Baptists launch celebration of Cooperative Program's 75th year
--By Ferrell Foster
ATLANTA, June 15--The Southern Baptist Convention launched the
celebration of its Cooperative Program's 75th anniversary June 15 with a reminder from
Morris Chapman that the financial giving plan is "all about souls."
"It's very critical that we reach America, the world for Jesus
Christ," said Chapman, president of the SBC Executive Committee. The Cooperative
Program is the unified funding plan begun in 1925 through which Baptists cooperate in
support of missions and ministries.
"Partners in the Harvest" is the theme for the 75th
anniversary, and all Baptist state conventions and fellowships are participating in the
Three goals have been set for the anniversary, said James Merritt,
Executive Committee chairman and pastor of First Baptist Church in Snellville, Ga. Those
-- Baptize 1 million people in the year 2000.
-- Sign up a record number of Baptists for volunteer missions projects.
-- Give $750 million in 2000-2001 through CP and special offerings for
international, North American and state missions.
To reach the goal of $750 million total missions giving in 2000-2001
would require $60 million in additional CP gifts through local churches across the
country, Jim Powell, director of Cooperative Program relations for the Executive
Committee, told Baptist Press. "That is beyond business as usual."
In 1997-98, Southern Baptists gave $440 million through the Cooperative
Program, according to the 1999 SBC Book of Reports. Giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas
Offering for international missions amounted to $94 million, and the Annie Armstrong
Easter Offering for North America Missions raised $42 million. The three figures total
more than $577 million. The amount given through state missions offerings was not
A live performance by three popular singers and pledges from three
prominent pastors highlighted the anniversary presentation in during the opening session
of the SBC annual meeting in Atlanta.
Messengers stood to their feet and applauded while Clay Crosse, Bob
Carlisle and BeBe Winans sang "I Will Follow Christ." Crosse, a Southern
Baptist, and Steve Siler wrote the song, which is on Crosse's newest album, "I
Surrender All." A video of the song will be sent to Southern Baptist churches, and
the three artists are going to participate in a CP missions project, according to an
Executive Committee news release.
Testimonies from pastors Adrian Rogers, Jim Henry and Jack Graham
included their plans to lead their churches to increase by 1 percentage point the amount
of undesignated receipts given through the Cooperative Program.
Rogers, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., said
Southern Baptists have won the battle for the inerrancy of Scripture. "Let's not lose
the battle for the authority and power of the Scripture" by failing to support the
Cooperative Program, Rogers said.
Henry, pastor of First Baptist Church, Orlando, Fla., encouraged
churches to give a tithe of undesignated receipts through the CP. "We have an
opportunity for teamwork like the world has never seen. ... See what God will do," he
Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Dallas, referred to
hockey, which has become popular in his city. In hockey, a penalty results in one team
getting a "power play," which is a two-minute "all-out assault on the
net." He encouraged Southern Baptists to be part of a "power play for the Lord
Jesus Christ. It's called the Cooperative Program."
Chapman said before 1925 and creation of the unified giving plan,
Southern Baptists faced a financial crisis. "Churches had begun to revolt against a
flood of appeals" from varied ministries, which approached congregations individually
for financial support.
Echoing words spoken by Minnie James, president of Woman's Missionary
Union in 1925, Chapman said of CP, "Tell Baptists to keep it going."
The Cooperative Program is an "alliance and partnership with state
conventions," he said. "It is a matter of one for all and all for one."
Cooperative Program funds are channeled through state conventions,
where a portion is deducted before the remainder is sent to the SBC.
Chapman said CP is the "greatest voluntary funding program in the
history of Christendom," and he said it represents Southern Baptists "doing
together what we cannot do separately."
"Our challenge is to train students, to send missionaries, plant
churches, win the lost and speak to our nation about the rapidly declining morality,"
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