I am also a Southern Baptist. Those words sometimes cause people to flinch or laugh or shake their heads. I'm glad to be Southern Baptist for one primary reason: the Cooperative Program.
Southern Baptists have some distinct beliefs but you will find others who hold many of the beliefs I do. Even within the ranks of Southern Baptists there are differing opinions about some doctrines but the essentials of salvation and life with God are common among us.
It's not the beliefs that make a person or church Southern Baptist. The one thing that distinguishes a Southern Baptist church from all others is the way we fund global missions. We do it together. No matter the size of the church (budget, people, whatever), through CP we share in meeting the obligations of the responsibility of the Great Commission. Southern Baptists have about 10,000 missionaries around the planet - supported by the contributions of all the churches.
I'm sipping coffee at a local coffee shop this afternoon. At the table next to me is a person telling a friend about his missionary work. I sat down somewhere in the middle of the conversation so I don't know where he serves or what his connection is to a local church or convention of churches. But he's talking about ministry both domestic and international.
My heart beats along with his.
I can't tell you what church he is associated with but I can tell he's not Southern Baptist. Nothing wrong with that. He seems to be evangelical and I'm all for that.
What tipped me off that he is not affiliated with churches like mine is that he was telling his friend how the friend could help him financially. Mission and ministry take money; we should not be ashamed to ask for money for those purposes.
However, missionaries supported by the Cooperative Program don't have to do that. I've never had a CP missionary ask specifically for money. They always thank our church for contributing to CP; they always mention the special direct offerings for their organizations; but they never ask for contributions directly to their ministries.
The beauty of the Cooperative Program - and why I'm glad to be Southern Baptist - is that missionaries are funded and do not have to worry about that. Those missionaries I know who are funded by CP tell me that their agencies take good care of them with housing, insurance, retirement, in addition to salary. A worker deserves his wages (Luke 10:7), right?
The guy next to me sounds like he would love to be on the field sharing his faith, making disciples, ministering to hurting people. Once he secures his funding he can do all that.
The Southern Baptist missionary is able to spend more time on the field because the funding mechanism is already in place. Not just for him but for thousands like him. We need to do better so we can support thousands more!
Thank God for believers sacrificing to live among people who are spiritually hungry - or starving. (By the way, we should all adopt a missionary attitude wherever we live!) Praise the Lord for the ability to support them so they don't have to worry about paying the bills or paying for the ministry.