JACKSON, Tenn. (BP) — I learned an important lesson from an association of churches several years ago that had recently admitted a new congregation. On the Sunday following a weeklong conference, I was invited to preach to this new congregation.
My wife and I arrived early and discovered that this very small congregation was particularly excited that morning. I joined in some of the conversations and discovered that the members had learned about a new idea that was a revolutionary concept to them.
There was something called “The Cooperative Program” and they were going to be able to help send missionaries all around the world.
Having grown up in Baptist life, I did not remember a time when there was not a Cooperative Program. I took it for granted. To me it was not a revolutionary idea but rather something that was always there, quietly doing its work without requiring a lot of attention.
On that Sunday morning I was reminded that the Cooperative Program absolutely was something to always be excited about. No matter how small or large, every congregation could be a part of work all around the world.
Now, several years later, I have the privilege of serving a church as the global missions pastor with responsibilities for missions across our country and the world. My perspective has matured from just knowing I should be excited about how the Cooperative Program helps every church send missionaries around the world to, now, a place where I depend upon the resources of the Cooperative Program to facilitate my work.
As we participate in planting churches here in the United States, I do not have to vet potential church planters. When a potential church planter sits down at my desk, I have the resources of the North American Mission Board at my disposal. NAMB assists with vetting, training, counseling and placing these church planters while allowing me to focus on helping these new church plants with finances and personnel.
Imagine the resources we would have to expend to do the work NAMB does for us. The Cooperative Program helps fund NAMB. NAMB does for us the tasks they can do best. We can focus on applying the talents and gifts of our congregations to the work of planting churches. Ultimately, the Cooperative Program provides efficiency and excellence that would be difficult to obtain otherwise.
Internationally, the Cooperative Program helps fund our International Mission Board which partners with my local church in our efforts to serve around the world. Today’s ever-changing geo-political situations necessitate wise decisions about how to apply our physical and personal resources. Our IMB personnel are a critical resource in making those decisions.
Wherever we may work in the world, it is critical that teams serve with an understanding of the unique culture and how to interact with locals. Becoming an expert on all these cultures would be an enormous job that would require a great deal of resources. Our Cooperative Program-funded field personnel are our local experts and trainers. They equip our teams to serve more effectively.
Not only is our return on investment of time and money multiplied by Cooperative Program resources, we also know that the work we do is part of something that continues when we are not present. These field personnel are not tour guides who accommodate something my church wants to do. They are local experts on the needs and opportunities in their areas. They can present their strategy and together we can apply our congregation’s abilities to help them move forward with their strategy and achieve results far beyond what we could do separately.
I am grateful that because of the Cooperative Program, I do not have to do my work “separately.” If you are not deeply involved in the nuts and bolts of your church’s mission planning and effort, you may not know how critical the entities and resources funded by the Cooperative Program dollars are to the work your local church does. I can promise you that the Cooperative Program is something you should be excited about.
It may have been around for a while quietly doing its work, but it is worthy of celebrating. It is as relevant to what we do today as it was when God planted the idea with Southern Baptists a long time ago. Celebrate it, support it and take advantage of the resources it provides.
By the way, the Cooperative Program does a lot more than what I have mentioned. I imagine that if you would take time to check it out, you would be amazed at all the things your dollars are doing — cooperatively.