By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
Baptists are known for many things – some good, some not so good. We tend to argue among ourselves over things that have no Kingdom significance. We get bent out of shape if someone sits in our pew on Sunday morning. We’re not happy if the pastor doesn’t visit our sick relative in the hospital (never mind that we probably forgot to let the pastor or church office know we have a sick relative in the hospital). The list goes on. Baptists can be petty. I can say that because I have been one all of my life. I’ve seen it. And if truth be told, I probably have acted in a petty manner at times.
Yet, Baptists can also be some of the most kind-hearted, caring people on this planet. And nothing brings out the best in Baptists than rallying around a need, whether it be locally, nationally, or globally.
I was in South Carolina recently witnessing the efforts of our Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers. We have an amazing group of people in our state who are ready to head out on a moment’s notice to provide help to people who desperately need it.
The great thing about disaster relief is that it brings volunteers together for a common cause. It doesn’t matter if one goes to the largest church in the state or the smallest. It doesn’t matter if someone is an executive who makes a mega salary or a retiree on a fixed income. It doesn’t matter if you’re male or female. When one responds to a disaster everyone is on equal footing. Sweat and hard work play no favorites. The important thing is to meet the physical needs of people in order to earn the right to share with them the gospel of Jesus Christ. Nothing else really matters.
The same can be said for partnership missions. Tennessee Baptists will recognize the 35th anniversary of partnership/volunteer missions at Summit next week (Nov. 10-11) at First Baptist Church, Millington. Ever since that first partnership trip to Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso) in 1980, Tennessee Baptists have responded to opportunities to share God’s love and His gospel literally all over the world.
A lot of Southern Baptists were saddened and shocked when they learned the International Mission Board was going to have to cut 600-800 missionary and staff positions due to a lack of funds. Read the story of Jennie and Peter Stillman on page 1. Jennie and Peter are both Tennesseans who each have given 35 years of their lives to sharing the gospel of Christ as missionaries with the International Mission Board. They had planned to serve another five or 10 years but took the retirement incentive offered by the IMB. Pray that God will open doors of ministry for them here that they can’t even imagine. God is not through with these faithful servants.
Hopefully, this action taken by the IMB will spur Southern Baptists to return to a level of giving through the Cooperative Program that has declined over the years as churches have kept more money “at home.”
State conventions, including the Tennessee Baptist Convention, are making sacrifices to send more money through the Southern Baptist Convention, while continuing to take care of the needs in their own states.
Southern Baptists need to remember our roots. The Cooperative Program was born in Memphis in 1924 and introduced to the Southern Baptist Convention a year later. The Cooperative Program proved to be an amazing tool that enabled churches, regardless of size, to join together to send missionaries around the world while also funding missions and ministry efforts across the nation and in individual states.
The Cooperative Program has worked for decades and it will continue to work – if we let it. Churches joining forces through the Cooperative Program can accomplish far more than any single church could ever do alone.
Southern Baptists are at our best when we rally around missions and the Cooperative Program.
Let’s continue to do so.