HENDERSON, N.C. (BP) -- Much of Al James' life connects with missions history.
James is pastor of Carey Baptist Church near Henderson, N.C., named for William Carey (1761-1834), the famous English missionary. Carey's preaching and writing through his trailblazing career in India as a missionary, translator and educator helped launch the modern missions movement.
James also is associate professor of missions at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, some 40 miles to the south in Wake Forest, in addition to serving as the seminary's dean for proclamation studies.
For Carey Baptist Church, James said, "Missions has always been an important part of this church's heritage."
James became a pastor at age 19 and later served as a Southern Baptist missionary in Southeast Asia and the Philippines. He earned degrees at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and later joined Southeastern's faculty.
Considering that missions is key to Carey Baptist and James, it's no surprise that the 400-member church is a strong supporter of the Cooperative Program. The church contributes 13 percent of its undesignated receipts through CP, James said.
Although Southeastern is one of six Southern Baptist seminaries supported through the Cooperative Program, James is quick to say his is not a self-serving attitude.
"It's that I really believe this is the most effective way of promoting who we are as Southern Baptists and what we want to accomplish. It doesn't matter if you are in a church with 10 people or 100 people or 1,000 people. We all have a way of giving together," he said.
The percentage of undesignated receipts a church gives does matter, he added.
"I have heard people say, 'You spend dollars, you don't spend percentages,' but percentage giving is a way for us to all be in this together with equal sacrifice. In the Bible, when you have a woman giving her widow's mite, Jesus wasn't looking at who gave the most money, He was looking at her heart. The Cooperative Program is a way we can all give sacrificially and we are united together so that we can do more," James said.
Keeping a church focused on Cooperative Program support takes some effort, even for a seminary missions professor.
James credits "excellent pastoral leadership" in earlier times at Carey, plus past and present Woman's Missionary Union leaders. He commends Linda Kelly and Pat Peoples as current missions leaders who support the Cooperative Program and the church's many other missions activities.
James brings in Southern Baptist missionaries, both North American and international, plus staffers with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina and other professors from Southeastern to speak.
He hears some churches say they want to support missionaries they know, but James counters that they can bring in Southern Baptist and North Carolina Baptist personnel to match faces with financial support.
Pastoral support for CP is crucial, James said.
He preaches and teaches on missions and frequently mentions the Cooperative Program in his messages and announcements; he connects the church's CP giving to people or places in the news whenever possible.
"I try to keep them informed on what those CP dollars are actually doing," he said. "I remember when I was growing up I often heard, 'You don't give to the Cooperative Program, you give through the Cooperative Program.' It's still the truth."
Carey members both give to missions and do missions. They gave more than $11,000 to the 2011 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, and they exceeded their $5,000 goal for the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions this year.
Carey members give 3.5 percent of their undesignated receipts to Cullom Baptist Association and also give offerings to the North Carolina Baptist Children's Homes, North Carolina Baptist Hospital and Mission:Dignity, which supports retired ministers through GuideStone Financial Resources.
Members at Carey fill Samaritan's Purse boxes with gifts for children at Christmas and take part in local ministries in the Henderson area. Some serve in the disaster relief ministries of North Carolina Baptist Men. Carey's youth serve in North Carolina and other states through the North American Mission Board's World Changers program.
During his overseas service, James met with independent missionaries who had to raise their own support. It usually took them between 18 and 24 months to raise their initial support and then they had to make frequent trips back to the United States to keep their support going.
"I just stayed out there and did my ministry. Those other missionaries told me they wish they had something like our Cooperative Program," he said.
Mike Creswell is a Cooperative Program consultant at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.
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