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The Cooperative Program: An Overview

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Introduction

Toward the end of this year, we will pause our study of the book of Matthew to consider our church's role in missions. This brief sermon series will end with a World Missions Offering, 100% of which will leave our church. 70% will be given to the International Mission Board (through the annual Lottie Moon offering), 20% will be given to the North American Mission Board (through the annual Annie Armstrong offering), and 10% will go to the Alabama State Board of Mission's annual Myers-Mallory offering. For some, these three offerings are an old hat, and you have been taught to give to them from the time you were very little. For others in our church, these offerings are a new thing.

I want to take some time over the next few posts to educate all of us on what we're giving to and why. This first post will serve as an introduction to the Cooperative Program. The following posts will help to explain the various boards that Southern Baptists have formed over the years that benefit from the funds of the Cooperative Program.

The Cooperative Program: What is it?

Founded in 1925, the Cooperative Program ("CP" hereafter) represents a very clear strategy whereby Southern Baptist Churches will spread the gospel, and train up the next generation of church leaders. The CP is Southern Baptists’ unified plan of giving through which cooperating Southern Baptist churches give a percentage of their undesignated receipts in support of their respective state convention and the Southern Baptist Convention missions and ministries. The CP is a fund. It is monies that have been collected from all 47,000+ southern baptist churches and from individual gifts from around the world. It follows the principle, "we can do more together than alone."

Through this fund, southern baptists send out fully-funded missionaries internationally, church planters nationally, train future pastors, church planters, and missionaries through our 6 seminaries and a few other things. For the next few posts, I want to give you a snapshot of each entity supported by the CP, and ultimately challenge us as a Southern Baptist Church to increase our CP giving.

Follow the Money

The easiest way to explain how we cooperate, is to follow the dollar as it leaves our church. Every dollar that is sent from our church to the cooperative program is, by definition, undesignated. That means that we're allowing our money to be allocated as our state convention and national convention have predetermined based on the budget for the current year. So the gift that leaves our church will be sent to the Alabama State Board of Missions (ALSBOM). Our state convention has designated a 50/50 split for CP funds. That means $50 of every $100 will stay in the state of Alabama to do mission work here, and $50 will go on to the national headquarters. 

Of the $50 that goes to the national convention (the state convention will be addressed in a subsequent post):

  • $25.21 will go to the International Mission Board, which goes to fully fund more than 4,000 missionaries worldwide. Because of this and the annual Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, there's no need for these missionaries to raise funding independently.
  • $11.40 goes to the North American Mission Board. The primary use for the CP funds that go to the North American Mission Board is for church planting and revitalization in North America.
  • $11.08 is marked for "Theological Education." This goes to the 6 Southern Baptist Seminaries in the U.S.
  • $.82 is sent to the Ethics and Religious Liberty Convention.
  • $1.49 covers operating costs

Why Give to the CP?

We promised to do so...

Taking on the name "Southern Baptist" is not just a doctrinal decision. If it were, the name "Baptist" would be sufficient. Putting the name "Southern Baptist" on our church comes with an implicit promise to do our part in helping to fund our 4,000+ missionaries on the field, our church plants in North America, our 6 seminaries, the ERLC, and the operating costs that it takes to hold it all together. So one reason we give to the CP is because we've already promised to do so by calling ourselves "Southern Baptist."

The Great Commission is on the line...

But the most important reason for giving to the CP is the work that is being carried out by Southern Baptists globally. There's no other way to say this except that it is a financial contribution to the Great Commission. The 4,000 missionaries we have globally are given the resources they need to stay on the field, and the oversight to ensure that the work that needs to happen is being done. The seminaries that we support are training up future pastors and missionaries that will be going to the nations and sending people to the nations. That's not to mention the multitude of other ministries, like Baptist Campus Ministries, that receive CP funding and are helping churches reach college students with the gospel.

Every church plays a part...

There are great organizations and great missionaries that are not affiliated with Southern Baptists, and this is in no way meant to disparrage the work that they are doing around the world. We're all on the same team, desiring people to come to Christ. However, the CP allows us as Southern Baptist Churches, to pool our resources so that every church can contribute and the effect is maximized. Most churches could not send out their own missionaries. The cost would simply be too exorbitant. However, through the CP, a church can train up and send a missionary who will then be supported in a collaborative effort between the sending church and 47,000 other churches nationwide. That missionary, will not only have the support of his/her sending church, but will also have a multitude of other resources that we also provide through the CP.

There are many other ways that the CP is beneficial for us, which we will cover in subsequent posts. Suffice it to say for now that the Cooperative Program has been a great success for southern baptists since 1925, and with the help of churches like ours, it will be for many years to come.