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State convention increases CP giving 15 years in a row

HARRISBURG, Penn. (BP)–For each of the last 15 years, the Baptist Convention of Pennsylvania/South Jersey has increased its giving through the Cooperative Program, Southern Baptists’ channel of empowering its missions thrust throughout the world.

Penn/South Jersey doesn’t plan to stop. Executive Director David Waltz’s goal is that the two-state convention, which consists of 375 churches and missions, continue increasing its CP percentage each year until it forwards 50 percent of the gifts from its congregations. At 24.8 percent this year, it’s nearly halfway to its goal.

“Part of what it means to be a follower of Jesus is to give yourself away,” Waltz said. “We give to the Cooperative Program because it is the right thing to do. It’s our channel for giving beyond ourselves, giving that honors God.”

Sometimes the state convention -– which is located in a “new work” (non-southern) area of the nation -– increases its CP giving only a tenth of a percent or a quarter of a percent from one year to the next, but over time, that adds up, Waltz said.

“Right now we’re on the receiving end of the Cooperative Program,” he said. “We might not see that 50 percent goal in my lifetime, the way we’re doing it, but I talk to our people a lot about the day when we’re a net giver instead of a net receiver.”

The state convention received $863,784 in CP gifts from its member churches in 2005 and sent $213,354 -– 24.7 percent -– for disbursement to SBC entities according to percentages voted on by messengers to the SBC’s annual meeting.

That’s up from the $129,224 Penn/South Jersey gave through the Cooperative Program in 1992, the year Waltz was called to lead the state convention.

“The Cooperative Program is our channel for being obedient,” Waltz said. “Sacrificial giving is a principle we model at the local church level and at the state convention level. It’s not a matter of giving only when you like what is going on, or not giving when you don’t like the way a vote went. It’s giving that honors God, because it’s the right thing to do as a part of the family.”

Penn/South Jersey used 75.30 percent of its Cooperative Program receipts from churches in 2005 to help pay for the state convention’s multiple ministries in evangelism, missions, church development and more, in a $2,892,783 budget supplemented by Cooperative Program funds from the North American Mission Board as well as giving from LifeWay Christian Resources and GuideStone Financial Resources (formerly the Annuity Board).

As the number of churches increases, and the number of members in those churches increases, the amount given through the Cooperative Program will increase to the point that Penn/South Jersey becomes the net giver Waltz envisions.

“When we moved to Pennsylvania, I was 7 years old,” he said. “My father came to pastor one of five Southern Baptist churches then in the state. We now have 375 churches and missions, and a lot of them were started with Cooperative Program dollars. Reaching my home state is highly dependent on the Cooperative Program.

“More than half our budget comes from NAMB through Southern Baptists giving through the Cooperative Program, and I’ve seen what it does,” Waltz continued. “We’ve gone from 1,010 baptisms 10 years ago to almost 4,500 in 2005. Over the last 10 years, we’ve seen at least a 10 percent increase each year in baptisms.”

Waltz said he started the “increase CP giving every year” concept when he was a mission pastor at First Southern Baptist Church of Williamsport, Pa., where the little league world series is played each year.

“As a pastor, it was important to me in leading a congregation to give to missions,” Waltz said. “Even before we had a building, we were giving 25 percent to missions.”

His primary principle is that giving to missions is a critical part of what it means to be a Christian, and that churches need to model that giving principle for the congregation, Waltz added.

“My second principle is that I don’t look at it as a pie, in which as the missions slice gets bigger there is less for local ministry,” he said. “Instead, as you give more to missions beyond yourself, God increases the size of the pie. My philosophy has always been that God provides the means for what He wants you to do.”

The state conventions that give more dollars and a bigger percentage to the Cooperative Program inspire and encourage him, Waltz said. So do the churches in Penn/South Jersey that are faithful in their giving.

“I’d like to say thank you for your support of the Cooperative Program and thank you for encouraging your churches to give,” Waltz said. “Your giving has made a significant difference in our state convention.”