Churches urged to 'Vote CP’ & close the gap to a lost world

INDIANAPOLIS (BP)--The number of adults in the United States who do not attend church has nearly doubled since 1991, according to a recent survey by the Barna Research Group. And although Southern Baptist churches and missionaries baptized more than 800,000 believers in North America and overseas in 2003, the denomination's evangelism efforts are not keeping pace with the growth in world population.

In an effort to close that gap, Southern Baptist churches are being challenged to "Vote CP" this fall, refocusing on cooperative missions and its potential to reach the world.

"Most of our churches participate in (CP) Missions, but I believe it is safe to say that too many people in the pew have no idea what CP is, what it does and, most importantly, who it reaches," said David Hankins, vice president of Cooperative Program for the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee. "Vote CP is an effort to put a face on that portion of the church budget.

"Cooperative Program Missions is more than simply writing a check each month and sending it to the state convention. In reality, it is people sending people and people reaching people. Every person in the church needs to understand this."

At a June 13 banquet prior to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Indianapolis, key leaders from more than two dozen Baptist state conventions were encouraged to "put a face on missions" by regularly showing Southern Baptist church members the people they are reaching for Christ every day by participating in (CP) Missions.

"Our goal is straightforward -- that never again will a God-called, qualified missionary candidate hear someone say, 'You can't go. We don't have the resources to send you,’" Hankins said. "More than 1 billion people in this world have little hope of even hearing about salvation in Jesus Christ unless God's people rise up and join Him in sending out messengers with the Gospel.

"Vote CP asks churches to take decisive action to close the widening gap between those who have heard the Good News of Christ and those who have not by enhancing their cooperative efforts to reach the world. A vote for CP is a vote for sending more missionaries, for thoroughly equipping godly leaders and for baptizing more people through increased evangelistic efforts.

"One million baptisms a year should be the norm and become a foundation upon which to build," Hankins said. "This can be a reality if we Vote CP and enhance our cooperative efforts. If we are going to be effective in the long run, we must reinforce this vision of working together to reach people."

The Vote CP emphasis asks congregations to commit to pray about and evaluate their level of participation in the Cooperative Program, Hankins said.

"That's not a commitment to increase their percentage giving," he said. "It's a promise to, as the Scripture says, 'lift your eyes and see that the fields are ripe for harvest' and ask God what He wants you to do in response to the great need -- and then simply do whatever God tells them to do."

A full DVD will be available to help churches promote the (CP) Missions vision, Hankins noted. The disk is scheduled for release in late August and will be a missions promotion resource containing sermons, PowerPoint presentations, Sunday School lessons and video features of varying lengths that can be shown during worship and in Sunday School classes and other small group settings.

One feature on the DVD graphically shows how the world has changed over the past 10 years, Hankins said. "When you look at what has happened, what needs to be done and what can be accomplished for the Kingdom when we work together, it is not just a campaign slogan when we say, 'Now, more than ever, Vote CP."

The Vote CP campaign reminds churches that Cooperative Program giving involves them in an impressive array of missions initiatives -– training church leaders, sending missionaries and promoting evangelistic efforts that result in more believers baptized and new churches started.

The Cooperative Program -- (CP) Missions -- is Southern Baptists' 79-year-old cornerstone for missions funding by which the SBC’s 43,000 congregations pool their missions dollars in a unified budget to accomplish through partnership more than they ever could accomplish as individual churches.


For more information on the Vote CP campaign, visit www.sbc.net/votecp.

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