NASHVILLE (BP) – October is "Cooperative Program Emphasis Month" on the Southern Baptist Convention's calendar when churches are challenged to study the Cooperative Program – to learn about it, see what it does, pray about their part – perhaps using the "1% Challenge" video (http://vimeo.com/68820362) as a catalyst.
The 1% CP Challenge "is a succinct way to do something more – an understandable way to say, 'Yeah, we can do that,'" said Frank S. Page, SBC Executive Committee president. "It is understandable, is easily acted upon, and can be done without shifting major sections of a church's finances."
In 2012, 7 percent of cooperating Southern Baptist churches reported they had accepted the 1% CP Challenge in support of missions and ministries led by their state conventions and the SBC, according to a study by LifeWay Research for the Executive Committee, called the 2012 Cooperative Program Omnibus Survey.
In their 2012 Annual Church Profile (ACP) reports, 3,192 churches – 6.93 percent of Southern Baptist churches – showed an increase in the percentage of their missions giving through the Cooperative Program by at least 1 percent, confirming the accuracy of the LifeWay Research survey.
One tangible result of this is that the average percentage of undesignated gifts given through the Cooperative Program by Southern Baptist moved up by an encouraging one-tenth of 1 percent from the previous year (5.41 to 5.50 percent).
After many years of decline in average CP gifts from churches of about 0.20 percentage points per year, the decline leveled off in 2011 and 2012 (5.407 percent and 5.414 percent, respectively), rising slightly to last year's 5.50 percent.
The Executive Committee commissioned another survey this spring, asking church leaders the same set of questions they were asked in 2012. An additional 8 percent of pastors indicated they plan to lead their churches to accept the 1% CP Challenge in the coming year. If this trend continues, millions of additional dollars will become available for missions and ministry entities to fulfill the tasks Southern Baptists have assigned to them.
"The Cooperative Program is not a reservoir that we hold; it's money that we send through the CP to missions and ministries," Page said. "It's exciting to see new pastors, younger pastors, older pastors, ethnic pastors, Anglo pastors, say, 'You know, it's time to put more emphasis on the Cooperative Program.'"
The Cooperative Program fuels Southern Baptists' global vision for reaching the nations with the Gospel while sustaining a strong home base of ministry, reflecting the driving passion of Southern Baptists since the SBC was formed.
If every cooperating Southern Baptist church raised its contributions through the Cooperative Program by 1 percent, the resultant CP gifts would increase by almost nearly $100 million.
This would unleash the state conventions to make a greater impact on lostness in their respective states. It would give the North American Mission Board greater flexibility in its Send North America church planting and evangelism initiatives. It would allow the International Mission Board to send and maintain a larger number of missionaries on the field. It would allow SBC seminaries to explore new delivery systems for ministerial training and graduate theological education to make an even greater impact on training pastors and church leaders for effective service. It would assist the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission in its continuing mission to engage the broader culture with the claims of Christ and a biblical worldview.
Since 1925, more than $5.75 billion has been contributed through the national portion of the Cooperative Program to help fuel Southern Baptist missions and ministry causes of international missions, North American missions, theological education and moral advocacy. This is more than the combined cumulative totals of the Lottie Moon Offering since 1888 and the Annie Armstrong Offering since 1933.
Simply put, the 1% CP Challenge has the potential to be the rising tide that raises all the causes that Southern Baptist cooperating churches support.
The Cooperative Program, as Southern Baptists' unified plan of giving, remains the fuel that drives the missions and ministries of the convention.