One of my great joys in life is to be known as a Southern Baptist who is a follower of Jesus Christ. Southern Baptists, while not perfect, are an outstanding group of people who love the Lord Jesus, His gospel, and the people who desperately need His grace.
What makes this group of Christ followers so unique is our doctrine, our independence, and our unending focus on missions. We have cooperated in missions for so many years that some take for granted who we are, what we do, and what our focus is.
Our belief is that the Church, the Lord’s church, the Church Christ died for, is the absolute front line of reaching the lost world for Christ. Early in our history, we discovered or realized that we were much stronger working together than working separate. It seems that this realization exposed our need to cooperate so individual churches connected together in the spirit of cooperation and, over the years, this cooperation has matured into what some call the greatest mission sending denomination to ever exist. That’s pretty big stuff.
Missions among Southern Baptist begins with the Association. An association is a group of local churches who commit to one another for the purpose of fulfilling missions LOCALLY. Said another way, we join together to fulfill the Great Commandment and Great Commission as given by our Lord Christ. Each church makes a commitment of manpower, finances, and other resources to expand the reach of the gospel in a local setting. The Association is the oldest MISSION organization known to Southern Baptist. Over the years, the Association has facilitated the cooperation between churches in ministries, missions, logistics, training, resourcing and much more. The bond of the association through the churches speaks to the community about the unity in the body of Christ. This is an organization (an association) of churches, for churches, and by churches. Pastors, staffs, and church members, only have status in the association by their membership in member churches. The Association has long been considered by Southern Baptists as the ‘First Line of Mission Investment’ for the churches.
The next levels of missions among Southern Baptists are separate, yet tied together. This level is Missions Nationally and Internationally. Southern Baptists have a unique and yet effective way to accomplish this great work together, we call it “The Cooperative Program”. The name says it all. As Independent Churches, we “Cooperate” by giving an amount of money (normally a percentage of undesignated receipts) through the Cooperative Program. Through these gifts we are able to send missionaries to all parts of the world and are able to respond to the needs of people in underserved countries as well as those in pagan cultures. Our Cooperation makes it possible to send more Missionaries to more places, train them adequately (I.E. culture, language, etc.) and take care of them and their families better than we ever could individually.
We also support seminaries, schools, mission boards, as well as serve many other gospel causes. What could be said about the work of the Cooperative Program could not be contained without pages and pages of words and writing, but the point is made.
While over the past several years some among us seem to have made a decision that there is no more need for the Association or the Cooperative Program, it would seem the better plan might be to get on board with the MISSION PLAN that has worked well for years making sure we evaluate and update when the need arises because we really know that when we do it together we do it better.
It is true that some churches take mission trips and do missions in many other ways besides these two and that is OUTSTANDING. May their tribe increase. However, the church that gives to the Association and Cooperative Program has a reach beyond their imagination. God seems to have blessed this SBC endeavor.
In the final analysis, Southern Baptist are a missional people who have developed a way for even the newest mission or the rural church who has only 4 members to be involved in missions. And a GREAT MISSION it is.