COOPERATIVE PROGRAM: A matter of love

by Randy L. Bennett, posted Friday, September 29, 2017 (2 months ago)

EDITOR'S NOTE: October is Cooperative Program Month in the Southern Baptist Convention. The Cooperative Program is the Southern Baptist Convention’s giving channel for missions and ministry.

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (BP) -- The English word for love is somewhat inadequate. How can I say I love my wife and I love ice cream? Loving my wife is far more important than any bowl of ice cream. How can I say I love my pickup truck and I love my children? Children are far more important than any kind of vehicle.

To say that I love the Lord is to know true and eternal life where God never disappoints me. At the same time, can I honestly say that I love the Cooperative Program? After 50-plus years as a Southern Baptist, my answer is yes.

I love the Cooperative Program because it expresses our foundational belief as Baptists that "we can do more together than separately." Although every Southern Baptist church is an autonomous body, both self-directed and ruled, Southern Baptists have chosen to cooperate with one another toward fulfilling the Great Commission.

As such, we are interdependent rather than simply independent. We choose to work together to do something that is impossible to do alone.

I love the Cooperative Program because it has given me -- and thousands of others in ministry -- the opportunity to have an excellent education. I was the first person in my family tree to go to college fulltime and the first to graduate with a degree. I was the first to earn a doctorate. This was all made possible by the state Cooperative Program in California that supports California Baptist University and our national Cooperative Program that supports Gateway Seminary of the SBC.

I love the Cooperative Program that helped me start a new church while attending seminary. I love how the Cooperative Program has helped start nearly 40 churches here in the Kern County Baptist Association in California in the past 22 years.

And of course I love the Cooperative Program for the way it financially has supported our work in associational missions since 1995. Being commissioned as a Southern Baptist missionary was one of the high points of my life.

Finally, I love the Cooperative Program every night when I go to sleep knowing that I am part of a body of believers who are taking seriously God's command to go the ends of the earth to tell people about Jesus. I get to be part of that as I give to my local church and as I serve as a missionary in California.

Yes, I love the Cooperative Program. My prayer is that future generations will continue to choose interdependence with fellow Southern Baptists knowing that we can do more together than we can do alone.

Randy L. Bennett is director of missions for the Kern County Southern Baptist Association in Bakersfield, Calif., and immediate past president of the California Southern Baptist Convention.
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