I’m ready for Tennessee to beat ’Bama.
Wow. I can practically hear a resounding, “AMEN!” from across the state. And I hate to say it, but it’s been a while since the Vols beat the Tide and that’s a streak I know Vol fans would love to see come to an end.
However, I’m ready for Tennessee Baptists to beat ’Bama Baptists in something more important than football: Cooperative Program giving. A couple of years ago, Bob Terry, editor of the Alabama Baptist newspaper, wrote a column touting the incredible and generous Cooperative Program Giving of Alabama Baptist churches. They are the leaders in the SBC in missions support. Tennessee isn’t far behind.
But we are still behind, despite having an overall larger state convention-affiliated church membership relative to Alabama. Translated, fewer Alabama Baptists are giving more through the Cooperative Program than we are despite our larger membership numbers. And with our great network of churches, it’s time we beat ’Bama!
Yep, I’m spiritual smack talking. My counterpart in Alabama is Rick Lance. Hey, “Roll Tide Rick,” you’re going down!
Our Tennessee team of churches is getting stronger and I believe ready to pass that bunch to the south (and truth be told, we also have to beat Georgia and Texas to also beat No. 1 Alabama since we historically sit fourth in Cooperative Program contributions). I’m encouraged that our shared common passion to reach the spiritually lost is fueling a Cooperative Program renewal. There are signs across our state that people recognize that we truly can do more together for the Kingdom than we can apart.
And also in Jackson, Englewood Baptist Church just a week ago made a $50,000 contribution through the Cooperative Program as an initial step in a desire to significantly increase its Cooperative Program giving.
Just two years ago, Dyllis Baptist Church (Harriman) voted to increase its Cooperative Program giving from 4 percent to 10 percent … in just two months! Talk about going all in.
We are seeing growth in the number of ethnic churches affiliating with, and being birthed into, our TBC family, and they are catching a vision for the Cooperative Program. We have some young Hispanic church in West Tennessee whose goal is 10 percent Cooperative Program giving and are making strong moves in that direction.
And speaking of “10 Percenters,” we have more than 400 churches across our state, churches like Forest Hills (Nashville), FBC Greenville, FBC Dyersburg, Green River Baptist Church and so many more, that are resolute in their commitment (and conviction) to cooperative missions through cooperative giving.
And we have many more churches who are increasing their giving toward 10 percent.
Cooperative Program giving begins with a vision, and as you know, in 2014 Tennessee Baptists affirmed the Five Objectives. The fourth of those objectives states, “Realizing an increase in local church giving through the Cooperative Program that reaches at least 10 percent by 2024.” That’s where we said we wanted to go. Frankly, that’s where we need to go if we have any chance at maximizing our gospel opportunities in Tennessee and around the world. Your Cooperative Program dollars are missions and ministry.
Without your giving, we as Tennessee and Southern Baptists don’t send gospel-sharing missionaries across our state, our nation or around the world. We don’t train up the next generation of ministers or missionaries through our seminaries. We don’t provide for orphaned children through children’s homes. We don’t help people devastated by natural disaster and crises through Disaster Relief. The Cooperative Program enables us to tangibly express our identity as Great Commission Christians.
As of the end of 2016, we had 2,518 TBC churches contribute more than $56 million, an amount that equates to 5.55 percent of undesignated budget receipts. I’m thankful for every penny Tennessee Baptists contribute to local and global missions, but I also know how much more we can do to reach the spiritually lost if we were at or beyond 10 percent.
And I truly want to see Cooperative Program giving increase in every state, even Alabama, because I know that any time God’s people are using God’s money to do God’s work, it’s a win for God’s Kingdom.
But that said … I still want to beat ’Bama.
It’s a joy to be on this journey with you.