When you think of the Cooperative Program (CP), you’re probably like me. You tend to think of supporting our international missionaries. And that’s a good thing. Southern Baptists give through the Cooperative Program to support more than 3,500 international missionaries.

You also might think of supporting our North American missionaries. And we do. We support more than 3,000 North American missionaries and church planters.

Giving through the Cooperative Program supports more than 6.500 missionaries working in some of the hardest to reach places in the world.

However, you might not realize that giving through the Cooperative Program supports an increasingly important missionary effort right here in North Carolina. Changing demographics in our state means North Carolina is looking more and more like the international mission field. The need for the gospel is great.

Did you know we have identified 165 people groups living in the state? Some of these come from places with little to no access to the gospel. Others come from places with no access at all.

We have also identified 250 areas that we call “pockets of lostness.” These are small geographic areas where the lost population is growing unusually fast. These areas exist all across the state — from the mountains to the coast and in major cities and small, rural towns.

North Carolina ranks as one of the fastest-growing states in the country, spurring the need for new housing and apartments in many places. This growth brings with it gospel opportunities. The North American Mission Board tells us that 95% of people living in apartments are unchurched.

Giving through the Cooperative Program supports an increasingly important missionary effort right here in North Carolina.

North Carolina has long been considered part of the Bible Belt, but that’s also changing. Church attendance peaked in the 1970s, and it’s been declining ever since.

Fewer people identify as “Christian” on the U.S. Census. Today, they list their religious affiliation as “none.” The “nones” are the fastest-growing religious group in our state.

North Carolina’s changing mission field includes exciting opportunities and profound challenges. Many of our neighbors who grew up in church now hold the church at arm’s length, making places like North Carolina, in the words of Lesslie Newbigin, “the most challenging missionary frontier of our time.”

Amid these challenges, we have to think and act more like missionaries, and your Cooperative Program gifts help do that. The mission of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina is to assist the local church in its “divinely appointed mission.”

Some ministries of the convention help you grow a healthy church in order to engage the lost. Healthy churches disciple their members with missionary intentionality. Disciples grow in their confidence and competence to share the gospel. Disciples also grow in the image of Christ, giving them a winsome disposition that attracts people to Christ for all the right reasons.

Other ministries of the convention help you engage the lost in order to build healthy churches. Healthy churches send disciples into the fields of harvest. These fields include people groups, pockets of lostness, college campuses, areas impacted by disaster and more. Sometimes sending leads to church growth, and sometimes it leads to new church plants.

Our churches are God’s “plan A” for reaching a lost and dying world. Giving through the Cooperative Program helps the local church accomplish its divinely appointed mission across the street and around the world.