The Cooperative Program in Real Life - Pastor Bob Allen

Theory and figures are fine, but what does the Cooperative Program mean in real life? Over the past 46 years, Linda and I have personally experienced the benefits of the generosity of Edwards Road Baptist Church and thousands of other Southern Baptist churches that have given through the Cooperative Program.

When Edwards Road licensed me to the gospel ministry and sent me to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1976, tuition for that degree (M.R.E.) was affordable because funds from the Cooperative Program helped to fund the seminary. Linda and I were married in 1978, and she also attended seminary. Support through the Cooperative Program allowed us to concentrate on studying and developing ministry skills by working with children’s Sunday School and the Deaf Ministry in the church where we were members.

Currently, funds given through the Cooperative Program provide about 30% of the funding for the International Mission Board (IMB). When Linda and I were appointed in 1986 to serve in Kenya, the Cooperative Program provided almost 50% of the IMB’s funding; the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions and IMB investment income provided the rest. Because you were faithful in giving through both the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Offering, we were well cared for and could focus on preparation, language learning, and almost 30 years of work in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Before going to Kenya, we went through very thorough medical and psychological screenings to ensure we could live in Kenya. Once we were cleared and appointed, we attended a 7-week pre-departure training designed to prepare us for our transition into a new culture. All of that was provided because of the Cooperative Program.

Once we arrived in Kenya, we had a place to live and a vehicle to drive (a Peugeot 504 sedan with no air-conditioning), both provided by Cooperative Program funding. We were allowed to spend six months of focused language learning (Swahili) to build relationships and share Christ with Kenyans more effectively. That has proved helpful in many places, both in Sub-Saharan Africa and the South Carolina Upstate! Yes, even here, we have had opportunities to translate for Swahili-speaking refugees from the D.R. Congo and Uganda, to translate a discipleship book for use in Kenya, and even to welcome guests at Edwards Road.

Because you sent and supported us through our 30 years, Linda helped disciple and train hundreds of pastors’ wives. Our children, Stacey and Stephen, were able to go to Kindergarten through 12th grade at a great school that the IMB partially owns. We were all involved in starting two new churches and restarting one other church. I was able to direct a language-learning program that taught hundreds of missionaries from the IMB and other organizations who then worked throughout East Africa. I had the opportunity to teach in the Kenya Baptist Seminary, both in the central location and in teaching centers in other parts of Kenya. During the last half of our time with the IMB, we were involved in administrative oversight of IMB work in Sub-Saharan Africa and in training IMB missionaries. Without your generosity in supporting both the ERBC General Budget (and, by extension, the Cooperative Program) and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, we would not have had nearly the number of opportunities to share Christ and disciple believers that we had.

If you ask us, “Is the Cooperative Program important enough for Edwards Road Baptist Church to commit 10% of its General Budget funding to it?” we would not hesitate to say, “Yes! Yes! Yes!”


Ninety-Seven Years Later (2022)… - Pastor Bob Allen

Ninety-seven years after the Southern Baptist Convention established the Cooperative Program, it still provides a large portion of the funding for state convention work and Southern Baptist entities.

Churches determine how much they will contribute to state, national, and international missions and ministries through the Cooperative Program. Edwards Road Baptist Church sends 10% of gifts to the General Budget to the South Carolina Baptist Convention as its Cooperative Program contribution. The budgeted amount for that in 2023 is $205,172.00.

State conventions determine how much of the contributions through the Cooperative Program remain in the state for state convention work and how much is forwarded to the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention to be used for national and international work. The South Carolina Baptist Convention retains 54.5% for SC Baptist work, 41% goes to the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee for use by SBC entities, and 4.5% goes for “Shared” ministries.

In the most recent emphas!s, Nov-Dec 2022, I described how a $100 gift given to the ERBC General Budget is used. Out of that $100, $89 is used for ERBC ministries and administration, $1 goes to the Greenville Baptist Association, and $10 goes through the Cooperative Program for state, national, and international missions and ministries. That $10 is used as follows:


Funds listed for South Carolina Baptist Institutions are for SC Baptist universities:

• Anderson University ………………………….$0.52

• Charleston Southern University ……… $0.48

• North Greenville University ……………… $0.42

I’ve communicated with the Director of Denominational Relations for the SC Baptist Convention. The funds listed as Shared (4.5% or $0.04) are given directly to the IMB from SC. That portion is in addition to the 20.67% that the SBC distributes to the IMB. This is done so that the IMB receives from SC Cooperative Program gifts the same dollar amount it would if the SC Baptist Convention sent 50% of SC Cooperative Program gifts to the SBC. (Yes, that’s a little convoluted — I had to think about it a bit for it to make sense.)

