The Difference is easy to see.
It's a DVD being mailed to Southern Baptist churches across the country.
"The love of Southern Baptists is making a difference through the Cooperative Program," the cover of the DVD states.
The Difference DVD focuses on how Southern Baptists have been at the leading edge of helping victims of Hurricane Katrina — as well as victims of the tsunami in Asia, the earthquake in Pakistan, and other natural disasters.
"Pastors are supported" when Southern Baptists give through the Cooperative Program, the DVD cover notes.
"Congregations are being restored.
"Lives are being changed forever."
The Cooperative Program, however, reaches far beyond disaster relief: State by state, nationally and internationally, CP gifts from Southern Baptist churches help impart the Gospel to people in need of Christ within state lines and across North America and the world.
The Difference DVD, distributed by the Cooperative Program office of the SBC Executive Committee, includes four video segments of varying lengths that can be used in sermons or other parts of a church service, Sunday School, and any other setting to explain the crucial role the Cooperative Program plays in the overall scope of Southern Baptist outreach, from disaster relief to evangelization of people worldwide in cities and across the countryside who do not know the name of Jesus.
David E. Hankins, executive director of the Katrina-impacted Louisiana Baptist Convention, states via the DVD: "The wonderful thing about our Southern Baptist network and our Cooperative Program mission funding process is that not only were our partners able to come to our aid in this disaster, but not one other ministry failed that was going on before the hurricane, except those right in the hurricane area.
"We didn't have to bring home even one international missionary because of the worst natural disaster to ever hit on U.S. soil. Why? Because the Cooperative Program had that taken care of.
"Could you imagine," Hankins continues, "if all these affected areas had been supporting their missionaries just directly out of their congregation, and their congregation [was] destroyed? Not only would it stop that ministry here, but those missionaries would have been left without a lifeline out there in the faraway places in the world....
"Southern Baptists' Cooperative Program has taken care of all these ministries — 24/7, 365, we're still up and running while we take on this additional task of rebuilding our churches here in the path of Katrina," Hankins notes.
A second Cooperative Program resource has also been mailed to the SBC's forty-three thousand-plus churches: When Saints Go Marching In by Hankins, who formerly was the Executive Committee's vice president for Cooperative Program, and Norm Miller, a freelance writer and an ordained minister in Richmond, Virginia.
The small book likewise recounts "how and why Southern Baptists" — the nation's third-largest disaster relief group — "made such a difference" in Katrina's aftermath, the book's cover states.
The DVD and book are the first in a line of quarterly CP Missions resources released by the Cooperative Program office of the Executive Committee.
Also distributed in conjunction with Cooperative Program day, April 9, in the Southern Baptist Convention was a four-part series for state Baptist papers adapted from a 2005 book on the Cooperative Program, One Sacred Effort, by Hankins and Chad Brand, associate professor of Christian theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.
The series addresses the "Great Need" at the heart of the Cooperative Program — people amid "the world's pain ... [who are] ready for the Gospel"; the "Great Strategy" — one that is thoughtful, prayerful, comprehensive, and cooperative, as opposed to competitive, for advancing the Gospel; the "Great Results" — with "thousands of missionaries, thousands of seminary students and hundreds of workers in children's homes and other helping ministries" supported through the Cooperative Program; and a "Great Obligation" — responding to Jesus' call: Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest (Matthew 9:38).
'More Convinced Than Ever'
Morris H. Chapman, president of the Executive Committee, noted, "Now more than ever, I am convinced that the Cooperative Program is the most efficient and effective funding method for accomplishing the Acts 1:8 mandate to be Christ's witnesses — beginning where we are and ultimately reaching to the ends of the earth. Consequently, I am greatly encouraged by the incredible amount of fresh energy and synergy focused on the Cooperative Program. Bob Rogers, VP for CP, and his team are producing some exciting new resources to heighten awareness among Southern Baptists of the tremendous return on Kingdom investment achieved through the Cooperative Program. Their efforts together with the recent adoption of the Ad Hoc Cooperative Program Committee's recommendations by the state executives and the Executive Committee are already getting traction and building momentum.
"Just imagine," Chapman said, "what we can accomplish with greater CP support: more missionaries sent with the Gospel to unreached people groups, more church planters to establish more new churches that will reach more people, more seminary trained ministers to equip churches to reach the lost and disciple the saved, more ministry that shows the love of Jesus in practical ways, and more godly influence on the moral and cultural challenges we face as a nation.
