As the graphic below shows, the Cooperative Program is the heart of Southern Baptist missions and ministry; it is what "pumps" the resources to each area, making these possible on a national and international scale.
How the CP Heart Works
Churches in your state work together through your state convention to support a wide array of ministries and missions including: evangelism efforts, children's homes, volunteer missions, missions education, new churches, colleges and universities, collegiate ministries, camps, and much more. Each Baptist state convention also forwards a portion of its receipts to the SBC Executive Committee to fund missions and ministry on a larger scale.
Through the International Mission Board (www.imb.org), Southern Baptists support more than 5,100 missionaries who are engaging 950 people groups of populations greater than 100,000 around the world.
New churches numbering over 1,256 were planted last year reflecting the efforts of more than 5,000 North American missionaries, whose efforts are coordinated through your North American Mission Board (www.namb.net) and individual state conventions.
Six Southern Baptist seminaries (Golden Gate, Midwestern, New Orleans, Southeastern, Southern, and Southwestern) educate in excess of 14,000 future pastors, missionaries, and church leaders each year.
The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission is dedicated to addressing social, moral, and ethical concerns, with particular attention to their impact on American families and their faith. They also provide print resources that offer scriptural responses to the moral and ethical problems of our culture.
The Hearts Behind the Heart
Stewardship is linked to the heart of missions and ministry on multiple levels. Southern Baptists will do missions right only after we've settled stewardship and Lordship matters in our own hearts. Our commment and resolve to reach the world for Christ are reflected most clearly through how we treat money and possessions. If you are looking for identifiable links to the decline in evangelism, baptisms, missions, and related offerings in SBC churches, here is a big one: the average American — Christian or not — spends $1.26 for every dollar he/she earns. When our first allegiances and obligations are bound to unnecessary debt, we find ourselves trapped, unable to pursue the things of true value. Often I have found it's not that Southern Baptists do not want to give, serve, and go on mission; they cannot give, serve, and go on mission. Financial pressure and money issues put too many of us under a weight of fear, anxiety, and discouragement. We live under a cloud. You don't have to look far to find Southern Baptists living out the truth of Proverbs 22:7: The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is a slave to the lender.
When Ronnie Floyd spoke to the Executive Committee trustees in February 2010, he challenged Southern Baptists to "preach and teach about money." Clearly, if Southern Baptists were free from debt, they would be free to give and free to serve! He said it right! Bottom line is this: if Southern Baptists were to tithe their income at the rate of 10 percent, instead of the current 2.5 percent, offerings in our churches would jump from the current amount of about $10 billion per year to an astounding $40 billion per year. If you extrapolate the current rate of giving to the Cooperative Program, using the $40 billion number, you would have the IMB receiving over $400 million dollars every year. Now that is a compelling vision for Southern Baptists!
The reality is that there has never been a better time than now for every Southern Baptist to live up to the high calling of Lordship and stewardship in their personal lives.
Ashley Clayton is a member of Two Rivers Baptist Church in Nashville, Tennessee, and is associate to the president for Cooperative Program and Stewardship with the SBC Executive Committee.