10 Reasons to stop giving through the Cooperative Program…and why they’re wrong

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As I near a quarter of a century of ministry in and to churches cooperating with the Southern Baptist Convention, I can reflect upon countless conversations about the cooperative missions offering known as the Cooperative Program. In my role as a pastor, those conversations took place in budget committee meetings, missions committee meetings, in church hallways and parking lots, and occasionally over lunch. In my role as a state convention executive director, or as I often refer to myself, “the chief CP fundraiser in Kentucky,” those conversations take place every day, often many times a day, wherever I go.

Over the years, I have heard lots of reasons church members thought we should cut CP giving and lots of reasons pastors choose not to lead their churches to give more than a token amount through CP. Here’s a “Top 10” list of reasons to stop giving through CP…and why I think they are wrong.

  1. Our church budget is too small to give through CP. Giving through CP can seem illogical for a small church or a church plant but, similar to the principle of tithing, can also be an act of discipline and faith where we choose to obey God, trust in God’s provision, and then witness just how generous God can be (Mal 3:10). Giving through CP is also a way for small churches and church plants to do Kingdom work they may not be able to do on their own.
  2. Our church budget is too big to give through CP. In a large church, budgeting a significant percentage for CP also means a significant amount of dollars. Ten percent of a $50,000 budget looks differently than ten percent of a $5,000,000 budget. But if a church can survive on $45,000, surely a church can survive on $4,500,000! The old adage, “Not equal gifts but equal sacrifice” causes us to think in terms of generosity rather than the number of zeroes on a check written to take the gospel to the nations.
  3. We have too much work to do in our community to give through CP. Every community I’ve ever lived in, visited, or just driven through has more work to do than one church can get done. Jesus did not command the church to do everything that needs done in its local community but he did tell the church to be a witness in Jerusalem AND Judea AND Samaria AND to the ends of the earth. CP makes that possible.
  4. We want to plant churches. I thank God for the renewed focus on church planting that is sweeping across the SBC and we need more, not less, churches committed to planting churches and intimately involved in the lives of church planters and newly birthed church plants. But, in addition to throwing significant support behind one, two, or, in the case of a megachurch, even five or ten new church plants, giving through CP allows a church in Kentucky to support 50 new plants in the state, approximately 1,000 new plants in North America, and thousands more around the world. CP lets every church be part of a church planting movement.
  5. We want to support “our own” missionaries. Long ago, Southern Baptists became convinced that cooperation was a better way to reach the world. Cooperation allows missionaries to stay on the field rather than fly back home to raise support. Cooperation provides for greater accountability, better training and support, and a comprehensive worldwide missions strategy. And, all 3,600 of the men and women who faithfully and sacrificially take the gospel to the nations through the International Mission Board are “our own” missionaries. Just ask them.
  6. We don’t know how our CP offering is used. Maybe you don’t, but you can. The information is fully disclosed, down to the penny. Budgets are publicized. Audits are available. Board oversight is diligent. And for every dollar, I stand ready to give an account. I’d also be happy to stand before your congregation, meet with your finance committee, or provide a host of resources that explain the CP and how it is being used to reach Kentucky and the world for Christ.
  7. We don’t like some of the things CP supports. As a father, pastor, and denominational servant leader, I have always found a few things I didn’t especially like in my home, church, and convention. But since there is plenty I do like, I stay put. That’s always the best opportunity to help fix anything we consider broken.
  8. We don’t agree with the leader of a CP funded entity. Disagreements abound “where two or more are gathered” and so can fellowship…unless we walk away. If we stay, sometimes we can reconcile, other times we must agree to disagree, but unless we witness a departure from essential doctrines or ongoing and unrepentant sin, choosing to “take my ball and go home,” thus walking away from the incredible kingdom work made possible by CP, is a bad decision.
  9. Our church is big enough to do what our state convention does. No, it isn’t. Large churches do a lot and for that I give thanks. But no church in Kentucky, by itself, can minister to 1,200+ abused and neglected kids, assist thousands of students with their education, plant 50 new churches, provide equipping and encouragement to hundreds of pastors and thousands of church leaders, do disaster relief ministry every day in several places around the world, and, every day, feed the hungry, provide housing for the homeless, love the refugee, and so many other things. But, through CP every church in Kentucky can do all of that and more.
  10. We don’t get anything from CP. Yes, you do. Every church giving through CP gets to be obedient to the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20), obey James 1:27, minister to “the least of these” (Matthew 25:40), model generosity toward other churches (2Cor 8:1-5), reproduce itself through church planting, and have access to a host of consultants, resources, tools, and ministries designed to help the church reach Kentucky and the world for Christ.

I could probably think of a few other reasons I’ve heard for not giving through CP but I can’t stop thinking about all the things God is doing through CP.

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