By Kayla Rinker
RAYTOWN – Using a lesson in what some might call “Cooperative Program 101,” Chuck Kelley, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, gave Missouri Baptists a clear message during the 175th annual meeting of the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) Oct. 28 in Raytown.
Kelley started his address with a detailed explanation of what the Cooperative Program (CP) is and how it functions inside the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). His presentation included a diagram of a dollar bill to illustrate the average percentages of what each entity—the church, the MBC, and the SBC—receives.
He said that when the facts are laid out it’s easy to see that when it comes to fulfilling the Great Commission, the CP is “an unparalleled stroke of genius.”
That is especially true, Kelley said, in comparison to how other Christian groups are carrying out the same call. He said United Methodists were second in missions offering last year, giving $56,700,000. Southern Baptists took first place by giving $239,663,000.
“The Cooperative Program strategy is a great one and, without a doubt, it provides churches with the most bang for their buck,” Kelley said. “The greatest challenge we face is not in the system. It’s whether or not Southern Baptists are willing to give.”
He talked about the “Gathering Storm” that is having an adverse effect on the CP and its Great Commission work. The thunder of that storm is materialism.
“It’s apparent that even our nation’s economy is based on shopping,” Kelley said. “With stores open seven days a week and the Internet available 24 hours a day, it seems to me that what we want has a far bigger impact than what we need.”
He described the lightning of the storm as debt, or, the multitude of “minimum payments” that ensnare even the most cheerful giver. The storm rain is the complacency of the giver, unwilling to take on new challenges of true sacrificial giving.
“Are you seeking the counsel of God in your financial decisions?” Kelley asked. “Sadly, we are likely to leave our wallets out of our quiet time with Jesus. That’s foolish. Its absolute foolishness to think God does not notice or care about what we do with our money.”
Kelley concluded with a challenge to Missouri Baptists to “Celegivicate.” Though the word itself was invented by Kelley, the life application of the word is real. The first part of the challenge, Cele, is a reminder to Baptists to celebrate.
“We need to celebrate that Southern Baptists have got it right,” he said. “Let’s face it, the CP rocks!”
The giv part of the word reminds Baptists to do a little more than they are doing now. Kelley said giving a little more would have an immediate and dramatic impact on every aspect of the CP. And lastly, the icate in “Celegivicate” reminds Baptists to be in constant communication with each other, discussing ideas to continue improvement in the area of cooperative giving.
“As for me and my house,” Kelley said, “I would rather ‘Celegivicate.’”