Cooperative Program luncheons draw Rio Grande Valley and Southeast Texas pastors and church planters
August 28th, 2018 / By: Jane Rodgers | TEXAN Correspondent / comments
BROWNSVILLE and VIDOR—Conversations in Spanish and English filled the youth meeting room at First Baptist Church of Brownsville at noon, Aug. 13, as 25 area pastors, church planters and Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC) representatives assembled for lunch, fellowship and information about the Southern Baptist Convention’s Cooperative Program (CP). Two weeks later, more than 40 pastors gathered Aug. 27 at First Baptist of Vidor for a similar event.
“Our primary ministry goal is to inform other pastors about the CP, what it does, how it can be beneficial to them, how they can participate in it,” Steve Dorman, First Baptist Brownsville pastor, said of the Valley event, adding that another aim was to encourage relationships among local pastors.
David Ortega, SBTC church planting strategist, brought several church planters. Ortega affirmed the need for networking among Valley Baptist leaders, noting the importance of building fellowship, member care and community.
Hugo Tovar of West Brownsville Baptist represented his pastor, Carlos Navarro. Tovar will soon lead a new congregation in San Benito, West Brownsville’s eighth church plant.
As guests enjoyed a meal served by church volunteers, Dorman welcomed all, introducing Ortega; David Loyola, SBTC field ministry strategist for the Rio Grande Valley; Jim Richards, SBTC executive director, and his wife, June.
“The meal is free. The plates are 25 dollars apiece,” Dorman joked. He described the Cooperative Program as an opportunity for churches of any size to partner with “thousands and thousands of missionaries as supporting churches,” calling CP giving “a tool in our tool belt to accomplish the Great Commission.”
Dorman stressed the voluntary nature of CP giving, telling the audience, “No one is compelling you” to give a certain amount, and reminding the group of the autonomy of each local church. “We decide whom we will voluntarily choose to cooperate with.”
Rather than compulsory, CP giving is simply “a good thing to do,” Dorman explained, stating that his church gives 10 percent of its undesignated receipts to the CP through the SBTC.
CP allocations are approved by the messengers of the SBC’s 46,000 churches who attend the convention’s annual meeting. “We do have a voice in what happens to the CP funds sent by the churches,” Dorman reminded the group.
Additionally, SBC churches are assured that CP dollars are spent on doctrinally sound entities and projects “aligned with the Baptist Faith and Message,” he said.
Using handouts and slides, Dorman explained that the SBTC retains 45 percent of CP funds in Texas for such regional ministries as disaster relief (DR), missions, evangelism and Hispanic ministries, while sending 55 percent to the SBC to support the International Mission Board (IMB), the North American Mission Board (NAMB), SBC seminaries, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Committee (ERLC) and the convention’s operating budget.
Armando Vera, pastor of Pharr’s Iglesia Poder de Dios, called the information on the allocation of funds “very helpful.”
Referencing the 3,357 IMB and 5,097 NAMB missionaries supported through CP giving, Dorman added, “Every church, it doesn’t matter if you have three members or five members or 5,000 members…has a part in the support of those missionaries,” whose work is strategically targeted to avoid overlaps and duplication.
An added benefit to receiving funding through the CP is that missionaries do not have to raise their own support and are free to focus on their work in the field.
“The apostle Paul was a tentmaker, but he also received funding,” Dorman said.
Dorman also mentioned the tuition discounts at Southern Baptist seminaries available to students from SBC churches and the role and importance of the ERLC as a resource and public voice on what the Bible says regarding moral and social matters.
He also outlined the local benefits of the CP, giving examples of the SBTC providing consultants, leadership training and disaster relief services. Thanks in part to CP funds, FBC Brownsville now has a disaster response team and houses two SBTC DR feeding units that deployed to the Gulf Coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
Through Baptist Global Response, FBC Brownsville connected with pastors and missionaries in Nepal following the 2015 earthquake, sending four teams to rebuild houses on sides of mountains in a country where it is illegal to try to convert people to Christianity, Dorman said, adding, “We couldn’t have done that by ourselves.”
Richards commended Dorman’s presentation and FBC Brownville’s commitment to CP giving.
“Jesus said, where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. He didn’t say, where your heart is, your treasure will follow,” Richards told the TEXAN, noting that Dorman and his church had, through CP giving, “invested in God’s work in Texas, North America and around the world.”
Richards similarly praised the CP commitment of churches represented at the Vidor luncheon, where Terry Wright, pastor of First Baptist Vidor, welcomed area pastors and church planters.
Wright expressed enthusiasm for the “great spirit in the room” during the CP luncheon as pastors came together for fellowship and a common purpose. In a later interview, he told the TEXAN he saw “an excitement about moving forward in missions.”
A firm believer in the value of the Cooperative Program, Wright explained he had been saved as a child in an independent Baptist church and had witnessed the difficulty experienced by missionaries not supported by the structure of CP when economic downturns meant dips in funding.
Wright also said that the churches and communities of Southeast Texas, devastated by three major hurricanes in 12 years, have seen the benefits of the CP “through disaster relief and other agencies and the generosity of the SBTC coming in and supporting the churches.”
Jay Gross, pastor of West Conroe Baptist Church, spoke at the luncheon, sharing his testimony and discussing the many benefits of CP to his church and himself.
Gross described his presentation to the TEXAN as the story of “how the CP has affected me, our church and our family,” noting that the Cooperative Program provided scholarships for him to earn graduate degrees from Southwestern Seminary.
While West Conroe has its own disaster relief feeding trailer, the SBTC helped the church buy groceries to cook meals for first responders and Harvey victims, Gross said.
“We have planted churches with support from the convention. The SBTC puts a little deposit in our retirement accounts each month,” he added.
SBTC CP luncheons were also held in Fort Worth, Canadian, Austin, Lufkin and Kerrville this year. For more information about the Cooperative Program go to whatiscp.com.