One of the main reasons I choose to be a Southern Baptist is because of cooperation. I enjoy the cooperative spirit that sets Southern Baptists apart from other denominations, even from other Baptist denominations. The basis for our cooperation is a shared doctrinal belief as set forth in our Baptist Faith and Message. Cooperation exists between individual churches, churches and associations, churches and the state convention, and churches and the SBC. Cooperation is beneficial. One such benefit is the sharing of resources (financial, material, personnel, etc). Churches with small budgets can gain access to materials, training, and equipment for ministry from other churches, associations, and conventions that may not be readily available to them. On the other hand, the SBC, state conventions, associations have access to a pool of gifted, talented, and willing people from the local church to work and serve across various entities. Another benefit of cooperation is simple, yet so powerfully true. We are able to accomplish more together for the kingdom than we can do alone. I believe this statement forms the basis for cooperation and has been the rallying cry across the SBC since its inception in 1845.
With that being said, I don’t believe that cooperation is automatic. Here is what I mean by that. There is a difference between what I like to call blind and informed cooperation. Blind cooperation is cooperating out of tradition, habit, or out of a sense of guilt. This would look something like this: “Give because you have always given.” “I don’t know why we do it; it’s just something we do.” Informed cooperation is committing time, talent, and finances after an evaluation of the goals and purposes of another organization so that there is a peace about joining them in the work. As a pastor, I have the responsibility to lead the church I pastor to put its time, resources, and finances into what will ultimately lead to the lost being saved and the saved growing closer to Christ.
I want to cooperate. I desire to cooperate with those who share the same conviction, desire, passion, vision, and purposes that I value as essential, based on kingdom benefit. This whole issue of cooperation is one that I have been giving a great of thought to recently. I struggle with questions such as these: What do you do when those you work with (individuals, churches, associations, state conventions, SBC) don’t seem to want to cooperate? What happens when their decisions, philosophies, actions, and plans indicate the intent to go in a direction that just can’t be followed? At what point does fruitfulness become the driving force of cooperation over tradition and guilt? As a church we can’t do everything. We don’t have unlimited resources. When it comes to the energies of our people, their talents, and financial resources, we must direct those to areas that will bear the most fruit for the kingdom.