We begin our survey with a major organizational development that came as a result of the work by Luther Rice as he traveled throughout the colonies trying to rally support for the
Baptist missionaries in Burma. Baptists organized support in 1814. They met every three years under the name of the Triennial Convention.
Baptists in the South formed a convention-type organization. Richard Furman and W. B. Johnson led in establishing the South Carolina Baptist state convention in 1821. That constitution became the model for other state conventions. They later helped form the Southern Baptist Convention in 1845 with two boards, the Board of Domestic and Indian Board, and the Foreign Mission Board. They organized on the convention model and not as individual societies with self-perpetuating boards as did Baptists in the North.
Once the organizational structure was in place, Southern Baptists later developed the plan known as the Cooperative Program. After Baptists formed the Southern Baptist Convention in 1845, they still faced the need to find a way to fund the work. They appointed a series of vice presidents to travel among the churches to obtain pledges. The system had built-in problems.
A change evolved at the close of World War I. Southern Baptists adopted the Seventy-Five Million Campaign in 1919. Prominent leaders promoted the venture, obtaining pledges of more than $92 million. When the Great Depression began in 1920, Baptists, deeply in debt, raised only slightly more than $58.5 million. All debts eventually were paid, but something good came from the enterprise. Southern Baptists adopted the Cooperative Program in 1925 as the venue to raise money for their programs. Money given to the state conventions is divided by each state, ranging from 50/50 percent to 75/25 percent in newer conventions. Thus, one gives through the Cooperative Program, not to it.
Today we have 42 state conventions with 16 million members in slightly more than 45,000 independent, autonomous churches.
We support 4,178 missionaries in 874 people groups. The 179,162 churches on the international scene reported 199,162 baptisms in 2013. Through the Lottie Moon Christmas offering for foreign missions, Southern Baptists have channeled $3.5 billion in 125 years.
On the national level, Southern Baptists own and operate six seminaries, two national assembly centers (Ridgecrest and Glorieta), a national publishing house (Broadman Press), a national retirement program (GuideStone), and other ministries, not to mention the services on the home front through the North American Mission Board.
The Florida Baptist Convention has its headquarters in Jacksonville. Led by Dr. John Sullivan and his staff, they serve the churches throughout Florida. The Florida Baptist State Convention owns the Florida Baptist Witness, the Florida Baptist Children’s Home, The Baptist College of Florida, and Florida Baptist Financial Services. The Convention also has a working relationship with Haiti and Cuba.
We can be justly proud of what we are accomplishing with by money from the churches channeled through the Cooperative Program.
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