Leo Endel, executive director of the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention, believes in cooperation. And, he believes in the Cooperative Program.
In the late summer and fall of 2011, Endel challenged the churches in his two-state convention to adopt a one percent CP challenge, with a twist. Under the heading “All-4-1-4-All,” Endel set up seven regional meetings across the two states and challenged the pastors to embrace the following goal—increase the church’s contribution of its undesignated receipts through CP by one percentage point per year for three years, and then keep it there.
The theme “All-4-1-4-All” had an intentional dual meaning. Acts 1:8 calls all believers to be involved in the singular task of reaching all the world with the Gospel. The primary means through which Southern Baptists collectively participate in this is through the CP.
The response of pastors who attended these seven regional meetings is chronicled in a Doctor of Ministry project dissertation submitted to the faculty of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary earlier this year.
The dissertation included a chapter on the biblical basis for cooperative giving. In that chapter, Endel made the case that Paul’s relief offering for the poor among the Jerusalem saints had a distinctively missional purpose and serves as a biblical model for the Cooperative Program, Southern Baptists’ channel of giving through which a local church is able to contribute to the ministries of its state convention and to the missions and ministries of the Southern Baptist Convention with a single contribution.
“Part of my super interest in CP comes from growing up in ‘new work’ areas of the United States and then moving overseas and being blessed through the ministry of IMB,” Endel said.
Raised in a military family, Endel and his family were beneficiaries of CP-funded ministries. His mother was saved through the ministry of a church plant in Grand Island, Nebraska, sponsored by the SBC Home Mission Board, predecessor of NAMB. His brothers came to Christ through the ministries of a new (at that time) Southern Baptist church in Alaska. He, too, was introduced to Christ as an eight-year-old boy in an eight-year-old Southern Baptist church in Billings, Montana, which also had been sponsored and funded through CP.
During Endel’s childhood and youth, his family lived in Alaska twice (in different cities), Kansas, upper Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, and the Philippines.
“In many places we moved when I was growing up, there were only two churches in town—the Catholic church and a new Southern Baptist church,” Endel said. “Everywhere we went, Southern Baptists already had those places on their hearts.”
Living in the Philippines as a teenager, Endel recalled a somewhat common Sunday night occurrence at Clark Field Baptist Church. “We would take up an offering to help an independent Baptist missionary who unexpectedly had lost his support return to the United States,” he said. “I began to notice that we never had to do that for the Southern Baptist missionaries I knew.” The more he learned about CP, the more he liked it.
When Endel became a pastor, he led the churches he served to support the CP. Prior to accepting his current role, the church he served in Sioux City, Iowa, contributed 13 percent of the church’s undesignated receipts through the Cooperative Program. They also gave 3.5 percent through the association and set aside an additional 2 percent for their own church planting efforts.
The article below is excerpted from Endel’s research project.
Paul’s Offering for the Saints in Jerusalem
by Leo Endel
Paul’s relief offering for the Jerusalem saints is more significant than often recognized. The offering is mentioned in Acts 24:17; Romans 15:25–28; 1 Corinthians 16:1–4; 2 Corinthians 8–9; and possibly Galatians 2:10, and is a primary focus of his third missionary journey. Though the stated purpose for the offering was relief for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem (Romans 15:26), it very likely served a broader purpose, a distinctly missional purpose (see below). He called the offering a logia (collection or contribution), diakonia (ministry), hadrotes (abundance), koinonia (fellowship), eulogia (blessing), leitourgia (priestly service), and charis (grace or gift).
The grace component of the offering is elevated in Paul’s repetition of the term charis (grace) throughout 2 Corinthians 8 (verses 1, 6, 7, 9, 19). This emphasis reveals something of Paul’s heart. While the offering was a ministry that met the physical needs of the poor, it was more. It was a sharing or fellowship uniting the Gentile and Jewish saints, an act of spiritual significance. It was a blessing, a grace gift.
A Familiar Offering
Paul’s offering for the poor had a familiar feel to those he invited to participate. The term collection (1 Corinthians 16:1) was commonly used to denote financial contributions as opposed to regular taxes.1 Such freewill offerings appear to have been common to the Greek world.
