My father, Cole Skelton, was an Alabama Baptist pastor, and he taught me from the time I was very young about the importance of tithing. Because I grew up tithing, continuing to tithe was not a problem as an adult.
In addition, my father also taught me that a church should also tithe its undesignated offering through the Cooperative Program in order to fulfill Christ’s Great Commission. I was fortunate enough to learn those lessons as a child from my father, but when God called me to ministry, I studied God’s Word to see if what my father taught me was correct.
As I studied God’s Word, I was even more convinced that each church should give at least a tithe of its undesignated offerings back to God through the Cooperative Program in order to join with our fellow Alabama Baptists in making disciples at home and around the world.
In the years that my wife, Anita, and I served as missionaries in South Korea with the International Mission Board, we experienced firsthand the strategic importance of churches giving faithfully through the Cooperative Program.
Some of my independent missionary friends liked to say that they were “faith missionaries” and that we were not because of the Cooperative Program. However, I responded that we were just as much faith missionaries as they were because unless Southern Baptists were faithful to give through the Cooperative Program, we would also not be able to continue serving the Lord in South Korea.
Since returning to Alabama to serve as pastor here, I have continued to see how important the Cooperative Program is to the growth of God’s kingdom. No church, no matter how large, can fulfill the Great Commission alone.
We must join hands with fellow believers to make disciples of all nations. The Cooperative Program is the best avenue I know for all Southern Baptists to work together to be witnesses “in Jerusalem, in all Judea, in Samaria and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
The Cooperative Program enables Alabama Baptists to respond immediately in the wake of natural disasters and share the good news of God’s love with those who are hurting, whether that be in Alabama or around the world.
The Cooperative Program allows my church to receive the best training in evangelism and missions through our Alabama Baptist state missionaries. I believe that faithful giving through the Cooperative Program was one of the factors that produced significant church growth in the 20th century, and I believe that a recommitment to the principles of missional giving through the Cooperative Program will be essential for Alabama Baptists to continue reaching people for Christ in the 21st century as well.
Pastor D. Clarke Skelton of Valley Grande Baptist Church, Selma, serves as a trustee for the Alabama
Baptist State Board of Missions.