Book examines Cooperative Program
One Sacred Effort: The Cooperative Program of Southern Baptists by Chad Owen Brand and David E. Hankins (B&H Publishing Group, 2005), $15.
Anybody want to read a book about the history and practical workings of the Cooperative Program (CP)?
Hmmm … no takers? You may be tempted to move on to the next article in The Pathway. You are probably wondering how anyone could get excited about reading the history of a program.
I agree. So, go ahead and skip this column until you have read all the rest of the paper, and then come back here …
… finished with the paper? Great! Now tell me, what did you read about?
A missionary couple in Belize bringing rice and the Gospel? A street preacher in New Orleans telling runaways about Jesus? A record number of graduates from seminary ready to begin a lifelong calling in local ministry? The widow of a man who pastored small rural churches for sixty years, who herself is now being cared for in days of declining health? A successful anti-lottery campaign assisted by Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission materials?
I made up those stories, but I bet they aren’t far removed from actual ones in a typical issue. And you could add in your own stories, adding to the wonderful testimony of things Southern Baptists are doing in the world today.
And what makes so much of that ministry possible? Individual churches contributing to the Cooperative Program is the financial fuel that makes possible the fire of Southern Baptist missionary endeavors. “Caring people partnering together to touch the world” is more than a CP slogan, it is a means for Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) churches to have a worldwide Gospel impact.
That is why it was good for me to read One Sacred Effort: The Cooperative Program of Southern Baptists by Chad Brand and David Hankins. Having spent a lifetime in SBC churches does not guarantee an appreciation for the efficient and effective program of financial support that Southern Baptists developed in the 1920s. Without knowledge of how it came to be, or what preceded it, one could lack appropriate gratitude for the wisdom of those who established the Cooperative Program.
This book does not have us look at the CP or SBC with rose-colored glasses. Certainly, there have been areas for improvement even from the beginning, and the authors readily admit as much. But they also show us how the Cooperative Program connects individual churches to a much larger effort of Gospel kingdom building, and how it does so in a way far superior to any other proposed model for giving.
The authors urge pastors to put the human face on the Cooperative Program. They say, “Budgets, buildings, and bureaucracies are not the important elements of CP. People are – both the thousands of people (missionaries, church planters, student workers, teachers) who give leadership to the ministries and the thousands more who are recipients of spiritual, emotional and physical help.”
I am glad I read this book and urge you to do so too. The Cooperative Program is not an end to itself, but it is a means to the end of fulfilling the work of the great commission. As such, it deserves our support in word and deed. (Scott Lamb is one of the founding pastors of Providence Baptist Church, St. Louis, and is a regular book reviewer for The Pathway. To respond to this review or to read about other books, visit www.AChristianManifesto.com.)