ATLANTA (BP)–The Southern Baptist Convention launched the celebration of its Cooperative Program’s 75th anniversary June 15 with a reminder from Morris Chapman that the financial giving plan is “all about souls.”
“It’s very critical that we reach America, the world for Jesus Christ,” said Chapman, president of the SBC Executive Committee. The Cooperative Program is the unified funding plan begun in 1925 through which Baptists cooperate in support of missions and ministries.
“Partners in the Harvest” is the theme for the 75th anniversary, and all Baptist state conventions and fellowships are participating in the emphasis.
Three goals have been set for the anniversary, said James Merritt, Executive Committee chairman and pastor of First Baptist Church in Snellville, Ga. Those goals are:
— Baptize 1 million people in the year 2000.
— Sign up a record number of Baptists for volunteer missions projects.
— Give $750 million in 2000-2001 through CP and special offerings for international, North American and state missions.
To reach the goal of $750 million total missions giving in 2000-2001 would require $60 million in additional CP gifts through local churches across the country, Jim Powell, director of Cooperative Program relations for the Executive Committee, told Baptist Press. “That is beyond business as usual.”
In 1997-98, Southern Baptists gave $440 million through the Cooperative Program, according to the 1999 SBC Book of Reports. Giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for international missions amounted to $94 million, and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North America Missions raised $42 million. The three figures total more than $577 million. The amount given through state missions offerings was not available.
A live performance by three popular singers and pledges from three prominent pastors highlighted the anniversary presentation in during the opening session of the SBC annual meeting in Atlanta.
Messengers stood to their feet and applauded while Clay Crosse, Bob Carlisle and BeBe Winans sang “I Will Follow Christ.” Crosse, a Southern Baptist, and Steve Siler wrote the song, which is on Crosse’s newest album, “I Surrender All.” A video of the song will be sent to Southern Baptist churches, and the three artists are going to participate in a CP missions project, according to an Executive Committee news release.
Testimonies from pastors Adrian Rogers, Jim Henry and Jack Graham included their plans to lead their churches to increase by 1 percentage point the amount of undesignated receipts given through the Cooperative Program.
Rogers, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., said Southern Baptists have won the battle for the inerrancy of Scripture. “Let’s not lose the battle for the authority and power of the Scripture” by failing to support the Cooperative Program, Rogers said.
Henry, pastor of First Baptist Church, Orlando, Fla., encouraged churches to give a tithe of undesignated receipts through the CP. “We have an opportunity for teamwork like the world has never seen. … See what God will do,” he urged.
Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Dallas, referred to hockey, which has become popular in his city. In hockey, a penalty results in one team getting a “power play,” which is a two-minute “all-out assault on the net.” He encouraged Southern Baptists to be part of a “power play for the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s called the Cooperative Program.”
Chapman said before 1925 and creation of the unified giving plan, Southern Baptists faced a financial crisis. “Churches had begun to revolt against a flood of appeals” from varied ministries, which approached congregations individually for financial support.
Echoing words spoken by Minnie James, president of Woman’s Missionary Union in 1925, Chapman said of CP, “Tell Baptists to keep it going.”
The Cooperative Program is an “alliance and partnership with state conventions,” he said. “It is a matter of one for all and all for one.”
Cooperative Program funds are channeled through state conventions, where a portion is deducted before the remainder is sent to the SBC.
Chapman said CP is the “greatest voluntary funding program in the history of Christendom,” and he said it represents Southern Baptists “doing together what we cannot do separately.”
“Our challenge is to train students, to send missionaries, plant churches, win the lost and speak to our nation about the rapidly declining morality,” Chapman said.