FIRST-PERSON: Through CP, 'reach, touch, transform'

ANDALUSIA, Ala. (BP) -- I was saved as a young adult in a small, Southern Baptist church in Beaufort, S.C. Early in my church experience, I heard about and saw our church willingly and gladly invest 10 percent of our undesignated gifts through the Cooperative Program in spite of having many financial needs herself. It was exciting to hear and read how our financial and prayer support helped place our missionaries in North America and around the world. In theory, I learned the value of partnering together as churches to take the Gospel to the uttermost part of the world.

In my early 30s, God called me into the ministry. In spite of our associational missionary's urging that I should get some education, I told him all I needed was a church. God called me to my first church in Bluffton, S.C. The church had all but died, so I couldn't do much more harm with no more training and experience than I possessed. Even though we were small in number, the church's commitment to missions through our Cooperative Program was very strong. Missionaries on furlough would speak to our church and I still remember the excitement created by seeing and hearing from missionaries we supported through our Cooperative Program giving.

Then God called me to pursue my education. Through the process of undergraduate and graduate studies, my theoretical understanding of the Cooperative Program became more personal and more of a conviction. I discovered that the Cooperative Program helped financially support my theological education. I benefited personally from the generosity of thousands of other churches throughout the Southern Baptist Convention.

As the years unfolded, the genius of the Cooperative Program became more apparent. The value of the Cooperative Program to the mission of Southern Baptists to take the Gospel to the end of the age is unparalleled, except for the work of the Holy Spirit and prayer. The strength of partnering and cooperating together as Southern Baptists to give, pray and go on mission is evident nowhere more than in our Cooperative Program.

During these challenging financial times, yet golden days of opportunity, Southern Baptists can turn "the world upside down" (Acts 17:6, HCSB) for Christ by strengthening our resolve to give 10 percent and beyond through our Cooperative Program.

Giving through the Cooperative Program helps reach, touch and transform lives. I believe in the Cooperative Program because I'm one such life.


Bill Pritchett is pastor of Southside Baptist Church in Andalusia, Ala. For more information on the Cooperative Program, click here.