SBC Life Articles

Page “Cautiously Optimistic” about Cooperative Program



The Cooperative Program has a bright future if Southern Baptists learn about its astonishing impact for missions and ministry around the world, SBC Executive Committee president Frank S. Page said during a question and answer session with students and faculty at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary March 23. The Fort Worth, Texas, seminary welcomed Page to this session immediately after he spoke in a chapel service.

Cautious Optimism
"I am cautiously optimistic," said Page, a graduate of Southwestern Seminary. "There is caution because in the twenty-first-century world, most every movement is toward societal giving, back to where we were before the Convention started the Cooperative Program in 1925." He explained that societal giving involves "each entity, each organization, seeks its own donors for its own causes."

The Convention is "moving in that direction," he said, calling societal giving "the twenty-first-century mentality" and noting that some Southern Baptists believe they should decide how to distribute money for missions and ministry themselves rather than trusting the Convention to distribute it. He said the tendency toward societal giving is the reason for his caution regarding the future of CP

"I am also optimistic because there are some seismic shifts going on," Page said. "There are some changes, not only among the younger demographic, but in leadership and in how we promote the Cooperative Program."

He encouraged faculty members and students to model faithfulness to CP, as well as encouraging them "to study and evaluate" the program for themselves. CP has had its flaws, according to Page, but by studying the program, Southern Baptists can see its overwhelming advantages and repair any defects it may have.

"I do believe the Cooperative Program is worth studying," Page said. "If you study it and don't like it, that is fine. But I believe it has worth, so I challenge people, 'Study it. Look at it.'

"I believe there are biblical reasons why the Cooperative Program is good," Page said. "I believe there are compelling logistical reasons why it works well. In fact, . . . if we were to go to a totally societal method, I don't believe it would even be another generation before people would come back and say, 'Give us that Cooperative Program back.' There is economy of scale in it. There are logistical reasons, and I think if people really study it, they will see that it has worth."

People, Not Programs
Noting some of the advantages to the Cooperative Program, Page said that Southwestern Seminary and its students benefit greatly from Southern Baptist cooperation.

"I believe that we need students who can leave here and not be ridden with school debt, so that they can be serving [in small churches] and be on the mission field without having to pay back tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of dollars in school debt."

Page noted that many Southern Baptists "think they are giving to a program instead of giving to a [missions] project in Zimbabwe or in Beijing." They will appreciate the Cooperative Program if they see the students, church planters, missionaries, and lost around the world who are impacted by it.

"We have got to do a much better job of putting a face on missions," Page said.

Few people get excited about giving to a "program" they don't understand. "People in the pew give to a face," he said. "They give to a project."

According to Page, Southern Baptist cooperation is about much more than a program.

The Cooperative Program, he said, consists of "a strong home base with an aggressive global mission."

When a Southern Baptist tithes, a percentage of his gift goes to a state Baptist convention, which in turn forwards a percentage to the national convention, where it is deployed to undergird Southern Baptist efforts to proclaim the Gospel throughout the world.

The Executive Committee, which manages the business of the SBC throughout the year, distributes gifts through the Cooperative Program almost immediately to the work of Southern Baptists.

"We never hold it more than five days," Page said. "It goes straight to Southwestern Seminary, to the International Mission Board, to the North American Mission Board."

The Cooperative Program supports the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission in its mission to uphold religious liberty, to preserve the sanctity of marriage, and to defend millions of the unborn put to death in abortion clinics. It supports students training to preach the Word and reach the world at the SBC's six seminaries. And it supports thousands of missionaries, whom Southern Baptists send throughout North America and to the ends of the earth to share a message of hope with lost men and women.

Page added that "the Cooperative Program . . . is the voluntary submission of ourselves to the needs of others. The Cooperative Program will only work in an atmosphere of Christlike selflessness."

Christlike Selflessness
Page urged believers to be characterized by such Christlike selflessness and humility in his earlier chapel sermon based on Christ's parable of the Pharisee and the publican in Luke 18:9-14.

Humility not only undergirds the Cooperative Program, but as Page said in his chapel sermon, it is required for Southern Baptists to experience revival.

"There is a blessedness in prayer and revival when one opens up with humility before the Lord," Page said. "There is a relationship necessary for revival, but there are requirements. And the first is humility. . . . If revival is going to fall in the Convention, in our churches, in our campuses, it has got to start with me. Revival has got to fall on me. . . . God, give us humility. God, grant us humility."


    About the Author

  • Benjamin Hawkins