Last week I spent four days at the International Learning Center–a training center where men, women and children prepare for an assignment with the International Mission Board. I wish every Southern Baptist had this opportunity because I think it would change the way our churches pray. It would change the way our churches give. And it would restore your faith in something called the Cooperative Program.
If you’ve been a life-long Southern Baptist, you may be familiar with the funding vehicle of the Cooperative Program. On the other hand, you may be a life-long Southern Baptist and have no clue what it is. If you don’t know what it is, you would notice a radical difference in missions without it.
First, let’s do the “twitter” version of CP. In other words, short and to the point. God calls you to give a tithe. In turn, your church forwards a percentage of the total offering collected each week and sends it to their state convention office. The check is distributed in several ways–state missions, national missions, international missions, seminaries and more. If you live in Oklahoma, some of your CP dollars help fund Oklahoma Baptist University, Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children and Baptist Village Communities. Within 10 days of placing your check in the offering, it is literally on the field and at work.
There’s also another important giving vehicle for international missions. It’s the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. Maybe your church calls it by that name. Maybe your church collects one offering each year and a portion goes to international missions. However your church promotes missions, just know that 5,000 international missionaries depend on this vital “above the tithe” offering. In fact, it accounts for close to 50 percent of the IMB’s budget. The other half is through Cooperative Program funding.
Why are these funding vehicles so important? Without it, our missionaries would rely solely on the individual support of individual churches. They would spend a great deal of time and energy raising their support (and losing precious time with their people group). With CP and Lottie, Southern Baptists support missions collectively and without partiality. The phrase, “we can do more together than alone” is never more true than the collective efforts of CP and Lottie. And you are part of making that difference globally–in Asia, Europe, Africa, the Middle East and literally around the world.
Now, back to another point in regards to CP. I’ve heard the complaints of people who say that state conventions keep way too much for themselves. Of course, I’m right in the middle of that statement. I work for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma and I benefit directly from CP dollars. It pays my salary. It provides me with a budget to equip women. But there are probably several things you don’t know. Here are just a few examples:
1. In the past week, the women’s office provided every Oklahoma international missionary a monetary gift for Christmas. It’s not much, but when you have 290 international missionaries from our state, it adds up to the tune of approximately $15,000. It’s a large percentage of my total yearly budget and I am thrilled to do it. I’ve had an outpouring of emails from all over the world this week thanking Oklahoma Baptists for their faithful giving and prayers. It’s a reminder that we have not forgotten them and we are cheering them on.
2. In August, my office helped fund the travel for eight MKs–missionary kids–for the IMB MK Re-entry Retreat. What a thrill to pay for their flight and know they are receiving some of the best training before they enter college. That’s your CP dollars at work.
3. We provide a monetary gift to each Oklahoman who is appointed by the IMB. It’s a commitment from our office to pray for them and a reminder of our commitment to be involved in their lives.
4. Each year my office provides a luncheon for Missionary Parents. In addition, we provide a dinner for current, past and emeritus IMB personnel. We get to love on parents who are separated from children and grandchildren. We get to honor those who have given years of their life in another part of the world. And this year we had a unique opportunity to pray for some of our current personnel who were on stateside assignment. (these budget items account for more than 25% of the BGCO Women’s annual budget)
Yes. The Cooperative Program works. As I spent my time with leaders from the IMB last week, it was sobering to hear of those who have answered the call to missions, but there is not enough money to send them. Unless we “step up” our giving to CP and Lottie Moon, we can’t increase the number of missionaries on the field. I felt the tears come last night when a leader told me of 78 families who are ready to go and they are just waiting for you and me to give.
This is the season of giving. Our family has made it a practice that we would never spend more on one person than we would give to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. What about you? What about your family? What about your church? Can you imagine the kind of difference Southern Baptists could make if they all gave just one percent more of their budget toward CP? Instead of setting a Lottie Moon goal for your church, what if you just stopped and asked God to give you the amount He wants you to give? Let’s give generously so that others may go.