By Todd Brady
Vice President for University Ministries, Union University
The Apostle Paul said “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evils” (I Timothy 6:10). The difference is a matter of the heart, not the wallet. It’s not about how much money I have. It’s about how much does money have me. The issue is not the size of my bank account, but the proclivity of my heart.
Believers are not to love money. However, believers can and should leverage money for God’s purposes. When I think about God’s work through Tennessee Baptists, it seems obvious to me that major leveraging has been happening.
In late April, I was overwhelmed with God’s grace at the meeting of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board when I saw a graphic highlighting the state’s Cooperative Program giving since 1926. Dr. M.E. Dodd, pastor of First Baptist Church, Shreveport, La., led a committee at the 1925 meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Memphis to establish this new program which would fund Southern Baptist causes. The influence of this Union University graduate (class of 1904) has gone on and on around the world as people have entered into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, have been set on the road to discipleship and have served the Church and the world because the gospel has gone forth through this funding channel created for missions and ministries.
Over the last 91 years, Tennessee Baptists have given a whopping total of $1,254,465,969 to the Lord’s work through the Cooperative Program. $473,463,107 has been given to the Southern Baptist Convention from Tennessee Baptists.
He’s in heaven now, but I remember standing on our campus talking with Buddy Boston, long-time pastor of First Baptist Church, Dyersburg. I’ll never forget what he told me. He said, “Baptist relationships are primarily fraternal, not financial.” I’ve returned again and again in my mind to that plot of ground where we stood and I’ve continued to think about what he said. He was right. We are brothers and sisters because of the shared grace we have received in Christ, not primarily because of our shared financial investments.
Union University is glad to be a Tennessee Baptist school. We hold it in a sacred trust to be about the work of providing Christ centered education that promotes excellence and character development in service to Church and society. Sure, we see the Lord preparing ministers and missionaries here. For this, we are eternally grateful. As a Christian liberal arts institution, we also see students who are graduating as teachers and lawyers and nurses and accountants and scientists and more. Union University graduates, regardless of their occupations, are entering the world to be salt and light for Christ wherever God may take them.
Since 1926, Tennessee Baptists have given $84,515,906 through the Cooperative Program to Union University. These monies have provided for thousands of students through the years so that they might be afforded the opportunity to come to a Baptist university. Folks before me were recipients of this Tennessee Baptist money. When I was a student at Union, I received Tennessee Baptist money. Every day, I see students who are current recipients of this Tennessee Baptist money. Children who grow up and come to Union University in the future will be beneficiaries of Tennessee Baptist money.
Like Yogi Berra once said, “A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore.” That may be true. However, those nickels do add up. They’ve added up over the years at Union. And through Cooperative Program giving by Tennessee Baptists over the last 91 years, the world is a different place because of Union University graduates.