NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–The Southern Baptist Convention has a rich heritage, but unfortunately many local church members have little knowledge about that heritage.
That could all change with the release of the “Forged by Faith” video series produced by the SBC Executive Committee.
The first two installments in the series, entitled “A History of the Southern Baptist Convention: The Early Years” and “The Cooperative Program: One Sacred Effort,” show in a narrated documentary form how the SBC was founded and developed and how it established its cooperative funding mechanism. Future videos are expected to cover topics such as the Baptist Faith & Message and how the convention’s entities work together to further the Gospel.
Approximately 15 minutes each, churches can use each video in the series for Sunday School classes, new member classes or special programs. Segments of each video can also be used for sermon illustrations and in worship services.
A History of the Southern Baptist Convention: The Early Years traces Baptist history from its roots in pre-Reformation Europe up the present-day SBC. The video highlights the first Baptist churches and associations in America and documents the influence of Baptists on America’s founding fathers.
It relates, for example, how Thomas Jefferson said of Baptist polity, “I consider it the only form of true democracy now existing in the world and have concluded it would be the best form for the government of these American colonies.” James Madison sought Baptist support for his candidacy to the 1789 Constitutional Convention and received it in exchange for advocating religious freedom in the First Amendment, according to The Early Years.
The video continues by tracing Baptist history through the formation of the Triennial Convention in 1814 and the subsequent formation of the SBC in 1845.
Today the SBC has “a desire to stay true to God’s Word while remaining relevant to the changing culture — adapting their methods without altering or diminishing the Gospel message,” The Early Years concludes.
The Cooperative Program: One Sacred Effort compares Southern Baptists’ cooperative funding mechanism to the Hoover Dam. Just like the Hoover Dam controls the flow of water from the Colorado River to prevent alternating seasons of flood and drought, the Cooperative Program ensures a steady flow of money to SBC entities rather than sporadic rushes of income raised periodically, the video explains.
Southern Baptists did not always have the Cooperative Program, according to One Sacred Effort. Instead, Baptist entities made direct appeals to the churches in the convention’s early years, but this direct appeal method resulted in unpredictable revenue.
In 1925, the SBC instituted the Cooperative Program whereby churches receive contributions from their members and pass a percentage of those offerings on to their Baptist state conventions, the video explains. The state conventions then pass a percentage of their CP dollars on to the SBC to fund missions, evangelism, theological education and a host of other causes.
“Ultimately, Southern Baptists do not see the Cooperative Program as merely another program, but as an essential means to spreading the Gospel and making a difference in the lives of people,” the video says. “Through the Cooperative Program, Southern Baptists baptize people every minute and plant scores of new Bible-based churches every 24 hours, sharing Jesus as the Way, the Truth and the Life.”
When Kenyn Cureton showed young adults in his church the first installment of Forged by Faith, he was greatly encouraged by the response.
“We used it in some Sunday School classes, and people were absolutely amazed because we no longer teach our history and heritage as Southern Baptists,” Cureton, vice president of convention relations at the SBC Executive Committee, said. “Several of them said, ‘I had no idea that Baptists had that much impact on Presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison and played such a vital role in helping to secure our religious freedom through the First Amendment.’”
Cureton, who wrote the script for The Cooperative Program: One Sacred Effort, said the Forged by Faith series can play a vital role in instilling a sense of identity in Southern Baptists.
“For the past decade or so, we really haven’t had a targeted focus on Southern Baptist beliefs and values or on our rich history and heritage,” he said. “I think there’s a hunger for that — although sometimes it is not apparent until something like Forged By Faith comes along and people soak it up like a sponge.”
The idea for the series came when members of the Executive Committee staff noted a lack of knowledge among Southern Baptists about basic SBC doctrine and operation.
“A lament I had often heard repeated was the fact that many people in our churches were ignorant of many things the last generation of Southern Baptists had well known,” D. August Boto, general counsel and vice president for convention policy at the Executive Committee and an executive producer of both videos, said. “Among these things were how the convention operates, how it is financed, what services it provides, how it is structured, how churches affiliate with it, how we undertake evangelism and the missionary effort, what we believe as Southern Baptists and what our distinctives are.
“An understanding of these things is necessary to have a proper appreciation for the SBC.”
Boto proposed to Executive Committee President Morris H. Chapman that the Executive Committee produce a short prototype film, and if it was well accepted, produce a film series intended for use in churches. Chapman enthusiastically approved the project and encouraged the start of production as soon as possible. The first two segments were produced, and two more segments are scheduled to be produced in the coming year.
When the series is complete, boxed sets will be offered and companion study materials produced for use in churches. Enhancements such as excerpted clips will be available as well.
“We are at the front end of producing the completed work,” Boto said. “We will be designing each new addition to the series in a way that would allow it to stand alone and meet a specific need. At the same time, we are certainly happy to provide the early installments to anyone interested in seeing and using them.”
Chris Chapman, the series’ other executive producer and director of information systems at the Executive Committee, said the series fills a vacuum left by the abandonment of Training Union in many Southern Baptist churches.
“One of the goals for the Forged by Faith series is to teach Southern Baptists the ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ of their denomination,” Chris Chapman said. “Since Training Union was abandoned, there has been no vehicle for teaching the SBC church member basic Southern Baptist history, doctrine or the day-to-day operation of our denomination.”
The entire production team of the Forged by Faith series says it prays God will use the videos to assist and minister to churches. They saw evidence of God’s blessing on the series when the release of the Cooperative Program installment coincided with an annual meeting in Greensboro, N.C., that emphasized the Cooperative Program.
“This brief video tells the wonderful story of how Southern Baptists learned to synchronize two great loves — love of freedom and autonomy, and love for missions,” Bob Rodgers, Executive Committee vice president for Cooperative Program, said. “It is a compelling visual story that is the best rendering that I have seen telling how Southern Baptists discovered this special spiritual gift of ‘cooperation’ as the most effective and efficient enabling system to accomplish our Christian imperative — to take the Gospel around the world.”
“Interest among our churches in the Cooperative Program is currently at a peak, and volume two speaks directly to that interest,” Boto said.
Morris Chapman concurred.
“My fervent prayer is that churches will view the second film in the series and rediscover the urgent need for and power of cooperative missions,” he said. “I believe that widespread use of the film not only has the potential to generate new enthusiasm for the Cooperative Program among our seasoned veterans, but also introduce its incredible value to the younger generations of Southern Baptists.
“Our people need to know how the Cooperative Program was born out of difficulty, how it provided a solution that has proven to be the most effective and efficient delivery system for worldwide ministry and missions since the days of the early church, and how to this day it enables us to do far more together than we could ever accomplish separately,” Morris Chapman continued. “The longer I live, the more I am convinced that the Cooperative Program is God’s gift to Southern Baptists. No other denomination on earth has been successful in their attempts to duplicate what God has given us.
“There is a vast spiritual hunger throughout the world, and time is short. If we will be faithful stewards of our time, energies and resources, the world has yet to see what God can do through Southern Baptists,” Morris Chapman concluded. “I am praying this film will help re-energize our cooperative efforts and rekindle our passion to show and share the love of Christ with every person in every part of the world. That is what the Cooperative Program is all about.”
Adapted from an article printed in the September 2006 issue of “SBC Life.” For information about how to obtain the first two installments of the “Forged By Faith” film series and to view a sample excerpt of each film, visit www.sbc.net/forgedbyfaith.