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Global missions gain $1M from record gifts by Fla. Baptists

EUSTIS, Fla. (BP)–Southern Baptist resources for reaching the world for Christ have been expanded by more than $1 million from record Cooperative Program gifts by Florida Baptists.

“The generosity of Florida Baptists has been absolutely overwhelming,” John Sullivan, executive director-treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention, said during a Jan. 27 state board of missions meeting at Lake Yale Baptist Conference Center in Eustis.

“We have received $2.2 million in Cooperative Program overages, $3 million in disaster relief, record gifts in special offerings and the highest state mission offering in history [of nearly $1.2 million],” Sullivan said of Florida Baptists’ stewardship achievements in 2005.

The mission board earmarked $1,016,139 of the CP overage for Southern Baptist national and international missions and ministries, akin to the state convention’s distribution formula for sending gifts from Florida churches to the SBC. Another $100,000 was included to fulfill a commitment by the board to retroactively provide a greater portion of the 2004 CP overage to CP Missions in North America and beyond. Other state conventions over the years also have allocated part of their CP overages to SBC work at home and overseas.

Glen Owens, the Florida convention’s assistant executive director, describing the state’s Baptists as “the most generous people on the face of the earth,” noted, “In a time of unprecedented hurricane activity that has devastated sections of the Gulf Coast region, our churches have continued faithfully giving through the Cooperative Program and other related offerings at record levels.

“Florida Baptists truly believe we can accomplish more in the Kingdom of God by cooperating together,” Owens said. “It seems rather logical to Florida Baptists [that] God has blessed His work in Florida over and above [and thus] we should be a blessing to our cooperating partners over and above.”

Morris H. Chapman, president of the SBC Executive Committee, said, “I praise God for the generosity of Florida Baptists in their giving through the Cooperative Program. The $2.2 million overage in Cooperative Program income is especially noteworthy given the fact that the state endured two hurricanes in 2005.”

Florida Baptists’ giving “reminds me of what the Apostle Paul said about the Macedonian churches: ‘Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity’ (2 Corinthians 8:2),” Chapman said. “That Macedonian model is a worthy goal for all Southern Baptists living in these days of unprecedented challenge and opportunity. So we are especially grateful for the more than $1 million that Florida Baptists have provided for SBC missions and ministries.”

Chapman added, “Now more than ever, I am convinced that the Cooperative Program is the most efficient and effective funding method for accomplishing the Acts 1:8 mandate to be Christ’s witnesses — beginning where we are and ultimately reaching to the ends of the earth. Since no one individual or single church can fully realize this mandate alone, our predecessors wisely decided that we can do far more together by pooling our collective resources and strategically distributing them through the Cooperative Program.

“Because of the faithful giving of Southern Baptists, together we are able to launch disaster relief teams to places of desperate need; dispatch medical missionaries to AIDS-ravaged Africa; repair inner-city homes all across America; offer hope to hardened hearts in our nation’s prisons; speak on behalf of righteousness in the halls of government; train, equip and send out armies of pastors, chaplains, ministers and missionaries; start 63 new churches every day; and baptize 1 person every 37 seconds.

“The Cooperative Program enables Southern Baptists to participate in all of this, and much, much more,” Chapman said. “Yet everything we do has the same goal, aim and mission — to show and share the love of Jesus Christ with every person in every part of the world.

“I pray that all Southern Baptists not only will take pride in what we are able to accomplish through the Cooperative Program, but feel a renewed sense of urgency to give systematically and sacrificially so that together we might do more to obey the Great Commission of our Lord,” Chapman said.

Sullivan described the Cooperative Program as “God-given and mission-driven” in a column in the Florida Baptist Witness newsjournal.

“Is the Cooperative Program all we do in the missionary enterprise? No, but it is the lifeline of our missionary and education ministries,” Sullivan wrote.

“The Great Commission,” he noted, “is the heartbeat of the New Testament. How can we best keep it beating? By taking all of the Gospel, into all of the world, all of the time at the same time,” he wrote in reference to the unified ministry channel Baptists have in the Cooperative Program.

Sullivan noted that the Cooperative Program “begins with the local church” through the budget decisions for the amount of church members’ gifts to be sent to the state or regional convention.

Those conventions retain a portion of the church contributions for their statewide Cooperative Program outreach and they send a percentage on to the SBC for national and international causes. The percentage of distribution is at the discretion of each state or regional convention.

For the Florida Baptist Convention, the Cooperative Program overage will help underwrite missions initiatives in Haiti and Cuba, for example, along with various urban ministries; missions and ministry needs among the state’s 49 Baptist associations; theological education through the Baptist College of Florida; and sanctity of life efforts through the Florida Baptist Children’s Homes.

Nationally, CP gifts help support the outreach of 5,364 missionaries across North America engaged in evangelism, church planting and other outreach. Last year, the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief network led by the CP-supported North American Mission Board provided the channel by which 100 percent of Southern Baptists’ gifts for disaster relief after Hurricane Katrina could be directly used to meet victims’ needs. CP funds also under gird the SBC’s six seminaries and its Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

Internationally, CP gifts help support 5,074 International Mission Board missionaries, many of whom are focused on unreached people groups in countries closed to traditional missionary work. SBC missionaries also partner with Great Commission groups around the world in evangelism, church planting and other outreach. After the December 2005 tsunami in southern Asia and the Oct. 8 earthquake centered in Pakistan, the CP-supported International Mission Board provided the channel by which 100 percent of Southern Baptists’ gifts for disaster relief could be directly used in meeting victims’ needs.
With reporting by Barbara Denman, director of communications for the Florida Baptist Convention.