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Chapman: 'Cooperative spirit' necessary to strengthen SBC
Tuesday, February 22, 2005

 

Cooperative spirit
Southern Baptist Executive Committee President Morris H. Chapman bows in prayer during the Executive Committee meeting Feb. 21. Chapman told E.C. members he is "more optimistic" about the state of the SBC than he has been since arriving at the Executive Committee. Photo by Morris Abernathy

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Underscoring the urgency of winning a lost world to Christ, Executive Committee President Morris H. Chapman said Feb. 21 Southern Baptists must work together in a cooperative spirit in order to strengthen the convention.

"I am more optimistic about the state of the convention and cooperation therein than I have been since coming to this office," Chapman told Executive Committee members during their Feb. 21-22 meeting.

"My optimism stems not only from what I believe is high standards to which the Executive Committee holds itself and the exceptional quality of our work, but for the growing passion I sense among all entities and throughout the state conventions for being Kingdom people, doing Kingdom work -- all for God’s glory."

Chapman complimented the work that has been done through the two mission boards, the Baptist colleges and seminaries, LifeWay Christian Recourses, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, GuideStone Financial Resources and the Woman’s Missionary Union.

The SBC’s Empowering Kingdom Growth initiative, Chapman said, has forced people to consider if they are living for God's Kingdom. Chapman called the establishment of EKG "perhaps the most important decision" the Executive Committee "has made in recent years."

"No day in our history has it become more important to stress the significance of working together in a cooperative spirit," he said. "We are today’s leaders and few of the names will change in the next decade. It’s now or never for us.... The question is, 'What shall we do for the glory of God in this hour?' What is our responsibility?

"Our responsibility is to spend no time thinking about what others owe us, and [instead] spend our time thinking about what we owe others. It’s a difficult task. To do so is to resist our human impulses. We can’t be perfect but we can be much more Christ-like in living and leading."

But cooperation, Chapman said, must not come at the expense of abdicating biblical authority.

"Biblical integrity and doctrinal purity are matters about which we must be forever vigilant," he said. "Adrian Rogers once said, 'Our zeal for missions will not surpass our zeal for the Bible.'"

A cooperative spirit, Chapman said, is necessary to strengthen the Cooperative Program. The Cooperative Program is Southern Baptists' method of supporting missions and ministries of both the SBC and state conventions. Pointing to a "dangerous trend," Chapman said that -- as a percentage -- churches are forwarding less of their offerings through the Cooperative Program than they were two decades ago. In 1984, he said, the average church forwarded 10.6 percent of its undesignated receipts through CP. In the 2003-04 fiscal year, that percentage fell to 6.99, he said.

Cooperation is vitally important to boost CP giving, Chapman said.

"In recent months, our state Baptist executive directors have begun to talk about educating and promoting the Cooperative Program with an urgency and passion I have not witnessed heretofore," he said. "In fact, it may be the most pronounced effort on the part of the state executive directors since the SBC in 1925 asked them to take the responsibility for promoting the Cooperative Program within their state conventions.

"I believe the state executive directors, the chief executives of our SBC entities and the president of the Southern Baptist Convention are poised and ready to launch one of the most thorough and exciting efforts in our history for the purpose of challenging our people to practice biblical stewardship, including the giving of a tithe to the storehouse -- the local church."

Southern Baptists have "an enormous vision" for reaching the world for Christ, Chapman said.

"I don't know of any denomination or convention that has ever had a heart for missions more than Southern Baptists," he said.

But Southern Baptists must support that vision by tithing and by churches forwarding more of their offerings through the Cooperative Program, Chapman said.

"The task will not be easy," he said, "because a large contingent of members in our local churches affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention have little or no knowledge about the huge significance of the Cooperative Program in supporting our missions efforts around the world."

Chapman recounted that when he served as a pastor, a church member occasionally would challenge the notion of tithing, arguing it was mentioned in the New Testament only briefly and that Christians now were living under grace.

"I would ask them, 'If God gave us the principle of storehouse tithing 10 percent through the local church by law, would He not have expected and wanted us to give more by grace?' Our grace opportunity is that opportunity to give more than we would ever have given by law," Chapman said. "God help our people to learn biblical stewardship. God help our people come to a new conviction of tithing through the local church, so that not only can Christ be preached in that place -- in their Jerusalem -- but around the world to the ends of the earth."

Cooperation, Chapman said, is essential.

"Shall we lead this convention from the foot of the cross?" he asked. "Shall we finish well? Or shall we fade into the sunset, having abdicated the leadership necessary to pave the way for an outpouring of God’s Spirit upon this nation?"

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