SBC Life Articles

The “1% Challenge for CP” The Great Commission and CP at Northwest Baptist Church



From a human perspective, it does not seem like Oklahoma City's Northwest Baptist Church can afford to increase its Cooperative Program giving.

The congregation supports an array of community ministries, plants churches in an adopted Southeast Asian city, and has a building debt in excess of $400,000.

But this church views missions giving with eyes of faith. That is why it has increased its Cooperative Program giving from five to six and one-quarter percent of its undesignated receipts over the past several years and plans to increase it at least another one percent in January.

"Yes, there are other ways to network," Pastor Benjamin Brammer said. "But I believe that, for many reasons, the Cooperative Program, when done right, is the best way."

A Change of Heart
Given Brammer's enthusiasm for CP, Southern Baptists' unified program of supporting missions and ministries, it might surprise some to learn that he has not always been so zealous. Until recently, he appreciated CP but did not agree with the way funds were distributed. Now, however, he is convinced that the Southern Baptist Convention is committed to funneling more of its funds toward international missions.

That makes a big difference in his willingness to support CP and participate in the "1% Challenge for CP"—an initiative of Executive Committee President Frank S. Page encouraging churches to increase their giving by one percent in the coming year.

"I really had a heart change, number one. And number two, I saw the Executive Committee's heart to give money to the International Mission Board," Brammer, 32, who has pastored Northwest four years, said. "I think those two things really impacted me."

He added, "I've gone from [thinking that CP] is a way to network and there are other options out there that are just as good, to thinking that… there are still other good options, but this is the best way."

Brammer admits that some of his former criticisms of CP were unfounded and said his church would have increased its giving even without a renewed SBC focus on international missions. Still, he credits the Great Commission Task Force with leading the SBC to refocus its priorities and make CP more appealing.

"I'm real excited about the renewed attention to the IMB from the GCR," he said. "I believe there is a vision now. It's unfolding, and it's exciting to see."

A Great Commission Church
It was natural for Northwest to support the Convention's renewed emphasis on the Great Commission because it is a Great Commission church.

Averaging about 700 in English worship services and 200 more in ethnic congregations, Northwest won an award several years ago for being one of the most effective non-profit organizations in the city. The award recognized the church's extensive involvement in local public schools.

For instance, Sunday morning Bible study groups have adopted homerooms at the local middle school and make a point to celebrate students' birthdays and pray for teachers. Northwest also hosted a teacher appreciation banquet recently that was attended by 500 educators, including the superintendent. Additionally, economically disadvantaged schools use the church's gym and other facilities.

On one occasion, Northwest learned that the varsity boys' soccer team at a local school finished last in its conference because players were not receiving nutritious meals at home and consequently had no energy. So it began providing the team energy bars and drinks.

"Within a year, they went from last place to making the state [tournament]," Brammer said. "Of course, you attribute that to their talent. But the coach built a relationship with us, and long story short, I'm baptizing him next week."

To expand its local influence, Northwest is starting a non-profit organization called "Community Advance" that will help the underprivileged of Oklahoma City by assisting schools and businesses.

All the community work is a platform for telling men and women about Jesus, according to the pastor.

"All this would be vain," he said. "We would just be giving people water on the way to hell if our ultimate goal were not to share the Gospel with them."

The church's heart for lost people extends overseas as well. Each year teams travel to its adopted Asian city, and three fulltime missionaries from the congregation work in the area. In the past, it had even more missionaries there—some sponsored by the IMB and some from Northwest alone.

The goal is to plant indigenous churches and make disciples in the overwhelmingly unreached area.

"We've seen many people come to the Lord," Brammer said. "And we've seen several small groups evolve into church plants."

Recently, the church hosted a golf tournament and clinic in the Asian city, a novel outreach for a region where golf is still a sport of the elite.

"We just use our people's gifts to get in there and to minister," the pastor said. "And then when we have a chance to share the Gospel, we're going at it."

A Charge to Younger Pastors
Brammer hopes that Northwest will demonstrate to other young pastors that a church can both participate in its own Great Commission ministries and give to CP sacrificially. But he knows he cannot relay this message to his peers alone. So he asked older Southern Baptists to reach out to their younger colleagues to calm their fears and answer their questions about CP.

"If the older generation wants to bring along my generation, then generally they need to say, 'You know what, we're going to like what you like. We're going to be passionate about what you're passionate about,'" he said.

"But also, they need to wisely teach those who are teachable in the younger generation and bring them along and display wisdom to them and show them that just because you believe in CP, that doesn't mean that you're a Convention bureaucrat."

When younger pastors learn about CP, Brammer hopes many of them will share his zeal to increase their churches' gifts.

A church's attitude toward CP is determined largely by "just having the proper Kingdom perspective," he said, adding that his church plans to continue increasing its CP giving.

"We can't afford to up our CP, but we're going to because Northwest has a Kingdom perspective," Brammer said.