PHILADELPHIA (BP) — Though the Cooperative Program unites Southern Baptist churches in giving money for missions, it also helps believers acknowledge they need each other in the daunting task of reaching the nations for Christ, a church planter with an international background said.
“We learn to cooperate more in missions giving, sending and partnering because of the Cooperative Program’s unifying spirit, realizing that we need to be together because of the enormous demands of the mission field,” Peter Yanes, a North American Mission Board church planting catalyst in Philadelphia, told Baptist Press.
“To push back lostness in North America and beyond with the Gospel, God wants churches to cooperate and be part of it. If not, it’s impossible to do it alone,” said Yanes, also an ethnic strategist for the Baptist Convention of Pennsylvania/South Jersey.
Yanes is passionate about the Cooperative Program, Southern Baptists’ method of supporting missions and ministries, because a missionary sent with those funds influenced him in the Philippines. Though he was raised in a Roman Catholic home and served as an altar boy, an invitation to a Bible study when he was in high school resulted in him knowing Jesus personally.
“I came to know Christ in a local church that was planted by a Filipino pastor whose family had interacted with a Southern Baptist missionary,” Yanes said. “That same local church that shared the Gospel with me and discipled me became my first pastorate before I came to the United States.”
Yanes and his wife Irene moved to the United States in 1998, and he considers himself a beneficiary of the Cooperative Program also because CP funds helped him restart a church outside Philadelphia. As he served the growing ethnic population there, he helped strengthen Philadelphia Bible Church International, which has become a place of worship for many Filipino transplants.
“Since then I’ve been promoting and encouraging our other ethnic churches to participate in giving to reach all language groups in our region,” said Yanes, who has served as president of the Filipino Southern Baptist Fellowship of North America, as moderator of the Greater Philadelphia Baptist Association and as the first ethnic president of the Baptist Convention of Pennsylvania/South Jersey.
In those roles and others, Yanes has tried to rally churches with his story of coming to know Christ because of the work of missionaries. Now he endeavors to give back in the United States by sharing the Gospel with others and by urging cooperation.
The Cooperative Program, Yanes said, is set apart from other groups of Christians’ ways of supporting missions and ministries because “we see all of our Southern Baptist churches across the United States cooperating in missions giving.”
“It’s the local churches’ conviction and commitment to cooperate with each other to reach their communities, states, nation and beyond for the sake of the Gospel,” Yanes told BP.
In his church planting catalyst role with NAMB, Yanes aims to emphasize with church planters that getting the Gospel to all communities is made more possible because of the “unreserved commitment and partnership of our local churches through cooperative missions giving.” He talks about the Cooperative Program at the outset when he counsels core groups seeking to plant new churches, he said.
A part of the Cooperative Program that resonates with church planters is its biblical roots — “the mission of the Cooperative Program is the Gospel,” Yanes said.
Also, newer church planters just learning about cooperative giving are heartened to know that through CP local churches are resourcing and encouraging them and their families as they share the Gospel and make disciples.
“To our church planters, they are not alone because of the CP spirit from our churches in sending and partnering on the mission field,” he said.
Newer church planters, especially those who did not grow up familiar with the Cooperative Program, benefit from firsthand CP stories as well as from personally partnering with existing churches, Yanes said. They also gain greatly from attending conferences hosted by Southern Baptist entities that emphasize the work of the Cooperative Program.
Church planters who come from a strong Southern Baptist church and have directly benefited from CP giving in their ministry, Yanes said, “mostly understand the importance and significance of the Cooperative Program.”