Executive Director’s note: In place of my column I wanted you to hear from Josh Crutchfield. Over 10 years ago when he was a youth we attended the same church, he became my intern for a year during the time he studied at Criswell College. His heart for the gospel is revealed in this article. Josh Crutchfield is a two-time Criswell graduate who is working on his Ph.D. He is a pastor and serves on the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Executive Board. I’m so grateful for Josh, his wife, Jamie, and their children. The next generation is leading well.
By Joshua Crutchfield | Special to the TEXAN
It was 8 o’clock in the evening, and the sun had already set. We were exhausted from a long day of travel—two plane rides and a five-hour van ride. The crisp Caribbean air was now refreshing us as we traveled to Livingston, Guatemala, under cloak of darkness. It is not as if we were going into a hostile or dangerous place, but we couldn’t help but feel like special ops going into a region to carry out a mission. Of course, we did have a mission to carry out—bring the gospel to the Garifuna.
You may question what this story has to do with the Cooperative Program or cooperation altogether, and that would be a fair question, so let me elaborate. You see, I was leading college students from the church I pastor on their first-ever mission trip. Our goal was to bring the good news of Jesus to the Garifuna people in Livingston. However, we did not know of the existence of the Garifuna until a sister church in a different state invited us to cooperate with them in advancing the gospel to peoples who have never heard the good news. Andrew Hebert, pastor of Taylor Memorial Baptist Church in Hobbs, N.M., spoke with me about the opportunity to go into a region where no active Southern Baptist work exists and cooperate together to plant churches. As my team walked the streets of Livingston, there was not even an evangelical church to be found.
Still, you might say that this does not fully address the Cooperative Program, but it does. When Andrew contacted me about reaching a people I did not even know existed, he was not sharing something that was common knowledge or something he already knew—Andrew was working with the International Mission Board (IMB) in order to identify an unreached, unengaged people group. Upon identifying a people group (e.g. the Garifuna), the IMB worked with and trained the leaders of Taylor Memorial Baptist Church to go and engage the Garifuna with the gospel. That was funded and made possible through the Cooperative Program.
As exciting as it was for my students and me, and as wonderful as it is to see how God is using Taylor Memorial Baptist Church and Trenton FBC, none of this would be accomplished or experienced without cooperation. But now something must be addressed—cooperation is more than a dollar sign. It does involve dollar signs, but money is not the foundation of our cooperation. No, the foundation of cooperation is the Great Commission and the hope that all peoples will hear of the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ. This cooperation can take many forms but the foundation and goal remain the same.
This is the beauty of the Cooperative Program. It brings like-minded, like-faith people together for the purpose of making Jesus known. This kind of cooperation reveals to the world that our churches are more than simply autonomous churches seeking to build our own kingdoms but instead shows the world that regardless of our race, background, city, or state, we as God’s children have a common Savior and a common purpose. Cooperation proclaims the unifying work that God has accomplished in his church. Those who refuse to cooperate—be it through the funding of the Cooperative Program or simply working with other local churches—reveal the true nature of their hearts and serve as a poor representation of the gospel.
This trip served as an incredible teaching moment for my church family. We saw the fruits of the Cooperative Program through the identification of the Garifuna and through the resources, such as tracts written in Spanish and the 1 Cross app, provided by the SBTC. We saw churches come together by offering financial support—churches like Allen’s Point Baptist Church, pastored by Kevin Towery, and through our local association. And that is just the starting point.
As we continue our efforts to reach the Garifuna, we are building on the work of other churches, such as Taylor Memorial Baptist Church, which will soon be returning to Livingston in order to build on the work we have done. Cooperation is more than a dollar sign; it is the outcome of the work of Christ and the evidence of his indwelling Spirit, so that he may receive glory and that the lost might come to know the one who died for them.
—Joshua Crutchfield pastors First Baptist Church of Trenton.