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EDITORIAL: Answers to frequently asked questions about the Cooperative Program

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It was a time when most American families were still plowing fields with mules, not tractors, when they grew their food out of necessity, not because it was a fun hobby.

The American economy was barreling headlong toward The Great Depression. The Southern Baptist Convention had little in terms of financial resources. In fact, it was nearly broke.

It was amid those dire circumstances back in 1925 that a group of Spirit-led, forward-thinking Southern Baptists came up with what would become the greatest evangelistic initiative of the modern church age, accounting for multiplied millions of new believers all over the world.

They called it simply the Cooperative Program.

To ensure that church leaders of this current generation are aware of how the Lord has used this initiative to reach the world, Southern Baptist leaders have set aside October as Cooperative Program Month. In much the same way that generations past were called to remember God’s mighty deeds, our own generation needs to remember all that God has done through the Cooperative Program.

So here are some frequently asked questions (and answers) about the Cooperative Program:

What is the Cooperative Program?

The Cooperative Program is the primary means through which Southern Baptists spread the gospel around the world. It allows Southern Baptists to be obedient to the Great Commission given to the church by Jesus when He said: “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.”

In 1919, SBC leaders came up with a five-year pledge campaign designed to fund the missions and ministries of all the state conventions as well as that of the Southern Baptist Convention. That campaign was the forerunner of the Cooperative Program, which was officially launched six years later.

The Cooperative Program is what truly sets Southern Baptists apart from other Bible-believing evangelical denominations. It is the means by which Southern Baptists lock arms together to attack lostness at home and abroad.

It’s all about the commonsense concept that Southern Baptists can accomplish more together than we ever could separately. Together, Southern Baptists are saving unborn babies, rescuing women caught up in human trafficking, ministering to inmates in jails and prisons, helping the homeless, providing forever homes for orphans, offering hope and help to the downtrodden, and, most importantly, shining the light of Christ into a dark world.

So, what’s the big deal about the Cooperative Program anyway?

Through the Cooperative Program, Southern Baptists are able to send missionaries to countries around the world to share the gospel with people who, in many places, have never even heard the name Jesus. That’s hard to fathom in the U.S., but there are many such places. Right now, more than 3,600 international missionaries are on foreign soil, many serving in places where their very lives are put in peril by sharing the gospel. Without the Cooperative Program, those missionaries would be coming off the field frequently to raise their own support. With the Cooperative Program, Southern Baptists see to their financial needs, removing funding concerns so that they can concentrate fully on the Great Commission. Think of it, 16 million Southern Baptists working and giving together to make sure all nations can know Jesus.

How does the Cooperative Program work?

People give tithes and offerings to their churches, and those churches forward a portion of those tithes and offerings to the Georgia Baptist Mission Board. At the Georgia Baptist Convention’s annual meeting, messengers from local churches across the state decide what percentage of Cooperative Program gifts stays within the state to support local missions and ministries, and what percentage is to be forwarded to the Southern Baptist Convention for North American and international missions. At the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting, messengers from across the country decide how the gifts received from the states will be distributed among SBC entities.

What else does the Cooperative Program accomplish?

Right now, in Georgia and across North America, Southern Baptist churches and pastors are wading through a variety of tough issues. Because of the Cooperative Program, they never have to go it alone. Help is just a phone call or text away. The Georgia Baptist Mission Board’s staff of experienced ministry professionals is ready to come alongside churches and pastors at a moment’s notice to help them in whatever ways desired. Funds from the Cooperative Program are used to finance the work of the North American Mission Board, the International Mission Board, the six Southern Baptist seminaries, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, and other SBC entities.

What If my church would like to choose which entities receive funds and which do not?

Georgia Baptists can choose which SBC entities receive their church’s Cooperative Program contributions. If your church would like more information about that, call the Georgia Baptist Mission Board’s assistant executive director, Mark Marshall, at 615-678-3512 or email the Georgia Baptist Mission Board at cp@gabaptist.org.

Is the Cooperative Program really all that?

It really is all that. Every dollar given through the Cooperative Program goes to reaching every corner of the world for Christ. Some is used here in Georgia. Some is set aside for reaching North America. Some is used internationally. The launch of the Cooperative Program marked a new beginning for Southern Baptists. Gone were the days of individual churches trying to support individual ministry and mission initiatives. The Cooperative Program provided the financial stability and strong support system needed to ensure Southern Baptists could impact the world for Christ. It allows church members to write a check to their local church and know that the money will be disbursed to help not only that local church but also their state and national conventions, and hundreds of Baptist causes. Through the Cooperative program, giving to advance the gospel has been simplified, yet maximized.

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