As a young Southern Baptist evolving out of a mainline denominational upbringing, I remember vividly being introduced to the “Southern Baptist way” while attending the University of Mobile and later New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (with Cooperative Program money subsidizing my educational endeavors).
It was during these formative years that I not only firmly entrenched myself in Southern Baptist thinking but also became thoroughly convinced of the incredible power of a simple structure created in 1925 which allows all Southern Baptists to do more for the glory of God together than we could ever do alone. I would argue that no mission structure has had a greater impact on the global spread of the Gospel than the Cooperative Program.
As a teenager growing up in rural southern Alabama, I owned a truck, like every other boy it seemed. It was a great day when a thunderstorm came through and we all got our trucks out and headed for the mud. For those of you reading this that don’t understand the story, ask a native Alabamian to explain it to you. One particular afternoon, I took my little Chevy S-10 4×4 out and decided to take on the massive mud hole ahead of me. Of all the things that could happen, I managed to get stuck with no wheels at all touching the ground, just the axle sitting on dirt. This was quite a feat!
For most this would be a serious dilemma – for me, not so much. Fortunately, surrounding me were a group of friends who all took their shoes off, got behind the little pickup and pushed, allowing my tires to gain traction and come out victoriously on the other side.
Now I admit, the illustration has holes, but I often use this story with my congregation to champion our participation in the Cooperative Program. We have been given a commission. We are responsible to take the message of the Gospel to the nations. This is no easy challenge. To use a south Alabama expression, it is high time for us to once again champion and restore the prominent place of the Cooperative Program within Southern Baptist life. Accept the 1% challenge and increase your CP gifts by one percent in the upcoming year. We need to take off our shoes and push this program out of the proverbial mud. It will gain traction! It will gain momentum! The Gospel will spread!
We as Southern Baptists have many ministries: Great Commission Ministries! We have one mission: The Great Commission. And we have one program: The Cooperative Program! We can do this together!
Wade Rials is the Pastor of Thorington Road Baptist Church, Montgomery