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FIRST-PERSON: This is why we cooperate

A doctor checks a patient’s blood pressure vitals at a clinic in Kazakhstan. IMB Photo

When I saw the social media post from Dr. Paul Chitwood, president of our SBC International Mission Board, reporting that there are 1,268 candidates in the IMB’s missionary sending pipeline, my immediate response was, “This is why we cooperate!”

I could give that same response daily while witnessing Kentucky Baptists working together to advance the Gospel in the commonwealth and around the world.

Last week a student at Southern Seminary came up to say thank you for the scholarship provided to him by the generous giving of Kentucky Baptist churches. I had an inspiring conversation with a young IMB appointee about his upcoming commissioning for mission work in Japan. I met with a national leader who works with local Baptist associations to help them be more effective in their work.

Each of these encounters reminds me why we cooperate as Southern Baptists and Kentucky Baptists. We cooperate to advance the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Kentucky and around the world.

But what are the benefits of working together? Why not take a more independent, or go-it-alone, approach? Here are seven benefits of cooperation: 

1. Return on your investment: Southern Baptists have discovered that we can do more together than any single church can do on its own. It is hard to imagine a single church that has the resources to build a world class seminary and then staff that school with some of the greatest conservative biblical scholars in the United States. Southern Baptists, however, have six of those schools. By God’s grace we have been able to build six of the greatest seminaries in the world because we have put our resources together and now see an impressive return on our investment.

2. Ministry-protecting accountability: No church or network of churches is immune from scandal. When an individual chooses to ignore God’s commands, everyone gets hurt. Southern Baptists, however, have systems of accountability that make it difficult for those with ill intentions to go unnoticed. Just recently, members of cooperating Baptist churches who are serving on our Executive Committee President and CEO Search Team discovered a fraudulent resume of an EC employee. Because of their due diligence the matter was dealt with immediately and decisively. We also have a trustee system that exercises oversight for our national entities. These trustees come from our Southern Baptist churches and are accessible by any Southern Baptist who wishes to express appreciation or concern.

3. Gospel-advancing impact: By working together, Southern Baptists are fully funding 3,650 international missionaries, who, along with their global ministry partners, planted more than 20,000 churches last year and witnessed more than 100,000 baptisms. Southern Baptists have planted more than 10,000 churches in North America since 2010. Many of those churches have become cooperating partners in our Gospel advancing efforts. Together, we are advancing the Gospel nationally and globally.

4. Ministry effectiveness: Each church feels a compassionate compulsion to serve its neighbor when a natural disaster strikes. Rather than 47,000 churches having their own disaster relief response, we are able to respond within hours to any natural disaster with thousands of trained and resourced volunteers serving through state convention-supported Southern Baptist Disaster Relief. One of the greatest ministries Southern Baptists do together is to show up in yellow with Christ-like compassion to help people who have lost all their earthly possessions due to hurricanes, floods, fires, tornadoes and more. We are more effective when we cooperate. 

5. God-honoring unity: Psalm 133:1 reminds believers, Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! Our work promotes unity because we have a reason to unify — to advance the Gospel of Jesus Christ at home and around the world — until Jesus comes back or calls us home. Working together requires us to agree on the essentials and be charitable on the non-essentials. Southern Baptists have been doing this for decades.

6. Gospel-advancing representation: I do not plan on ever visiting Poland, Brazil or Chile, but I am doing Gospel work there because my home church sends 10 percent of its undesignated financial receipts through the Cooperative Program, which funds missionaries in those areas. They do not go for me — I go with them. They represent me, and all Cooperative Program supporting Southern Baptists, when they preach the Gospel of Jesus. Their home, car, food and income are provided by God through members of SBC churches who are “holding the ropes” for them while they go into difficult places with the Good News of Jesus.

7. Celebration of changed lives: Only heaven will reveal the Gospel impact we have been part of because we chose to push through difficulties to cooperate for the glory of Christ and the advancement of the Great Commission.

Our way of cooperating to advance the Gospel is not the only way and it is not without its challenges. However, I am not aware of a more effective way. The goal of my life is to make the biggest Gospel-advancing difference that I can make and being a Southern Baptist helps me fulfill that goal.

    About the Author

  • Todd Gray

    Todd Gray is the executive director-treasurer of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.

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