By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist & Reflector
Editor’s Note: View the Cooperative Program video featuring Todd Hallman at tnbaptist.org/CP, or see below.
ELIZABETHTON — Though the Cooperative Program did not come into existence until decades after First Baptist Church, Elizabethton, was established 175 years ago, missions has always been important to the church.
“From the very beginning, the church has been missions oriented,” said pastor Todd Hallman. “They’ve always given to missions in some way, shape, or form.”
Though their missions giving now is done primarily through the Cooperative Program, missions is displayed at First Baptist by people “taking the initiative to go on the field” whether that is in nearby Roan Mountain or Townsend or somewhere international such as Africa or Central America, Hallman said.
“When it comes to missions, the majority of the people here are not going to be satisfied until every single person on the face of this planet has had an opportunity to know Christ,” the pastor observed.
“And to that end, we give to missions through the Cooperative Program, but we’re also actively pursuing missions endeavors. Missions is in our blood. It’s in our DNA,” Hallman stressed.
The pastor observed that he does not have to preach about tithing or giving. When people go on missions trips it opens their eyes to needs in their immediate neighborhoods. “People give because they see how it impacts lives and what we discover is that the more we give, honestly, the more blessed we are.”
He noted that even in First Baptist’s worst years financially, it was never “an option” about whether or not the church would “do missions because that’s central to their understanding of what the church is to be.”
Hallman added that Cooperative Program giving “has always been a priority, to the point that when we’re faced with financial decisions we may make cuts in other areas, but not in the Cooperative Program, associational giving, Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, Annie Armstrong Easter Offering, and Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions.”
Hallman said First Baptist is sold on the Cooperative Program “because they see the money in action. … They have confidence with the money they put in the offering plate. When it comes to the Cooperative Program, they know the money is going to be spent well by good stewards of the money.
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“They trust that. The Cooperative Program has developed a reputation and they’re confident that when they give, it’s going to be allocated and used properly.”
The 41-year-old pastor believes as strongly in the Cooperative Program as his church.
“The Cooperative Program has always been in all the churches where I’ve been a member or I’ve served,” he said. He noted that the Cooperative Program really came into play while he was serving a church near New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005.
“We saw Cooperative Program dollars come in without red tape and the bureaucracy. We saw it on the field and we saw lives changed,” he continued.
“That left not only a lasting impression on me, but a lasting impression on the church and that area.”
Noting that he has served both small and large congregations, he said there was one thing all of them had in common. “We all cooperated with the Cooperative Program and it enabled us to be able to do missions and feel like we were a part of something greater than ourselves,” he said.
“Ultimately, that should be the goal of the Cooperative Program — to energize churches to work together because at the end of the day, we’re all in the same boat. And that is the boat that we need to take the gospel to the ends of the earth.”
Hallman encourages churches not to let anything distract them from the goal of seeing people come to know Christ.
“When we get distracted, we minimize missions. We minimize relationships. Our ultimate goal, which is to be people of the Great Commission, is lost in those things.
“So, I would encourage people to give, serve, and go. Make missions a priority not only in your giving, but your action.”