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CP EMPHASIS: Economy doesn’t stop commitment to cooperation

EDITOR’S NOTE: In recognition of the SBC’s October emphasis on the Cooperative Program, Baptist Press will provide readers with extra news and information detailing the scope and depth of the Cooperative Program and its impact for the Kingdom. Using vignettes and profiles of churches and individuals, as well as historical and ongoing accounts, our intent is to explain the Cooperative Program not just as a funding channel but as one of the critical ties that bind Southern Baptists in voluntary fellowship for cooperative ministries and missions.

PALATKA, Fla. (BP)–Contacted during a missions trip to New England, Barry Beauchamp readily affirmed the value of cooperative missions.

Beauchamp, pastor of College Park Baptist Church in Palatka, Fla., described himself as “a firm believer in the Cooperative Program” as the best way for the Southern Baptist Convention to share the Gospel globally and locally.

“It is a God-inspired way for us to fund mission outreach all over the world and in our backyards,” Beauchamp said.

The pastor noted, however: “I will concede that we have taken a hit in terms of giving in this economy. It’s been difficult for us.”

College Park nevertheless is a leader in Cooperative Program giving, committing just over 19 percent of church members’ undesignated gifts to CP last year.

“It’s a budgetary priority to us,” Beauchamp said.

The Cooperative Program combines the resources of the SBC’s 44,000 churches to support missions and ministries in state conventions and across the world.

From a personal standpoint, the missions-minded pastor said, “I’ve been a beneficiary of that all the way around,” as a graduate of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., one of the SBC’s six seminaries that also receive Cooperative Program support for theological education for future pastors, missionaries and Christian workers.

Beauchamp returns that blessing by being a blessing. As moderator of the local St. Johns River Baptist Association, for example, Beauchamp is to be in West Virginia Oct. 3–11 to help pastors prepare for teaching the January Bible study from LifeWay Christian Resources.

College Park includes the St. Johns River association in its budget and as well as the interdenominational Christian Service Center in Palatka, which operates such benevolent outreach ministries as a soup kitchen.

A number of College Park members have taken short-term mission trips to such places as Haiti and China, returning with testimonies that strengthened the Palatka congregation.

“That certainly is a tremendous blessing to be able to get people involved in doing missions,” Beauchamp said. “Every one of us is called to be on mission with God.”

Beauchamp referenced a College Park member who participated in a medical missions trip to Haiti, which afforded the congregation a fresh opportunity to give. “Our folks have managed to put together over-the-counter medications as well as clothing” for the Haiti outreach, the pastor noted.

The church’s youth recently had an opportunity to lead Vacation Bible School at a church in Cherokee, N.C., that hadn’t offered a VBS in years, and the Women on Mission group is planning an outreach to a battered women’s shelter, offering a spa day to women there.

Beauchamp said he would like to develop international mission opportunities for College Park by nurturing relationships God has already facilitated with Baptist workers in West Africa and elsewhere on the continent.

“I’d like to see that relationship furthered and deepened,” he said. “I’d like to see more people involved in the going and doing, locally and internationally.”

He encourages churches in the St. Johns River association to be steadfast in their commitment to reaching people through the Cooperative Program, if for no other reason than allowing others to reap the benefits longtime Southern Baptists already have enjoyed.

“Most of us who’ve been Southern Baptists for any length of time have been beneficiaries of the Cooperative Program. We don’t want others to miss that opportunity because we have not been faithful to giving,” Beauchamp said.

“We all can give.”
Diana Chandler is a freelance writer and member of Irish Channel Christian Fellowship (SBC) in New Orleans.