Our youngest son, Ethan, recently mentioned to his mom and me that he had heard a couple of great new Christian songs he really liked. We asked what they were, hoping that we had been listening to enough Christian radio to perhaps recognize them.
Imagine our surprise when the songs he named were 100-year-old hymns. We couldn’t help but show our disbelief. “Have you never heard those hymns before?” we asked. “Have you not been in churches that sang either of those?”
Perhaps he had, we decided, but apparently not often, or not at a time that he remembered. As we then reviewed the churches our family attended since Ethan was born, we realized that each of those churches had a contemporary worship style, or at least a blend of contemporary music and hymns. Therefore, hymns that I know by heart, sometimes even by page number, have become almost lost treasures to my son.
Music is just one example of the things in church life that sometimes need to change or evolve over time in order to stay relevant to new generations. But as my son’s new love for old hymns illustrates, sometimes we let treasures that have lasting value slip away simply because we have not properly maintained them, or passed them along effectively.
Cooperative missions giving is one of those time-proven treasures that we risk losing in the next generation if we do not more intentionally teach its value and practice its power. As with hymns, we may be assuming that what we have known by heart will always be with us, even if we’re not rehearsing it regularly with new church leaders and members.
That’s one reason many Southern Baptist churches set aside one special Sunday in April to inform and educate their church members about the incredible, week-after-week power of our ongoing missions support system known as the Cooperative Program. This year national Cooperative Program promotion Sunday is April 13, but since that happens to fall on Palm Sunday, many churches may choose another nearby date for this emphasis.
Whether it’s April 13 or some other time, intentionally educating everyone in the church about Cooperative Program missions is extremely important. Church members need to understand that the Cooperative Program portion of their church budget provides foundational support for thousands of faithful Baptist missionaries, throughout North America and around the world. They need to know that hundreds of people groups in more than 150 countries are receiving the Gospel through these missionaries, and that thousands of new churches are being planted as a result. Right here in North America, 900 new churches were planted last year, and coordinated ministries such as Southern Baptist Disaster Relief help place thousands of volunteers and chaplains right in the middle of people’s deepest physical and spiritual needs.
Cooperative Program giving helps make theological training at six world-class seminaries affordable for tomorrow’s pastors, church staff and missionaries. And it gives us an important voice in the culture through the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and the SBC Executive Committee. Right here in Illinois, CP helps train more than 23,000 leaders each year and start 25 new churches.
There are lots of good resources at www.sbc.net to help church members understand how CP works, and, more importantly, how many lives are being transformed through it as the Great Commission is advanced. There are short videos to use in worship services or small groups and well-designed print pieces ranging from bulletin inserts to multiple-page articles.
Many of us may assume that, like a treasured hymn, the Cooperative Program will always be there, always fueling the most effective and far-reaching missionary system in history. But that will only happen if we consistently and continually teach new generations of church leaders to carry the tune.
— Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association.