Heritage pastor appreciates CP
COLUMBIA – John Martin doesn’t need a calendar to tell him October is Cooperative Program (CP) awareness month. He’s aware of the support of Baptists in Missouri and around the world every day.
As the pastor of Heritage Baptist Church, a three-year-old church plant in the ever-growing north side of Columbia, Martin has seen the Cooperative Program in action everywhere, from helping keep costs down while he attended seminary to paying the deposit so the fledgling congregation could have a place to meet. He is just one of literally millions of people worldwide who have been touched by the Cooperative Program.
The Cooperative Program is Southern Baptists’ method of funding missions, whether it is around the world or as close to home as the north side of Columbia. It takes offerings as small as children’s pennies rattling around in an offering envelope and multiplies them into millions of dollars to help Baptists in Missouri and around the world fulfill Christ’s Great Commission.
Martin first benefited from CP dollars as a student listening to Christian professors and attending chapel at Southwest Baptist University (SBU). Thirteen percent of Missouri’s CP budget is devoted to Christian higher education, thus helping to lower costs at SBU and Hannibal-LaGrange.
“SBU really is what propelled me into the ministry,” he said. “I got a good, Christian foundation and solid grounding in the Bible.”
Ten years after graduating from SBU, when he decided to enroll in Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, CP played a substantial part in allowing him to pursue God’s call. Without support through CP, the tuition cost at each of the Southern Baptist seminaries across the country would be four times higher. Martin said that would have been a daunting prospect, especially for a man with a wife and three children living on a youth minister’s salary.
“I couldn’t have done it if it were not for CP help,” Martin said. “It would have been very, very difficult or next to impossible, especially with a family.”
While at Midwestern, Martin said the Lord led him into church planting courses and training from the North American Mission Board (NAMB), which is funded by nearly 23 percent of the CP budget. Later, NAMB appointed Martin and his wife as missionary church planters, which provided him a small salary, but more importantly, two years of health insurance.
“That support allowed me to focus solely on starting a church,” he said. “I could jump right in without having to look for a job that had health insurance.”
In 2004 while still in seminary, Martin began Heritage along with support from Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) CP funds and several church partnerships. That support which helps subsidize his salary is on a five-year decreasing scale. This concept according to Martin – whose SBU degree is in economics – makes perfect sense.
“It was helpful when we kicked things off to have so much support,” he said, “but this way also allows the church to assume financial support for its own ministries and doesn’t create an unnecessary dependency. It can take a few years for a church to take root, if the support was only for a year or even two, it would be tough. On the other hand, if it were eight or nine years, that would create a dependency.”
The $10.5 million that the MBC uses in various ministries also funds a training retreat for church planters, which Martin and his wife took advantage of in September. It will also provide a room for Martin at Tan-Tar-A so he can participate in the MBC Annual Meeting.
“That really says to us church planters that we’re not just an island,” he said. “The convention wants us to belong and wants us to be involved.”
And Heritage is involved: the steadily growing church devotes 10 percent of its budget to associational missions and CP.
“We want to do our part to fulfill Acts 1:8,” Martin said. “It’s also a way that we can be a blessing to other church plants and give back to the summer missionaries who have come and helped us minister to our community.”