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Cooperation is ‘our heart & soul,’ Richards says

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) — Southern Baptists need to unite in order “to advance the Kingdom of God together for God’s glory,” state convention leader Jim Richards said in a chapel message at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

What we have [as churches in the Southern Baptist Convention] is definitely much more in common than we have apart,” said Richards, executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, noting that “our heart and our soul” is “to be together.”

Preaching from Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, Richards’ March 21 message focused on key values resulting from Southern Baptists working together.

Church cooperation through associations and conventions created efforts to train ministers and support feeble churches, he noted, while the Southern Baptist Convention’s Cooperative Program supports worldwide missionary efforts and promotes doctrinal accountability.

“Together, through the Cooperative Program giving, your ministries are multiplied, but only God gets the credit,” Richards said.

“It’s not about Southern Baptists, it’s not about an organization. It’s about advancing the Kingdom of God and it’s a tool that God has given us,” he said, pointing out that “ministry is not just about going; it’s about giving.”

Richards set forth four values of cooperation found in Ecclesiastes 4 — rewards, rescue, relationship and resistance:

— Rewards from cooperation come through the Cooperative Program and the results of “God’s work [being] exponentially increased when we do it together.”

— Rescue represents the relief efforts Baptists are able to accomplish together both in disasters worldwide and in crises within one’s own city.

— Relationship refers to the trust churches need to have with each other. The Baptist Faith and Message, Richards said, provides the parameters and theological foundation so that churches can work together with a shared belief.

“[T]here’s plenty of room for all of us in the BF&M, but it does provide parameters,” he said. “It tells us what we as a group of churches agree to believe about the nature of God, the person of Jesus Christ, the way of salvation, the nature of man, the church, the ordinances, and on and on, explicitly laid out for us.”

— Resistance in spiritual warfare flows from cooperation. This resistance should be directed toward the battle with the devil and not at the association of churches, he said; strength for the resistance of evil is found as churches unite together and stand to fight for one another.

“We as individuals are in a spiritual warfare, but we as the churches of the Lord Jesus Christ [also] are in a spiritual warfare, and we must provide resistance to that force of evil that is against us,” Richards said. “We fight against the world, the flesh and the devil. We do not need to be fighting against one another.”

Audio and video of Richards’ message are available at equip.sbts.edu/chapel.