Having not grown up in a Christian home, my exposure to the Cooperative Program did not materialize until as a young married adult my wife and I were involved in the Dalraida Baptist Church in Montgomery. Pastor Emory Green was well-versed in all aspects of CP and missions, through the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, the Home Mission Board (now North American Mission Board) and the Foreign Mission Board (now International Mission Board). I quickly began to understand what it truly meant to be a cooperating Southern Baptist. I remember a statement made by Pastor Green that has stayed with me for over 30 years: “This may not be the best way to do missions, but it’s far better than anything that comes in second place.”
I remember seeing the pie charts in CP pamphlets that reflected how funds were distributed and used to reach souls for Christ. Little did I know that just a few years later I would sense the call to full-time ministry. Again I sought wise counsel from Pastor Green who had moved to Hartford Baptist Church. I strongly felt God’s hand on my life but had no clue as to how to afford the needed educational cost.
Again, because of his knowledge of CP, he assisted me in the process of applying to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. I learned that churches giving through CP made my education possible.
Then in subsequent years serving as a minister and pastor, my relationship with the CP became stronger than ever before. If the church’s level of giving was not adequate, I sought to raise awareness as to why we should increase giving.
Since 2005, I became more involved in the Cooperative Program having the distinct privilege to serve as the Associational Missions Director for the Etowah Baptist Association, Gadsden.
I believe there is a mandate to continue to “pass-it-along” with respect to what it means to be informed and actively involved in the Cooperative Program. There are generations coming along who do not necessarily give just because it’s the right thing to do.
They too must be led to understand what CP is all about. As I remind my pastors and churches: It’s not about what your church receives from its giving through CP (though in essence it does); it’s more of what you make available to others.
Yes, I believe in the Cooperative Program and will continue to promote it until I’m ushered into the Savior’s presence.
Gary Cardwell is director of missions for Etowah Baptist Association.