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The Cooperative Program is worthy of celebration, say CP Stage panelists

Brandon Porter, editor of Baptist Press, facilitates a panel with Tony Wolfe and John Kyle titled “CP 100 – Celebrating 100 Years of Cooperative Partnership” in the exhibit hall at the Indiana Convention Center June 10. The Cooperative Program was established in 1925 to financially support Southern Baptist work and ministry. Photo by Lindsey Stumpf

INDIANAPOLIS (BP) – In anticipation of the 100th anniversary celebration of the Cooperative Program (CP) in 2025, Baptist Press editor Brandon Porter interviewed Tony Wolfe, executive director-treasurer of the South Carolina Baptist Convention, and John Kyle, communications director at the Louisiana Baptist Convention, on the CP Stage in the Exhibit Hall prior to the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention on June 10.

The two leaders shared about why the Cooperative Program is worth celebrating and about preparations for the upcoming celebrations.

“Just think about what’s been accomplished through the Cooperative Program over the course of the last 99 years,” Wolfe said, noting a little over $20 billion had been given by Southern Baptists in every size and every shape and culture of Southern Baptist churches.

“This affected lostness, not just in our communities, but all over the globe,” Wolfe said. “Twenty billion dollars is worth celebrating!”

He also said the mechanism itself is worth celebrating and worth preserving because “through the Cooperative Program every Southern Baptist has the ability to maximize the effectiveness of every missional dollar given every single week.”

“It’s really not so much what it is but who it’s affected,” said Kyle. “All the money is great and everything else but think about the literally the hundreds of thousands who have been reached, those who’ve been equipped, those who have been sent.”

It’s really an occasion for us to celebrate, not what we’ve done, but what God has done, and I think more of what God wants to do as well.”

Porter introduced some special ways Southern Baptists can celebrate what they are calling “CP 100,” short for the Cooperative Program’s centennial celebration.

Wolfe shared about a special gathering on the actual 100th anniversary of the Cooperative Program, May 13, 2025, in Memphis, Tenn., in the exact location where the Cooperative Program was born in 1925 in Memphis. Every Southern Baptist can participate virtually through the live stream experience, he said.

He also shared about an SBC Executive Committee commissioned book, published by B&H Publishing, called “A Unity of Purpose,” a theological, missiological and historical celebration of the Cooperative Program, written by 14 authors, including himself, IMB President Paul Chitwood, NAMB President Kevin Ezell, Southwestern Seminary Provost Madison Grace, SBC archivist Taffey Hall and others.

The title of the book, which will be launched in June at the 2025 SBC Annual Meeting in Dallas, comes from M.E. Dodd’s report to messengers in 1925, saying Southern Baptists are at our best through the Cooperative Program because “it would effect for us … a unity of purpose and consecration through which we can leverage our lives together and our resources together for our shared mission in the Cooperative Program.”

He summarized, “We lean into the theology of cooperation, and then we jump into the history, 100 years of cooperation through this giving mechanism, and then … a challenge and charge for our future and where we are headed through this Great Commission cooperation that we have as Southern Baptists.”

Kyle has been working on some prayer initiatives, including all kinds of opportunities for Southern Baptists to pray, he said, pointing to 2 Corinthians 1:11 (NIV), “… [A]s you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.”

“The apostle Paul says you are helping us by your prayers,” he stressed. “Don’t doubt that your prayers will make a difference. It’s not just something you can check off your spiritual to-do list. Your prayers are actually helping and … God’s favor is granted in answer to the prayers of many.”

The prayer team is working with Kai Bowman, national SBC prayer director, to offer a lot of different ways to pray.

Shifting to how churches can celebrate CP 100, Wolfe said, “The story of the Cooperative Program is the story of the churches … who have funded this Great Commission work.”

He said pastors, mission leaders, Sunday school teachers, deacons, can leverage the 100th anniversary to educate their people on the value of “our missiological togetherness through this funding mechanism.” He shared that local associations, state conventions and the Executive Committee have resources available, such as bulletin inserts, slides and videos about SBC missionaries and the Cooperative Program at www.sbc.net/cp100 (for centennial celebration resources) and www.sbc.net/cp (for more broad educational resources).

Concerned that Southern Baptists’ “CP IQ” is surprisingly low, Kyle acknowledged even people in leadership don’t know much about the Cooperative Program.

“They may have heard about it. Maybe they’ve not heard about it. They may have seen it in the budget,” Kyle said. “I think this is an opportunity to raise that ‘CP IQ’ because what happens is: if I don’t know about it, then I tend not to value it, and if I don’t value it, then I tend not to support it.”

He urged listeners to reposition the Cooperative Program as an “extension of their outreach program. “That’s what it is at its core. It’s outreach beyond the four walls of your church,” Kyle said.

“Another great way for you to celebrate the CP 100 is to raise your CP giving,” Wolfe said, noting at some point, many churches have decreased their giving to CP.  

“Just ask: Is now the time for us to re-engage at a higher level? Is now the time for us to give a little more percentage or a little more dollar amount toward the Cooperative Program?”

Focusing on state conventions and regional networks, Kyle looked forward to sharing resources “that really connect in the spirit” such as social media, video and other media related to prayer.

Wolfe suggested raising challenges to increase CP or to engage churches that may have been unengaged. Some state conventions are working on passing a resolution during their annual meeting that “just celebrates the Cooperative Program and acknowledges that God has chosen out of His grace and kindness to us to use it in such a powerful way these past 100 years.”

Before concluding, Wolfe shared that the “Cooperative Program, in so many ways, is the story my life,” including in his role as pastor’s son, seminary student and state convention director.

“What burned inside of me … is this desire to reach every person in every neighborhood and every nation across the globe with a Gospel,” he said, adding that he was indebted to tens of thousands of Southern Baptist churches that have given sacrificially and faithfully through the years for this purpose.

Kyle, who said he was not brought up in church, said he marvels at how there’s people who have never met him that believed in him, prayed for him, and who are contributing to make sure that he can pursue God’s calling.

    About the Author

  • Shannon Baker

    Shannon Baker is director of communications for the Baptist Resource Network of Pennsylvania/South Jersey and editor of the Network’s weekly newsletter, BRN United.

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