Jesus died for every person in every town, city, state and nation. His call to us is to present the gospel of Jesus Christ to every person in the world and to make disciples of all the nations. None of us can do this alone, and no church can do this alone. Jesus’ call to each of us is overwhelming, but it is not impossible. How will we accomplish what Jesus is calling us to do?
This question is one Southern Baptist leaders asked almost 100 years ago when they formulated the Cooperative Program. Since 1925, this strategic plan of action has been and still is the financial fuel that funds the advancement of the gospel we do together regionally, statewide, nationally and globally.
For almost 100 years, the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention have joined their hearts and hands together to advance the gospel around the globe. Thomas E. Halsell, a Baptist from West Virginia, said, “The Cooperative Program is the glue that holds Southern Baptists together and helps them stick to the Great Commission.” Now is the time for churches across the Southern Baptist Convention to stick together to reach a lost world. In a COVID-19 culture, where social distancing is the norm, Baptists must renew our commitment to cooperate.
Giving through the Cooperative Program is the most effective way to accomplish the unfinished task Jesus gave us. For the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention, the Cooperative Program is our unified strategy to help finish the task of reaching the world for Jesus Christ.
How does the Cooperative Program work?
It starts with the church member. Loving God with all we are and all we have been given leads us to obey God with a grateful heart. We do this by giving to God at least the first tenth of all He has given to us through our local church. This tenth, commonly called a tithe, represents the first 10 percent of income (Leviticus 27:30, Malachi 3:10). We have a new FREE resource to help churches teach stewardship principles.
The church takes the next step. Every year, churches consider how much of their undesignated gifts will be committed to reaching people regionally, statewide, nationally and globally through their Cooperative Program contributions.
As individual churches prioritize the Great Commission of Jesus Christ, they also consider elevating and accelerating monies to accomplishing the Great Commission and ministries we do together as Southern Baptists. This financial amount is usually a percentage of their undesignated gifts or an amount they determine together. Their Cooperative Program contribution is usually forwarded to their state convention.
Each state convention then decides how much of these gifts will be used for Great Commission ministries within their state and how much will be sent on for Great Commission work across North America and the world. Each year in each state convention annual meeting, the messengers from the churches in the convention vote on the state convention budget.
The percentage for state and local missions stays with the state convention budget. The percentage for North American and global missions is forwarded to the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee to allocate to the national entities that carry out our Great Commission ministries across North America and the globe.
The Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee prepares and presents a Cooperative Program Allocation Budget at the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting each year. At this annual convention, the messengers from the churches vote on the allocation of funds to national SBC entities.
As these gifts are received by the SBC Executive Committee, they are sent to our SBC entities for the purposes of sending and supporting missionaries, training pastors, missionaries and other ministry leaders for our churches; addressing social, moral and ethical concerns relating to our faith and families; and meeting needs through compassion ministries in times of crises and disasters.
What are good reasons to give through the Cooperative Program of the Southern Baptist Convention?
It is about the mission, not the money. The Cooperative Program is built upon mission, not money, as the end goal. Cooperating together will help each of us to give Good News to the whole world.
It is about unifying us and not dividing us. The Cooperative Program keeps the convictional call before our churches to take the gospel to every person in every town, city, state and nation.
It is more about working together than working alone. Working within your own church may get you somewhere faster, but it will never take you further in accomplishing the Great Commission. We can do more together than we ever can alone.
Why should my church increase their Cooperative Program Giving?
Increasing your church’s support through the Cooperative Program is the greatest way you can forward the work of reaching the world for Christ. None of us can adequately support any one cause, but all of us together can pray, plan, give, cooperate, and support every cause.
Increasing Your Cooperative Program giving can have a lasting IMPACT upon each individual and each local church that participates by:
- Increasing awareness of what God is doing in our world
When stories are shared of God’s work to the nations and the neighborhoods, it increases the awareness and brings about excitement.
- Motivating personal commitment to evangelism
When we make missions a priority and begin to catch a vision for what God can do, we become more motivated to share the gospel.
- Giving back to the churches through the Cooperative Program
Should a time come when the church has legal, financial, or other needs, the State Convention stands by with the help needed. National ministry partners exist to serve the local church in the area of evangelism, missions and ministry. If a church needs guidance about ministry decisions or extra manpower for an evangelistic event, someone is there to help.
- Allowing for practical involvement in missions
The Cooperative Program gives us the opportunity to make missions personal. With over 7300 missionaries in North America and around the world, we have the unique chance to get personally involved through prayer, by sending resources and materials, or by going to lend a helping hand.
- Connecting churches together for maximum potential
The Cooperative Program takes churches, regardless of their size, to places they might never go, and helps them share with people they might never meet face to face. CP beautifully connects all of our churches in a way that allows for maximum effectiveness in taking the gospel to the world.
- Tying each individual and every church to fulfilling the Great Commission
When a church is committed to CP, they are a part of a comprehensive strategy to fulfill the Great Commission.
Cooperative Program for the Future
The Centennial Celebration of the Cooperative Program will take place in 2025. Since the inception of the Cooperative Program, over 19 billion dollars have been given from local churches to advance the gospel at home and around the globe. What does the future of the Cooperative Program look like? Is it time to change the name? Southern Baptists have held on to the words “Cooperative Program.” They have stood the test of time and have no doubt been the missions mutual fund for our work together. I am not concerned about changing the name. I am more concerned about us focusing on doing everything we can to mobilize more people to get involved. Back to those two words—cooperative and program. For almost 100 years Baptists have done a good job in facilitating the program side of the Cooperative Program. We know the dynamics and have mastered the process. If we are going to see this ministry tool provide for gospel advance for the future, we must spend the next five years focusing on cooperation.
Cooperation = Involvement. We must mobilize more people, more often, and in more ways. The future is bright, but we must take advantage of this season and seize the moment to tell the story of God’s work. We must do all that we can to involve every generation to be actively engaged in advancing the gospel. We must really believe that every generation matters, every nationality matters, every ethnicity matters and most of all we must believe that lost people matter. When believers are personally involved, they have skin in the game.
I am calling upon every pastor to do all that he can to make sure that every person in their church is involved in the missional call by being actively involved in one of the following ways: praying, providing or participating. When we get more people involved, we will begin see Kingdom Cooperation on display.
We need each other to finish this great task together. The Cooperative Program is more than a program; it really is the glue that helps us stick together. In these uncertain times, Southern Baptists must always be faithful to the God of Heaven. We serve a God who is faithful and has always provided for Great Commission work. Let’s rally around the words of the Wisdom Literature written in Ecclesiastes: “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor” (Ecclesiastes 4:9).
Vice President for Great Commission Relations and Mobilization
Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee
McLaurin’s office is responsible for Cooperative Program Education and Promotion for the Southern Baptist Convention. He leads the convention’s efforts in Stewardship Education, Promotion, Development and Distribution. McLaurin and his team are available to speak at your church, association or other ministry event.