We have a compelling story. Who we are and what we’re about as Southern Baptists is in no way superior than any other faithful evangelical denomination or network, but I believe we are more effective than any other faithful evangelical denomination or network. The reason that I believe this is true is the Cooperative Program.
As Southern Baptists, we have always been a Great Commission network of churches. We began this way. In 1845, our denomination was organized for the purpose of “directing the energies of the whole denomination in one sacred effort, for the propagation of the gospel.(1)
What began with a few small churches has grown to over 45,000 churches! And to this day, we are still directing the financial energy of the whole denomination for the propagation of the gospel from your city to the end of the earth!
Recently, I returned to my alma mater to preach to the students at Boyce College on the campus of Southern Seminary. That night, I watched a chapel full of college students training for ministry declare the faithfulness of God through song. I was reminded of my own journey since making that decision to move to Boyce.
I was twenty years old and two years into community college in Knoxville, TN, when I heard about Boyce. I had been called to ministry at seventeen but wasn’t sure what that looked like. All I knew was I wanted to preach the gospel to students. So, when I heard that Boyce was the training spot for student pastors at this time, I knew I wanted to go, but I wasn’t sure what that meant for me and my family financially.
After researching tuition, I came to realize an incredible financial benefit; half of my tuition would be paid for by Southern Baptists through the Cooperative Program. This was incredible to a young man who desired to be trained in ministry but didn’t have the funds to pull the trigger. With this news and my parents’ blessing, I endeavored on a journey that would change my life.
The decision to move from Knoxville to Louisville completely changed the trajectory of my life. That one decision has walked me all the way to where I am today. Since then, I have completed two other degrees from Southern Seminary. Affordable theological education is one of the greatest investments the churches in the SBC make through the CP.
Right now, Boyce College is training over 1,000 college students for global gospel ministry. That doesn’t take into account the colleges that sit on the campuses of our other seminaries. That also doesn’t even consider the amount of seminary students we have currently training for ministry. We have approximately 21,000 students enrolled in our six seminaries. What an amazing effort towards the future propagation of the gospel!
Interestingly, while I was back at Boyce preaching this month, a friend of mine who serves with the International Mission Board in North Africa was in town. We sat down over dinner and caught up. He and his wife have four beautiful children and have been serving on the field for four years.
He shared with me about their struggles learning the language, learning the culture, making friends, and doing ministry. He also shared with me stories of the gospel bearing fruit in the lives of the locals. There were stories of Muslim men and women confessing Christ as Lord and the immediate familial rejections they would find themselves in. Stories of radical life change and immediate desires to grow through reading God’s Word. Stories that made all of their struggles worth it.
I’m amazed that through the generous gifts given by the church I have the joy of leading towards the ministry of not just this one family, but thousands of families who are laboring for the propagation of the gospel in very difficult places. This amazing combined effort is a product of a highly effective combined mission funding strategy that was designed long before I was born. And long before I had the privilege of benefiting from it. And, long before hundreds of missionaries left the shores of America to go to the ends of the earth, some of whom never returned.
The truth is, we are all beneficiaries of the CP. Each and every local Southern Baptist Church was planted or organized by other Southern Baptists. Whether they were local church dollars or CP dollars that helped fund the mission, each have the imprint of a Great Commission people. A people who care about the advancement and propagation of the gospel.
As my generation continues to age, it’s incumbent upon me and others in my generation to guard our great denomination and lead our churches forward in helping fund the mission work we do through the Cooperative Program. The CP is to my knowledge the single greatest combined missions effort ever organized by a group of churches and must continue to be so.
I believe the CP is more needed now than ever before. Therefore, we must discover ways to help all generations understand its importance for what we do today and for our future. We have a compelling story to tell with a compelling missions funding strategy. The opportunities before us are incredible. Let’s hold forth in propagating the gospel together for future generations until Christ returns or he calls us home.
(1) Chute, Anthony L., Finn, Nathan A., Haykin, Michael A. The Baptist Story: From English Sect to Global Movement. B&H Academic. Nashville, TN. 2015. p. 152.