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Church votes 10% of gifts for Cooperative Program missions


SALEM, Ore. (BP)–What Capital Baptist Church’s pastor saw firsthand made him a believer.

“It was my privilege to serve on the executive board of the Northwest Baptist Convention for a term on the Finance Committee,” John Lipton said. “In so doing I observed our convention’s absolute commitment to sound principles of stewardship, accountability and integrity.

“An increase in Cooperative Program giving is a good step in the direction of Kingdom-building,” the pastor said. “God’s Kingdom is the most worthwhile investment that any church can make.”

In January, the Salem, Ore., congregation voted to increase their Cooperative Program giving to a solid 10 percent.

This despite the fact that the church, where about 180 people attend Sunday morning worship, anticipates hiring a second staff member this year, is deeply involved in a major evangelistic outreach locally, and didn’t make its $263,389 budget last year.

“The way I look at the Cooperative Program and have for a kazillion years is that the Scripture commands us to tithe and, in my way of thinking, the Cooperative Program is like the church’s tithe,” said Virginia Barker, a Sunday School teacher and stewardship committee member. “If we are encouraging our people to give no less than a tithe, it’s my belief the church should give no less than a tithe to the Cooperative Program.”

Everyone had an opportunity to state his or her opinion when the budget was discussed and, in the end, the church’s unity remained strong.

Bob Warberg, chairman of Capital’s finance committee, credited the positive outcome to the respectful way the decision was handled.

“The committee made the conscious decision that we wanted the proposal to increase [CP giving] to come from the [church] body,” Warberg said. “The increase was not in the proposed budget. We didn’t want the committee telling the church what to do.”

So, during the budget discussion, Barker made a motion that the Capital’s Cooperative Program gifts be increased from 9 percent to 10 percent of the church’s undesignated receipts.

“At that budget discussion, eight or 10 people couldn’t say enough good about the Cooperative Program,” Warberg recounted. “The gist of their comments was that with the Cooperative Program we’re able to be a part of so much more than we could do on our own, and we’re able to be so much more effective in global evangelism when we partner with all the other Southern Baptist churches than we could be on our own.”

The Cooperative Program, birthed in 1925, is the Southern Baptist Convention’s acclaimed method of pooling mission dollars for global evangelization, Kingdom growth and theological education.

Capital had resisted giving a full tithe through the Cooperative Program for several years because some members thought the church was giving enough to missions. Capital allocates 5.5 percent of its offerings to the multiple collegiate ministry programs of the Willamette Valley Baptist Association, which are not covered by the Cooperative Program, retired pastor Carlton Butler noted.

“Ten percent? I commend it,” Butler said. “And when we can go up, we need to do so. But we mustn’t neglect the needs in our association.”

Three of Oregon’s largest universities -– students include many internationals -– are in the region served by the association, which straddles Interstate 5 as it stretches from north of Salem to south of Eugene. Corban College, which is affiliated with the Northwest convention, and at least three other private colleges and perhaps half a dozen community colleges also are in the mix.

Baptist Collegiate Ministries program directors who minister on the campuses receive a small stipend from the 26-church association, which also is involved in church planting and strengthening, disaster relief, English as a Second Language ministries and, next summer, a weeklong “Jericho” evangelistic thrust in the valley that will involve hundreds of volunteers from across the nation.

Capital already gives more to associational missions than does any other church in the association, and it sponsors two ethnic mission congregations in Salem, Bonnie Brough, wife of the church treasurer, pointed out.

“I’ll tell you why I didn’t vote for the budget,” Brough said. “We have traditionally supported the Cooperative Program, but we have an additional $50,000 in the budget this year for staff. Also, I think God wants us to pay for this building so we can move on.

“I’ve supported the Cooperative Program since the first time I was a GA,” Brough continued, referencing the Girls in Action missions education program. “I think it’s the most marvelous vehicle for missions work that anyone has ever thought up. But we’ve got to remember the other things that are important to us as well.”

While she thought the increase was not well-timed, Brough said she bowed to the vote of the congregation. “I have invested my time, money and personality -– as a GA would say -– here,” she said. “This is my family.”

Deacon Jeff Stell indicated that while he too disagreed with the call to raise Cooperative Program giving to a full tithe, it wasn’t a test of fellowship.

“My uneducated opinion is that 9 percent with 200 people is more than 10 percent of 100,” Stell said. “Our church is doing exactly as it should in terms of getting people saved, baptized and discipled so they can be productive Kingdom citizens and cheerful and faithful givers. I think that’s the best way of increasing our net contribution.”

Notwithstanding the reasoned comments, the groundswell of support for the Cooperative Program carried the day, and the unity in the church remains strong because, as Lipton noted, Capital Baptist members are committed to missions.

Barker said she was in a church once that decreased its Cooperative Program giving, and income declined. When the CP missions percentage was increased, so did the offerings. She said she also saw similar circumstances at another church.

“Those experiences taught me some valuable lessons,” Barker said. “God blesses the churches that are faithful in their giving through the Cooperative Program…. God will supply the needs you have within your church as you reach out to the needs of others.”
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