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CP EMPHASIS: Profiles of passion for cooperation

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.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–In hard times or in good, the five churches described below have made a commitment to put love in action through their participation in Cooperative Program. As their vision for reaching their neighbors for Christ came into focus, the world outside their doors became clear, as well. Through the Cooperative Program, the impact of their gifts is multiplied as the world in need of Christ is reached with the Gospel.


Out on the historic Chisholm trail, not far from the urban sprawl of the capital city, Chisholm Heights Baptist Church in Mustang, Okla., is putting the Gospel to work in a way that fits well with their community’s spirit and small town pride.

Activities such as their Victorian Village at Christmas involve a huge percentage of the suburb’s population of 10,000, with members and non-members working together in community service. Opportunities for sharing the Gospel abound.

“The ministries we do here help a family one mile from the church,” pastor David Bryan said. “We know that when we support the Cooperative Program, we support the same types of ministries that are helping families 1,000 miles from our church.”

Chisholm Heights’ total members in 2008 Annual Church Profile, 2,528; baptisms, 23; primary worship service attendance, 566; undesignated receipts, $1,177,873; Cooperative Program, $188,709; CP percent, 16.0; total missions expenditures, $264,712.


Far outside the Bible Belt, deep in the heartland of Michigan where the state capitol in Lansing and Michigan State University are minutes away, Cedar Street Church knows whom to thank for making their church possible. The Cooperative Program is the number one priority in their budget, yet in 23 years of the church’s existence, members also have planted four missions.

“We remind ourselves daily that our Southern Baptist brothers and sisters gave sacrificially to plant a church here,” pastor Bob Carpenter said. “We give to the Cooperative Program because we are called to invest in God’s Kingdom.”

Cedar Street’s total members in 2008 Annual Church Profile, 251; baptisms, 27; primary worship service attendance, 351; undesignated receipts, $653,083; Cooperative Program, $119,154; CP percent, 18.2; total missions expenditures, $215,805.


Pastor Rit Varriale calls it “a beautiful picture of the body of Christ,” noting how “God-called and God-equipped” individuals in the church challenged and led fellow members of Elizabeth Baptist Church in Shelby, N.C., to strengthen their commitment to reaching people through the Cooperative Program.

Church members now see themselves as part of a larger picture of missions. So strong is the church’s commitment to mission service that the work of their Baptist Men’s Handy-Man Ministry was featured on a local television station.

“The beauty of the Cooperative Program is that it connects the body of Christ here in Elizabeth with the larger body of Christ around the world,” Varriale said.

Elizabeth Baptist Church’s total members in 2008 Annual Church Profile, 849; baptisms, 14; primary worship service attendance, 456; undesignated receipts, $1,015,996; Cooperative Program, $170,256; CP percent, 16.8; total missions expenditures, $314,209.


Heber Springs, Ark., exploded in growth — from 2,000 to 7,000 — in the mid-1960s with the opening of a nearby scenic lake and dam. As the town changed from sleepy village to recreational hot spot, First Baptist Church of Heber Springs branched out into hands-on missions — and their participation in the Cooperative Program grew along with it.

“Mission Heber — Salting the City” has every member involved and in one of many local, state and international mission projects. Their purpose for giving is clear.

“Mission trips and giving go hand-in-hand,” pastor J.R. DeBusk said. “We become personally motivated when we know that the work we see and touch is supported by the Cooperative Program.”

First Baptist’s total members in 2008 Annual Church Profile, 958; baptisms, 12; primary worship service attendance, 298; undesignated receipts, $805,214; Cooperative Program, $125,658; CP percent, 15.6; total missions expenditures, $210,220.


Two town factory closings and a downward spiraling economy might be enough to make any church flinch in its missions commitment. Add a building program, loss of a pastor and a recent venture into early childhood education, and that’s where you’ll find First Baptist Church of Covington, Tenn.

But the church’s commitment to putting love in action through the Cooperative Program remains strong despite tough financial times in the small community of 10,000.

“We have a strong commitment to missions, especially to the Cooperative Program,” associate pastor Gerald Wood said. “CP lets us join with others and share the Gospel in ways we couldn’t do by ourselves.”

First Baptist’s total members in 2008 Annual Church Profile, 1,182; baptisms, 9; primary worship service attendance, 325; undesignated receipts, $766,244; Cooperative Program, $120,212; CP percent, 15.7; total missions expenditures, $184,255.
Marilyn Stewart is a writer based in New Orleans.

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