CP EMPHASIS (First-Person, Steve Horn): Reaching the nations
LAFAYETTE, La. (BP)--Every October my already messy desk and busy calendar become a little more chaotic as I try to lead our church staff and budget planning team through formulating a new budget for the coming year.
Even without this current economic downturn, budget preparation time is a difficult time. Regardless of the size of the church, every church could use just a little more. Herein begins my passion for the Southern Baptist Cooperative Program. How only one church in one corner of God's Kingdom could make the best decisions for the most effective Kingdom strategy is beyond my comprehension. But the Cooperative Program offers Southern Baptists a strategy to impact the evangelistic pattern given to us in the Great Commission. When a Southern Baptist church begins budget preparation, that church can know that there is a plan to be faithful to the Great Commission.
God gave us, the church, our marching orders as recorded in Matthew 28:18-20 and Acts 1:8. Do you see the progression? We are to start where we are, but we must eventually take the Gospel message to the ends of the earth. The greatest struggle of any church is to figure out this progression. There will be some who criticize by saying we spend too much money and effort on our own ministries and our own city. There will be others who criticize by saying we spend too much money on the nations when there is so much to do in our own city. Yet since the Scripture declares that we do both, we must have a plan to do both.
How much should a church give to the Cooperative Program? The answer to this question is another benefit of the Cooperative Program. Each church gives as God directs. The Cooperative Program allows each church the benefit of independence but in the context of joining with other like-minded churches for maximum effectiveness.
I have good friends who are missionaries with both the International Mission Board and the North American Mission Board. I also have become acquainted with personnel from other Southern Baptist entities. At times I think about the sacrifices that some of these make compared to me and wonder how God could be pleased with what we do in the ease and comfort of Lafayette, La. Then, God reminds me of His call for me to be in Lafayette and His call for others to be in places like Uganda, Thailand, Alaska, and our six Southern Baptist Seminaries. That's part of God's plan for all the nations to know Him.
Every church has a heartbeat. For some churches the heartbeat is size. They just want to be larger or, in some cases, smaller. For some churches, the heartbeat is music. For others, the heartbeat is service or some particular cause. If we want to be God's church, our heartbeat must be His heartbeat -- and His heartbeat is for the world to know Him. With today's technology, we live in the greatest time ever for cooperation to reach the nations. Now is not the time to shrink back in our efforts and financial resources to cooperatively do what we cannot do as one local church. Now is the time for more of our money than ever to be cooperatively used to reach the nations.
Steve Horn has been senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Lafayette, La., since June 2005.