Without question, more of my time and passion is invested in encouraging churches to give to missions through the Cooperative Program than through any designated offering, including our own state missions offering. I believe that’s as it should be. Yet both the CP and designated offerings have vital, important purposes.
My conviction is that the Cooperative Program should be the strong foundation of both missions giving and missions strategy in every Southern Baptist church. Where else can every dollar support thousands of international missionaries around the world, thousands of North American church planters and compassion ministries, the strengthening and starting of missionary churches in one’s home state, and do all of this all year round?
Your church’s foundational CP giving also supports six top class seminaries in preparing pastors, missionaries, church staff members, and other church leaders, all from a conservative, biblical worldview and an unwavering commitment to The Baptist Faith and Message. The CP empowers other important ministries as well, such as the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and the SBC Executive Committee, that play vital roles in our cooperative ecosystem.
In today’s climate, there may be times when churches develop questions or concerns about one or more of the ministries that receive CP support. When those grow serious enough, they should certainly be expressed, directly to the entity or its elected trustees.
But designated offerings are not primarily intended to be expressions of protest or concern, but rather positive opportunities for churches, and for each of us who give, to go above and beyond the year-round foundation of the Cooperative Program, and to express our heart for those specific Acts 1:8 mission fields. We do so by doubling down and giving sacrificially there.
In fact, many churches draw upon Acts 1:8 to structure their missions praying, giving, and going. They see their local association as their Jerusalem, their state or region as their Judea, their nation or our North American continent as their Samaria, and of course the ends of the earth as the vast international mission field.
That’s why at this time of year I also passionately urge churches to focus on and give generously to the needs of their state mission field. Much like Judea in the New Testament, this is where the believers in local churches are the primary resident witness, as well as the launching pad for missionaries to other fields. Our churches are our missionaries! And those churches’ sending power is dependent on their own health, growth, and missionary zeal.
We often refer to “tithes and offerings” in our churches, with tithes being the baseline of weekly giving and special offerings being above-and-beyond expressions of passion for ministry and mission. In a similar way, CP is the baseline that sustains your church’s state missions strategy year round. Now, at this time of year, is when you are invited to express your passion for the eight million-plus lost people in our state, and for strengthening the hundreds of churches and church plants that are seeking to reach them.
In addition to starting new Baptist churches each year, your state missions offering enables your state staff and other leaders to provide a network of valuable ministries for your church and hundreds of others, ministries that include church revitalization, consulting, leader development, training, evangelism, missions, pastor search help, and many more.
Designated offerings like the Mission Illinois Offering give each of us opportunities to be generous above and beyond the baseline giving our church provides to all these ministries through the Cooperative Program. So if the vast lostness of Illinois still tugs at your heart, as it does mine, now is the time to give.
Learn more about the Mission Illinois Offering for state missions, including how to order additional offering materials for your church, at www.MissionIllinois.org.
Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association. Respond at IllinoisBaptist@IBSA.org.