduce) cooperative giving to exclusively pursue societal efforts. The needs are too great.
I love the CP. I know it’s not a perfect system and I’m not saying improvements shouldn’t be considered. But, it’s the best system we’ve ever had to fulfill the mandate of God to us.
I am a beneficiary of the CP. I am also a supporter of it. You should be too!