MARITETTA, Ga. – Recently, Georgia Baptist Convention Executive Director J. Robert White was named recipient of the M.E. Dodd Cooperative Program Award. White was presented the award on November 12, by Morris H. Chapman, president of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, at the Georgia Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in Marietta, Ga. The M.E. Dodd Cooperative Award, known as the “Heisman trophy of Cooperative Program giving” was given in recognition of White’s long-term commitment and excellence in showing support and practice for the Cooperative Program.
"Dr. White's commitment to the Cooperative Program, along with the vision and generosity of Georgia churches, has placed the Georgia Baptist Convention as one of the leading state conventions in total Cooperative Program support," Chapman said. "During his tenure, Georgia has been no lower than second, and for the last two years, Georgia has been number one in total gifts to the Cooperative Program. This translates to literally tens of thousands of people around the world hearing the gospel and coming to Christ."
David E. Hankins, vice president of Cooperative Program attributed White receiving the award to his strong leadership in promoting the Cooperative Program during his year as a pastor, for promoting the Cooperative Program at the Georgia Baptist Convention and serving as an influential figure in leaping the program forward.
Among his many noted contributions, White, in March 1998, led the GBC initiative in sponsoring its first “President’s Cooperative Program Summit” to keep the Cooperative Program strong and alive, and push it into the 21st century. Two hundred thirty attendees gathered, and the conclusion of the summit was that the program needed a face so that church members donating money to missions can have more direct involvement, and more personal interaction.
Subsequently, the GBC came out with Cooperative Missions Champions, a program aimed to raise the awareness of every pastor and church working cooperatively to reach their communities, their state and the world for Jesus Christ.
The 2003 GBC budget will divide Cooperative Program gifts equally between national and state causes, after subtracting 13.06 percent for shared responsibilities, which includes such items as administrative and promotional expenses that relate to national and state causes and the convention's portion of contributions to ministers' retirement accounts with the Annuity Board. Therefore, the Georgia convention and SBC will each receive 43.75 percent of the Cooperative Program receipts.
"We have made every effort in Georgia to keep the Cooperative Program at the forefront of our emphasis upon missions," White told Baptist Press. "We talk and write about it constantly and still feel that we are on a steep learning curve as to how we might best educate Baptists about the value of the Cooperative Program.”
"There is no more effective or inspiring way to be a part of the efforts of 10,000 missionary families than to give through the Cooperative Program. When I heard Jerry Rankin [president of the SBC International Mission Board] give his annual report and state that nearly 400,000 people came to Christ last year through the ministry of our international missionaries, I said, 'Thank you, Lord, for the privilege of being a part of this great missionary movement!"
White, a 1968 alumnus of Samford University in Birmingham, Ala., earned a Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lousiville, Ky. In his following years, White served as pastor at various churches including Tabernacle Baptist Church in Carrolton, Ga., and First Baptist Church in Paducah, Ky. In 1993, he was named executive director of the GBC. White, currently serves as a member of the SBC Empowering Kingdom Growth Task Force.
In the time White held office as executive director of the GBC:
-- Annual statewide baptisms increased from 29,301 to 36,280;
-- Participation in Sunday School grew from 692,385 to 722,982;
-- The total number of GBC churches grew from 3,282 to 3,508;
-- Georgia Baptists started 430 new churches;
-- Annual missions volunteers grew from 4,757 to 147,868;
-- The GBC Cooperative Program budget grew from $33.7 million to $50 million;
-- Total mission gifts of Georgia Baptists increased from $64.8 million to $99.7 million, according to the November 2002 issue of SBC Life.
"From my earliest memory as the son of a Southern Baptist pastor, I have heard about the Cooperative Program," White said. "As a boy, I studied it in Training Union and as a Royal Ambassador. I learned of its impact upon the lives and ministries of Southern Baptist missionaries around the world. Consequently, I always enjoyed hearing the testimonies of the 'real live' missionaries who visited our pulpit from time to time. Later when my dad served on the Foreign Mission Board and made several mission trips to minister among the San Blas Indians off the coast of Panama as well as other places across the world, I became deeply convicted about the necessity of supporting missions."
"I have been blessed by the Cooperative Program as a graduate of Samford University in Alabama and the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary," White said. "Both of these fine institutions are supported through the Cooperative Program.
"As a pastor, I have been a champion for the Cooperative Program, raising the percentage of CP giving in each church I served as pastor. At First Baptist Paducah we were giving 20 percent of our unrestricted offering through the Cooperative Program, and God blessed us greatly as we paid off more than a million dollars in debt and built and furnished two new additions to the church debt free in 11 short years. It is truly impossible to out give God!"
In its history, the M.E. Dodd award has reached the hands of many former SBC presidents. The award was first presented to Jim Henry, pastor of First Baptist Church in Orlando, and former SBC president, at the 75th anniversary celebration of the Cooperative Program in Orlando, Florida – June 2000. In its following year, the award was given to James Sullivan, former president of LifeWay Christian Resources and former SBC president.
The award itself was inaugurated in honor M.E. Dodd, who served as pastor of First Baptist Church in Shreveport, La., and as chairman of the Future Program Commission that pioneered the idea for need of the Cooperative Program, before the Southern Baptist Convention in 1925.
By Daniel Kwon