June 2017 Issue
Is the Cooperative Program Needed Anymore?
by Josh Clayton
In the fifth grade, my math teacher conveyed an idea that I’ve never been able to forget. Her goal was to draw a parallel between God and the concept of infinity, so she attempted to explain how deep numbers can go.
She posed this question: “Take something small, like seconds—how do we measure sixty seconds?” We all responded unanimously, “One minute!”
She smiled, then continued, almost as if jabbing at our intellect, “Good. How do we measure a billion seconds?” The room became uncomfortably silent.
That wasn’t fair. We were in fifth grade! She started laughing, then continued, “Right now, it’s the year 2002. A billion seconds ago, it was 1970.”
My mind was blown. Ever since that day, I’ve never been able to look at the word “billion” the same. That word holds much greater weight than it did before.
Consider two facts . . .
- There are billions of people who do not know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.
- Billions of those people live outside of our neighborhood, city, state, and country.
Please let that sink in for a moment.
These facts beg an obvious question. How is it possible for me, along with my brothers and sisters of the faith, to reach so many lost souls?
Prior to my junior year of high school, I did not know of a single entity capable of achieving such a daunting task. I understood the commission given to believers in Matthew 28, but I could not pragmatically comprehend an effective way to reach the billions of lost souls with the Good News. At that time, the truth of Luke 10:2 truly began to resonate—“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.”
Realistically, there is just no way my local church can accomplish this missional command alone. Furthermore, even the largest local church in America cannot accomplish this missional command alone. So how do we, as a church, accomplish the task of reaching so many people? Historically, as I learned through my local church, our answer to this has been the Cooperative Program, which comprises autonomous churches cooperating together to advance the Gospel.
With this in mind, I must ask, is the Cooperative Program the best answer to this problem? Is it still relevant today? Should I send money to an entity that may not benefit me personally even though it serves the Kingdom?
As long as there are lost souls in remote parts of the earth, new believers who need to be discipled, and brothers and sisters within our churches who have been called to ministry, there is a need for the Cooperative Program. In the words of notable Southwestern Seminary alumnus Frank Page, “I have yet to see any model that can accomplish what Southern Baptists have done through the Cooperative Program.”
So unless someone has another model or method that far exceeds what we have been able to do collectively through the Cooperative Program, I will continue being a loud advocate.
Ministry, at its very core, is man taking on a small role in the grand play orchestrated by God.
Likewise, the Cooperative Program allows Southern Baptists an opportunity to play that small role. As Southern Baptists, we are made distinct by the way we go about fulfilling the Great Commission and Jesus’ Acts 1:8 command.
If we are not building toward making disciples and advancing the Gospel, then we are desperately missing the mark. Therefore, everything we do as believers must point at actively building toward these two commands. The Cooperative Program effectively helps us do just that—which points even further to its relevance.
Personally, my wife and I owe an incredible amount of gratitude to the Cooperative Program. If you belong to a body of believers that sends money to the Cooperative Program, I am forever in your debt. Because of your obedience to God and selfless act of giving, I am currently receiving a theological education I would never have been able to afford without years of student debt. I am pursuing a Master of Divinity with a concentration in biblical counseling at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary with aspirations of pursuing a PhD.
When I am done, I hope to take my theological education and begin working toward the Matthew 28 and Acts 1:8 commands in whatever role the Lord sees fit. This is not only my story, but the story of numerous classmates who aspire to be missionaries, church planters, pastors, professors, worship leaders, and so many other ministry roles.
I am here now, but soon I will be going to preach the Word and reach the world because of you. The Cooperative Program is not only relevant today; it is desperately needed so that we can reach the world together. It is my prayer that as we continue telling people about the many wonderful blessings our Lord is bestowing through the Cooperative Program, we never forget the old Baptist adage, “We can do more together than we can apart.”
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