Synergy. That’s the word that comes to mind when I think about the Cooperative Program (CP). We know it’s a proven fact that we can do more together than we can do alone. I wanted to explore the CP as a synonym for synergy and see if it works biblically. Let’s think about this together.
First, looking up the definition of the word online, it seems to be the perfect description of the CP:
“syn·er·gy: /ˈsinərjē/ the interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations, substances, or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects.”
The word synergy sounds like science, but when I think of how it is demonstrated through the work of the CP, it seems more like common sense.
The Cooperative Program is not a passive program that happens in isolation from our churches. It requires their intentional activity. The CP requires the continual interaction of participating churches to have the intended effect. The combined “agency” of churches giving through the CP, along with the work of state conventions and mission agencies creates together the impact of Gospel advancement around the globe. (If you need more background, you can explore more about the Cooperative Program here.)
It turns out that the English word “synergy” is a transliteration of an old Greek word, and it is biblical. I am not a biblical scholar, nor the son of one, and I already thought that synergy was an excellent Christian word, but just to make sure I looked it up in the Word of God.
Yes, synergy is a word in the Bible! The Bible word συνεργέω (sunergeó) means “to work together” (Strong’s #4903). It appears five times in the New Testament (see the passages below). I have underlined and bolded where the Greek work for synergy is used in the text:
“And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word by the accompanying signs” (Mark 16:20).
As we continue to contemplate on the biblical word for synergy, this passage shows the synergy mentioned was between those who preached the Gospel and the Lord. God confirmed their words through signs of the working of His power. Acclamation
Reflecting on the CP as a synonym for synergy, it seems like the analogy still works. If there is one thing that the CP does is resource the preaching of the Gospel, literally everywhere. I don’t think it would be pulling this verse out of context or a stretch to say that it appears that, historically, the Lord has confirmed the advancement of the Gospel in a similar fashion through the Cooperative Program by blessing the work we do together with His spiritual fruit.
“We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28, HCSB).
This is the favorite verse of a lot of people. Many times, people use it out of context. I hope not to do that here. How the verse applies to us in our conversation is that God uses a lot of things to accomplish His purposes among His people. In fact, He uses all things.
Without being too simplistic, saying the CP is a thing and God uses “all things,” therefore the CP is good. I see ideas that are compatible with the Bible in the vision and purpose of the CP. There is synergy between God’s stated mission (the Great Commission, Matt. 28:18-20) and what the people who love Him (His church) do in ministry. While this verse is not about the CP, it does seem that cooperative ministry (like the CP) can be included as part of the synergy He uses.
“You know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and they have devoted themselves to the service of the Lord’s people. I urge you, brothers and sisters, also to submit to such people, and to everyone who works and labors with them.” (1 Cor. 16:15-16)
Here the Corinthian church members are encouraged to submit to Christian leaders (household of Stephanas, and others with them) who are working to advance the Gospel.
Thinking about this example of biblical synergy we are discussing, I can see the principle of Christian collaboration and mutual submission exemplified here. I think that it is the intent of the CP—for us all to be working in ministry together through submission to one another in godliness.
The CP is a voluntary association between churches. It only works when we value and respect one another and show Christian love to one another.
I see another principle that is relevant. The Corinthians are asked to work with these people because of their long history of service to the Lord. Like the Corinthians, we may have to defer to one another and give each other more benefit of the doubt in order to keep the CP synergy going.
“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. Working together with him, we also appeal to you, don’t receive the grace of God in vain” (2 Cor. 5:20-6:1).
Here the Apostle Paul claims that, as an ambassador of Christ and the Gospel, in synergy with God, he appeals to the church because of the work of Christ, who suffered, died and rose again on our behalf to be reconciled to Him.
I think the danger still exists today to take the Gospel for granted and not be reconciled to God. If the CP is to survive in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) it will require one thing: reconciliation (to God and to one another). That will take all of us living in synergy with the Lord, living out our calling as His ambassadors.
“You see that faith was active together with his works, and by works, faith was made complete” (James 2:22).
This last passage from James reminds believers that faith is made complete through actions. The synergistic principle here is action—faith meeting works.
As I conclude my reflection on the word “synergy” as a synonym for the CP, I am struck remembering a conversation I had recently with an Oklahoma pastor. It’s true that we all have faith. But faith, like talk, is cheap unless we put our feet to it.
One brother told me recently it’s not theology that keeps him in the SBC ultimately. He said, “I can believe every single word of the Baptist Faith and Message privately, on my own. My church can be an autonomous (SBC) church all on our own, believe and be faithful to Baptist doctrine. But the one thing we can’t do alone is what we can do through the Cooperative Program, together. And that is what keeps us all connected in the end.”
I pray we can all continue to be active together through the Cooperative Program. We have so much synergy when we do. May God use it all to His glory!