CP: The gospel near and far
March 4th, 2019 / By: Jim Richards | Executive Director / comments
Southern Baptists have designated April 7 as Cooperative Program Day. Churches that choose to use another date are free to do so, but an important part of being a participating Southern Baptist is generosity through the unified budget. The rising generation and new Southern Baptists must be educated about the value of our togetherness in giving. It is not just the utility of the system that makes it valuable; it is a God-honoring way to extend your church’s ministry beyond its neighborhood.
Many scriptures point to a common giving effort. The Old Testament gives examples of Israel using a prescribed plan. In Jesus’ day the Temple leaders were corrupt, but still he commended the widow who gave her small offering (Luke 21:1-4). In the New Testament, churches were encouraged to give toward various ministries. Churches supported Paul’s missionary efforts (Philippians 4:15-20).
Paul issued a passionate plea to the Corinthians. He wanted the Gentile churches to help the suffering Jerusalem believers. The poor Macedonian churches had given. The wealthier Corinthians had not. Paul wanted the Corinthians to become “grace givers.”
Giving is a biblical principle that applies to individuals, churches and denominations. Southern Baptists have a unique giving plan that is biblical.
Grace giving begins with the believer. Churches can practice grace giving. The Cooperative Program is an example of grace giving. The Bible does not mention the Cooperative Program, but CP is a way for churches to be grace givers. Second Corinthians 8 provides principles of grace giving for churches.
The Corinthians had not followed through with their promise to share in the special collection (2 Corinthians 8:6). Paul sent Titus to receive the offering. The offering was about hunger, but it was also about commonality in the gospel. Paul told the Corinthians they would benefit by participating. He was testing their hearts (2 Corinthians 8:8). Grace giving cannot be coerced or forced. CP giving is voluntary.
People ask, “What does giving through the CP do for me?” Here’s the value: You get to cooperate with churches of like faith (expressed in the Baptist Faith and Message Statement 2000) to do Great Commission work without expecting anything in return. Partnership in grace giving means participation without an expectation of benefit. Participation is the blessing (Acts 20:35).
Paul endorsed proportionate giving (2 Corinthians 8:12). This may allude to Jesus’ observation of the widow casting in her mite. The widow gave everything. God sees the portion and the proportion of our gifts. God looks at our hearts and our wallets. There are no standards set for partnership giving. Some churches give large dollar amounts. Others give a large budget percentage. Increased CP giving will result in more churches, more ministries and more missionaries.
Mission goals are met as you invest proportionately. Partnership in grace giving is proportionate by what you have left rather than what you contributed. Blessings are proportionate to giving (Luke 6:38).
Equality was the purpose in Paul’s appeal. God’s plan was enforced during Israel’s wilderness wanderings so that no one was to have a surplus and no one was to have a shortage (Exodus 16:16-31). God used a miracle to supply food during the wilderness wandering. Paul believed God wanted to use the church to provide for the poor Jerusalem believers. God uses the church to meet needs that advance the gospel.
CP works during natural disasters, an unsettled economy and global unrest. No missionary is called home. No seminary student is turned away. No church planter misses a check. Independent, direct missions giving removes the safety net. SBC churches are autonomous, but they choose to cooperate to share the gospel. Partnership in grace giving produces gospel equality.
The greatest grace gift is the Lord Jesus (John 3:16). Being like Jesus will make you a giver. Your mission-dollar investment is worth it. By giving you impact the world by having a ministry 24/7. Your church is a part in statewide, national and international missions by giving through the Cooperative Program. Grace giving enables you to be on mission continually, consecutively and cooperatively.