You may remember the television game show, “Who wants to be a Millionaire?”. During the game, a contestant could use a lifeline. That is, he or she could call someone for a hint to a question. If answered correctly, the contestant continued to progress toward a potential win.
In the course of our personal and spiritual journey, we all need a “lifeline” from time to time. The ancient image is that of holding the rope for others in the midst of a storm. Lives depended on the faithfulness of the Lord and others for their safety and care. As Christ-followers, we learn quickly that living is not an individual sport. Life is collaborative.
For almost 10 decades, Southern Baptist missionaries serving internationally and stateside have depended on the people in our local churches to hold the lifeline for their ministries and sometimes for their lives. In these days of so much global and urban unrest and lostness, the faithful Christ-follower in the local church is more important than ever.
Those holding the rope for people on the field are not necessarily the platform personalities of the Southern Baptist Convention or the Missouri Baptist Convention. They are the faithful who, in obedience to Christ, continue to generously tithe their income to their local church. That translates into support through the Cooperative Program, which is the conduit of support for a huge, almost incomprehensible network of mission and ministry.
One of the perks about serving as the SBC Recording Secretary is that I receive an advanced copy of the SBC Book of Reports. Part of the role of the Recording Secretary is to write the “Foreword” and to proofread this work the SBC Executive Committee has professionally prepared. The SBC Executive Committee members are diligent in their accuracy and gracious in their collection of data so that the messengers can make informed decisions.
This year, I was particularly impressed by reports from the leaders of the SBC ministries who receive Cooperative Program funds. Not that they aren’t always authentically thankful for the faithfulness of our Baptist family and our local churches. This year, however, there seemed to be a new tone of gratitude.
International Mission Board President Paul Chitwood writes:
We hit an exciting milestone in 2021 as Southern Baptists gave a cumulative $5 billion to Lottie Moon since the offering began in 1888; last year, you exceeded the goal with your gifts of $177.6 million in the 2020-2021 offering. You also faithfully give through the Cooperative Program which is necessary to both fund field work and undergird our vital support systems with $96.8 million in CP gifts in 2020-21. I want to sincerely thank you for giving and holding firm on the financial lifeline for Southern Baptist international missions.”
Chitwood added, “We are driven by the urgency that much remains to be accomplished until together, under the power of Christ, we can continue to welcome the multitudes before His throne. Because of that urgency, I also want to honestly tell you—we need you to continue to give, and if more people are going to hear the Gospel, we need to increase our collective gifts so we can send more missionaries to reach the lost” (2022 Book of Reports, pp.51-52).
President of the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Jamie Dew, writes, “None of the work I have highlighted or that you will read in other reports from NOBTS and Leavell College can be accomplished without the cooperative work of the men and women who serve with dedication in the local churches of the SBC [or the MBC]” (2022 Book of Reports, p.117).
President Adam Greenway, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, added his voice to the others, “Southern Baptist congregations’ faithful support of the Cooperative Program is a vital ongoing and undergirding link to Southwestern Seminary and our mission” (2022 Book of Reports, p.138).
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler shared in his report, “I am often asked by leaders of seminaries outside the Southern Baptist Convention to explain the strength of our institution. I am pleased to point them to the faithfulness of Southern Baptist churches, channeled through the Cooperative Program. We praise God for the faithfulness of those churches and we pledge equal faithfulness in the theological education of our students” (2022 Book of Reports, p. 128).
The other reports from the SBC entity expressed similar statements. And each of our MBC ministry/mission and entity leaders could express the same—the Cooperative Program is the lifeline for the important work Missouri Southern Baptists do in collectively, comprehensively reaching people with the transformational gospel of Jesus Christ, our Lord. The Lord is faithful to work through the lives of people who trust Him.