There are a number of reasons why I am proud to be a Southern and Arkansas Baptist. Our evangelistic and missionary fervor, our conviction concerning the authority of scripture and our work together to reach our cities, state, nation and world are examples and not an exhaustive list.
I have heard many pastors of the past and the present speak with great conviction about the merit of the Cooperative Program. There was a day when our churches were inundated by people representing good causes that were asking for financial support. It is likely that the one who gave the best presentation was most successful in raising funds. There had to be a better way for noble causes to be supported.
As a boy in south Arkansas, I was fascinated when our pastor would have missionaries from such places as Nigeria speak to us. I came to know about Ouachita [Baptist University] through students and professors that ministered in our church. Years later I learned that missionaries and Christian universities like Ouachita and Williams were made possible by giving from churches through the Cooperative Program.
Nearly one hundred years ago at the annual meeting held in Memphis, messengers heard a report and adopted a recommendation that founded the Cooperative Program. From the beginning, the first principle laid out centered upon cooperation. The report specifically mentioned cooperation between the state conventions and our national body.
Cooperation is still foundational to our work. It begins when a church member determines to be a faithful steward and gives their tithes and offerings through their church. Their church determines what to give to the state convention. Messengers to the state convention decide what percent will remain in our home state to reach and minister to people and how much is sent on to support the Lord’s work nationally and internationally.
Today the ministries in Arkansas are ongoing because of the commitment and cooperation of the members, pastors and leaders of local churches. The ongoing commitment and cooperative spirit must never be taken for granted but nurtured.
I am writing to thank Arkansas Baptists for their support through the Cooperative Program. Our convention staff strives to communicate the impact, present and eternal, that our cooperative efforts have upon so many people.
Over these one hundred years methods have changed. Technology, communication and travel have dramatically increased and improved. The message—the good news of Jesus Christ – is unchanged and is being shared across the world because of the faithfulness of Arkansas Baptists.
The words of Austin Crouch, the first president of the SBC Executive Committee, delivered shortly before his passing to Heaven, resonate truth today, “It is still our unshaded conviction that the missionary spirit is still gaining ground, and the success of the Cooperative Program is one of the best proofs of its success.”
We, indeed, have a proud heritage.