Paul’s system of collection was similar to that of the Temple tax initiated among the exiles during the time of Nehemiah (Nehemiah 10:32). Every Jewish male twenty years of age or older was obligated to pay the tax.2
Many of his initial converts were Hellenistic Jews who would also be familiar with the tax. From this context, Paul suggests a similar system for the collection of funds for the poor in Jerusalem.
A Voluntary Offering
Though established after a familiar pattern, Paul was explicit that this offering was a gift, not a tax. Paul called the collection a logia, a common word in the first century for freewill offerings.3 In 2 Corinthians 9, he twice called the contribution a gift and tied the offering ultimately to God’s indescribable gift (9:15).
Emphasizing the freewill nature of this offering, Paul said, I am not speaking this as a command (2 Corinthians 8:8). He added that even the amount was voluntary, Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart . . . (2 Corinthians 9:7).
In 2 Corinthians 8 and 9, Paul provided many compelling reasons why the Corinthians should give a non-required gift.
• The extreme generosity of the Macedonians who begged for the opportunity to participate and gave beyond their ability (8:3–4).
• Potential embarrassment should the Macedonians come with him to Corinth and find the Corinthians unprepared (9:4).
• The generosity of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich (8:9).
• The offering was a proof of [their] love (8:24).
• The principle of the harvest, He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully (9:6).
• The assurance that God loves a cheerful giver (9:7).
• The promise of God’s provision for every good deed (9:8).
Paul sealed his long list of reasons they should give with a summary benediction, Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! (9:15). Though the offering was voluntary, there were many reasons to give.
An Obligated Offering
Paul made it clear that the offering was a freewill offering. Nevertheless, he infused the offering with an air of obligation. He wrote, . . . Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. Yes, they were pleased to do so and they are indebted to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in their spiritual things, they are indebted to minister to them also in material things (Romans 15:25–27).
Paul’s argument was clear: those who have received the gospel are indebted to those through whom the Gospel had originated—in this case, the saints in Jerusalem.
A Cooperative Offering
Paul combined offerings for the Jerusalem saints from numerous churches he had established. In his encouragement to the Corinthian church to finish the work of gathering the offering (2 Corinthians 8:11), he praised the churches of Macedonia for their generosity. These churches included Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea (Acts 16-17).
Paul also spoke of the participation of the churches in Achaia, which included Corinth (Romans 15:26). Further, 1 Corinthians 16:1 indicates that the churches of Galatia also contributed. Given that Paul penned his first letter to Corinth from Ephesus, detailing how the offering was to be received (1 Corinthians 16:1-8), Ephesus was another likely participant in the offering.
Luke mentioned individuals from churches in Derbe and Asia (Acts 20:4) as well as Berea and Thessalonica (already listed above), who likely were representatives of those churches from which Paul had received the offering and who would accompany it, and him, to Jerusalem (see 1 Corinthians 16:3). Clearly, this offering was a cooperative effort of churches scattered along the routes of all three of his missionary journeys.
An Accountable Offering
Paul was careful to make sure that the collection was fully accounted for. Writing to the Corinthians, he says, When I arrive, whomever you may approve, I will send them with letters to carry your gift to Jerusalem (1 Corinthians 16:3).
The church was given the responsibility of choosing people they trusted. These trusted individuals would personally deliver the gift, accompanied by letters, strengthening the security of the process.
In follow-up communication with the churches, Paul underscored his intentionality in handling the offering in an accountable fashion: taking precaution so that no one will discredit us in our administration of this generous gift; for we have regard for what is honorable, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men (2 Corinthians 8:20–21).
A Systematic Offering
First Corinthians 16:2 provides instructions for how the offering should to be received: On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come. At least three observations are important.
First, the church had already begun the habit of meeting on Sunday, the day of the Lord’s resurrection, for worship (Acts 20:7). This connects the offering to weekly worship.
