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.
GONZALES, La. (BP)–Sometimes people respond to the Cooperative Program like the disciples in Acts 19 when Paul asked them about whether they had received the Holy Spirit. With great sincerity they answered Paul’s question, “We have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit” (Acts 19:2b). Many would respond similarly to the Cooperative Program, “We have not even heard whether there is a Cooperative Program,” and in many instances, even if they have heard, they are not aware of the network of ministry at the disposal of every Southern Baptist.
Since 1925, the Cooperative Program has been the missions and ministry tool of the Southern Baptist Convention established for the collective efforts of Southern Baptists to obey the Great Commission. When it comes to linking my heart in obedience to the Lord’s command, I cannot improve on how the Cooperative Program allows me as an individual, and we as a church, to make an ongoing global impact for the Gospel.
Not only are we able to support others to go places we cannot go and engage in ministry that is multifaceted, the Cooperative Program is a network that encourages partnership in the Gospel and stewardship of Kingdom resources. I was reminded of this recently when I finished a Skype conversation with a missionary 8,000 miles away from my desk. He and his wife and four children are laboring in a city of five million people with less than 3 percent who are believers.
As a church, we pray for them weekly, support their work through the Cooperative Program/International Mission Board, and our church has partnered with them to see the Gospel spread rapidly among the peoples of their city. An integral part of this partnership is sending teams to them regularly for the purpose of encouragement and to help them with ministry projects. When I think of what it would cost to train, send and support a family like this to go to the remotest parts of the world, my heart rejoices for how the Cooperative Program makes that possible by streamlining resources to make it happen.
Likewise, when I think of our six Southern Baptist seminaries, I am reminded of the students in our church who over the years have gone to New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary for both undergraduate and master’s level training. The Cooperative Program has offset the expenses, making it possible for them to receive theological training that is affordable compared to other private Christian education.
I am also reminded of the Cooperative Program ministry network when I think of a troubled family in our city who needed help and support in the throes of a crisis. The Louisiana Baptist Children’s Home was there to stand in the gap to care for the children when the family was not able to do so.
The Cooperative Program is a tremendous ministry tool expanding the Kingdom impact of every participating church. That is something we should all know about!
James B. Law has been pastor of First Baptist Church in Gonzales, La. since 1993