The Southern Baptist Convention has a rich heritage of cooperation. As we move forward in God’s mission, we must be reminded of our biblical foundation. As pastors across the state and nation lead their churches to give sacrificially through the Cooperative Program, we can point to both what the Scriptures tell us and the example of the early church – a clear portrayal of multiple churches supporting and sharing in the missionary advance. Here are a few examples of cooperation to consider as we lead our own churches today.
Almost any time someone thinks about cooperation in missions, the primary emphasis is financial. The New Testament contains clear evidence of multiple churches jointly supporting Paul’s missionary work financially. For example, at the conclusion of his letter to the Romans, Paul wrote, “For I hope to see you when I pass through and to be assisted by you for my journey” (Romans 15:24). Paul let the Christians in Rome know he was planning to visit them on his way to Spain and that their financial support was necessary for the success of the next phase of missionary advance. Today, just like in the early church, our finances are a key indicator of where our priorities lie. For missions and ministries to be effective, they must be funded out of the generous hearts of worshippers who prioritize God’s mission as first priority.
In almost all of Paul’s letters, he reminded the churches he was praying for them (Romans 15:30-32 and 2 Thessalonians 3:1-2). Paul requested prayer as a means of missionary support. Through prayer, these new churches served as partners in the mission. Even though Paul was a seasoned missionary, he realized success depended on God’s blessing. He also knew the mission of the church required every church to participate. Through prayer, new believers and churches partnered together for the sake of God’s mission. One way to lead your congregation to pray through what God is doing through cooperation is to utilize the 52 Sundays resource.
Building missionary teams
Another way churches partnered together was in supplying workers for the missionary teams (see Epaphroditus, Epaphras, and Aristarchus). Each of these men made a significant contribution to the mission. One might assume new churches need to keep all available mature believers in the church. In these young churches, however, this was not the assumption. Cooperation is portrayed as a normal component of God’s mission. They were willing to give their best away for the sake of the greater mission.
When Southern Baptists participate in the cooperative ministries of the convention, we are following a pattern established in the Bible. While many of the structures and mechanics that we see at work today in the convention are subject to change, the priority will remain the same. We all have a place where we are needed in God’s mission, together.
Editor’s Note: This content was adapted from Hildreth’s book, Together on God’s Mission.