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‘This is for you,’ Jim Henry says, recounting Cooperative Program heroes

ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)–A “This is for you” expression of gratitude marked Jim Henry’s acceptance of the inaugural M.E. Dodd Award honoring individuals or congregations for their Cooperative Program giving.

Henry, senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Orlando, Fla., received the award — launched as part of the 75th anniversary celebration of the Southern Baptist Convention channel for missions support — during the opening session of the SBC’s June 13-14 annual meeting at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla.

The Cooperative Program is the channel by which Southern Baptists finance missions and ministry initiatives of Baptist state conventions as well as national and international outreach efforts.

Since 1991, Henry’s church has led the SBC in Cooperative Program giving in total dollars, and since 1995, the church has given more than $1 million a year.

Morris H. Chapman, president and chief executive officer of the SBC Executive Committee, presented the award, a bronze sculpture, to Henry and his wife, Jeanette.

In voicing a harvest of memories, Henry first credited the man for whom the award was named.

“This is for Dr. Dodd and our spiritual forefathers who had heart and vision to fulfill what God had for the Southern Baptist Convention in diagramming the most magnificent way to reach the world for Christ,” said Henry, gesturing towards the Heisman-like trophy.

Henry referred to the Royal Ambassador camp where he first met a missionary who taught him to sing; Glorieta and Ridgecrest Baptist conference centers where he worked as a high schooler; and men like Baker James Cauthen and others who worked with the Foreign Mission Board (now International Mission Board) and the Home Mission Board (now North American Mission Board.)

Henry praised New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, where he received his education, and all six Southern Baptist seminaries. “I got a quality education because of the leadership [and] the people, and because Southern Baptists made it possible for me and Jeanette to go. This is for them.”

Henry’s list of CP heroes included Keith and Carol Ming from Henry’s former church, Two Rivers Baptist Church in Nashville, Tenn. The Ming family modeled for the Henry family a unique commitment by giving as much to missions as their spent on their family each year at Christmas. Other churches Henry included in his rundown included Hollywood Baptist Church in Sledge, Miss., and his current church, First Baptist Church, Orlando.

“People who believed, who gave sacrificially, sometimes not quite understanding, but who said, ‘We will do it,'” Henry said. “For the staff member and the other people who got behind it and said, ‘We’ll do it and we’ll give.’ And they gave … and they give … . This is for them.”

Even the young couple, new in Christ, and the older folks who give of their Social Security checks, caught Henry’s thanks, along with faithful deacons, the housewife with a lost husband and little money, the boys and girls with nickels and the “weather-beaten hands of the farmer” who all put money into the offering plate to “touch the world.”

Honoring “fellow pastors” in rural, suburban, village, city and large churches, Henry said, “This is for you because you’re the ones who week by week and month by month lead your people to [give].”

In a final tribute, Henry acknowledged Jesus Christ whom he said came on a great mission to teach him and his wife about “going and sending and praying and trusting and giving.”

“Unto him be all the glory … . In acknowledgement to him and in gratitude to you and all the heroes, I salute them and thank you for the single honor and I give it back to him and back to you,” Henry said. “Thank for you letting me share a piece of my heart today.”

Calling Henry a “perennial leader” in Cooperative Program giving, David Hankins, SBC Executive Committee vice president for Cooperative Program, said in an interview Henry was the “perfect choice” for the award.

“It’s not just that First Baptist, Orlando, gives a lot of money,” Hankins said, “but it’s [Henry’s] spirit of believing in the methodology of the Cooperative Program.”

Hankins said Henry reflects that commitment in his church and, despite their involvement in a number of other missions-related projects and rebuilding and relocating, he continually emphasizes the importance of giving through the Cooperative Program.

“It’s that spirit over a lifetime that caused us to recognize him,” Hankins said. “It was not hard to make the choice at all — his spirit is so great.”

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  • Joni B. Hannigan