Investing more than a half million dollars year after year makes a statement.
"We believe in the Cooperative Program," said Frank Page, pastor of First Baptist Church in Taylors, South Carolina. "We maintain a three-fold emphasis in mission ministry and send several groups each year all over the world, but we cannot go into all the places our [Southern Baptist] missionaries can go. When we give to CP Missions, it makes us part of a greater work.
"Supporting the Cooperative Program is a serious intent to fund God's command to go into all the world," the pastor continued. "We have to do this because God's command is clear. It's a matter of obedience."
Obedience is the hallmark of a Christian's response to the love of God, Page said.
"Obedience is a mark of maturity in a believer's life," he said. "A church must exemplify obedience in order for church members to follow the example."
First Baptist, where about 2,200 people participate in two Sunday morning worship services, gives 14.5 percent of its undesignated offerings to the Cooperative Program — about $535,000 in 2003 and a similar amount in 2002. Its total missions outlay last year was $700,500 — 21 percent of the church's operating budget. In addition, the congregation contributed more than $220,000 to SBC state, national, and international mission offerings. The church also sponsors a dozen or more local ministries.
Reflecting the congregation's missions commitment, Page led a mission trip south of Mexico City in June and to Zambia, Africa, later in the summer. In all, the Taylors church will send out about 210 people on ten mission trips in 2004, including Brazil, Southeast Asia, Miami, Venezuela, and Baltimore.
"On every mission trip, we take people from other churches," Page said. "They have to be part of the training process for months in advance…. They come back with a deep love for missions and excitement about supporting missions. It deepens the circle of missions."
The same can be said of First Baptist members who go on the mission trips, the pastor said.
"While there are many benefits that come from people going on mission trips — missionary support, team-building, helping other churches — these are all side benefits," Page said. "We don't go to help ourselves. We go because He said go."
That going starts locally, reflecting the local-to-international geographical pattern of outreach drawn from Acts 1:8.
Perhaps six times a year, First Baptist reaches out with Servant Evangelism Saturdays — practical ministry to people who live in the church's target area northeast of Greenville, South Carolina. For example, single moms receive free oil changes and other help with their cars.
"The last three times we repaired seventy to eighty cars for mothers in our area," Page said. "No strings attached. No donations allowed or accepted. While the men and women repaired the cars, others in the church fed the mothers, cared for their children, and shared the gospel."
For at least four years First Baptist has sponsored extensive ESL (English as a Second Language) training that draws Asians and Hispanics. Several people in the church tutor elementary, junior, and senior high school students. One of the women's Sunday School classes passes out quarters at area Laundromats.
"We are driven by our purpose, which is to love the Lord as we lead others to the same love," Page said. "Our church is a very loving church and that love is indeed expressed to the members and to lost and hurting people in our area. That has been a major impetus in our local mission work."
First Baptist also has a goal of starting at least one new mission church a year. People from the church moved into a major multi-family, low-income housing complex and started in-home Bible studies and children's programming to help minister to others living there.
Another church start about five miles north of Taylors in five months has grown to about 100 people in Sunday services.
"There are not enough healthy churches out there," Page said. "Studies show new churches reach people far better than established churches. Starting these new churches is part of the command to go to our Judea."
Church members on mission trips helped start fourteen churches in Ecuador. On the Mexico trip he led, the pastor went to one of the churches the Taylors congregation helped start. In Brazil — where First Baptist members have been going for at least fifteen years — the emphasis is on ministering to street children through an orphanage members helped start.
"We want to be a part of God's global plan," Page said. "The only way we can truly touch the world is by joining together with likeminded believers who can do a work we can never do alone. That's the Cooperative Program."
Vote CP Quotes
"Not only do we (need to) come together in our evangelism and in our going, but we need to come together in our giving as well, to do the best we can do. Together we do our best. That's what the Cooperative Program is all about — we do our best when we come together. My wife and our family could never do alone what we can do when we put our gifts in the Cooperative Program. At First Baptist Daytona Beach there have been many times when we have looked at our budget and we've said, 'Well all these years, for thirty years, we have been giving 15 percent … and we look at our budget and we say we could use some of that money over here or over here.' But you know what, we have never done that. We have continued giving that 15 percent every year for the last thirty years. I've never been sorry, I've always been thrilled, and we've always been blessed because of what all we can do when we put it all together in this Cooperative Program effort. We need to come together at times like these. We need to come together in our giving, through the Cooperative Program. You won't be sorry, you'll be thrilled, and you'll be blessed." — Bobby Welch, pastor of First Baptist Church, Daytona Beach, Florida, and president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
"The reason I'm for the CP is because we can do far more for the Kingdom together than we can separately; because it's the best way I know for a church to support 10,000 missionaries and six seminaries and reach Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth effectively for Christ. Why do I support CP? Because I don't know anyone who does it better than we do!" — Rob Zinn, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Highland, California, and chairman of the SBC Executive Committee