Southern Baptists: What really holds us together?
June 6, 2006
Southern Baptists’ vision of missions is a fibrous rope that has been woven together for over 81 years. Each fiber of this rope represents a local autonomous Baptist congregation that has personally and purposefully chosen to place itself in the fabric of this rope. This rope is called the Cooperative Program of Missions (CP).
We believe that every Baptist church is an individual, autonomous body of believers. This rope called CP is the only fiber that holds Southern Baptist churches together. The problem is that I believe we are seeing a slow unraveling of that powerful rope. The very ministry that has made Southern Baptists into a mighty missions force is being threatened. During the balance of this year, we all have opportunities to stop the unraveling.
Your MBC Executive Board members were presented a CP missions report that will be repeated in Greensboro, N.C., at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). The report told the history and present condition of the SBC Cooperative Program of missions. I am happy to report that your MBC Executive Board voted unanimously to advance the recommendations of this report to our churches. Here are the MBC Executive Board Recommendations about the Cooperative Program:
“Recognizing the autonomy of the local church, and recognizing that for more than 80 years the Cooperative Program of the Southern Baptist Convention has been the greatest financial means by which we can reach the world for Christ together:
“• We wish to affirm our belief in and commitment to the Cooperative Program.
“• We recommend that every believer tithe of their resources to their local church.
“• We further recommend that all Missouri Southern Baptist churches adopt an Acts 1:8 missions mindset as they prayerfully consider, and decide as local autonomous churches, contributing at least ten percent of their budget receipts through the Cooperative Program.
“• We finally recommend the election of state and national convention officers, trustees, board and committee members whose churches demonstrate this commitment.”
PLEASE note that each point uses the word “recommend.” Why? No person or body can impose dictums on a local body of Baptist believers. The Executive Board is NOT handing down “dictums” to the churches. Rather, this is an affirmation by this body that recognizes we must wake up to the slow unraveling that is taking place in our world missions enterprises and take fresh steps to recapture this vision. Consider what has happened just in Missouri Baptist life over the last 20 years.
According to the information reported by our Missouri churches in their Annual Church Profile (ACP), in 1985 our churches gave an average of 14.3% of their undesignated receipts to missions through the CP. In 2005 our Missouri churches gave an average of 7.2%. This is happening at the very moment we have the opportunity to take the gospel to every people group of the world.
I have heard Dr. Jerry Rankin, president of our International Mission Board (IMB), say on more than one occasion that it is possible to take the Gospel to every people group in the world by the year 2010. This is possible only IF the IMB could put an additional 3,000 missionaries in the field. At present we have over 5,000 International missionaries.
Rankin thought, “This is an ambitious goal, but is God in it? It’s one thing to have an idea, but the question boils down to: is it possible?”
Every missionary we have in SBC life comes from the pews of our churches. The question became, “Is God calling out the missionaries?” So Rankin asked the personnel department, “How many missionary candidates do we have in our system who are preparing for deployment?” The answer came back, “3,010.” Doesn’t that sound like a “God thing?” You bet! God has called them, now it’s our responsibility to send them. The strategy that Southern Baptists have is the CP strategy of world missions as our plan. Would you be a part of this world missions goal by encouraging your church to support the CP as generously as it can? This world missions vision can happen!
This is a day we need to cry out for a renewed passion to reach students, for family ministry, evangelism, Sunday School and world missions. This is a day when we need champions in every church that hold up the vision of changing lives and reaching our cities and world for Christ. We can do it, if we walk together and do not let our missions rope come unraveled.
Southern Baptists, “Who are we … really?” We are a diverse people from churches of diverse worship and polity styles. Yet we are synergistically bound together in a common cause to equip the saints and a common vision of proclaiming Christ to world. The only rope that holds us together is this rope of the Cooperative Program. I want to invite you to join our Executive Board in its commitment to support, grow and elect leaders who will advance this cause of world missions.
The uniqueness of the Cooperative Program is this immense diversity of our churches coming together to make fully committed disciples for Christ locally and internationally. Thank you for being one of the fibers in this rope.
“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses unto Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth,” Acts 1:8 (NKJV).