Promotion signals new emphasis
JEFFERSON CITY—Michael Cooper, who has been on staff with the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) since 2001, is being promoted to the director position on the MBC Sunday School / Discipleship Team.
Cooper, currently the MBC discipleship ministry specialist, will be replacing his current boss, Bruce Morrison, who is retiring Dec. 31.
“Basically, he’s going to step into Bruce’s spot, and then we’re looking for someone to fill that spot,” said MBC Interim Executive Director David Tolliver, who made the announcement Sept. 4 during In-Office Day at the Baptist Building.
Morrison is retiring after serving on the MBC staff for eight years.
“I’ve never been unemployed since I was 14 years old, so Jan. 1, 2008, I wake up with a new boss, me, because I’m starting a ministry that will allow me to use my gifts, talents and experiences to continue helping churches,” he said.
Cooper will be stepping into a leadership position that puts him in the middle of a major new church health initiative launched by Tolliver on Sept. 4. While he recognizes that Sunday School approaches the topic from a broader perspective than any other MBC ministry area, he also noted that one area ought not to have sole ownership of the initiative.
“It’s a lot bigger issue than just Sunday School and Discipleship,” Cooper said. “That’s one facet of the church health picture.”
“Sunday School has been seen as the church health element, but that thinking needs to change,” he said. “We need to get out of our silos. We need to start crossing boundaries.”
Living in a silo means that each MBC specialist thinks like an entity unto himself or herself. Shifting to a comprehensive church health paradigm would mean more integration and less segregation when it comes to how each specialist views his or her responsibility to carry a unified message of church health, Morrison explained.
“All of us have a key role to play in helping churches either become healthy or become healthier in how they do ministry and how they do kingdom work,” he said. “It’s not this or that. It is and all. It is everybody having a key role in the process of church health.”
Cooper’s transition to director status is already underway, Morrison said, with the incoming leader scheduled to preside over an overnight team retreat in late September.
“By the time Christmas is here, Mike will be ready on Day One of 2008 to step out and lead this team effectively,” Morrison said.
Cooper, 43, was saved when he was seven years old and called into the ministry during his senior year of high school. He was ordained when he was 19 at Calvary Baptist Church, Sedalia, and served as an associate pastor at East Sedalia Baptist Church, Sedalia, from 1986-1988.
He then served four years as pastor of Green Ridge Baptist Church, 2½ years as minister of youth and recreation at First Southern Baptist Church, Guthrie, Okla., two years as minister of youth and education at First Baptist Church, Warrensburg, and four years as associate pastor to youth and students at McCarthy Baptist Church, St. Joseph, before joining the MBC staff in April of 2001.
His first two years with the MBC were in the student ministry capacity as emerging generations initiative consultant. He then spent three years as MBC youth ministry specialist before being given the discipleship ministry specialist title in April of 2006.
In the months to come, his concept of church health will become more widely known.
“Healthy churches will do the things they need to do,” Cooper said. “They’ll baptize, they’ll evangelize, they’ll plant churches, they’ll grow, they’ll reach out, and they’ll disciple.”