If you’re interested in learning more about how Southern Baptist churches cooperate to do more than any individual church can do, here are some online resources:

The Cooperative Program — then & now 

The Cooperative Program

SBC Cooperative Program Facebook Page 

Next and final post: The Cooperative Program in Real Life

1 Giving through the Cooperative Program, online

Where Do We Go From Here? - Pastor Bob Allen

In what was to be an historic meeting that would define Southern Baptists for the next 97 years — and likely beyond — the Southern Baptist Convention held its 70th meeting in May 1925 in Memphis, TN. Two significant changes were considered and adopted.

First, in an attempt to staunch the influence of naturalism and to unify Baptists, the Convention adopted the Baptist Faith and Message (1925). Though it was revised in 1963 and again in 2000, this confession of faith has identified the beliefs held by the majority of Southern Baptists for almost 100 years. 1

Second, learning from both the failures and successes of the 75 Million Campaign, the Southern Baptist Convention considered a new plan for funding Baptist work. During its meeting in 1923, the Convention appointed a Future Program Commission and, in 1924, adopted what it called the Future Program to continue and to improve upon the successes of the 75 Million Campaign (and to mitigate its failures).

In the historic 1925 Convention meeting, the Future Program Commission included the following statement in its report to the Convention:

It it [sic] quite certain in the minds of your Commission that at this stage of development of our denomination we cannot depend upon the appeal of institutions and activities to the few individuals. With such a method of support many of the institutions would be lost and others would suffer disastrously. Your Commission can devise no more feasible plan for the solution of our problem than by developing and carrying out the Program which we have adopted for ourselves. 2

In other words, the societal method of fundraising for the work of the Southern Baptist Convention will not work.

The Future Program Commission made the following recommendation:

13. Your Committee would further recommend that from the adoption of this report by the Convention our co-operative work be known as "The Co-Operative Program of Southern Baptists," and that our Commission be known as the "Commission on Co-Operative Program of Southern Baptists."3

The Commission further recommended that each state convention promote the Co-Operative Program of Southern Baptists, that churches commit to giving 10% of undesignated gifts in support of Baptist work through their respective state conventions, and that each state convention determine what percentage of these contributions from churches would be used to fund work within the state and what percentage would be passed on to the Southern Baptist Convention. South Carolina Baptists later determined to keep 55% for in-state use and send 45% to the SBC.

Further, the Commission recommended that monies sent from state conventions to the national convention be distributed in the following ways:
• Foreign Missions ……….……………… 50%
• Home Missions …………….……..…… 22 ½%
• Ministerial Relief ………………………….. 9 ½%
• New Orleans Hospital …………………. 3%
• Christian Education …………….……… 15% (distributed as follows)
   Southern Baptist Seminary…..…. 5%
   Southwestern Seminary………….. 4%
   Southwestern Training School….. ½%
   Baptist Bible Institute……………… 3%
   Education Board……………………… 2%
   Negro Seminary…………………………. ½%  4

Next post: Ninety-seven Years Later (2022)…

1 Annual of the Southern Baptist Convention, Nineteen Hundred Twenty-Five, pp. 70-77. Online

2 Ibid., p. 28.

3 Ibid., p. 31.

4 Ibid., p. 34

That Wasn’t What We Hoped For, But… - Pastor Bob Allen

While the 75 Million Campaign to raise $75 million in five years to fund Southern Baptist state, national, and international missions and ministries fell short, Southern Baptists learned some lessons:

• There was great value and power in cooperative giving. In 1920, the minutes of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina included this statement about the campaign:

The 75 Million Campaign was a glorious success. It cracked a shell that had grown over our Baptist standards of giving and new resources have broken out among us for our Lord's work. It demonstrated the power of the unified appeal in our Baptist work. We shall never be afraid to depend upon that in a large way from now on. Our task now is to conserve the results of this great Campaign and to do that in such a way that we shall be in position to swing on toward ever larger things. 1

• More money was given for state, national, and international work than had been given in many years before the campaign.

* The Foreign Mission Board received $11.6 million compared to $12.5 million in all previous years combined.

* The Home Mission Board received $6.6 million compared to $8.1 million in all previous years.

* The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina said this in the minutes of their 1920 meeting:

… in the Campaign we raised practically as much for our convention work in six months as we ever raised in half a century before. It was a plunge of faith … The economy of a shot is not tested by the cost of the powder and shot in the load, but by the value of the game brought down. 2

• Giving stabilized — in their final report to the 1925 Convention, the Conservation Commission, which had been charged with the responsibility to make every effort to ensure the success of the 75 Million Campaign, said:

The very difficulties which we have encountered and the testing time through which we have passed have revealed to the denomination its dependable financial resources and strength and have demonstrated beyond question the wisdom and the necessity of the co-operative plan of Southern Baptists. The financial results as given in the statistical tables above are greatly disappointing in view of the needs of the denomination and our denominational possibilities, but in view of the fact that they represent the stabilized and dependable financial resources of the denomination are encouraging. 3

Next post: Where Do We Go From Here?

