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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP)--In January 1950, WMU’s Royal Service magazine carried an article entitled “Right Percentage” that highlighted the 25th anniversary of the Cooperative Program. This unique Southern Baptist program pools monetary resources from churches to support the goal of spreading the Gospel.
The emphasis across the denomination that year was “Every Baptist a Tither,” and WMU pledged to do its part in promoting tithing and overall increased giving to CP. The author wrote, “Woman’s Missionary Union, always an auxiliary or helper in every endeavor of Southern Baptists, will give all the force she can to the achievement of these goals. We will do everything we can to teach stewardship of possessions and to lead Baptist women and young people in the practice of good stewardship.”
Our involvement in the promotion of CP and an emphasis on stewardship was nothing new. Records show WMU as an integral part in the creation of CP. In fact, then-WMU Executive Director Kathleen Mallory and a WMU officer from every state served on the Committee on Future Program, the original group that launched this dream of cooperative giving. Teaching stewardship and service across all age levels has been a part of WMU since our inception.
The heart and soul of any denomination’s missions efforts must be founded on its members’ understanding these basic concepts -- everything I have belongs to God; I am responsible for using whatever I have to honor God; a world is waiting to hear the Good News and I am responsible for seeing that they hear. When these concepts are planted firmly in a believer’s life as they are through missions education, tithing and cooperative giving by churches and state conventions will not be a problem.
The graph accompanying this article presents a strong correlation between missions education and involvement and stewardship. Just take a look at CP giving from churches with WMU as compared to churches reporting no WMU organizations as reported in the 2003 Annual Church Profile. The graph needs no explanation except to say, an occasional tithing sermon or testimony from someone who tithes will not produce individuals or a church that is committed to biblical stewardship. What is needed is an ongoing infusion of these principles through the teaching of the church. Then, and only then, will stewardship of our resources become a part of the fabric of our daily living.
Past and present WMU members understand we can do so much more together than we can alone. Cooperating for the cause of Christ in our giving and our going is a long-held pattern of mission support that works. As you think about your understanding of stewardship remember these words of Jesus, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Luke 12:34).
Wanda Lee is executive director of Woman's Missionary Union.