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 A Unity of Purpose and Consecration

 A Unity of Purpose and Consecration

 A Unity of Purpose and Consecration

May 13, 1924, Southern Baptists from across the country gathered for their annual business session in Memphis, TN.

Awakened to global opportunity, enlivened by organizational potential, unified by a burgeoning denominational consciousness, and determined to maximize their sacrifices in the most efficient manner, they leaned in with great expectation to hear Chairman M.E. Dodd’s report on behalf of the Future Program Commission.

Between May 1924 and May 1925, the trial run for the Southern Baptist Convention’s “Future Program” collected $7,072,234.84 for Convention-wide causes to be dispersed through the new unified budget. While the results displayed great potential and denominational solidarity, receipts fell $428,000 (6%) short of the stated goal, an ominous reminder of the 5-year, $75 Million Campaign’s collection shortfall only a few short months before. With the passion of the messengers behind him and the courage of unified purpose between them, Dodd’s exhortation rang throughout the hallways of the newly constructed Memphis auditorium:

“The real situation is this: MAY GOD HELP OUR PEOPLE TO SEE IT! . . . Are we going to think and speak disparagingly of this splendid dependable resource . . . with the hope of meeting the pressing needs of some single activity by indiscriminate and non-co-operative appeals and efforts? Your Commission believes that the very time has come when this entire Convention should commit itself, with a unity of purpose and consecration never known before, to the common task of the enlistment of our people and the working out of this plan. We need to see that any other course means only chaos and ruin.”

That afternoon, the Cooperative Program was born with a unanimous vote of the messenger body.

Ninety-nine years later, SCBaptists stand at a similarly critical pivot-point. While about 2,000 Baptist churches in SC claim to be Southern Baptist, only 1,618 gave through the Cooperative Program in 2023. That number reflects a slow, but steady, 15-year trend in our state. Since 2008, SCBaptist churches have reduced CP giving by a total of 26%, recently averaging a 1% decline in CP giving each year. Baptisms are up. Church attendance is up. Church membership is up. Believe it or not, undesignated receipts are up! Praise God! But while Baptists in SC are giving more to their churches and working harder at personal evangelism and discipleship, the churches are steadily reducing their giving through the Cooperative Program.

We have been entrusted a Great Commission. We have made great commitments. We are in need of a great convalescence. This ninety-nine-year-old prayer still echoes through the hallways of our entire Baptist ecosystem: “May God help our people to see it.” What a mission is ours! What a moment! What a joy!

I have no intention of (or appetite for) minimizing contemporary concerns. But I do intend to champion the Cooperative Program as the fuel for the engine of our Great Commission cooperation. This unified giving strategy undergirds the entire ecosystem of state, national, and international Baptist work. It is a unity of purpose that draws us together in our shared mission, and it is a unity of consecration that keeps us together even through the most challenging of days.

I sense a great stirring among us—a renewed togetherness and a palpable awakening to the urgency of our shared mission. The fields are white before us. Ultimately, SCBaptists have made great commitments that depend upon their continued sacrificial Cooperative Program giving. We have sent missionaries, launched church planters, scheduled pastor enrichment events, established educational institutions, and much more. But this Convention will only exist and thrive to the extent that the churches of each generation are awakened to the joy and power of their unified purpose. As the centennial anniversary of the Cooperative Program approaches, how can you leverage your voice to champion our mission and its unified funding strategy within your circle of influence?

  • Dr. Tony Wolfe

    Dr. Tony Wolfe

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