The June 2000 meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Orlando officially marks the 75th anniversary of the Cooperative Program (CP). Partners in the Harvest is the theme for the celebration that made its debut last June in Atlanta.
Adopted May 13, 1925 in Memphis, the Cooperative Program has been the giving plan that has successfully and efficiently under-girded the missions efforts of Southern Baptist state conventions and fellowships as well the SBC's national and international missions endeavors. Almost 73 percent of national CP funds are directed to world missions causes through the International Missions Board (IMB) and the North American Missions Board (NAMB).
Every state convention as well as every national entity is participating in this celebration which has as its goals:
One million baptisms this year;
Record volunteer missions involvement;
$750 million in CP and other missions' gifts.
Last year's debut featured the world premiere of the music video "I Will Follow Christ" featuring Clay Crosse, Bob Carlisle, and BeBe Winans. The artists also made a surprise personal appearance. The song has been nominated for a Dove award.
State conventions have been reporting enthusiastic responses from local pastors and congregations. Many used Partners in the Harvest as the theme for their annual meetings last fall and others plan to use it as their theme this fall.
During the North Carolina Baptist Convention in November, more than twice as many pastors committed to be Partners in the Harvest than was anticipated.
The Partners theme inspired Clinton, South Carolina pastor, Rhett Wilson, to write a song in honor of the Cooperative Program.
"One man alone can't win the world, he can only work his field. But if two or three are joined in labor, they will bring a better yield. And when churches come together, like those men out in the sun, we'll win much more for Jesus, and do His work till the race is won. We are Partners in the Harvest, leading souls to Christ. Churches bound together, shining forth His light. We will labor in the vineyard, till all the world will know, that Jesus came to save them, until then we'll reap and sow." (First verse and chorus, used by permission)
Former Arkansas pastor Tommy Snyder is leading his church to increase its giving to CP missions by 1 percent next year while the church is in the middle of constructing a 1,000 seat worship center, "We have come to the realization that we exist for those not yet reached," said Snyder. "Though we could spend that money on our own needs, there is a lost and dying world needing to hear the gospel."
Requests to the national CP office in Nashville are also brisk, as several reorders of materials have already been printed.
People outside of Baptist circles are also taking note of this celebration and its accompanying materials. Partners in the Harvest recently received The Parthenon Award given by the Nashville/Middle Tennessee chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). The awards are given annually to the finest PR and communications campaigns created by Nashville/Middle Tennessee public relations professionals. Partners in the Harvest won the Parthenon (i.e. first place) award for Internal Communications Program and a Certificate of Merit (i.e. second place) for Integrated Communications.
The Maryland Group of Nashville served as consultants on the celebration and materials.
This year's convention in Orlando will feature more surprises and special guests as the celebration continues. Four hundred (400) complete Partners in the Harvest Missions Kit boxes will also be available on a first come basis at the Executive Committee booth in the exhibit hall.
It is not too late to participate in this celebration. To be a Partner in the Harvest simply commit to:
Conduct the Partners in the Harvest campaign in your church (preferably this fall);
Lead your people in a volunteer missions project;
Consider increasing your gifts to CP missions by at least 1 percent during the 2001 budget year in honor of the 75th anniversary of the CP.
Sign up by calling your state CP office or the national CP Missions Office at 800-722-9407.
For seventy-five years, Southern Baptists have been caring people who cooperate together to be Partners in the Harvest. Let the celebration continue-Happy Birthday Cooperative Program!
75 Years Later
When Robert "Bob" Polk was born in 1924, little did he know his life would be so entwined with the Cooperative Program.
A WMU drama staged during the 1925 Southern Baptist convention in Memphis entitled "Open Windows to the World" featuring Polk as the baby injected him into the world of missions. The Cooperative Program was officially adopted May 13, 1925. Seventy-five years, three grown children, and seven grandchildren later, he still maintains that, "the mission of the church is missions, and the Cooperative Program is missions."
Dubbed the "CP Baby" by some, Polk grew up knowing of the importance and scope of Cooperative Program missions. "When I was five or six years old, I was in the Sunbeam Band and we memorized Scripture relating to stewardship and the Cooperative Program," remembers Polk. "In 1949 at the Southern Baptist Convention I was invited to give a Cooperative Program testimony. As a pastor, I was convicted to give priority to the Cooperative Program in the church budget. It was the first item," he states.
After serving eight churches over a thirty-year span, Polk served in the Church Stewardship Department of the Baptist General Convention of Texas in 1975 and became Director of Cooperative Program Promotion in 1983. He still serves as a Mission Service Corps volunteer in the state Cooperative Program office.
"I encourage pastors to do a better job of educating church members concerning Cooperative Program missions," he said. "Missions is the center of what we are and do. Missions unites us as Baptists.
"If we get back to the basics, give our people the proper education, and recast the vision, our greatest days of growth and success in fulfilling the Great Commission lie ahead."