Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. Growing up, I loved Thanksgiving primarily because of family, feasting, fall weather, and football. In adulthood, I still love all those things. But in middle age, I’ve come to appreciate the meaning of Thanksgiving increasingly with every passing year.
Though Thanksgiving is a cultural observance rather than an officially Christian holiday, it is nevertheless deeply rooted in biblical principles. The Scriptures speak of the role of thanksgiving in public worship (Psa. 95:2; 100:4; 105:1-2), commands believers to give thanks to God (Psa. 106:1; Col. 3:17; Eph. 5:18-20; 1 Thess. 5:18), and emphasizes the importance of cultivating a heart inclined toward thankfulness (Phil. 4:6; Col. 4:2).
In recent days, I’ve been reflecting on how thankful I am for the Cooperative Program. Some of my reasons are admittedly personal. For well over two decades, the Cooperative Program has played an important role in my own life and ministry.
I earned a degree from a state Baptist college. I studied at two different Southern Baptist seminaries and later taught for both of those institutions. I’ve served on the faculties of two state Baptist universities, including North Greenville University, where I currently teach. The kingdom generosity of Southern Baptists, channeled through the Cooperative Program, helped fund my education and has enabled me to educate others for kingdom service. Thankfully, I’ll never have to know what my ministry journey might have looked like without the Cooperative Program.
But I’m not only thankful for personal reasons. I’m also thankful for the wider kingdom impact of the Cooperative Program.
- I’m thankful for the thousands of missionaries laboring among the unreached and underserved across North America and every corner of the globe.
- I’m thankful for the new churches being planted and the established churches being revitalized all over our nation.
- I’m thankful for the tens of thousands of collegians and seminarians studying in our state convention schools and theological seminaries.
- I’m thankful for the yellow-clad army of Disaster Relief volunteers who are serving amid scenes of crisis and chaos.
- I’m thankful for the state convention ministries to at-risk children and elderly saints.
- I’m thankful for the public witness of our Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and similar state-level ministries.
- I’m thankful for a mosaic of disciple-making initiatives focused upon strategic groups such as immigrants, refugees, collegians, teenagers, and children.
All these ministries—and many more—are funded in part by the Cooperative Program. When churches support the Cooperative Program, it enables all of us to play a small part in the larger work that God is accomplishing among and through our state conventions and the entities of the Southern Baptist Convention. When it comes to kingdom advance, we are better together.
In two years, we will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Cooperative Program. For nearly a century, it has remained a remarkably effective strategy for uniting tens of thousands of autonomous churches in the common cause of funding Great Commission faithfulness here, there, and everywhere. So, as we celebrate Thanksgiving, I want to invite you to join me in thanking God for the Cooperative Program. And as we do so, let’s continue to trust the Lord, trust one another, and give sacrificially through the Cooperative Program—for the glory of God and the sake of the world that He so loves.