D. Scott Hildreth, Together on God's Mission: How Southern Baptists Cooperate to Fulfill the Great Commission, (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2018), 112 pp.
To those outside the Southern Baptist Convention, the Cooperative Program is probably not a household name, but it is the financial lifeblood of missions in the Southern Baptist Convention. For those not familiar, the Cooperative Program was launched in 1925, and is a unified plan of giving through which cooperating SBC churches give a percentage of their undesignated funds in order to support their respective state convention and the ministries and missions programs of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Over the past years there has been a steady and significant decline in SBC Cooperative Program participation. Many have begun to question the mission of the program, and in this book Dr. Hildreth not only give a history of the SBC and the Cooperative Program, he presents the importance of Southern Baptists coming together to re-kindle the power of this amazing program, and shows what all will be lost if we Southern Baptists let this program fade away.
These are exciting times for the SBC. While I am personally historically minded and thankful for the many great men who have been part of our convention in the past—especially those of a generation (many of which who are still alive) who fought to bring our convention back from theological liberalism back to the Bible in the mid 20th Century—I am also especially thankful for a new generation of leaders rising up in the Southern Baptist Convention. The SBC is a diverse group of churches, and unlike some other denominations we have far more theological diversity, and there have been theological disagreements within the SBC since it's inception in 1845, however, despite this, for the most part the SBC (both "traditionalists" and Calvinists) always maintained unity and cooperation for the overall mission of taking the gospel to lost people and advancing the Kingdom of King Jesus. Dr. Hildreth points out that "it is naive to believe a body as large as the Southern Baptist Convention will be able to settle a debate that has been raging for hundreds of years. While theological convictions are indeed necessary, it is important for Southern Baptists to seek unity under out common statement of faith and around our common cooperative vision." Often these "theological debates" are about generational power rather than purely on theological issues, and one of the primary things that Dr. Hildreth suggests is that we should discuss cooperation theologically rather than structurally or pragmatically. Moreover, some churches have viewed the Cooperative Program as a "tax" rather than a means of cooperation and Dr. Hildreth argues that we must strive to view the CP as a positive means for advancing the Kingdom.
This book is a great resource for getting your head around the Cooperative Program and understanding what challenges are faced currently, and what opportunities there are for growth and expansion in coming years if we Southern Baptists can get our act together and work together.
The history of the SBC is built on cooperation, and we must—if we want to continue to reach people for King Jesus—continue to cooperate and take advantage of unique opportunities to work together to take the gospel to the nations.
We are called to be a light to the nations, and there is no better way than by working together in unity to fulfill God's Mission!
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