Editor’s Note: This column was distributed among directors of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board during their April 24 meeting in Franklin. See related story.
By Randy C. Davis
TBMB President & Executive Director
The Cooperative Program is the fabric that weaves us together as Tennessee and Southern Baptists. From the cradle to the grave, the Cooperative Program has a profound impact on our calling as Great Commission Christians and our ability to reach a spiritually lost and dying world. It binds us together for the purpose of reaching every geographic priority Jesus identifies in Acts 1:8.
It fuels the SBC Ecosystem.
Here’s what I mean.
Take a Tennessee boy named Billy Baptist. He comes to Christ at 10 years old during a Vacation Bible School where workers were trained and equipped through a joint venture of his church’s local association and specialists from the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board (TBMB). Later, at a summer camp held at one of the TBMB’s two conference centers, Billy responds to a call to ministry. Eventually he’s off to college and gets involved in one of the TBMB’s 20-plus dynamic Baptist Collegiate Ministries. While there, Billy gets his first taste of international missions during a summer BCM project in India.
Billy realizes his calling is actually to overseas missionary service so after college graduation, he attends and graduates from an SBC seminary. Eventually, he is commissioned as an International Mission Board missionary and arrives in the Middle East sharing Jesus with an unreached people group.
And here is the remarkable thing. Billy’s home church touched every step along his journey through its Cooperative Program giving. From the smallest of our churches to the largest, together we create this financial ecosystem that enables us to advance the gospel across the street to the ends of the earth.
IMB President David Platt is the first person I heard use the phrase, “SBC Ecosystem.” I immediately liked it. That term accurately depicts how the local church exponentially expands its ministry through its local association, state convention and SBC partners. Think about it, it enables each of us to be the Great Commission people we strive to be, but it takes us all working cooperatively if we’re going to be successful.
The reason I truly believe in describing the Cooperative Program in terms of an SBC Ecosystem is because of what has been accomplished during its 94-year history. Southern Baptists built hospitals that served people’s physical needs. We made theological education affordable so we could equip generation after generation of pastors, ministers and missionaries. We significantly funded state, national and international mission boards so that we could systematically reach every layer of the Great Commission. That is still possible, and in ways we haven’t yet even tapped. Think if every church increased giving just one percent. We’d have millions more dollars to put toward missions and ministry. And think of the astronomical amount of available money if our churches each reached the 10 percent Cooperative Program giving that was so common just a couple decades ago.
There is fundamentally nothing wrong with the Cooperative Program model. The potential for financial support through the Cooperative Program is as unlimited as young Billy’s life, if we’ll passionately and cooperatively move forward in our Cooperative Program support.
Ecosystems need nurturing, and I believe the SBC’s financial ecosystem called the Cooperative Program is worth nurturing.