By David Dawson
Baptist and Reflector
JACKSON — Jordan Easley, the senior pastor at Englewood Baptist Church in Jackson, has a simple philosophy when it comes to missions: Teamwork makes the dream work.
Guided by that belief, Easley is leading his church into a new era in regard to its commitment to giving through the Cooperative Program. He plans to exponentially increase the church’s yearly Cooperative Program giving over the next several years, and he hopes to reach this goal with large incremental increases each year.
“I fully believe that no matter how big our church gets, or how many resources we have at our disposal, we’ll never be able to be maximized for the kingdom of God unless we are in partnership with our brothers and sisters,” said Easley. “My belief is that, as churches, we need to take the approach of ‘we are much more effective together than we are separately.’ We need to compile our resources and invest them in the Cooperative Program.”
In addition to overseeing the reshaping of the church’s budget to increase Cooperative Program giving, Easley also recently oversaw the presentation of a $50,000 check to the Cooperative Program during a special service on Oct. 5. The offering was not part of Englewood’s budget, but was instead an “above-and-beyond” gift that Easley felt called to give.
“After the budget was already set for the year, God really laid it on my heart to do something bigger for the Cooperative Program,” said Easley, who serves as a trustee for the IMB. “For this year, we felt like the best way we could start moving toward our goal of exponentially increasing Cooperative Program giving was to give an ‘above-and-beyond’ gift of $50,000.”
Along with the check presentation, the special service at Englewood also included an in-depth look into the Cooperative Program and its ministries. Educating the congregation on CP’s purpose is a top priority for Easley, he said.
“The (check presentation) wasn’t a publicity stunt,” he said. “We were doing it to encourage the church and let them see what these dollars do. I broke down the Cooperative Program and the different ministries that these dollars go to support — in terms of locally, in our state, around the country and around the world.”
Easley said he believes the $50,000 check was an important step for his church and was the springboard for the bigger goals that he has in mind.
“Since our church gives above and beyond for missions every year, what we decided to do was to make the one-time gift for 2017 for $50,000,” he said. “And from there, our plan is to put more and more money into our budget so that we can give more and more to the Cooperative Program every year. The $50,000 is not getting us to where we eventually want to be, but it’s getting us pointed in the right direction.”
Randy Davis, executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, said he is excited about Englewood’s renewed commitment and for the churches across the state who make giving a priority.
“I’m thankful for the incredibly bold vision of Pastor Easley and Englewood Baptist Church leading out in dramatically increasing their Cooperative Program giving,” said Davis. “I am also thankful for the churches across Tennessee that have moved toward our 10-percent CP Objective as well as the TBC Churches that have been at 10 percent and beyond since CP started 92 years ago.”
Easley said he believes that if more churches were committed to giving to the Cooperative Program, “it really is countless how many opportunities we’d have to bring the gospel to places it’s never been before.”
Easley said his church has historically been committed to Cooperative Program giving, but said the amount has not reflected the church’s growth over the past few years.
“We’ve given roughly $200,000 per year for the past 10 years, but that number, for one reason or another, hasn’t been adjusted as our budget has increased,” he said. “But when I realized that, I said we’ve got to do more — we’ve got to increase our participation within the convention.”
Easley said his personal commitment to the Cooperative Program has been fortified in recent years, and said he has felt a call to help others understand the importance of the Cooperative Program, especially in regard to his work as the chairman of the SBC’s Young Leaders Advisory Council.
While serving in the role of chairman, Easley sent out a survey in hopes of finding out the perception of the Cooperative Program among young pastors and leaders. The results of the survey, he said, were alarming.
“I had more than 3,000 pastors and leaders who responded and filled out the survey,” he said. “And what I learned was that the majority — and maybe as high as 80 percent — of guys under 40 fall into one of two categories: They either have an insufficient understanding of what the Cooperative Program is or they have no clue about it.
“So, one of the solutions we are coming to right now is the fact that we either have to do a better job of telling our story or we need to do a better job of educating our people,” he said. “At the end of the day, if our young leaders and young pastors can’t tell you what the Cooperative Program does, then they are not going to be passionate enough to put their neck on the line and ask their people to give more to it. But it’s our fault for not telling the stories and for not connecting the dots.”
Easley believes informing and educating is the best way to see funding for the Cooperative Program take a dramatic spike. He said he’s witnessed this, firsthand, at Englewood.
“After looking what the Cooperative Program does and looking at how our dollars impact the world, our church understands that we are better together,” he said. “And they have really gotten behind my vision of trying to exponentially increase what we are giving as a church.”
Easley believes seeing the big picture is the pivotal element in inspiring members to give.
“When you give through the Cooperative Program, you are really funding an army,” he said. “You are making it possible for more ministry to be done around the world.”