"Again, it is my fervent prayer that these concerted efforts will inspire a renewed sense of passion among Southern Baptists to give systematically and sacrificially through the Cooperative Program so that together we might do more than ever to reach people of every tribe and tongue, every people and nation with the glorious Gospel," Chapman said.
New CP Vision
The Ad Hoc Cooperative Program Committee referenced by Chapman reflects an unprecedented stirring among Baptist leaders across the country to fortify Southern Baptists' giving through the Cooperative Program.
The committee — encompassing eight state Baptist executive directors, Chapman, and Rogers — set forth a number of recommendations and strategies, which received unanimous approval from the state Baptist executive-directors during their mid-February annual meeting in Canada.
The measures call for:
• "every segment of SBC life...to reaffirm our commitment to biblical stewardship and to our cooperation in the Great Commission/Acts 1:8 mission," reflecting evangelism that stretches from a church's community to people who have yet to hear the Gospel throughout the world.
• "each believer to tithe of his financial resources to his local church and ... all Southern Baptist churches to adopt a missional mindset as they contribute at least 10 percent of their undesignated receipts through the Cooperative Program to local and global missions." High priority should be given to "the development of quality stewardship training materials with an emphasis on tithing."
• "the election of state and national convention officers whose churches give at least 10 percent of their undesignated receipts through the Cooperative Program."
* "each state convention [to] have a plan for forwarding an increasing percentage of receipts to SBC mission causes through the Cooperative Program, with the Cooperative Program Advance Plan being one possible model" as a way to give more through CP.
• "the 2006 SBC and state convention annual meetings be used to launch an SBC-wide celebration of and emphasis on the Cooperative Program."
• the mobilizing of high-profile pastors as "CP Champions" and recruiting churches to pilot a year-long stewardship/Cooperative Program emphasis to build awareness of the impact a church can have via CP Missions in fulfilling the Great Commission.
• state and national publications "to actively include CP stories and information as regular features in every issue .... The CP connections must be clearly stated in each article; we cannot assume our people know all that is accomplished through their participation in the CP."
• mission trips to be linked with the Cooperative Program to "help churches understand that volunteer missions should be built on the foundation of their giving through the CP, not in place of it."
The recommendations are "a historic step forward as Southern Baptists in the work of the Cooperative Program," Anthony Jordan, executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, said during the Executive Committee's February 20-21 meeting in Nashville, Tennessee.
Chapman agreed, noting, "If we follow all the way through with it, it will be a historic breakthrough for the Kingdom [and] for Southern Baptists." The Ad Hoc Cooperative Program Committee report joins two other recently released CP reports that together indicate a growing momentum to revitalize the Cooperative Program as the primary giving channel to promote worldwide missions, ministries and theological education:
• the SBC Funding Study Committee, an eleven-member group created by the Executive Committee in 2002, which issued one of its ongoing reports to the Executive Committee February 20 with various recommendations by which SBC entities could give greater visibility and promotion to the Cooperative Program.
• the Task Force on Cooperation, an eight-member group of four state executives and four SBC entity heads created jointly by the state execs and the SBC Great Commission Council of SBC entity heads in 2000, which issued a report last September, with a number of recommendations paralleling the Ad Hoc Cooperative Program Committee's report.
Such recommendations likely will prompt a hearty amen from pastors across the country convinced that their churches' gifts through the Cooperative Program make a difference worldwide.
"Every church has its own identity," pastor Tim Marrow of First Baptist Church of West Albuquerque, said in a CP feature carried by Baptist Press, "but [the Cooperative Program] is something every Southern Baptist church can be a part of, so that every person has an opportunity to hear the Gospel before Jesus returns."
Pastor David Pope of Western Avenue Baptist Church in Connersville, Indiana, said, "Where else can a church's financial investment reap such eternal rewards ...? Through the Cooperative Program we get to have a hand in all six SBC seminaries, affect policy in our nation's capital, and have a hand in missionary efforts all around the world. It's a unique team process. There's nothing like it, and I believe it is just one reason Southern Baptists remain so effective."
Pastor Calvin Wittman of Applewood Baptist Church in Wheat Ridge, Colorado, said, "A pastor has to ask, 'What could we do in impacting the lostness in our world if every person would get involved in the Cooperative Program? How many more people could be reached? What could we do if every church cooperated the way they want their members to cooperate?'
"If we're not as a church giving at least 10 percent to the Cooperative Program, how can we ask our members to tithe?" Wittman said. "I know there are other ways of doing missions, but there is no better way than the Cooperative Program. [It] is the most effective way to reach the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That's why we're involved with it. We're a missions-minded church."