Overlooking the Cooperative Program

Mr. President, Mr. President!” Three voices spoke almost as one. “Mr. President, do I have the floor?”

The president’s gavel hammered vigorously. “The Chair recognizes Brother Stealey.”

“Mr. President, we must settle this evolution issue at once,” Clarence Stealey said. “Let the messengers to this annual session of the Southern Baptist Convention vote now. It’s the most pressing matter before us in 1925. Brother Burts’s money report can come later.”

“Mr. President!” shouted Bronson Ray taking advantage of Stealey’s pause, “the editor from Oklahoma may think other matters are more important than money. But that’s because he doesn’t have the foreign missionaries looking to him for their salaries. He doesn’t have debts piling higher every month and precious little money coming in to pay them. I tell you we are in a bad way. This Convention must do something before it leaves Memphis…”

The gavel beat out an insistent interruption.
“Gentleman, Gentleman!” said President McDaniel. “Let’s get on with the order of business. Brother Charles Burts has been standing here for ten minutes now to give his report. We shall hear him now.”

Burts eyes moved over the big room, and then back to the paper in his hand. He read slowly, his voice lifting slightly as he accented certain words and phrases. His was the first annual report of the Future Program Commission, of which he was general director. The report set forth and named the new unified budget of the denomination.

“From the adoption of this report it shall be known as the Cooperative Program,” read Burts.
The report was adopted in routine fashion by messengers anxious to get on with debate on evolution. With that action, the the Cooperative Program was launched May 13, 1925 at the Southern Baptist Convention in Memphis, TN.

The Cooperative Program was almost overlooked in the beginning. State papers were concerned with debts and debate. Few messengers paid attention to it or caught its significance.

Our Cooperative Program By W. E. Grindstaff, Sunday School Training Course material 1965 Published by Convention Press

Such humble beginnings for something that most Baptist’s would be quick to praise now. Something that seems to be an indispensable part of Baptist life is less than 100 years old and got off to a slow start, as Grindstaff later discusses in his book. Grindstaff served as pastor of several churches in Oklahoma after attending Oklahoma Baptist University, and later served the BGCO and was director of Cooperative Program Promotion with the Stewardship Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, so this is an area he is well familiar with. There were several failed attempts at funding the work of Southern Baptist before this, such as the Judson Memorial Fund, the $75 Million Campaign, and the many special pleas made by agencies to churches every week across the country. Until the Conventions agencies paid off most of their outstanding debts with the “Hundred Thousand Club” from 1933-1943, the CP was slow in getting going.

Once it finally started rolling, it funded untold salvations, missionaries, block parties, and baptisms, among other things. There has been much discussion about the future of the CP, and of the way that we need to fund our work among the nations.   But as I read this book, by a man commissioned by the Southern Baptist Convention to write a training course to educate all Southern Baptists on the Cooperative Program, I was struck at the time it took them to reach the conclusion of the CP, and the time, again and again, it took to fine tune it. I know that we have now reached that time again, but I doubt the CP will be scrapped any time soon.  It will be tweaked, challenged, changed, and more, as it has throughout it’s history. Obstacles arise, new ideas come forth, and we must do the best to continue to push the gospel, to our neighbors and the nations.  The history of the SBC is one of change, believe it or not.  We tried whatever we could to get the name of Jesus out to the world.  Some attempts were ill advised, some were spectacularly successful.

The history of the CP is well documented, but don’t think that everyone was in agreement with it. Grinsdstaff records the sentiments of three people who left that convention in 1925.

“Happiness of former conventions was not on the face of delegates.  This was due, perhaps, to the depressing effect of our huge debts.”  CW McEloy

“The Convention was the least satisfying of all I have attended in twenty-five years.”  TC Skinner

“The Convention struck no high tide.  We seemed to not be together.”  Frank L Hardy

At a time when they just voted to start cooperating, to institute the great CP, it was felt as if nothing was accomplished.  It feels like the SBC is more divided than ever now, so it’s good to be reminded that this is not a new spot in history!  Although our concerns are many, and there are difficulties to overcome, we can look at history and see God worked through that time and is working through ours as well.

There were many varied opinions that were put forth, and tempers flared as the SBC fought to figure out the best way to fund God’s work.  At the time, it seemed like there were more pressing issues to deal with, but there is no more pressing issue than sharing the Gospel.  As we continue to take the Gospel of Jesus Christ through the world, we must continue to work together, finding new and creative ways to work together, as we have before.

We won’t all agree on every single detail.  We are Baptist’s, after all.   But by the grace of God we will continue to work together to take the good news of Christ across the street and across the world.  I trust the leaders God has blessed us with in the SBC, and trust the heart of it’s pastors and members to put Christ first above all.

Captain of the Team, M. Theron Rankin

I recently had the chance to read a short little story about the life of M. Theron Rankin.  He served as a missionary to China for many years before becoming president of the International Mission Board from 1945-53, before dying of leukemia at a young age. This sketch of his life was written by his brother, and contains a few details and anecdotes about his life and ministry.  Although  it’s very brief it was greatly encouraging to me.

While serving in China in the late 1930’s he lived under the threat of war with Japan and the rising threat of communist China.  When Japan was threatening to invade China, he was ordered home by the Foreign Mission Board three times before he finally replied “It may be that some of us will have to die for Christ in this generation. My place is in China.”

Rankin paid the price for that, and spent several weeks pinned under enemy fire in the mountains before being captured by Japan and spending more than a year in an internment camp.  Upon his release and return to the states, he was made the president of the IMB where he served faithfully until his death.

