James Suggs “gets” it. Suggs, 72, is pastor of Cave Hill Baptist Church in Newport, Tennessee. He’s lived in Cocke County, population of about thirty-five thousand, his entire life. When he was in his early twenties, he told some friends that his life goal was to see a million souls saved.
“I knew to see that goal reached I was going to have to go way beyond Cocke County,” he said.
“But I figure that by participating in the Cooperative Program (CP) I’ve been able to see at least that many saved in these fifty years.”
Because of the faithful giving of the churches he’s served, he has seen way beyond a million come to saving faith in our Lord Jesus Christ through the diversity of ministries and missions those churches supported through CP giving.
But James Suggs isn’t Tennessee’s only Cooperative Program hero.
There are countless Tennessee Baptists in churches of all shapes and sizes who sincerely believe that we truly can do more working together to advance the Gospel than we can do apart. That isn’t some catchy slogan; it is a reality, and I’m thankful for men like Pastor Suggs who can give an eyewitness accounting to a half century of the truthfulness of that statement.
I’m also thankful for young men like James Griffith, 32, pastor of Dyllis Baptist Church, Harriman, who believe in the potential of the Cooperative Program. He recalls being immediately challenged by the God-sized goals the TBC adopted two years ago, particularly Objective Four, “Realizing an increase in local church giving through the Cooperative Program that reaches at least 10 percent by 2024.”
“That was one I felt we could do immediately,” he said. “It just hit me that we ask members of our churches to give 10 percent so why wouldn’t the church also give 10 percent? I believe in where we are heading as a state convention and I believe in missions. In the end it is all about making sure people hear the Gospel, are saved, and that we see them become disciples.”
Dyllis jumped from 4 percent to 10 percent in its Cooperative Program giving in a matter of months after that meeting. It was initially a huge challenge, but just two years later, Pastor Griffith reports that the church’s giving is up in every area: building fund, missions giving, budget, and more.
Each October Southern Baptists celebrate the Cooperative Program. Since its genesis in 1925, CP has been the financial backbone of Southern Baptists’ Great Commission efforts and it is as relevant today as when our predecessors launched it by faith. Its impact is profound.
Tennessee Baptists giving through the Cooperative Program have had a hand in planting a record number of churches or Bible study groups in Tennessee alone. Through CP, Tennessee Baptists are helping a record number of struggling churches successfully turn from dying to growing again. And I’m proud to say that because of CP, Tennessee Baptists are supporting Baptist Collegiate Ministries ministering among more than 350,000 students on more than twenty university campuses. More than sixty young adults have given their lives to Christ just since classes began this fall.
What’s more, it thrills my heart to report that Cooperative Program giving is up more than 3.6 percent over last year. This increase allows us to help more Tennessee churches successfully connect with their communities, see more people saved, baptized, and set on the road to discipleship, and send more money on for national and international missions efforts.
And while we celebrate one of our best years recently, we mustn’t lose sight of the task before us. Tennessee Baptists have a goal to see annual baptisms jump from twenty-two thousand to fifty thousand in the next eight years. The reality is baptisms must increase to that level just to keep up with our state’s exploding population growth.
Anything less and Tennessee migrates deeper into spiritual lostness.
James Suggs “gets” it. So does James Griffith. Do you? Cooperative Program giving has a direct impact on our ability as Southern Baptists to reach our states and the nations for Christ. I strongly encourage you and your church to grab hold of cooperation and give generously. The eternities of millions of people are dependent upon it.
Randy C. Davis is executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Convention and is a member of First Baptist Church in Sevierville, Tennessee. This column first appeared in the Baptist and Reflector, newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention. Used by permission.