By Matt Tullos
Stewardship Development Specialist, Tennessee Baptist Mission Board
The ovation lasted longer than most at the October monthly staff meeting as Randy C. Davis shared the news that churches gave 2.2 percent more through the Cooperative Program than they did last year. Tennessee Baptists are the heroes in the narrative of Cooperative Program giving. While many state conventions struggle to fund ministries and missions, we’re experiencing growth. This increase appears to be nothing short of miraculous. We spent time together, thanking God for Tennessee Baptists and their pastors. Our churches said many things through their giving. Here are seven:
(1) Momentum grows when unity drives the bus. Tennessee Baptists have enjoyed unity for a number of years. Today we celebrate what happens when a network of believers locks arms to accomplish what they could never do alone. We all agree that Tennessee is a mission field. In other words, the turf war is over. There’s plenty of turf to go around. The network of cooperation boggles the mind. Just consider how the Cooperative Program works when we are united: A new church plant in inner City Memphis needs the help of a Brentwood church. Disaster Relief needs the help of a small church in Shelbyville. A church in Brownsville funds the BCM at the Universityof Tennessee, Knoxville. A church of 50 members in Sullivan Baptist Association assures that an unnamed missionary in Central Asia continues to plant churches. There’s no end to the elaborate connecting points between churches and mission strategies. How is this possible? To a man, almost every Tennessee Baptist pastor knows the answer: the Cooperative Program.
(2) Churches realize that the Cooperative Program is not a political football. On the contrary, it’s fueling the ground war and the air war focused on fulfilling the Great Commission. In other words, Tennessee Baptist churches are focusing on what unites us rather than what divides us. We know that when lives hang in the balance between heaven and hell, we don’t have time to indulge in politics and petty disputes. The stakes are just too high and every Bible-believing church knows it.
(3) The increase in Cooperative Program giving reflects a bold recommitment of trust that Southern Baptist entities are working hard to make the most out of EVERY CP dollar. It’s a fearful thing to receive funds from the Bride of Christ. It’s a sacred trust. As Tennessee Baptists, we know that in the end, we will be accountable to God for how we stewarded the gifts given through the Cooperative Program. Look into the work of church planters, missionaries, trainers, hosts, workers, evangelists and compassion ministers and you’ll discover how serious they consider the use of the funds provided for the work on ministry.
(4) Southern Baptist churches and pastors are willing to sacrifice financially just as their tithing members sacrifice generously to their church. Every month we hear stories of pastors and churches that give sacrificially through the Cooperative Program because they want to do things that they could never do independently. These pastors preach that God will provide more than enough if we tithe. They exemplify this biblical concept as their church gives through the Cooperative Program.
(5) Pastors and churches know that we are one generation away from extinction and they refuse to let that happen. Tennessee Baptists realize that if we aren’t vigilantly reaching the next generation, the light of the gospel will grow dim in the years to come. This is why we’re allocating millions of dollars to fund BCMs on 22 campuses. It’s why we’re training leaders to do Vacation Bible School, Back Yard Bible Clubs and Sunday School. It’s why you’ll see a Tennessee Baptist presence at music festivals, sporting events and multicultural events. It’s why we reach out to thousands of students at the Youth Evangelism Conference. The Cooperative Program passes the baton to the next generation.
(6) Pastors are knocking it out of the park as they cast a vision for reaching all people groups, races, generations and nations. Through the Cooperative Program we are seeing the great influx of diverse cultures having a real and powerful encounter with Jesus in Tennessee. In turn, we have witnessed many of these new believers returning to their own country to be a light in their nation. Tennessee Baptist pastors faithfully lead the charge of the Great Commission when they challenge their churches to give through the Cooperative Program.
(7) God is doing something new and they want in on the action. They are seeing a 2 percent increase in baptisms in Tennessee Baptist churches. We’ve been praying that God would allow Tennessee Baptists to see at least 50,000 Tennesseans annually saved, baptized and set on the road to discipleship by 2024. We aren’t there yet, but this is a huge step in the right direction. Churches are seeing lives transformed through the witness and ministry of disaster relief. They are hearing about revivals breaking out in the darkest corners of the world. They are learning about the new tools to pray for neighbors by name! They are saying, “I want in on that!”
We are so proud to be a part of what God is doing in Tennessee churches, but make no mistake — this is all about the gospel. We have a host of ministries and strategies waiting to be funded and we can’t wait to see what God will do through the generosity of Tennessee Baptists. B&R