Editor’s Note: April 7 is Cooperative Program Sunday in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). This aricle was written by J.D. Greear is president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of The Summit Church in the Raleigh-Durham, N.C., area For information about the Cooperative Program, go to sbc.net.
A lot can be lost in a single generation. The writers of Scripture often warned the leaders of Israel that unless they rehearsed the works of God to their children and grandchildren, a generation would arise that “knew not the Lord or his ways” (Judges 2:10).
Southern Baptists have a lot to pass on to the next generation, and one of the most important principles is the concept and practice of cooperative mission, a strategy that has yielded one of the greatest gospel impact movements in history.
Cooperation between churches for the sake of mission is what drives the Southern Baptist Convention. Of course, Baptists didn't invent the idea of missional cooperation.
All throughout the New Testament, we see churches partnering together to advance the mission. The Apostle Paul mentioned giving – from one church to another – in several of his letters (Rom. 15:26; 1 Cor. 16:1; 2 Cor. 8-9; cf. Acts 11:27-30). Interestingly, when Paul mentioned the gift given by the Macedonian Christians in Romans 15, he called it koinonia -- literally, “fellowship.” Bible scholar Chad Brand goes so far as to say that financial sharing for the sake of the mission is the key element of fellowship for churches in the New Testament.
The church I pastor, The Summit Church, has “fellowshipped” with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) since our birth, and it is a partnership that has greatly enriched our church.
The SBC enables and equips us to send our people out in ways that we simply could not do alone. We currently have more than 200 people serving overseas, most of whom are with the International Mission Board (IMB). That's an enormous investment, and we are incredibly grateful to stand with Southern Baptists in support of all IMB missionaries worldwide.
Closer to home, the North American Mission Board (NAMB) has been a crucial partner in all of our 43 domestic church plants. Then there's the world-class training provided by our Southern Baptist seminaries, which has equipped a huge portion of our staff. And I can't ignore the personal debt I owe to the SBC as a two-time seminary graduate and former IMB missionary.
I could go on – disaster relief, children's homes, community outreach, mission trip coordination, representation in Washington, D.C., local and state church planting partnerships, aid in work among refugees and immigrant communities – all of that, and more, is made possible by our cooperative giving.
When we give through the Cooperative Program, as well as the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions, we are giving to a powerful and proven method for supporting the Great Commission. This is what the Cooperative Program has always been about.
One of the biggest challenges for the SBC in the next two decades will be increasing the engagement of a new generation of churches in our convention.
All churches ought to be learning more about cooperative missions and giving more to the Cooperative Program. Because it is our denomination's primary source of missions funding, we need to put our money where our mouth is. If we care about reaching the nations, we need to show it by equipping our Southern Baptist entities to keep sending to the nations.