Swofford offers strong warning to churches that forsake CP giving

As the sixth recipient of the M. E. Dodd Cooperative Program Award, Texas pastor Steve Swofford of First Baptist Church of Rockwall urged fellow Southern Baptists to avoid robbing “Peter to pay Paul” by replacing CP gifts with direct mission funding.

“I am truly blessed to pastor a church that believes so strongly in the Cooperative Program,” Swofford told the June 21 gathering of the Southern Baptist Convention. “I’ve always believed that God blesses the church that tries to bless the world and I know of no better way to try to bless the world than through the Cooperative Program.”

Swofford continued, “I thank God for men like M. E. Dodd who had the vision to lead all of us to see how much more we could do as we cooperate together. Both at home and abroad, it’s the envy of other Christian organizations as a funding tool. They know how well it works. There is no better way to get more bang for our buck than CP. It has been God-blessed and God-used.”

The Texas pastor drove the point home for churches of all sizes by adding, “I know that this is the day of hands-on missions when many of our people want to go and see and feel and touch and I understand that nothing will turn the heart to missions faster than a hands-on experience. But we dare not rob Peter to pay Paul. We must not back off one to enjoy the other for it is the Cooperative Program that makes it possible for our missionaries to be there to meet and greet our people and to be there when our people go … It’s CP that enables us to educate and to send and do almost everything we jointly do as Southern Baptists.”

The award, inaugurated during the 75th anniversary celebration of the Cooperative Program in 2000, honors a person, congregation or organization that has demonstrated continuous, long-term excellence in supporting missions and ministry efforts of state and regional conventions and the SBC. Swofford received a sculpture of a farmer “sowing the word as he walks across the world,” explained SBC Executive Committee President Morris Chapman in recognizing Swofford.

In the 16-plus years since being called to FBC Rockwall, Swofford has led his church to give 18 percent of its undesignated offerings through the Cooperative Program, amounting to about $462,000 in 2004. In 1989 the church was giving $67,000 to CP. Attendance has grown from an average of 250 in worship attendance to over 1,200 in one of three morning services today.

Swofford chaired the Home Mission Board and now serves on the International Board as well as having served on the board of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. “Steve has a heart for missions,” Chapman said, describing this as “a life-time achievement award” for his commitment to the Cooperative Program.

“May God help us to stand behind, stay with and increase our part in the Cooperative Program,” Swofford said in closing, “knowing it will bless the world and then God will bless us because God blesses the church that tries to bless the world.”

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