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CP Stage: To Iorg, the Cooperative Program is personal

Rick Lance (left), executive director of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, interviewed newly elected SBC Executive Committee President Jeff Iorg on the Cooperative Program stage in the exhibit hall of the 2024 SBC Annual Meeting in Indianapolis. The two talked about the importance of CP and the run-up to next year's 100th anniversary of the SBC's missions funding mechanism. Photo by Elijah Hickman

INDIANAPOLIS (BP) – Jeff Iorg, recently incoming president of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee told listeners from the CP Stage that the Cooperative Program was personal to him.

“I’m always disappointed when people talk about the Cooperative Program as some kind of impersonal bureaucracy or some kind of faraway funding mechanism that someone else gets to benefit from,” Iorg asserted, when asked his thoughts about the unified giving plan for Southern Baptists.

“It’s benefited me personally, and it’s benefited hundreds, if not thousands, of other people.”

He shared his views with Rick Lance, executive director of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, who interviewed Iorg about the Cooperative Program on the Exhibit Hall stage prior to the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Indianapolis on June 10.

For example, Iorg said, he came to Christ in a Southern Baptist church, as a teenager was mentored in that church, and then moved to a college that was partially funded by gifts through the Cooperative Program and state convention.

He then received “a world-class education” from two Cooperative Program-sponsored seminaries (where his tuition was far less than what other independent seminaries charged). Then after being a pastor for a few years, God called him to be a church planter in Portland, Ore.

“Where did the money come from for the church plant? Well, the seed money came from the Cooperative Program and the North American Mission Board’s Annie Armstrong Easter Offering,” he said.

After church planting for six and a half years, he was asked to be the state executive director of the Northwest Baptist Convention. There, the Cooperative Program funded his salary and provided significant ministry funds to do ministry to the Northwest. Later, he served as president of Gateway Seminary in Ontario, Calif., where about 35 percent of their annual budget came from the Cooperative Program.

“So, all of these ways the Cooperative Program has been very personal to me. It’s impacted me educationally. It’s impacted me in my mission outreach. It’s impacted me in my capacity to bless others with missions money that was funneled into the work of the church planting and another missions. It’s blessed me being a seminary president.  So, for me the Cooperative Program is not a personal bureaucracy or a funding mechanism for some people way out there somewhere. It’s been personal to me, and I’ve appreciated that.”

Now, as he serves as Executive Committee president, it has remained personal, he said.

Iorg recounted how when he was the president at Gateway, he spoke every year at new student orientations, where he introduced the Cooperative Program. He would survey the students if they knew an international missionary, been a part of a North American Mission Board funded church plant, attended a mission trip, summer camp or college campus funded by a state convention, among other opportunities.

“By the time I finished my list, almost every new student waved their hand in the air, and I would say, ‘Look! Every one of you has your hand in the air because you have been personally impacted by the Cooperative Program,’” he said. “It’s not impersonal. It’s you, it’s the people, you know, it’s the people you work with, and so as president of the Executive Committee, I want to take that message everywhere.”

“Look,” the president said, “when I’m out advocating for the Cooperative Program, I’m not talking about giving money to people we’re never going to see, that we don’t know, and that are out there in some distant place. I’m talking about funding the people that you know, that we care about, that will be impacted by our giving,and that will in turn impact us by their ministry.”

Lance, noting he has often called the Cooperative Program a “missional mutual fund” or “missional circulatory system,” told the audience, “What you have just heard brilliantly described is the best oral presentation of how the Cooperative Program works. That’s why this man is in a new position and the president and CEO of the Executive Committee!

“He gets it, and he’s going to help us get it, now and in the future, as we look toward not only engaging a younger generation but re-engaging some churches [who have] dissolved in the margins.”

To those tempted to reduce their giving, step away from giving, or who are reluctant to join the Cooperative Program, Iorg said it’s not about the money.

“It’s about the mission, and it’s about asking yourself this question: Can I make more impact by combining our resources with people who share my convictions in order to do ministry together, then I can do alone in the resources I had?” he said, stressing, “It’s not so much about appealing for people to get more money. … I’m appealing to people to evaluate the power of cooperation.

In his final comments, Iorg pointed to the 100th anniversary of the Cooperative Program, to be celebrated in 2025. He noted the origin of the funding mechanism, which was a product of Southern Baptists coming together in cooperation to support ministry without being constantly barraged with financial requests by multiple groups.

“It’s not just who makes the most emotional appeal, or who shows up the most often at our door asking for money,” he said. Instead, the Cooperative Program funding goes to the convictional priority of missions in the Southern Baptist Convention.

“Once you see the power of that, why wouldn’t you want to be involved?” he said.

    About the Author

  • Shannon Baker

    Shannon Baker is director of communications for the Baptist Resource Network of Pennsylvania/South Jersey and editor of the Network’s weekly newsletter, BRN United.

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