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.
LONGVIEW, Wash. (BP)–To many, the Cooperative Program is simply a program for missions within the Southern Baptist Convention.
For some, it’s merely the word “program” that turns them away from the CP. Since the ’90s, “program” has become a negative word within our churches, and to a certain extent I can understand why this word brings such feelings. For others, it’s the fact that it is “another program” that has never really done anything for them or their church. It’s a “What have you done for me lately?” world and this attitude tends to creep into our churches.
This saddens me because the CP is more than a program to me. It’s even more than “cooperation.” It means believers coming together and cooperating to reach the world for Christ. The need to cooperate is even greater than it was when God first gave us the CP plan. Yes, I believe God laid this upon the hearts of those who led before me to reach the world for Christ. Now, more than ever, that cooperation is needed in this world.
I can’t say “Thank You” enough to those early leaders who followed God’s call. I was growing up in a very small town in central Nevada, a town too small to support a pastor, and that’s even if one would be willing to come to a town so far from civilization. A town that wasn’t on a major highway or sightseeing destination, it was filled with ranchers and miners who desperately needed Jesus.
We were on no one’s radar except that of one man who was supported by the CP. He was known as a Mountain Missionary and would travel throughout northern Nevada like an old-time circuit-riding preacher. He would hold Sunday School and church on Thursday evenings in a little, one-room railroad building up on blocks. Through blizzards and intense heat, this missionary came to share Christ with my little town. Through this man’s ministry, my family and I began to go to church and eventually received Christ.
My father eventually surrendered to the call of a pastor and lived his life serving mission churches like the one where I grew up. There was no place too far or too small for him to go and share the Gospel. Regardless of how small the church was, or how desperate they might have been for funds, Dad always led the church to give to the CP. He was so thankful for the countless people who cooperated and gave so that he and his family could know Jesus. It was a joy and privilege for him to send that 10 percent in every month.
Now I’m a pastor with the privilege and joy to cooperate with thousands of other Baptists to reach the lost of this world. Recently my church relocated due to space issues and we all know how bad our economy is during these days. The cost seemed overwhelming. We wondered how we could do it and still be able to give 10 percent of our budget to the CP.
But our church might never exist if not for another missionary who came to Longview to share Christ. Could we forget that this missionary also received CP support? Even throughout our relocation we continued to give 10 percent and God blessed beyond our wildest dreams. Not only are all of our bills paid, we are surpassing our budget needs, although our county is experiencing 14 percent unemployment. It’s more than a program for us, it’s a privilege.
I have such affection for this “Program.” Why? Because I wonder what little boy, like me, needs Jesus to touch his family. I owe so much to the godly people and churches who thought about me, and I don’t want to fail some child today who has yet to hear about my Lord and Savior. I truly believe that if the CP personally touched more pastors and leaders, there would be no question that it would be more than a “Program” to them also. It would be at the top of the list in every budget.
We can do far more together than alone to reach this world for the Kingdom of God. I’m just one of those God has reached for His Kingdom through CP. Please remember my thankfulness as you pray about being part of “Cooperating” with other believers. The CP is so much more than a “Program.” It’s one tool God uses for His plan. Join in, the people of this world won’t be sorry.
Kevin K. White has been senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Longview, Wash., for 15 years; former president of the Northwest Baptist Convention; pastor and church planter to Native Americans in Nevada prior to his pastorate in Longview.