She’s just a baby! She’ll never know!
Our oldest daughter’s birthday is in December. For her first birthday, we gave her a pink teddy bear. She loved it. Or at least we think she did. She didn’t say much.
So then we had an idea. We wrap up the same pink teddy bear, and give it to her again for Christmas. She’d love it!
I’m convinced a similar strategy would be good for the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and the Cooperative Program (CP).
I didn’t grow up as a Southern Baptist, and I could see how the jargon of two and three-letter abbreviations and dollar signs could be bewildering. In short, the CP is a key component of Southern Baptist identity. Southern Baptist churches from around the U.S. prayerfully designate a portion of their congregation’s giving to go towards the CP through their state convention Cooperative Program. 45-87% of the dollars given to the CP remain in the state, and the rest is moved to the nationwide SBC Cooperative Program. Each year at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting, messengers from SBC churches decide how the SBC Cooperative Program dollars will be distributed to SBC entities including the North American Mission Board, The International Mission Board, The Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission, the Executive Committee, and SBC Seminaries. The North American Mission board is funded largely by the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering and the International Mission Board is funded largely by the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.
I am grateful and indebted to men and women whom I have never met that faithfully give to their local churches. The CP partially funded my seminary education, and today giving by Southern Baptists funds our mission.
Through these experiences, I’ve learned a few things:
The Cooperative Program is important
Young ministers in their 20′s and 30′s can quickly forget that they stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before them. What is at stake with the CP is more than our 21st century trellis of entities, systems, and organizations that make us Southern Baptists. What is at stake is the glory of Christ. Stewardship is an intentional response in our heart, understanding that everything belongs to the Lord (Psalm 24:1). Blindly and mindlessly giving with no intention robs Christ of the glory He is due. The lesson of the widow’s mite in Luke 21:1-4 and our admonition toward cheerful giving in 2 Corinthians 9:7 show us that how and why we give is every bit (if not more) important than what we give. We must understand the incredible opportunity we have, as the Kingdom of God, to wage war on the evil one by giving toward the CP, the Lottie Moon Christmas offering, and the Annie Armstrong Easter offering.hol
Many, if not most, Southern Baptists don’t know much about the Cooperative Program
I affirm that this point is anecdotal and based on my limited experience. However, I would guess that most church members don’t know that part of their giving funds:
- Gospel-centered national disaster relief
- Powerful pastoral training through six seminaries
- National church planting
- Funding of nearly 5,000 personnel working with international missions as well as a premier mission training program
Southern Baptists aren’t going to know things unless they’re taught. The place where they need to learn about what it means to be a Southern Baptist is in their Southern Baptist church, and they need to hear it from their Southern Baptist pastor. Pastor, more than just once or twice a year, lead your people toward excellent stewardship by helping them give intentionally and mindfully to the great endeavors of the SBC. Educate them on the incredible breadth and depth of Southern Baptist work, and do it often.
It seems like something needs to change
Although we didn’t end up repackaging the gift, Our daughter would have loved the pink bear… again.
Southern Baptists need a fresh understanding of how we give. We don’t realize what we have. Should we repackage the CP and give it right back to Southern Baptists? Part of the solution may be branding. Part of the solution may be leveraging influence toward necessary changes in the structure of the state and national CP designations. I think the problem is deeper. As gospel workers we must constantly war against apathy, laziness, and greed.
Every Sunday that we pass the plate, we must communicate the stewardship of why, how, and to Whom we give. Taking up an offering with no explanation or education not only hampers further given, but robs Christ of the glory He is due as the Creator and Provider. If Southern Baptists, especially those who are new or unfamiliar with the Southern Baptist world, would understand, value, appreciate all that is happening when they give, then we as a denomination could send more, plant more, and love more.