For almost 100 years now, the Cooperative Program has been the primary funding mechanism of the Southern Baptist Convention. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been raised. Tens of thousands of missionaries have been fully funded as they risked their lives to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. Tens of thousands of churches have been planted across North America. And millions of people have heard the gospel as a result of the cooperative efforts of Southern Baptists. The impact of the Cooperative Program over the last 100 years of Southern Baptist life will only be fully known in eternity.
The idea is that if we pool our resources together, we can do more together than we could apart. That line of thinking rings true for me as a small church pastor. If my church were to raise up someone who wanted to be sent out as an international missionary, we wouldn’t be able to support him even if we used all of the money that we give annually to the Cooperative Program, Annie Armstrong Easter Offering, and Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. Yet because of the partnership we have with the Southern Baptist Convention, our member who feels God’s call to serve overseas can be appointed as a full-time career missionary without us writing him a single check. That’s the beauty of the Cooperative Program.
But now, a small group of Southern Baptists has come out as opposed to the Cooperative Program. They are concerned that it is being misused by churches that aren’t paying enough in each year to support the missionaries that they are sending through the International Mission Board. One church in the convention currently has 158 of its members serving with IMB. The church gave $500,000 to the Cooperative Program in 2017, but that would not have been enough to support all of the missionaries they have on the field. The small group of CP opponents is concerned that this makes the church a “net consumer” of CP dollars.
If I didn’t know any better, I would think that this was some kind of political game. Maybe they have some kind of ulterior motive. I mean, who would think to criticize a church for sending too many missionaries? Who would be willing to undermine the very funding mechanism that has financed the SBC for nearly 100 years without some kind of other motive?
Thankfully, these Cooperative Program opponents are only a minuscule percentage of the nearly 15 million member Southern Baptist Convention. They are loud. And they like for people to think they are a much larger group. They even like for people to think that they represent the thinking of the majority of Southern Baptists. But they are wrong. They do not represent most Southern Baptists. Most Southern Baptists love missions and give sacrificially so that those called to take the gospel to the ends of the earth can do so without worrying about raising support. The Cooperative Program will go on. Southern Baptists will continue to fund missions in the same way we have for almost 100 years now. And those churches that raise up their own to serve overseas will have the opportunity to send them with the IMB even if they can’t give enough to pay the bill.