“The convincing power of the witness we seek to give the world…, will be determined by what Southern Baptists do about what we profess. Professions of great faith cannot be substantiated by small action and giving.”

If you can find this book, or any other stories about this great Southern Baptist, you will be encouraged.

SBC History Podcast, Episode 10 History of the LifeWay and the Sunday School Board

LifeWay started in 1891, under the name “The Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention” under the leadership of JM Frost. It kept that name for over 100 years, and many many people still remember it.  It was established after the 1891 annual meeting in Birmingham. Since that time the SSB of the SBC served as a steady rock through many ups and downs of economies, leadership, and politics. Take a listen and learn about the great history of LifeWay and how we got to where we are today.

Resources to explore more about the history of the Sunday School Board and LifeWay

History of LifeWay Christian Resources

The Sunday School Board – It’s History and Work by JM Frost

LifeWay Legacy by Jimmy Draper

LifeWay and World Events Timeline

SBC History Podcast, Episode 9: Women in Southern Baptist History

Any body who has paid any amount of attention to baptist life would know the prominent role that women have played in our churches and institutions. Our two most prominent offerings are named after women, Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong.  In fact, those two women have done as much or more for missions awareness and education than any person in SBC history.

In this Episode of the SBC History Podcast we cover the many and varied ways that women have been involved in the history of the Southern Baptist Convention. Listen and learn at the great legacy we have of women leaders in the SBC.

Resources mentioned in the podcast.

Women and SBC 100 years of extraordinary input

Women in Baptist Life – Leon McBeth

SBC History Podcast, Episode 8 Ray Rhodes, Author of Susie: The Life and Legacy of Susannah Spurgeon

Almost without a doubt you have heard of Charles Spurgeon.  The Baptist preacher from London was a celebrity in his day and remained so since. But what do you know about the woman he married?  In his new book Ray Rhodes writes about Susannah Spurgeon, the wife of the famous pastor.  He pulls from the pages of history to write a book that shows her background that shaped her and allowed her to be a wife to the most famous pastor in the world. Listen as Ray talks about why he chose to write about Susie, and what she can teach us as Southern Baptists.

Susie Spurgeon 

Buy the book on Amazon 

SBC History Podcast, Episode 7 Lottie Moon

If I say the two words “Christmas and Baptist” what comes to mind?

Only one answer: Lottie Moon

If you have ever been in a baptist church around Christmas time, you have heard the name of Lottie Moon. Each year Southern Baptists take up a missions offering in her name, with 100% of the money going directly overseas to support missionaries and their work across the globe.  We all have heard of her, but this week in the podcast we learn a little more about the giant of missions.

 

Here are several links to help you get started reading more about the life of Lottie Moon.

David Platt: The Long Shadow of a tiny missionary giant

IMB: Who was Lottie Moon?

WMU:  Lottie Moon Resources

IMB Missions Archives

 

 

 

SBC History Podcast, Episode 6 EY Mullins, Reluctant Evangelical

This time on the podcast we are studying EY Mullins.   This month marks the 90th anniversary of his death, November 23rd to be exact.  I think it’s important that we know about these men and women who have gone before us in Baptist life. EY Mullins had a large impact on Southern Baptist life, one that can still be felt today.

The short bio of EY Mullins is that he was a professor and then President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, was also president of the SBC and Baptist World Alliance, & was the principal framer of the 1925 Baptist Faith and Message. That’s the TLDR bio, but there is lot more to his life than that.

You can’t understand the history of the doctrinal divides in the SBC over the last 100 years without understanding EY Mullins.

Below are few resources for you to learn more about this great Baptist theologian.

Al Mohler on Mullin’s Axiom of Religion

Trevin Wax: Why EY Mullins is essential to understanding Southern Baptist’s

Thomas Nettles:  EY Mullins, Reluctant Evangelical

 

 

SBC History Podcast, Episode 5 Interview with Amy Whitfield

This week we got a chance to sit down with Amy Whitfield, co-host of the SBC This Week Podcast.  Amy is also the Director of Marketing and Communications at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and since 2016 has served as Assistant Parliamentarian to the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting. We discussed how she became a parliamentarian, how she deals with the harder parts of SBC history, and what she sees for the future of the SBC.

Check out SBC This Week  

 

Famous Sermons: Payday Someday by RG Lee

Over the history of the Southern Baptist Convention there have been many gifted preachers. Those men have been used by God to provide timely and prophetic sermons that have guided, shaped, and corrected the course of individuals, churches, and the SBC. In this series we will look at some of those sermons. Even though most of these men will be dead, the message that they preached lives on because of the truth of the ever living Word of God.

RG Lee was the pastor at Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis from 1927-1960. (!)  He served as President of the SBC, and was called “a veritable paragon of excellence in the preparation and delivery of sermons” by WA Criswell.

His most famous sermon is Payday Someday. He is said to have preached it over 1200 times across the SBC.  Take the time to watch it below or read it here.

Did God mean what He said, Or was He playing a prank on royalty? Did pay-day come? “Pay-day—Someday” is written in the constitution of God’s universe. The retributive providence of God is a reality as certainly as the laws of gravitation are a reality. And to Ahab and Jezebel, pay-day came as certainly as night follows day, because sin carries in itself the seed of its own fatal penalty.

 

SBC History Podcast, Episode 4 A Short History of Race and the SBC

The story of racial relations within the SBC is a long and varied one. In this episode we try to cover the good and the bad of that history, and to show the role the SBC played in racial reconciliation among Baptists in the USA.  We highlight some of the pioneers in Baptist history and those who stood for the truth of the value of all people in God’s eyes.  We also point you to some more resources where you can learn more about Black Baptists within and without the SBC.