Yesterday, our new church was pleased to send in our first gift to the Cooperative Program, the cooperative giving plan of our denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention. As leaders of the church, we believe in what we are doing together in our denominational family. The Cooperative Program gives our church the opportunity to partner with other churches in our denominational family to be involved in all kinds of work. We are glad to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. (A Blog Post From Ed Stetzer, Grace Church Life Blog)
The really interesting thing about this blog post is this. It was posted March 19, a full month prior to the April 17 launch of Grace Church, Hendersonville, Tennessee! This new church plant began giving their missions dollars through the Cooperative Program before they officially launched! Grace Church's senior pastor, Ed Stetzer, was recently asked about the 1% Challenge for the Cooperative Program, and this was his response.
"I like the 1% challenge—but I like the 10% challenge better. When we started Grace Church, and before anyone mentioned the Cooperative Program to us, we decided to give 10% to the CP. The reason is simple—we can do more together than our church can do alone. We give 10% to the CP, 3% to our association, and 7% to our direct church planting efforts. We don't want our church to be a cul-de-sac on the Great Commission highway."
If you look at the SBC Cooperative Program site, it explains:
"Churches in your state work together through your state convention to support a wide array of ministries and missions including: evangelism efforts, children's homes, volunteer missions, missions education, new churches, colleges and universities, collegiate ministries, camps, and much more…
"Through the International Mission Board (www.imb.org), Southern Baptists support approximately 5,000 missionaries who are engaging 655 people groups, of populations greater than 100,000, around the world.
"New churches numbering over 1,364 were planted through the efforts of more than 5,304 North American missionaries, whose efforts are coordinated through your North American Mission Board (www.namb.net) and individual state conventions. Working together, Southern Baptists saw 855,756 new believers baptized in 2009!
"Six Southern Baptist seminaries (Golden Gate, Midwestern, New Orleans, Southeastern, Southern, and Southwestern) educate more than 16,000 pastors, missionaries, and future church leaders each year.
"The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission is dedicated to addressing social, moral, and ethical concerns, with particular attention to their impact on American families and
"So, simply put, we are glad to partner with others because we believe we can do more together than we can do alone."
So, what about Grace Church? The April 19 blog post at the Grace Church Life Blog gives the following report:
Sunday, April 17, 2011, was the official launch of Grace Church, Hendersonville, Tennessee. Says, Senior Pastor Dr. Ed Stetzer, over 230 people were part of our first official worship service. We've had three preview services leading up to launch, but Sunday was our first official worship service. It was a great day! We've been praying for several months and it was amazing to see God at work. The nursery and children's ministries were in full swing. It's exciting to see a busy group around children's check-in table. Our leadership team was able to speak with several people and was thrilled to meet new people. Our setup team was incredible. So much work happens at a church plant which goes unnoticed to the casual observer. Setup workers arrive early (we mean real early) and are the last to leave. Our time together couldn't happen without this crew. They give meaning to "co-laborers" for Christ. Sound guys and band members begin with an empty theater and make the worship experience an authentic encounter with God. Thanks for reminding us of God's continual presence. Worship was a refreshing time.
Many people ask "why?" Why all the work? Why start a new church? Why spend all the money to rent a theater and purchase equipment? Why get up early on Sunday to lug around heavy equipment only to pack it up again several hours later? The answer is that we're joining God on mission. It's not our mission. It's God's mission that people would know Him in a very real way. We're simply joining Him on His Mission. We want to make Him known!