by Brian Autry
Matthew 28:18-20 is simply and often referred to as The Great Commission. Some form of Christ’s commission is also found in other places of the New Testament, but Matthew 28 seems to be one of the most heralded. As followers of Christ we are called to “make disciples of all nations.” Christ has called us and commanded us to proclaim the gospel unto the ends of the earth. The Great Commission is no small suggestion!
Since the New Testament era, church and mission leaders like the Apostle Paul have called upon churches to work together to plant, strengthen, and mobilize churches so the gospel of Christ is proclaimed.
On May 13, 1925, Southern Baptists, the group of Baptist Christians I identify and serve with, launched a unified and strategic missions support plan that became known as the Cooperative Program. Through this Cooperative Program, or what I have come to call a Cooperative Partnership, a church is able to support a greater missionary force and have greater ministry impact by working with other churches. For instance, local, regional, national, and international mission fields are reached when a church provides financial support through the Cooperative Program.
At first, it may seem that churches give to the Southern Baptist Cooperative Program. However, the more I have gotten to know and see the impact churches have by working together in this Cooperative Partnership for the Gospel, the more I believe churches don't give to but give through the Cooperative Program.
Full disclosure: I now serve with the Southern Baptist Convention of Virginia, so I am supported through the Cooperative Program. But before you think I am just pushing a “company agenda,” I want to share with you four simple reasons I came to believe in this Cooperative Program (Partnership) as a pastor, church planter, missionary-supporter, and seminary student:
1. Immediate Impact
It could take years for a church to develop a missions strategy. The Southern Baptist Cooperative Program allows you to act now. As a church planter, our church was able to have immediate impact.
2. Mutual Support
Instead of missionaries having to constantly plead for resources or leave the field every year to raise funds, we work together to provide a system of mutual support so they can focus on their calling.
3. Global Strategy
Even though the world may seem to be getting “smaller,” it is still a big world with many people groups. Even here in Virginia, we are seeing a multiplication of people groups, but we also want to reach across North America and around the world. The Southern Baptist Cooperative Program is a strategy to reach locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally. As a pastor, I was thankful for a global strategy instead of having to develop a strategy piece-meal on our own.
4. Personal but comprehensive
Because the Southern Baptist Cooperative Program is so comprehensive, you may be inclined to think it is impersonal. But it is not. The Cooperative Program makes seminary more affordable for individual students, helps plant and revitalize local churches, and supports missionaries all around the world. Every seminary student trained, every church helped, and every missionary sent has a name, a story, and a calling. They are our children, our families, our communities, and our brothers and sisters in Christ.
For more information about this strategic plan for Gospel Partnership, visit www.sbc.net, contact your state Baptist convention, or read Dr. Scott Hildreth’s book, Together On God’s Mission. Why? Because the Great Commission is not a small suggestion!