Four key Southern Baptist pastors will be casting vision for the Cooperative Program (CP) in different regions of the country as part of the “young leaders” initiative of the SBC Executive Committee.
The four pastors—Nathan Millican of Foothills Baptist Church in Phoenix; Chad Keck of First Baptist Church in Kettering, Ohio; Curtis Cook of Hope Fellowship Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts; and Matt Crawford of First Baptist Church in Sebring, Florida—will lead efforts in their regions to tell the story of the Cooperative Program and to promote its vision for the next generation of pastors and leaders.
The top priority for the catalysts is to connect with young pastors and leaders within their specific region of the country: West, Midwest, Northeast, and South, said Ashley Clayton, vice president for Cooperative Program and Stewardship with the Executive Committee, who will supervise the catalysts’ work.
Much of their efforts will focus on online engagement through social media and other channels, as well as arranging meetings geared for young pastors during major events that Southern Baptist pastors already attend, such as the SBC annual meeting, SEND conferences, and state Baptist convention meetings.
The four catalysts will continue serving full-time at their respective churches.
Engaging Young Leaders
The addition of the catalyst roles further demonstrates SBC leadership’s commitment to engaging young leaders for the cause of cooperative missions and ministries, said Executive Committee President Frank S. Page.
“In ways that have probably never happened before, at least that I am aware of, we are aggressively and intentionally making efforts to engage SBC’s young leaders,” Page noted. “A person might ask, ‘Why is the Executive Committee doing this?’ Simple: We are doing this to continue our legacy of cooperation for the Great Commission.
“If you’re a young pastor, the EC wants you to know that we value your voice. We are grateful for your engagement through the Cooperative Program and in the SBC,” Page added. “We want to support you in your ministry, and we want to continue to partner with you to glorify God by making disciples of all nations!”
Advancing the Torch
The four CP catalysts know firsthand the benefits of cooperative missions and want to see their generation advance that torch for the sake of God’s kingdom.
Nate Millican emphasized how churches across North America are “better together” as they collaborate through the Cooperative Program.
“Imagine your church attempting to fully fund a missionary in Central Asia to reach Muslims. The financial burden would be great, and the burden would be compounded as you think through the pervasive lostness in Central Asia,” Millican, said.
“But imagine the joy and impact of a myriad of men and women rallying together to equip, resource, and fund a couple to go to Central Asia. The Cooperative Program continues to be effective and impactful in taking the Gospel across the street, across our state, and across the globe so people will come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ,” he said.
“Sure, things could always be better, more efficient; but let’s keep our hand to the plow and, by God’s grace and the work of the Spirit, lead our congregations to exude and pursue the value that we are truly better together.”
Chad Keck explained how he had personally benefited from the Cooperative Program.
Having seen firsthand as a student the impact CP can have on theological education, at Oklahoma Baptist University and then Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, “I am excited about talking to pastors and churches about the impact they are making by giving through the Cooperative Program,” Keck, who served as second vice president of the SBC in 2015–2016, said.
“I also have had the privilege of serving alongside numerous International Mission Board missionaries on short-term trips and North American Mission Board church planters through church partnerships to see how giving through CP impacts lostness,” he said.
“I feel so blessed to be able to serve Southern Baptists as the CP Catalyst for the Midwest.”
Curtis Cook said Hope Fellowship Church is delighted to pay forward for others the partnership that helped their congregation launch and grow strong.
“Working to advance the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the Northeast is both an exhilarating opportunity and a daunting challenge,” Cook said.
“Over the past thirteen years in Boston, we have experienced firsthand the blessing of kingdom partnership through the Cooperative Program. When we started our church, we were blessed by the sacrificial partnership that played a key role in helping this new work begin.
“In the early years of our church, we found great joy in being able to partner with other churches through CP to help support missionaries around the world, when we could never do that by ourselves,” he said.
“And now we experience partnership in new ways as we are able to help plant churches in partnership with others and have seen members of our church go and serve among the nations.
“We have found again and again that we can do more kingdom work together than we can by ourselves. I believe this is a great moment for us to partner together,” he said.
Matt Crawford is a product of Southern Baptist cooperative missions and wants his generation of pastors to catch a vision of how collaboration advances the Great Commission.
“As a lifelong Florida Baptist blessed through the educational opportunities provided by the Cooperative Program, I am so grateful for the opportunity to broaden the CP conversation with my generation of Southern Baptist pastors,” Crawford said.
“There is no greater cause for us to work together to support, as we seek to glorify our Savior through completing the Great Commission. We’ve got to continue to tell the story of CP and cast a compelling vision for our cooperation around what is most important,” he said.
Earlier this year, the Executive Committee appointed the Young Leader Advisory Council, chaired by Jordan Easley, senior pastor of Inglewood Baptist Church in Jackson, Tennessee.
In March, the EC advisory council announced a twenty-one question survey at TalkCP.com to assess the attitudes and overall engagement of young leaders across the SBC.
The group is seeking input from pastors, church leaders, and SBC leadership to surface current thoughts and perceptions among young leaders about all things Southern Baptist, and especially about the Cooperative Program (see related story).
The SBC Executive Committee has also launched TalkCP.com, populated with fresh content by young leaders about SBC missions and ministries fueled by the Cooperative Program.
Also this spring, the Executive Committee and the North American Mission Board announced a plan to launch a young leader initiative to engage pastors between the ages of twenty-five and forty-five more effectively.
NAMB has enlisted Jonathan Akin, former pastor of Fairview Church in Lebanon, Tennessee, and cofounder of the B21 blog and annual meeting panel discussions, to find ways to engage those who are disconnected or minimally involved in Southern Baptist life.
“We simply want to connect the disconnected pastors and provide opportunities for younger pastors to see the value of being a part of this family we call the SBC,” Kevin Ezell, president of NAMB, said.
The EC and NAMB will work together to form a representative group of young advisers to help in this initiative which will launch this summer.
Mark Kelly is a national correspondent for SBC LIFE and is a member of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Georgia.