In the midst of ongoing financial challenges related to the economic aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, Southern Baptists have given more than $200 million through the national Cooperative Program allocation budget for the first time since 2008.
Giving for the 2021-2022 fiscal year totaled $200,452,607, becoming the first time in 14 years that CP giving topped the $200 million mark. The 2008 total was $204,385,592.
Even in a year full of challenges, SBC president Bart Barber celebrated the milestone, saying, “The generosity of our churches this year demonstrates that this model of cooperation still enjoys the confidence and favor of our churches.”
Executive Committee interim president Willie McLaurin echoed that sentiment.
“The local and global reach of every gift is a testimony to the strong cooperative spirit of every church in the SBC,” McLaurin said. “I want to express a personal word of gratitude to pastors, associational missionaries and state conventions for their partnership in advancing the gospel to the nations and the neighborhoods.”
The global reach of the CP is why SBC second vice president Alex Sands, pastor of Kingdom Life Church in Simpsonville, S.C., advocates his church’s partnership with churches across the SBC.
“Our church participates in the Cooperative Program because we believe we can do far more to reach the lost with the gospel by partnering with other churches than we can by ourselves,” Sands said. “We have programs and ministries to reach our Jerusalem and Samaria, but the CP allows us to partner with other churches to reach the uttermost parts of the world.”
That international missions focus of CP-funded ministry isn’t lost on International Mission Board president Paul Chitwood.
“This year’s Cooperative Program offering has bolstered the work of the International Mission Board around the world,” Chitwood said in a statement. “I often talk about the fact that the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering is used exclusively on the mission field overseas, but most of the Cooperative Program dollars that come to the IMB are also used overseas. While the percentage of CP dollars we use in the U.S. is small, that, too, is incredibly significant as it allows all of Lottie to get to the harvest fields.
“CP makes up one-third of our overall budget, so, simply put, the IMB couldn’t exist without the CP,” Chitwood said. “I thank God for the generosity of Southern Baptists and for the strong partnership of Baptist state conventions that have increased the amount of CP designated for national and international missions.”
In addition to international missions being funded through CP giving, church planting and theological education are important aspects for many pastors and church leaders. One such pastor is Jon Nelson, who planted Soma Community Church in Jefferson City, Mo., in 2015.
Nelson called the $200 million total a “tremendous milestone” and remarked how this will continue to allow “multiple churches to be planted and sustained in difficult places.”
North American Mission Board president Kevin Ezell knows all too well how much the milestone means to NAMB’s assignment.
“We rightly celebrate this exciting financial milestone, but I don’t measure the success of the Cooperative Program in dollars and cents,” Ezell said. “I measure it by how Southern Baptists are bringing glory to God through every person baptized by our chaplains each year, every new gospel-proclaiming church started by one of our missionaries, and every life changed by Christ through a Send Relief ministry center. Those things are happening every day because of what is given through CP, and we are thankful for every person who sacrifices to make it all possible.”
Nelson also noted how the faithful giving of Southern Baptists through the Cooperative Program has allowed him and countless others to finish their education and follow the call to missions and church planting.
For the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, gifts received by the Executive Committee for distribution through the CP allocation budget totaled $200,452,607. This is $8,181,171, or 4.26 percent, more than last year’s total budget contribution of $192,271,436. The amount given was ahead of the $190,000,000 budgeted projection to support Southern Baptist ministries globally and across North America by $10,452,607, or 5.50 percent.
— Jonathan Howe is vice president for communications at the SBC Executive Committee.