What motivates a small state convention to dramatically increase the percentage of Cooperative Program funds they send to the Southern Baptist Convention? Executive Director Jere Phillips has reported that West Virginia, a pioneer mission field, has boosted the SBC percentage of its CP receipts from 29.5 percent in 1996 to 35 percent in 1997 and has already recommended further increases to 36 percent for 1999 with more to come!
As the West Virginia convention has increased its giving to worldwide causes through the Southern Baptist Convention, it has experienced a steady growth in Cooperative Program receipts from its 185 local churches and twenty-eight church-type missions.
In 1997, the Cooperative Program gifts received by the state convention were 9.6 percent higher than in 1996. In that same period West Virginia Baptists were able to meet all of their ministry goals, increase the share of CP funds for SBC ministries significantly, and end the year in the black. The current year, 1998, appears to be on target with another increase.
Shortly after coming to the convention in 1995, Phillips, executive director/minister, challenged the state to reach beyond itself aggressively through giving, evangelism, and church planting. His challenge was based on what he called the Abraham Principle. Simply stated, the Abraham Principle is that as God blessed His people locally, they in turn were to be a channel of blessing to the whole world.
Referring to the call of Abram in Genesis 12, Phillips said that the Abraham Principle is working in West Virginia. The mindset of giving locally and globally has been fostered through numerous emphases and endeavors focusing on missions just down the street and across the planet.
Although West Virginia has been a mission field, West Virginia Southern Baptists also are committed to the larger mission needs of the world. During the 1995 annual convention meeting, a Missions Fest helped messengers get a closer view of international missions. The convention also has established prayer partnerships with Mongolia, Bhutan, and Gaza/West Bank. Organized prayer emphases help the churches keep in touch with missions around the globe. The convention even established a scholarship program to help pastors and their wives participate in Southern Baptist missions overseas.
West Virginia churches, also, have become increasingly active in mission endeavors in North America. Recently, teams have worked in Utah, South Carolina, Alaska, and other locations. Within the borders of their own state, West Virginia Southern Baptists have tripled the number of new work starts over the last two years. Challenge goals include doubling the number of churches in ten years to 350 congregations and starting 500 satellite churches using lay ministers.
The application of the Abraham Principle has prompted specific actions by the convention and the churches, which has resulted in increased missions giving.
Focus on the Great Commission
The convention and its ministers are focused on helping the existing churches fulfill the Great Commission through church growth, evangelism and missions. Church growth is not seen as an end in itself, but a means to accomplishing the Great Commission. Rather than internalizing their efforts, churches are encouraged to focus on the mission fields of the world. In response to the giving and going and praying of His people, God has blessed the growth of the local church.
Missions Information and Education
Education is the key. Every communication is designed to help people see not only the mission fields within the state, but also the needs and opportunities around the world. As more laity and ministers discover the vast variety of mission ministries available, the more committed they are to being part of meeting those needs.
Affirmation of SBC Missions
While there are many good means of doing missions, the most effective and efficient are those supported by Southern Baptists through the Cooperative Program and the various SBC mission offerings. By encouraging focused giving and ministry through Southern Baptist causes, people can feel confident that their efforts produce sound, biblical results.
While there is much more to do, West Virginia Southern Baptists are grateful to the Lord for His blessings and remain committed to be a channel of those blessings to the world.
The SBC/State Convention Cooperative Program Partnership
From its inception nearly seventy-five years ago, the Cooperative Program has been a joint venture of Southern Baptist churches with the state and national conventions. The churches ordinarily send one check for Cooperative Program supported ministries to the state convention office each month. The state convention forwards a portion of this money to the national convention. The amount the state sends is decided at the state convention meeting each year. Even though there have been variations through the years in the giving patterns of some churches and state conventions, the vast majority of the churches continue to give the traditional way. The vast majority of the state conventions divide Cooperative Program receipts received from the churches between their work and the Southern Baptist Convention.
In 1996-97, the percentage retained by the states was 63.78 percent with 36.22 percent going for the Southern Baptist Convention. Ten state conventions forwarded between 40 and 50 percent of Cooperative Program receipts for the Southern Baptist Convention. Fifteen state conventions forwarded between 30 and 39 percent of Cooperative Program receipts for the Southern Baptist Convention. Fifteen state conventions forwarded between 15 and 29 percent of Cooperative Program receipts for the Southern Baptist Convention.