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.
SALEM, Ore. (BP)–My unlikely connection with Southern Baptists began in October 1982 during the days of the Bold Mission Thrust missions initiative. I was born and raised in Central New York, converted to faith in Christ as a young adult while in graduate school in Philadelphia, then swept across the country to Colorado Springs to begin what I thought would be a career as a percussionist with the Colorado Springs Symphony.
Because of the missionary vision of the Southern Baptist Convention and its attendant challenge, Bold Mission Thrust, my initial resistance to connect with a Baptist church subsided. I realized that First Southern Baptist Church of Colorado Springs had at its core a cooperative spirit of evangelism and missions. That spirit was nurtured by the church’s pastor, Ted Savage.
Ted and his wife Verna had served as appointed missionaries of the then-Foreign Mission Board before returning to the states to serve First Southern Baptist Church. They brought with them a zealous love for God and for people. I was baptized and discipled into this infectious fellowship of love and cooperation.
As I cut my teeth there for two years, I sensed a call to ministry. I made plans to attend seminary and then I discovered that the Cooperative Program would help offset about half the cost of my educational expenses. I’d had several years of education and I knew about education expense. How grateful I am to have graduated from seminary with no accrued education-related indebtedness. I was financially free to go and to serve wherever the Lord would lead.
In Central New York as a church planter and in Oregon as a pastor, I have made it a purpose to inform the folks for whom I’m responsible, and to whom I’m accountable, that the Cooperative Program is the means whereby we undertake to accomplish the task of mission and ministry throughout the world. Through the years it has been my privilege to help people understand the importance of the Cooperative Program. I am encouraged that the wisdom of the Cooperative Program is immediately apparent to the church, making it easy to understand and to embrace.
In a world where anything goes, we must continue to ensure that the saving name of our Lord Jesus Christ is made known far and wide. The Cooperative Program continues to enable Southern Baptists to do just that.
Whether a person is serving as a missionary, planting churches or pursuing the education to be able to fulfill either role — or any of a number of other avenues of vocational ministry — the Cooperative Program enables Southern Baptists to be effective agents of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Praise God for the insight and the foresight of those who knew that we could do more together than individually on our own.
John Lipton has served for 15 years as pastor of Capital Baptist Church in Salem, Ore.