Missions Stretch Across Nation: Congregants Give More than Ever to Help the Cooperative Program

Feb 06, 2003 06:41 PM EST

LINTHICUM, Md. - Southern Baptists across the nation give more than ever to their dispatched missionaries. Through the Cooperative Program, also known as CP Missions, gifts from 46,000 Southern Baptist Convention churches are used to support more than 10,000 missionaries around the world. The CP Missions, an integral part of the SBC's outreach, also provides support for the Convention's six seminaries, in training people as missionaries, pastors, and other ministry leaders.

I'm a product of a Southern Baptist seminary and the Cooperative Program made it possible for me to go," said Lyn O'Berry, pastor of Linthicum (Md.) Baptist Church. "I'll always remember that."

"You see why it's so important to give to the Cooperative Program? When you don't give here, you break faith with our missionaries halfway around the world," O'Berry said.

"Our people see that when they give that dollar it goes everywhere because millions of Southern Baptists also are giving."

"I've always said, as a Southern Baptist church, the underlying question is, do you break faith with the missionaries, seminaries and everything that makes us Southern Baptist? If you're a Southern Baptist, you support the work of the Southern Baptist Convention," O'Berry said. "It's as simple as that."

There are about 120 congregants at Linthicum. They gather, not only for worship, but also to involve themselves in a wide variety of outreach ministries; they mentor prisoners in transition, feed the homeless, provide disaster relief, teach children in after school programs, give care to those in an assisted living center, hold evangelical telephone support lines and Christmas time food drive.

In the winter of 2002, the members gathered 556 cans of food for a local men's mission center, averaging 5 cans per person involved.

"We're small in number but we're not a small church," O'Berry said. "We do a lot."

The small congregation also utilizes the power of prayer in their ministries. Church members are a part of Capital Hill Prayer Partners - a nationwide group of believers who pray for members of Congress. They enter each chamber to pray during deliberations of the houses of Congress.

"The key is that this group, working through the chaplain of the respective houses, is praying continually," O'Berry said.

Linthicum Baptist, located about 40 miles from the White House, hosts Capital Hill Prayer Partners when members gather in the Washington area.

"I appreciate this group because they do a very good job of keeping us informed of the nuances and impact of legislative initiatives and amendments which otherwise might be overlooked even by the discerning believer," said O'Berry, who receives a daily e-mail from Capital Hill Prayer Partners. "They give us an opportunity to pray for the president and public officials, and a focus about which to pray."

For more than 20 years Linthicum Baptist members have participated in a quarterly telephone-counseling ministry in association with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Some Linthicum Baptist members have been involved with the ministry since its inception.

"He started this when he was in Baltimore in 1981, and now he's in 10 cities," Lawson said. "Four times a year we volunteer to counsel people who watch a Billy Graham program on television and call the number at the bottom of the screen."

Church members volunteered six nights in December. About 25 percent of the callers made a profession of faith, the pastor said, while another 15 percent rededicated their lives to God. "The others call in for prayer," O'Berry said.

Other members provide supplies for an after-school program at the Christian Children's Center in East Baltimore. Every week, Team Kid members serve a local food bank with canned goods; some members fill baby bottles full of change for a crises pregnancy center.

"We figure if you're going to be pro-life, you need to be proactive about it," the pastor said. "We don't just give money but actively encourage our people to get involved, if that's where the Lord is leading them.

"Other than the Cooperative Program, almost all the ministries we do, we're involved with them hands-on as well as with our money," O'Berry added. "We give money and effort."

The Church, while giving 20 percent of its undesignated offerings to CP missions, involve themselves with the Cooperative Program actively.

Members traveled to Prince Edward Island in Canada last year to help a recently pioneered congregation for the Canadian Convention of Southern Baptists. The members undertook two backyard-bible clubs, prayer walks and other outreaches during their stay.

Pastor O'Berry had even been to Moldova three times to lead pastor-training classes. One of his students now lead a church of 1,600.

"People with an interest in the Cooperative Program," he said, "made it possible for that to happen."

2003 yearly fiscal contributions are at a record high. The CP Missions receipts come from individuals, churches, state conventions and fellowships for distribution according to the 2002-03 Cooperative Program Allocation Budget.

Notable contributions include the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions, Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund and other special gifts.

State and regional conventions retain a percentage of Cooperative Program contributions they receive from the churches to support work in their areas and send the remaining funds to the Executive Committee for national and international ministries.

By Pauline C.