FIRST-PERSON: Young leaders gain passion for stewardship, CP

EDITOR'S NOTE: April 11 is Cooperative Program Sunday in the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--When I became minister of education at First Baptist Church in Lafayette, La., as I was beginning my ministry, I knew the basics of how churches participated in the Cooperative Program. I had an idea of how our gifts were distributed to enable Southern Baptists to send missionaries across the world with the Gospel message.

It was only knowledge. My heart and my passion were not in the process.

Then I came in contact with one of my key mentors, Dr. Perry R. Sanders, the church's pastor. To Dr. Sanders, the Cooperative Program was not only the first line of the annual budget, it represented a marker on his leadership that he intended to provide this great church in Acadiana for giving assistance to churches and church leaders across the world. This once-struggling congregation in the heart of Catholic Cajun country had been encouraged and assisted by the Cooperative Program and now it was their turn to step up to the challenge of helping others.

Dr. Sanders' example established in me a love for discipleship and missions, and I moved from being a student of CP with head knowledge to being a sold-out advocate of this marvelous tool that had been given to Southern Baptists in 1925.

When the Lord allowed me to create Unlimited Partnerships for future church leaders, I determined that I would attempt to impart to the students entrusted to my care the same vigor and direction that my mentor, Dr. Sanders, had planted within me.

I soon discovered that the present generation of young ministers is sold out to discipleship and missions. That is all they talk about.

One of the first staff development sessions I conducted with the UP students addressed discipleship. I noted that stewardship is one of the foundation pieces of discipleship. Quoting 2 Corinthians 9:7, I said, "God loves a cheerful (hilarious) giver. How can you expect a young believer to grow in the Lord if he is robbing God? Stewardship is a must if we expect those that we lead to mature in Christ."

During my years of serving on a church staff, I found that I had to continually reinforce this message. It seemed that the congregation rejected hype but responded vigorously to biblical teaching. This approach defeated ignorance and misunderstanding. Once a banker asked our pastor at Prestonwood, "Pastor, when are we going to get this Co-op paid off?"

I told the UP students that Southern Baptists will never "get the Co-op paid off" because God has implanted in His people a desire to share the Good News of Jesus and, regardless of decades or centuries, it will remain the clarion call to missions and discipleship.

It blesses me to see the young ministers in Unlimited Partnerships be sold out for missions and discipleship. I am glad that they not only know the facts about CP but they are developing a love for how Southern Baptist work together and an understanding of why they must step up to take the places of those such as Dr. Sanders who were so faithful before they arrived on the scene.

It brings a smile to my face when I reflect on 2 Corinthians 2:9, "God loves a cheerful giver." When we understand the depth of this simple statement, we surely must grasp the truth that if we want the people in our churches to be hilarious about what the Lord would have them do, they must be faithful to the biblical teaching of stewardship. The Cooperative Program is an intricate part of that assignment.


Bill Taylor is founder and president of Unlimited Partnerships, a ministry dedicated to training students to effectively service in local churches by providing on-the-job experience, mentoring and networking. For more information and resources relating to the Cooperative Program, go to www.sbc.net/cp and www.cooperatenow.org.

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