Editor’s note: Wes Fowler is the executive director-treasurer of the Missouri Baptist Convention.
As a local pastor in Kentucky, I would sometimes hear a fellow pastor ask, “Wes, do you think we should continue supporting the Cooperative Program?” For me, it was always an easy answer: Yes. Despite potential concerns, and despite the latest argument on social media, I believe the Cooperative Program remains a vital tool for reaching our nation and the world for Christ. Let me briefly share three foundational reasons cooperation is so beneficial.
First and foremost, our missionaries depend on our cooperation. Currently, Southern Baptists have more than 3,500 international missionaries, and more than 6,000 missionaries and chaplains serving through NAMB. Every missionary has at least one thing in common: he or she depends on our cooperation. For as long as I can remember, I’ve supported the Cooperative Program, knowing that missionaries around the world depend on our faithfulness.
For most of my time in ministry, I was supporting a missionary I had never met, serving in a country I had never visited. In 2022, though, all of that changed, and our cooperative efforts became much more tangible and meaningful. My associate pastor, who I served alongside for more than a decade, felt called to an unreached area of the world.
Together, we walked through the IMB process, prayed regularly, and made preparations for his entire family to be sent. At our SBC gathering in Anaheim, I watched as he and his wife stood on the platform during the Sending Celebration, shielded by a screen to protect their identities.
It was surreal as they sold their house, their vehicles and most of their possessions. It was difficult the day they boarded a one-way flight to an unfamiliar land and people. It’s an understatement to say I was proud of my associate pastor for following the Lord’s calling, but I was also proud of us, Southern Baptists, for cooperating and sending.
Alone, our church didn’t have the resources to send, support and sustain a family on the mission field. Together, though, it was made possible. It’s awesome to know there are thousands of similar stories! I’m so thankful we cooperate.
Second, our reach is expanded through cooperation. On Dec. 10, 2021, a tornado leveled my hometown of Mayfield, Ky. All of us who experienced the impact and aftermath will remember the significant feeling of loss for the rest of our lives. I will also forever remember how Disaster Relief teams arrived on Dec. 12, led by Missouri’s own Ron Crow.
It was such a welcome sight watching volunteers arrive with much needed supplies and also with hope and joy. Roads were cleared, roofs were repaired, trees were cut, and homes were restored. But most of all, the Gospel was proclaimed to those who were desperately hurting.
Beyond Kentucky, Send Relief assisted with purchasing generators, gasoline, hotel rooms and food and clothing for those who lost almost everything. Teams from all across the nation responded during our time of need, drastically improving conditions and the quality of life for those who experienced deep tragedy.
Mayfield is just one city out of dozens that benefitted from the cooperative efforts of Southern Baptists. Alone, it simply wasn’t possible for our church to adequately respond to such a massive need. Together, though, it was made possible. I am so thankful we cooperate.
Third, future generations are blessed by our cooperation. After feeling called to ministry, I worked toward my M.Div. at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Then, after serving several years in ministry, I started the journey towards my D.Min. at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Both degrees were made more affordable through the Cooperative Program.
Later in life, my wife and I felt called to become foster parents and adopt. We fostered through Sunrise Children’s Services, a ministry partially supported through the Cooperative Program in Kentucky. Missouri Baptists are blessed with a similar ministry, the Missouri Baptist Children’s Home, which is also partially funded through our cooperative efforts.
How many lives are impacted through our cooperation? How many children hear the Gospel? How many future pastors and ministry leaders are educated and equipped? How many faithful senior adults are cared for? How many investments are managed for future Kingdom opportunities? Due to its breadth, it’s nearly impossible to quantify the impact of our cooperative efforts. However, we can know this: We are better together.
Our cooperative efforts may not be perfect, but I believe wholeheartedly that the Cooperative Program is a great investment, and I pray this is your conviction as well. Thank you for serving so faithfully and giving so generously!