FIRST-PERSON: CP needs liberal resurgence
ROCKWALL, Texas (BP)--Finishing what you start is not only a good idea, but it is good theology. Paul was grateful that He who began His good work in us would bring it to completion (Philippians 1:6). The New Testament says that Jesus loved us to the end (John 13:1); in fact, His final words on the Cross were, “It is finished!” (John 19:30) Finishing what you start is a good thing and a God thing.
When Southern Baptists began our needed and necessary Conservative Resurgence we knew it would take a while. As they say, “You don’t turn an aircraft carrier around quickly!” However, we stuck with it and we did it, and most would say, “It is finished.” But is it?
I want to submit to you that there is one area that we have yet to turn around -– and it is our lifeline to ministry. I am referring, of course, to Cooperative Program giving. Through the years average Cooperative Program giving in our churches has continued to decrease in our convention. As I understand it, the average church now gives just under 7 percent. At one time that figure was just under 9 percent. If this downward trend continues we will not be able to do that which we have done in the past as a denomination nationally or on the state level.
In the Cooperative Program giving, God has given us a tool that is both biblical and practical. The Cooperative Program has enabled us to do more together than any one of us could do on our own. We dare not lose it. I know these are days of see, feel and touch missions in our churches, but we must not hold back on our giving in order to fund that. I have said it before and I will continue to say it -- God blesses the church that tries to bless the world! I know of no better way of doing that than the Cooperative Program. I keep thinking of the words of Jesus to the rich young ruler, “One thing you lack ...” (Mark 10:21). It seems to me that we still lack this one thing in turning our convention around.
During a hike, a troop of Boy Scouts came across an abandoned section of railroad track. Each, in turn, tried to walk the rails; but eventually balance was lost, and the scouts tumbled off. After a while, two of the boys announced they were prepared to walk the entire length of the tracks without falling off. Challenged to make good their boast, the two fellows jumped on opposite rails, extended their hands to balance each other, and walked the full distance without any real difficulty. That says it all! We can do more together than any of us can do on our own, and it is the Cooperative Program that enables us to do it.
Wherever you are as a church, let me encourage you to give more –- not less –- to the Cooperative Program. It’s our lifeline to ministry and a part of the Conservative Resurgence that we still need to turn around.
Steve Swofford is president of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and pastor of First Baptist Church in Rockwall, Texas. This column first appeared in Texas Baptist Crossroads, a publication of the SBTC.