One of my all-time favorite movies is the Michael J. Fox classic, Back to the Future. I was mesmerized by the concept and plot of the movie and, like many, was thrilled when Marty made his leap back to the future.
When Marty first learns that his eccentric friend, Emmett “Doc” Brown, has invented a time machine out of a DeLorean, the two have a quick conversation in an empty mall parking lot about Doc’s plan:
Marty: The future? That’s where you’re goin’?
Doc: That’s right. 25 years into the future. I’ve always dreamed of seeing the future, looking beyond my years, seeing the progress of mankind.
Unfortunately, unlike Doc from Back to the Future, I don’t have a modified DeLorean with a flux capacitor, and unlike the prophet Amos, I am not a prophet nor the son of a prophet. We can’t just drive 88 miles per hour and jump to the future. However, I believe strongly that the Cooperative Program is the future of missions in the Southern Baptist Convention.
Here are three facts that, in my opinion, are undeniable:
- The Great Commission is the calling of every Christian until the end of time on this earth. Therefore, until Jesus returns, the Great Commission is the future.
- Southern Baptists are, and I believe always will be, missional people. Missions is part of the DNA of Southern Baptist church members and of Southern Baptist churches.
- For nearly 100 years, the Cooperative Program has proven to be the unquestioned best method among all churches and denominations of doing missions. I’ve spoken with enough leaders in other denominations to know that they recognize the necessity and power of cooperation, especially for missions.
In addition to these truths, there are also many factors that would cause one to draw the conclusion that we need to remain strong in our commitment to cooperating (CP) in our missions efforts. I believe the reality is that the challenging issues our SBC forefathers faced back in the early 1920s would still be a factor today.
Here were some of the driving forces back then:
- Too many special offerings became a burden to churches.
- Favored ministries garnered the lion’s share of resources, which left little for other needed ministries.
- A non-unified giving strategy limited the total amounts given toward mission causes.
These issues and others caused division among churches and led to a less unified convention. The Cooperative Program answered these challenges with tangible results in increased giving – a better, more streamlined approach to budgeting for mission boards and SBC initiatives, as well as increased unity across the convention. What resulted was a Biblical model of cooperation among God’s people, missions to the uttermost parts of the world, training for ministers and missionaries, ministry to the “least of these”!
As Southern Baptists, we undeniably can do more together than we can alone. We serve a mighty King – Jesus! We have a righteous and lifelong call to the Great Commission as well as the Great Commandment. Let us look to the future with an eye toward greater partnerships and not fewer. Toward greater going and not less. Toward magnifying the name of Jesus – together!
State Missionary Jay Stewart serves as director of Cooperative Program & Church Financial Resources. He may be contacted at 1-800-264-1225, ext. 2283, or (334) 613-2283, firstname.lastname@example.org.