As Cody (Wyo.) Cowboy Church Pastor Pat Alphin looks on, a coach from the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association offers tips to contestants at the church’s bunkhouse as they watch videotape of the previous night’s rides. “We believe in the Cooperative Program,” Alphin said. “It is an opportunity to be a part of the greater global plan even though we are a mission church with limited resources.” BP/Special
By Karen L. Willoughby
October is Cooperative Program Emphasis month in the Southern Baptist Convention. Learn more about CP here.
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (BP) — In geese, Jay Wolf sees an illustration of the Cooperative Program.
One goose “can fly 1,000 miles alone, but in a flock that same energy expenditure will take a bird 1,700 miles,” said Wolf, pastor of First Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama.
“So if you have the sense of a goose, be part of God’s team,” Wolf said of Southern Baptists’ Cooperative Program.
“Being part of the larger Southern Baptist family is extremely important because Jesus called us to function as a synergistic team,” said Wolf, who was among a number of pastors quoted in Baptist Press this year about the Cooperative Program.
Wolf lauded the work of Southern Baptists’ mission boards and seminaries and state Baptist conventions, pointing out that the Cooperative Program – the way Southern Baptists work together – provides the lift propelling the Gospel to far corners of the globe, darkened concrete tunnels of urban centers, and vast rural landscapes.
Churches participating in the Cooperative Program determine the amount or percentage of their undesignated offerings to be allocated for cooperative work outside their local reach. That amount is forwarded to the state or regional convention, which determines by vote at its annual meeting the percentage to be sent to Southern Baptists’ national and international causes.
The Southern Baptist Convention allocates percentage amounts of what it receives to the International Mission Board (50.41 percent); North American Mission Board (22.79 percent); the six Southern Baptist seminaries (22.16 percent); Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (1.65 percent); and the SBC operating budget (2.99 percent). These percentages were approved by messengers to the SBC annual meeting in Birmingham in June.
First Baptist Montgomery, where 2,400 people worship each week, has baptized more than 100 people a year for the last 15 years. The church sends 11 percent of its offerings through the Cooperative Program, and last year gave more than $500,000 in its special missions offerings for international and North American missions.
“Jesus calls us to join His magnificent work of expanding His Kingdom. Our job is to be obedient and faithful,” Wolf told BP in June. “The key ingredients are prayer, faith, boldness, humility, dependence, harmony and consistency.”
Wyoming & Idaho
Mike Ellis, formerly the bivocational pastor at First Southern Baptist Church in Moorcroft, Wyoming, a town of about 1,000, described his family as an illustration of the Cooperative Program in a BP article in January. He and his wife Tera parent a natural-born son, two adoptive sons and a foster daughter.
“It’s like the Cooperative Program,” said Ellis, who is now planting a church in Idaho. “Different people, coming from different places, working together as one family to do something for the Kingdom of God.
“With the Cooperative Program we have an opportunity to do things on a scale only God can accomplish,” he said. “I know in our little church, we’re actually affecting people all over the world, and without the Cooperative Program that absolutely would not be possible.”
First Southern Moorcroft, where about 40 gather for Sunday morning worship, baptized eight people in 2018. The church gives 10 percent to missions through the Cooperative Program and uses its five-acre property to reach the community through volleyball, basketball and a playground.
In July, Ellis and his family moved to Payette, Idaho, on the Oregon border to start a church, beginning Sunday worship services the first Sunday in September. The Way Church, which grew to 17 in its first two weeks, has determined to give 10 percent to missions through the Cooperative Program.
“It’s the small churches within the SBC that combine to make big things happen,” Coburn said. “I don’t think we’d be able to start this church without being Southern Baptist. It’s because of the Cooperative Program that we’re able to come in and do ministry in this town of about 7,000 people.”
Giving to missions through the Cooperative Program is central to the “heart attitude” of members of Bethel Baptist Church in Alamogordo, New Mexico, Pastor Matt Celoria told Baptist Press in August.
“The whole reason Southern Baptists came together in the first place was to support missionaries,” Celoria said. “With the Cooperative Program we’re able to raise up leaders on the home side and support them as God sends them out. Our cooperative giving keeps us in the right heart attitude, and we get the blessing of serving God’s Kingdom.”
From its start in 1951, Bethel has supported the Cooperative Program, most years with at least 10 percent of undesignated tithes and offerings, in addition to its giving to its local Baptist association and the state convention.
About 400 people participate in Sunday morning worship at Bethel – including military personnel from Holloman Air Force Base who launch into the church’s discipleship and ministry opportunities. When they leave Holloman, it’s as missionaries on assignment to their next place of service.
“It’s critical we invest in them and teach them about the Cooperative Program,” Celoria said. “God’s the one who builds the church. He often uses Cooperative Program dollars as He does so.”
Karen L. Willoughby is a national correspondent for Baptist Press, online news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.