EDITOR’S NOTE: October is Cooperative Program Emphasis month in the Southern Baptist Convention. Learn more about CP here.
FRANKLIN, Tenn. (BP) — Everybody has their love language. Granny Tate expressed hers by twisting your ear. Hard.
Granny Tate was a tiny lady, but she was a giant to me. She really did twist your ear as an expression of love. She was my Sunday School teacher at Shiloh Baptist Church in Saraland, Ala., when I was 11 years old. Even as a 6-foot-plus high school senior, I’d bend down so she could twist my ear. If Granny wasn’t twisting your ear, you weren’t cool. We loved that woman.
I have the privilege of going back to Shiloh to preach at their 75th anniversary this month. I’ve been reflecting on how that church and its people had a profound impact on my life. Granny Tate tops the list.
She used to bring her offering envelope to Sunday School, tithe check included. Looking back, I can’t imagine that her tithe could have been more than $10 or $11 each week. I didn’t know then how such a seemingly small amount could mean everything in reaching the world for Christ.
Here in Tennessee and in other states, messengers to this fall’s annual meetings will consider proposed 2018-2019 Cooperative Program budget recommendations. Messengers from Tennessee churches will consider a proposed Cooperative Program budget recommendation just beyond $34 million.
That’s a lot of money. But to me, I see it as the sum total of a whole bunch of Granny Tates faithfully giving to advance the Gospel. And the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, like those in each state convention, have a responsibility to make sure every penny is used wisely and allocated as directed by messengers at the convention.
I’ve traveled more than 350,000 miles across Tennessee over the past eight-plus years and I’ve gotten to know Tennessee Baptists from every size church imaginable. We’ve got churches that give hundreds of thousands of dollars through the Cooperative Program and churches that give hundreds. But it’s never been about equal giving, has it? The Cooperative Program has always been about the Great Commission, biblical stewardship and equal sacrifice.
When Tennessee Baptists give through their churches, a portion of that giving (94 percent on average) stays at the church to enable local ministry. The designated Cooperative Program amount is then forwarded to the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board where we then forward more than 46 percent of those funds to the SBC Executive Committee to support the International and North American Mission Boards, six seminaries and the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
The portion that stays here in Tennessee supports Tennessee Baptist Children’s Homes, Tennessee Baptist Adult Homes, Carson-Newman University, Union University and the Tennessee Baptist Foundation. Yet the majority of the funds support Tennessee Baptist churches, which is a vague statement, isn’t it? I often encounter people who don’t fully understand the Cooperative Program or how that money is used, so here’s a snapshot that CP funds invested through the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board have been used to:
— sustain Baptist Collegiate Ministries on more than 20 campuses where thousands of young adults hear the Gospel and hundreds have given their lives to Christ over the past few years.
— help more than 300 of our churches engage in a revitalization process.
— plant more than 300 new churches in the past five years.
— engage with the Gospel at least 46 of the 145 global people groups now living in Tennessee.
— enable more than 8,000 youth to attend the Youth Evangelism Conference each year where hundreds annually make decisions for Christ.
— maintain a disaster relief ministry that has provided help, encouragement and the Gospel to countless thousands of people who have been left reeling in the wake of disaster.
— Facilitate conference centers and a camping ministry that sees 300 to 500 decisions for Christ each year.
— Train hundreds of leaders annually in reaching children and youth through Vacation Bible School.
Notice, every ministry listed is a means of introducing people to a saving faith in Jesus Christ.
The Cooperative Program enables even the smallest-membership church to have a huge part in reaching our state — and reaching the nations — for Christ. No other opportunity allows individual churches to have such a far-reaching Gospel impact as the Cooperative Program. We really can do more together than we can apart.
But we must never forget that all that Great Commission work begins with people like Granny Tate.
I sure haven’t.