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.
SAVANNAH, Ga. (BP)–Baptist aren’t perfect, but they come close to it when they are cooperating. I have been a Southern Baptist pastor for 35 years and have seen our convention go through many changes. However, one thing has been fundamental to our strength and effectiveness as a denomination — the Cooperative Program.
There is no better approach for training ministers, for sending home and international missionaries, for starting new churches and the myriad of other ministries performed than by the cooperative efforts of our Southern Baptist churches. The unique aspect of the Cooperative Program is that churches of all sizes can contribute.
As a Georgia Baptist, I can personally vouch for the effectiveness of the Cooperative Program in our state. Anytime I have requested assistance, help was provided. The quality of our state convention staff and ministry support is phenomenal. Over the course of the past year, I can recall receiving ministry from the Georgia Baptist Convention staff for assistance in long-range strategic planning, Sunday School mentoring, and annuity and health insurance planning. I’m sure that I have omitted some services. I credit the Cooperative Program for making these ministries available.
I have also seen the benefits of our cooperative efforts demonstrated in other ways. This summer our church took 17 senior adults to Montana to conduct a Vacation Bible School at Kirkwood Baptist Church in Bozeman. This church was without a full-time pastor. Thanks to the Cooperative Program, the director of missions, who is a NAMB appointed missionary, was there during the interim to keep the church alive. He was filling the pulpit on Sundays and planning a strategy with the church leadership for their future survival. There are many ministries such as this going on every day throughout the SBC that often go unnoticed. Yet, they are vital to our evangelistic outreach.
Here in Savannah, Ga., the Cooperative Program provides support to our inner city through the Savannah Baptist Center. As a trustee of the center, I have seen the North American Mission Board and the Georgia Baptist Convention staff work together with the trustees, center staff and area churches to build a strong and viable outreach ministry to hurting people in downtown Savannah. The Savannah Baptist Center is a shining example of the Cooperative Program at work. Lives are being changed and people are being saved because Southern Baptists are cooperating to fulfill the Great Commission.
As I said earlier, Baptists aren’t perfect, but they come close when they are cooperating. Big church, small church — it doesn’t matter. Traditional church, contemporary church — it doesn’t matter. What matters is that we cooperate to reach our world. We need each other. That’s the simple premise of the Cooperative Program. It is a premise that works. No, we aren’t perfect. As believers we are all sinners saved by the grace of God. Together, we can maximize our effectiveness in getting the Gospel to those who need Christ. We may not be perfect, but the Cooperative Program is about as close to it as we can get.
James N. Staubes is pastor of Skidaway Island Baptist Church in Savannah, Ga.