CP: Moving forward together for the glory of God

April 25 is Cooperative Program Day! It is also my spiritual birthday. Fifty-one years ago, I trusted Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior. 

By his grace I was called to the preaching ministry three months later. Beginning at that time and continuing to this day, the Cooperative Program has been a part of my spiritual life.

At 17 years of age, I attended Louisiana College. The Cooperative Program provided partially for the housing, meals and professors. Sadly, the experience was not positive. I ran into theological liberalism at the school. (LC has since been reclaimed for biblical fidelity.) When I realized how the institution was funded, I talked with my pastor. I wanted something done. Good and godly people were giving their tithes and offerings to support something that was undermining the faith of the students. 

Instead of staying and working to change the system, I bolted, leaving the Southern Baptist Convention. For six years I wandered in the wilderness outside of the SBC. The Conservative Resurgence got in motion during that time. The thrust of the resurgence was to return missions and ministries to the grassroots Southern Baptists who were paying for it. God called me back to the SBC to make a difference.

A portion of my education at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary was paid by Mom-and-Pop Baptists in the pew. Their gifts through their local church participation in the CP enabled me to be trained. As a pastor participating in mission trips, I saw firsthand how in North America and internationally God was using the CP to fuel gospel work. When I transitioned to become a director of missions, I understood associational giving was separate from CP. Yet state convention partnership in church planting and SBC involvement in a local off-campus seminary site served the churches. The Cooperative Program made associational ministries better for everyone. 

When I came to Texas, there were state conventions telling churches that they could give designated funds and it would be called “Cooperative Program.” Designated funds strike at the very heart of the CP. By definition, the CP is an undesignated giving channel. Undesignated giving is an open-handed gift from an open heart enabling us to do more together.

Now for the last 22-plus years I have observed how churches have sacrificially given to accomplish the Great Commission. New churches are being started, adding to the hundreds that have been started in Texas over the years. Human suffering is alleviated through Southern Baptist Disaster Relief. Struggling churches are given new life through revitalization. Evangelism is enhanced through training and tools. Students are reached for Christ. A new generation is being engaged. Beyond Texas, missionaries are penetrating darkness in North America and around the world. Seminary students are being equipped for ministry. All of this and so much more is possible because of the Cooperative Program. Thank you, Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, for what you have done to the glory of God. 

There are critics of the Cooperative Program. All human endeavors have their flaws, but what we have as Southern Baptists is the best option for gospel advance. Your investment of time, energy, and dollars, especially through the Cooperative Program, is well worth it.

April 25 is Cooperative Program Day! Just as CP has contributed to making my life and ministry more effective, to the glory of God, I encourage you to set aside time in your church to celebrate what God has done. You can find resources at whatiscp.com. You can contact the SBTC office at 817.552.2500. Someone will come to your church and share about this gospel tool known as the Cooperative Program. Let us stay together and move forward for the Lord Jesus Christ!  

Executive Director Emeritus
Jim Richards
Southern Baptists of Texas Convention
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