1  Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. Annual of the North Carolina Baptist State Convention. Richmond: Richmond Press. 1920, p. 56. Held by The Library of the University of North Carolina, Collection of North Carolina, C286-B225-1919-25, p. 56. Online.

2  Ibid., p. 56.

3  Annual of the Southern Baptist Convention, Nineteen Hundred Twenty-Five, p. 27. Online.

What Do We Do When What We’re Doing Doesn’t Work? - Pastor Bob Allen

A bit of history. The Southern Baptist Convention was formed in 1845 primarily for the purpose of supporting missions. (SBC history is more complicated than that — see The Southern Baptist Convention — A Side Note for more SBC history.)

Until 1919, funding for the missions and ministry programs of the Convention was done following a societal model in which each entity or ministry of the Convention raised its own support, usually sending solicitors to individual churches to present the case for churches giving to support the work of that entity. As you can imagine, that resulted in numerous pleas to a church each year from various organizations. Those entities that could employ the best fundraisers and had the most exciting and visible programs were the entities that got the most money. Other programs that were just as important but operated more behind the scenes were underfunded. It was an inefficient way of raising funds.*

By 1919, Southern Baptist ministries were suffering from severe underfunding. In fact, the Foreign Mission Board was so heavily in debt that there appeared to be no way for it to continue. A societal approach to giving and funding was proving to be untenable.

In 1919, the Convention voted to promote a unified financial campaign called the 75 Million Campaign — $75 million given over five years to support Convention missions and ministries. Individuals and churches pledged to provide $92,630,923.00 (more than $1.56 billion in 2022 dollars). When the campaign ended in 1924, almost $58.6 million had been given, well short of both the goal and the pledges.

Financial results were disappointing. In the 1923 meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, the Conservation Commission that was coordinating the 75 Million Campaign identified several difficulties that led to lower-than-desired contributions:

  • During these years we have had a series of unusual difficulties to face. For the most of the four years we have been in the backwash of the world's worst war, in which there has been continual disturbance in all the realms of life; in politics, in industry, in all social relationships. Labor and capital have been in their fiercest conflict. The social pot has boiled with its hottest fires. Prices of all commodities have fluctuated, imperilling [sic] all the industrial institutions of the country. Drouths [sic], pestilences, the industrial and social wars, national and international difficulties of the worst sort, have faced our people on every hand. An impoverished and war-torn Europe has its markets still closed to American industries. The collection of our pledges has been embarrassed also by the difficulty of long pledges, the large number of pastorless churches, the removal of pastors and the removal of members from one church to another, the fact that many thousands of our largest and best givers have been financially embarrassed. Our great farming, cattle-raising, and oil-producing constituency, with the industrial institutions that go with these interests, have been and are still greatly embarrassed. We have thus far collected the large sum of money which we have raised in the face of a tide of great difficulties.**

Even though the goal wasn’t reached, pledges fell short, and agencies who had borrowed against pledges found themselves in difficulty, some very positive things came out of the 75 Million Campaign.

Next post: That Wasn’t What We Hoped for, But…

* In 1883, for example, the Home Mission Board reported that 53% of funds raised went to pay the salaries and expenses of the fundraisers.

** Annual of the Southern Baptist Convention, Nineteen Hundred Twenty-Three, p. 27. (online link to PDF) 

Where Is the Co-Op Store? - Pastor Bob Allen (Post 1)

Several years ago, Linda and I were participating in a Missions Conference in a church in Florida. Though the church was a cooperating Southern Baptist church, there were a number of members who had joined that church either from churches of other denominations or who had been saved and joined that church but had no experience with Southern Baptist ways. One afternoon, during a break in the sessions, a gentleman walked up to Linda and asked her, “Where is that co-op store they keep talking about?”

Linda was rather perplexed because she didn’t know that the church had a co-op store. After a few moments of puzzling over that question, she realized that the man had heard missionaries and church leaders talking about the Cooperative Program. Not having grown up in a Southern Baptist church, he had no context for understanding Cooperative Program, so he defaulted to the only thing he knew — a co-op store.

In my article in the November-December emphas!s, ERBC’s bi-monthly newsletter, I wrote about how a $100.00 gift to the church’s General Budget is used. For a number of years, Edwards Road has given 10% of gifts toward the General Budget through the Cooperative Program, and some ERBC folk may have only a vague idea about what that is.

In my next post, I’ll give a bit of history about how Southern Baptists have funded their convention’s missions and ministries.