The Cooperative Program, the financial engine of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), reached a record level this fiscal year, increasing over 3.64% over last year’s levels, the denomination announced on Sept 30.
For the fiscal year ending Sept 30, the CP received a total of $189,865,254.85, an increase of $6,663,560.71 over the 2002-03 amount of $183,201,694.14 and the largest increase since the 1999-2000 fiscal year.
The CP, found in 1935, is the SBC’s method of supporting missions and ministry efforts of its state, national and regional conventions. The majority of the thousands of SBC international and domestic missionaries are funded through the CP. The CP in turn is supported by the offerings and contributions of individuals, churches and regional conventions.
According to the SBC’s newsletter, Baptist Press, “The marked increase over the previous year is a significant development. Cooperative Program giving has reached record levels in recent years, but has not kept pace with inflation or needs.”
The increase in giving during this year may have been in part due to the warnings made on the part of the SBC’s two mission groups, the North American Mission Board (NAMB) and the International Mission Board (IMB). Last year, the heads of the two boards announced that staff members had to be cut and missionaries had to be held back because of the lack of “real giving,” despite incremental gains in income.
The SBC’s Executive Committee subsequently adopted a report that urged members to open their hearts and generously give to the CP.
The result was that in gifts alone, designated giving increased 13.87 percent over the last fiscal year.
Designated contributions are made through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions, the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund and other special gifts.
Combined, the CP giving and designated gifts recorded an increase of $29,687,861.73 or 8.5 percent over last year; in sum, the CP received $378,875,522.44 for the 2003-2004 year.
Upon examining the phenomenal increase in giving, the president of the SBC Executive Committee thanked Southern Baptists for their kindness and support.
"We are thankful for the increases in missions giving by Southern Baptists in this year both through the Cooperative Program and the special mission offerings,” said Morris H. Chapman.
"The 19.65 percent growth in Lottie Moon receipts is especially noteworthy and, I believe, is an indication of our churches' heart for missions. When they were made aware of the delay in deployment of some of our missionaries due to a financial shortfall, they responded enthusiastically. The 3.64 percent increase in CP is the highest in four years,” he continued.
Despite the growth in giving, Chapman reminded the Southern Baptists that “generous stewardship” was still needed.
"We are grateful to the Lord and the churches and we pray this sets a new trend in CP giving. Because of the great need of sharing Christ around the world, much more must be done. We ask all Southern Baptists to pray earnestly that we will respond to the challenges before us with sacrificial and generous stewardship,” said Chapman.