MONTGOMERY, Ala. (BP)–Churches affiliated with the Alabama Baptist State Convention set a milestone Sept. 8: recording $1 billion in gifts through the Cooperative Program since the Southern Baptist Convention’s unified budget was founded in 1925.
Rick Lance, executive director of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, announced the record on his blog, www.RickLance.com.
“Sept. 8 was in so many ways a normal and routine occasion,” Lance recounted. “I was in the office on the phone, answering e-mails and doing consultations, when our associate executive director, Bobby DuBois, came into my office with a big, broad smile. He said, ‘We made it! We have reached the $1-billion dollar mark.'”
DuBois, who is the state board’s chief financial officer, had been tracking progress toward the billion-dollar goal in cumulative CP receipts for several years.
“We are blessed with some great churches in Alabama,” DuBois noted. “Some are pacesetters in the number of dollars given to missions, while others lead the way in per capita giving or giving as a percentage of undesignated receipts. The bottom line is clear: The reaching of this milestone is the result of Alabama Baptist churches of all sizes and geographic locations cooperating together to reach the world for Christ. No single church in Alabama could have achieved this goal alone, but together we have.”
Jim Swedenburg, Cooperative Program and stewardship development director for the state board, noted a similar historical milestone occurred in 1951.
“Reaching the mark of $1 billion in cumulative gifts through the Cooperative Program is an amazing accomplishment,” Swedenburg said. “As recently as 1951, Alabama Baptists passed the $1-million mark. To be an Alabama Baptist is an honor. To be a part of reaching the world for Christ is a privilege.”
The Alabama convention’s approach to Cooperative Program is a “pure” approach, Lance observed, treating “an undesignated dollar as a Cooperative Program dollar.
“The entire dollar is allocated and distributed according to CP percentages adopted by messengers to our annual meeting, with no preferred funding or other expenses taken ‘off the top’,” Lance said. Alabama, he noted, doesn’t have a state missions offering.
“Our professional staff, known as state missionaries, has only one funding source we promote from which the State Board of Missions benefits: Cooperative Program,” he said. “The good news is, of course, that a variety of Alabama Baptist and Southern Baptist ministries likewise benefit when we as state missionaries promote giving through the Cooperative Program.”
The unified Cooperative Program approach to funding is far superior to the way Southern Baptists once raised funds, DuBois said.
“Prior to 1925, there was no Cooperative Program in Southern Baptist life, and each Alabama Baptist or SBC entity was on its own with regards to raising and receiving funds needed to survive in ministry,” DuBois said. “Some entities did quite well under the system while others struggled to survive. Our Baptist forefathers knew a better system was needed to ensure the future effectiveness of all ministries. With that desire and goal in mind, the Cooperative Program was born.”
Lance, who has led Alabama Baptists since 1998, often says, “We have one mission, the Great Commission; one program, the Cooperative Program; many ministries, Great Commission ministries.”
“We’ve kept the emphasis simple,” Lance explained. “We focus on the Great Commission supported by the Cooperative Program.”
Candace McIntosh, executive director of Alabama Woman’s Missionary Union, praised the state’s churches for their Cooperative Program support.
“Missions and generosity are two words that go hand in hand when describing the heart of Alabama Baptists,” McIntosh declared. “Surpassing the $1-billion dollar mark through Cooperative Program giving is an incredible milestone that I believe serves as a spiritual marker for our future. Alabama Baptists give sacrificially from a grateful heart. Alabama WMU is honored to be one recipient of these gifts.”
Mike Northcutt, chairman of the State Board of Missions, sees the Cooperative Program as an effective, wise use of resources.
“Time has shown that the Cooperative Program is the most efficient way to practice our stewardship of God’s resources in regard to missions,” said Northcutt, pastor of Eastmont Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala. “I tell my people there are lots of things we can do by ourselves, but there is so much more we accomplish when we work with others.
“The needs of the world are much greater than one church or one group can handle,” Northcutt said. “By combining our resources, we are able to accomplish God’s will much more effectively and efficiently.”
Roger Willmore, president of the Alabama Baptist State Convention and pastor of Deerfoot Baptist Church in Trussville, Ala., acknowledged the role of missions-minded Baptists in past decades.
“We owe a significant part of this accomplishment to the faithfulness of Alabama Baptists who have gone before us,” Willmore said. “I pray that our current generation and future generations of Alabama Baptists will continue our heritage as Cooperative Program-supporting Southern Baptists.”
Keith Hinson is a state missionary and public relations associate for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, located on the Internet at alsbom.org.