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Cooperative Program celebration draws Baptist leaders’ involvement

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–The 75th anniversary of Southern Baptists’ Cooperative Program — to be celebrated with a $750 million goal in giving during the 2000-2001 church year — is being led by a 17-member steering committee that includes the president of the Southern Baptist Convention and several state Baptist convention executive directors.
The Cooperative Program, created by Southern Baptists in 1925, will be the focus of a campaign beginning next year to educate Baptists anew of its importance as Southern Baptists seek to fulfill Christ’s Great Commission for evangelizing and discipling the world’s masses.
The $750 million goal encompasses not only state and national Cooperative Program gifts by church members, but also gifts to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for international missions, the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American missions and all state missions offerings for the year 2000-2001 (October through September).
The $750 million goal would mark an increase of $60 million to $75 million in giving beyond projections if there were no special stewardship emphasis such as the CP’s 75th anniversary.
Cooperative Program gifts forwarded to the Southern Baptist Convention from the state conventions support the work of 10 SBC agencies, including the International and North American mission boards, encompassing more than 10,000 missionaries; the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission; and six seminaries.
Among the steering committee’s members are SBC President Paige Patterson, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in North Carolina, and five state convention executive directors: Carlisle Driggers of the South Carolina Baptist Convention; Anthony Jordan of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma; John Sullivan of the Florida Baptist Convention; Fermin Whittaker of the California Southern Baptist Convention; and Jack Kwok of the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio.
South Carolina’s Driggers said he is pleased “that the Southern Baptist Convention and our state Baptist conventions are working together to plan a much-needed emphasis on the Cooperative Program.”
Baptist leaders who launched the Cooperative Program 75 years ago “would be totally amazed at what has occurred during the ensuing years. … I have no doubt but that the Cooperative Program concept was a gift from God in 1925 and continues to be at this time in our Baptist history.”
At its outset, the Cooperative Program was preceded by a five-year campaign encompassing key Baptist causes. In foreign missions, for example, more than $11 million was raised — compared to $12.5 million during all of the SBC’s previous 74 years.
During the Cooperative Program’s diamond jubilee, Driggers said he hopes many Baptists will become reacquainted with its importance while others will “learn its meaning for the first time,” then all will “join hands and hearts” in a “huge display of appreciation and gratitude as we prepare to move into the 21st century and serve the Lord faithfully.”
Oklahoma’s Jordan said the Cooperative Program’s 75th anniversary provides “the opportunity to educate new generations to the effectiveness and efficiency of doing missions through the Cooperative Program.”
Southern Baptists under the age of 50 may not have the same understanding of the Cooperative Program as Baptists in their senior years, Jordan noted, but “I am confident they can be reached if we explain to them the amazing Cooperative Program story in a fresh and generationally targeted way.”
Jordan added, “Mission strategists tell us there is more openness to the gospel today than at any time in the history of Christendom. Southern Baptists must seize the day by renewing our vision to reach the world with the gospel. The Cooperative Program remains the greatest tool in reaching our goal.”
Among others on the 75th anniversary steering committee are Bobbie Patterson, associate executive director of Woman’s Missionary Union; Glenn Majors, director of Cooperative Program services for the Baptist General Convention of Texas; David Button, vice president for public relations and development with the Southern Baptist International Mission Board; and Nate Adams, vice president of the North American Mission Board’s mobilization and mission education group.
David Hankins, SBC Executive Committee vice president of Cooperative Program development, is chairing the steering committee, and Morris H. Chapman, Executive Committee president, is an ex officio member.
The steering committee met Dec. 3 at the SBC Building in Nashville, Tenn., after an initial meeting in early August. A Nashville-based consulting company, The Maryland Group, is assisting in the planning.
Chapman said, “Since the mid-1920s the lives of millions of men and women, boys and girls throughout the world have been impacted for Christ through the cooperative giving of Southern Baptists.”
That impact continues to grow. For the fifth consecutive year, Southern Baptists gave more through the Cooperative Program to SBC causes during the 1997-98 church year than any time in history, reaching a total of $159,583,743, up 2.95 percent over the previous year.
For those who ask what, exactly, is the Cooperative Program, it’s “a financial channel of cooperation between the state conventions and the Southern Baptist Convention which makes it possible for all persons making undesignated gifts through their church to support the missionary, education, and benevolent work in their state convention, and also the work of the Southern Baptist Convention,” according to a statement adopted by messengers to the SBC annual meeting in 1979.
An undesignated gift, by the way, is simply the tithe or offering given by a person to his or her local church. Each church, in turn, sets the percentage of those gifts to be forwarded through the Cooperative Program to support the mission and ministry efforts the state convention and the SBC.
The Cooperative Program has been called “a means to an end,” not an end in itself — a channel through which Baptist world outreach needs are financed and goals are reached in a unified effort which enables churches to accomplish more together than individually.
Chapman, in his report during the Executive Committee’s Sept. 21-22 meeting in Nashville, Tenn., stated, “We are praying for this celebration and promotion to inspire confidence in cooperation among Southern Baptist churches, state conventions and SBC entities while receiving gifts that will help build the mightiest missionary army ever known to mankind.
“We are praying it will be a year of sacrificial giving as well as thanksgiving to God for the great things he has done,” Chapman said, calling the $750-million mark “a reachable goal.”