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CP EMPHASIS: It’s not always glamorous but CP sure is vital

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.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Designated gifts are wonderful things. Just ask any pastor who has experienced the joy of having someone in his congregation share that they want to make a special donation to buy the new piano needed in the sanctuary, make the lead gift to get the church’s capital campaign off the ground, or make up the difference between what the youth group raised and what they need for their upcoming summer missions trip. These important and valuable gifts are often answers to prayer with their givers inspired by the Lord to meet a very specific need.

Giving a designated gift is fun as well. It’s nice to know that when I give to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering, the World Hunger Fund or to any of the other excellent special offerings we have in Southern Baptist life that the money I give is going to a very specific cause and to nothing else. I get great joy from the thought that my gift is making it possible for someone I will probably never meet in person to receive a Bible, hear a Gospel message or eat a meal. Being able to picture these specific needs being met become a part of my worship and helps me to rejoice in the Lord and give Him the glory for what He is doing in the world.

But while I am very grateful for these special offerings and rejoice with those who are blessed with the ability to make those big gifts, designated giving makes me even more thankful for the Cooperative Program in Southern Baptist life. I say this as someone who can trace my very salvation — or at least the opportunity for it — to both kinds of giving.

My testimony is that I came to Christ as a child through the ministry of Southern Baptist missionary Alvin “Bud” Spencer at Koza Baptist Church on the island of Okinawa, Japan, back in 1967. Part of Spencer’s ministry there was to American military personnel on the island and I have to wonder what my life would be like today if both the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering hadn’t been around to make the big ex-Marine’s ministry to my family while my father was stationed there possible.

What is exciting about the Cooperative Program to me, though, is that it provides the foundational support for many, many ministries in Southern Baptist life. In a sense, it is the underpinning of the Cooperative Program that makes the impact of designated giving more powerful.

Yes, I know the Cooperative Program is not seen as being too glamorous these days. To start with, the word “program” bugs some people and the name feels a little dated after nearly 85 years. There was even a movement to consider changing the name a few years ago although it didn’t really go very far. “Cooperative Program” is so well known in Baptist life that leaders were concerned that changing the name risked confusing people.

The Cooperative Program is also not glamorous because in its role as “foundational support,” it does a lot of things that aren’t nearly as interesting as those things that receive designated giving. For instance, it’s the Cooperative Program that turns the lights on at the International Mission Board, North American Mission Board, state conventions, the SBC Executive Committee offices, etc. At the Kentucky Baptist Convention, it buys the videotape that enables us to tell the story of a life that’s been changed. It provides training to help Sunday School teachers be more effective in sharing the Gospel with their classes. It provides funds to help ministers who have lost their positions understand what happened and transition to new ministry opportunities. It helps repair the roof on a Baptist campus ministry center on a college campus. It pays the auditing firm that is used to make sure all gifts are accounted for and spent properly.

All of the above and much, much more are important, even vital to the ongoing mission of fulfilling the Great Commission. They don’t get talked about a lot because they don’t make great inspirational stories but those things that really get our hearts pumping are made possible because the Cooperative Program is there.

In fact, have you ever thought about why, when the World Hunger Fund is promoted, we are able to claim that “100 percent” of your gifts are used to meet hunger needs? Surely someone has to administer those funds. Surely someone has to handle food distribution. Surely there are some expenses to be paid that are outside the scope of the stated purpose of the offering. Of course there are. But the beauty of Southern Baptist giving through the Cooperative Program is that CP has already picked up the tab for all of these other expenses. Thus when you make a gift to the World Hunger Offering, the accounting is administered by state convention and denominational accounting departments and personnel are already in place to meet the hunger needs. That means that 100 percent of your gift really is able to go right where you designated it — to feeding someone who is hungry.

And this scenario is pretty much the same with whatever designated gift you make in Baptist life — whether the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, Annie Armstrong Easter Offering or some other designation. Your designation becomes more powerful because the Cooperative Program was already there providing the base support for the ministry to which you are making a special gift.

I began this post by talking about how pastors can identify with the joy of the designated gift. I’ll end by saying that pastors also appreciate the beauty of the unified budget in their church and the fact that most church gifts are undesignated. Can you imagine what would happen in church life if all of the money that was given was tied up in some designation? You might have plenty of money for the next missions trip but no money available to pay the phone bill, cover the pastor’s health insurance, repair the leaky toilet, buy paper for the copier or do any of the other thousand things that the regular church budget covers.

The same is true for the Cooperative Program and it’s one of the reasons it is important that we protect the integrity of the definition of Cooperative Program gifts.
Robert Reeves is communications director for the Kentucky Baptist Convention.

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