An Open Window To The World – that was the title of the pageant presented at the 1925 WMU Convention in Memphis, Tenn. The program's main character watched as representatives of the millions of people throughout the world in need of Christ's salvation passed by her "window." Among those in the pageant was a mother carrying her 6-month-old son. During the Southern Baptist Convention that followed, a historic step was taken to answer the needs this pageant portrayed – the Convention adopted the Cooperative Program, May 13, 1925. I was there – my mother was the mother in that pageant and I was the baby.
Over the past seventy-five years the Cooperative Program has greatly impacted my life. My home church gave strong support to the Cooperative Program and through its organizations I learned about cooperative missions. I graduated from a Baptist university and a seminary that the Cooperative Program helped make possible. Additionally, as a ministerial student, the Cooperative Program provided me free tuition at both institutions. My wife and our three children are graduates of Baptist schools, and two of our children were born in a Baptist hospital. Cooperative Program support helped these institutions become reality. During the thirty years I was a pastor, I encouraged churches to increase giving through the Cooperative Program. It was listed as the first item in planning the church budget. In 1975, I was elected to serve in the Stewardship Division of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. Later, I became Director of Cooperative Program Promotion for the state convention. In 1989, I retired, joined the Missions Service Corps as a volunteer, and began to serve as Special Consultant for Cooperative Program Promotion. I still do that and love it! So, you can see how the Cooperative Program has impacted my life.
For seventy-five years the Cooperative Program has been the response of Southern Baptists to our Lord's Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). Recognition of our responsibility to the missionary mandate of God's Word has caused believers and churches to voluntarily cooperate in missions work. From the beginning Southern Baptists have found our denominational unity in the missions task. The Cooperative Program continues to serve Baptists well.
What about its future? The key to continuing and future cooperation is still found where it began – in uniting around the missions task. As long as Southern Baptists have missions as our main purpose, the Cooperative Program will probably continue to serve us in a worthy manner. What other plan to support missions has so many strengths and so few weaknesses?