Second, Paul was not asking the Corinthians to make a one-time contribution in response to an emotional appeal. Systematically setting aside small amounts on a regular basis provided the opportunity to present a bountiful gift at the appropriate time.
Third, Paul suggested an offering based on one’s ability to give (1 Corinthians 16:2). Paul clearly saw that personal resources are in reality Kingdom resources provided by God to meet the needs of others.
A Missionary Offering
Paul was on his way to Jerusalem to deliver his offering as he finished his letter to the Romans (Romans 15:25), in which he expressed his unceasing grief that his people, the Jews, had thus far rejected the Gospel (Romans 9:2–4).
Given this passion for the conversion of the Jews, it is likely that Paul’s motivation for the offering was more than benevolence alone. He had an even greater motive in mind. An offering from the Gentiles for the poor of Jerusalem would be unexpected. It would enhance the testimony of the Gospel among those who, to this point, had rejected the Gospel. It would demonstrate the life-changing power of the Gospel to transform former adversaries into brothers.
New Testament scholar F. F. Bruce affirmed the missionary intentions behind Paul’s offering:
Even the “unbelievers in Judaea,” from whom Paul half-expected some opposition, might nevertheless be impressed by the visible testimony of so many representative believers from the Gentile lands in their midst. We know that at the very time when Paul was preparing to sail for Judaea with his converts and their gifts, he was pondering the relation, in the divine program, between his Gentile mission and the ultimate salvation of all Israel: this also is a subject on which he lays bare his thought in his letter to the Romans . . . he sets this matter of the collection for Jerusalem, with the problem of Jerusalem itself, in the context to which, in his judgment, they properly belong—the context of God’s saving purpose for mankind.4
Keith Nickle further demonstrated Paul’s missional intent in his exposition of the Old Testament passages behind 2 Corinthians 9:10:
• Isaiah 55:10 prophesies that the nations will respond to the Messiah and reflects the participation of the nations in God’s redemptive purpose.
• Hosea 10:12 speaks of the proportional increase of sowing in righteousness.5
This combination of texts seems to refer not to the increase in money due to generous giving, but to the increase of believers from among the nations joining with the redeemed from Israel herself. Paul rejoiced that the Corinthian involvement in the offering would result in an abundant harvest among Israelites.
Nickle also acknowledged a missionary significance to the Gentile believers who accompanied the offering:
The Gentile Christians, represented by the delegates from the churches, were to stream to Jerusalem, but not as the seekers and petitioners of Israel. They were coming as the true Israel of God, those already chosen by his grace to participate through faith in Christ in salvation. . . . [T]hey were coming to proclaim the salvation of God instead of to receive salvation through the mediation of Israel.6
The offering for the poor in Jerusalem was not just a benevolence offering. It was a missionary offering with the intent of winning Jews living in Jerusalem to Christ through the demonstration of the Gospel’s power to transform the Gentiles and fulfill the prophecies in Isaiah and Hosea that called for the participation of the nations in God’s redemptive purpose.
Paul’s missionary relief offering for the Jerusalem saints provides a strong biblical foundation for the viability of the Cooperative Program of Southern Baptists. Scripture is clear: churches cooperated together financially for the cause of the Gospel. The collection for the saints in Jerusalem models a system of missionary giving that is voluntary, cooperative, systematic, sacrificial, accountable, and Kingdom-focused.
1. Anthony C. Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, The New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000), 1318.
2. Philo Judaeus, De Specialibus Legibus, I, xiv, 77 and Flavius Josephus, Antiquities III, viii, 2.
3. Alan F. Johnson, 1 Corinthians, The IVP New Testament Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 312.
4. F. F. Bruce, Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1977), 324.
5. Keith F. Nickle, The Collection: A Study in Paul’s Strategy (Naperville: IL, Alec R. Allenson, 1966), 137.
6. Nickle, 139.
Leo Endel is executive director of the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention and is a member of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Rochester, Minnesota. This column is adapted from Leo Endel, “Increasing Missions Funding for the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention and Cooperating Associations,” A Project Dissertation submitted to the Faculty of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, May 2012.