So, what’s the “rest of the story”? What happened to that Cooperative Program (CP) supporting Pastor who had his life changed on the dusty streets of an El Salvadoran village? Well, he developed a holistic, “both/and” , global missions funding strategy that incorporated the benefits of both the Cooperative Program of the Southern Baptist Convention and a customized, contextualized local church missions approach.
This holistic, “both/and” missions funding strategy can best be observed in the life of the First Baptist Church, Gulfport, MS; the church this blogger served as Senior Pastor from 1999-2008. Throughout her history FBC, Gulfport had always been a strong supporter of the Cooperative Program. A minimum of 10% of her undesignated gifts went to CP, “no questions asked” and an additional 2+% went to her local Baptist association. Then, in 1999, a renewed focus on reaching the nations led the church members to begin giving sacrificially to the two primary mission offerings in Southern Baptist life – one for global missions and one for North American missions. In 4 out of the next 6 years, FBC ranked among the top 100 churches in the SBC in giving to the SBC’s global missions offering and exhibited similar giving toward the offering for North American missions.
During those same years, FBC launched an aggressive customized and contextualized missions approach. We sent mission teams to 15 different countries and 8 different US states. Along with a church in Tennessee, we partnered with the International Mission Board of the SBC serving as the Strategy Coordinator for a city of one million people located in a Restricted Access Country. At home we launched Gulf Coast Community Ministries consisting of a free medical clinic and pharmacy, food bank and ESL classes. We planted a satellite ministry north of our city that grew into a church plant and eventually became Cross Point Community Church.
Following the landfall of Hurricane Katrina in August of 2005, when the church’s facilities were destroyed, and the Senior Pastor suggested a 2% decrease in CP giving for a few years while the facilities were rebuilt, the congregation issued a resounding, “NO”. They knew what the Senior Pastor doubted. Even as the members of the congregation were rebuilding their homes and lives following the worst natural disaster in our nation’s history, they knew they would continue to sacrificially support a holistic, “both/and” missions funding strategy. So, CP giving remained at 10%, giving to the local Baptist association continued at 2+% and the church in partnership with the North Carolina Baptist Men, built and staffed a Volunteer Village, hosting over 2,200 volunteers conducting evangelistic relief and recovery ministry along the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. The congregation also located new facilities to replace those destroyed by the hurricane, and re-launched Gulf Coast Community Ministries. Then in 2009, as further evidence that a holistic, “both/and” missions funding strategy had now become a part of the DNA of the church, FBC without the leadership of a Senior Pastor, built an orphanage in Haiti in partnership with a non-SBC missions agency.
You see the “missions funding strategy” discussion among Southern Baptists the last few years has created a false dichotomy. It’s really not either support the Cooperative Program or create a customized and contextualized missions strategy for the local church. If the Pastor believes in and the church embraces, a “both/and” missions funding strategy, such a strategy can be implemented. A “both/and” strategy will allow the church to participate in all that God is doing around the globe through the ministries of Southern Baptists supported by the Cooperative Program and at the same time develop and support a most effective customized and contextualized missions strategy designed by the local church. In this way the local church can participate to the max in what God is doing across the globe to expand His Kingdom and glorify His name. It’s really not either/or. If the Pastor desires it and the people embrace it, the most effective missions funding strategy really is Both/and, both sacrificial support of the Cooperative Program and a customized, contextualized missions strategy!