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OPINION

1% Challenge: Economy doesn't deter church from giving

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EDITOR'S NOTE: Cooperative Program Sunday is April 22 in the Southern Baptist Convention.

BRIDGEPORT, Ill. (BP) -- Pastor Wes Hahn didn't have to twist any arms when he proposed that Shiloh Baptist Church increase its Cooperative Program giving by 1 percentage point in 2012.

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During his four-year tenure at Shiloh in Bridgeport, Ill., Hahn has used every opportunity to promote CP, Southern Baptists' main method of cooperative giving. In Illinois, 43.25 percent of CP funds go to national and global Southern Baptist missions, while the remaining 56.75 percent helps support Illinois missions.

Shiloh has a long history of Cooperative Program support, Hahn said, so when he suggested the church raise its giving from 14.5 to 15.5 percent of their undesignated offerings, the finance team and the rest of the congregation were ready to accept the 1% Challenge, a national initiative by the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee.

"The beauty of the Cooperative Program" is that Southern Baptists' 45,000-plus churches are "all working to fulfill the Great Commission," Hahn said. "... For every dollar we give to the CP, it's literally going around the world."

Shiloh and other churches that have tackled the 1% Challenge are doing their part to combat a nationwide slide in Cooperative Program giving. Last year, national CP giving was 3.98 percent below the amount allocated to support Southern Baptist ministries globally and across North America, despite a slight increase over the previous year. In Illinois, year-end Cooperative Program giving was 9 percent below budgeted giving and 2.6 percent lower than the previous year.

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"It's been a couple of tough years in a row for Cooperative Program missions, but here in Illinois, we're making the necessary adjustments and living within our means," said Nate Adams, executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association. "We're all eager for the economy to improve and for Illinois Baptist families and churches to get past these current financial hardships.

"The fact that these families and churches continue to give so faithfully to cooperative missions even during these challenging times, is a cause for great encouragement," Adams said.

Shiloh is one example of a church giving despite a downward economy. The church's undesignated giving in 2011 was 6 to 7 percent lower than the previous year, Hahn said, but missions giving actually increased, including a record high contribution to the Illinois Mission Offering.

"Even though there might be a little downturn in the economy, so the tithes and offerings are down, when it got to specific giving, they said, 'Well, that's the need; that's what we're going to do.'" Hahn recounted.

Shiloh's missions giving mindset and growing missions sending strategy is based on knowing the important role the church plays in Kingdom ministries, Hahn said, noting that Jesus' challenge in Acts 1:8 to be witnesses all over the world isn't possible without cooperation.

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"How does a small southeastern Illinois church do all that?" Hahn asked. "Through the Cooperative Program, we do.

"What's the best way to reach the uttermost and all the others at the same time? It's real easy. We do CP giving."

Meredith Flynn is associate editor of the Illinois Baptist, newsjournal of the Illinois Baptist State Association.

Copyright (c) 2012 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net

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