September 8th was a memorable milestone for Alabama Baptists. This was the day on which we crossed the $1 billion mark in Cooperative Program giving. Since 1925, when the Cooperative Program was founded, Alabama Baptists have given a cumulative total of $1 billion dollars through the Cooperative Program. This is not counting the amounts given to the special offerings, such as: Lottie Moon, Annie Armstrong, world hunger, disaster relief, the Kathleen Mallory Missions Offering and the offering for the Children’s Home and Family Ministries.
Alabama Baptists do not have the largest or wealthiest state convention, but we are among the most loyal in the SBC. Throughout the years, Alabama Baptists demonstrated a strong sense of commitment to Christ and to the mission causes of Southern Baptists in Alabama and around the world.
Think about this collective and multi-generational testimony offered by Alabama Baptists, past and present. During the dark and uncertain economic days of the Great Depression, Alabama Baptists remained faithful in giving through the Cooperative Program. Many Alabama Baptists worked on the farms and in the industrial plants of the inner city trying to make ends meet for their families but, despite the challenges, Alabama Baptists set the example in sacrificial giving in order to reach others for Christ.
World War II brought additional burdens for the family of faith called Alabama Baptists. Like the rest of the country, Alabamians joined the various branches of military service in huge numbers. In many cases, this emptied churches of men and some women. However, Alabama Baptists remained faithful in giving to support missions efforts through the Cooperative Program.
A few years ago, I met a layman who served on the State Board of Missions following World War II. He informed me of another memorable milestone back in 1951. This was the year when the Cooperative Program budget for the Alabama Baptist State Convention reached the $1 million mark. When I told him that 1951 was the year of my birth, he said, “I hope you live to see the budget to grow to $100 million dollars.” I hope I see that day as well.
The decades of the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s were growth years for Alabama Baptists and Southern Baptists. This paralleled the so-called Cold War era, which included the Civil Rights period of history and its aftermath. Turmoil and change were characteristic of this time, and yet Alabama Baptists continued to be steadfast in their dedication to the cause of Christ and to giving through the Cooperative Program.
The 1990s and the early part of the 21st century have been a time of reaffirmation of the Great Commission in Alabama Baptist life. In 1998, Alabama Baptists began to speak of our one mission, the Great Commission, and our one program, the Cooperative Program, as the singular emphasis of efforts together in Great Commission ministries. This simple but significant “more-than-a-motto”-type statement conveys the message of devotion Alabama Baptists feel toward being obedient to Christ in seeking to fulfill the Great Commission.
September 8th was in so many ways a normal and routine occasion. I was in the office on the phone, answering e-mails and doing consultations, when Bobby DuBois came into my office with a big broad smile. He said, “We made it! We have reached the $1 billion dollar mark.” My first thoughts were, “Thank you, Alabama Baptists! The world is a better place because of you. Lives have been changed because you have given to the Lord.” My next thought was, “Now we begin working on the second billion.” I wonder what day in the future we will reach the $2 billion mark! Thanks, Alabama Baptists, for being faithful in the past, and thanks in advance for being faithful to Christ in the future.