HARRISBURG (BRN) – Pastor, church planter, church planting strategist, statewide church planting director and, now, executive director of the Baptist Resource Network (BRN) of Pennsylvania/South Jersey are all professional, and missional, hats that Dr. Barry Whitworth has worn at one time or another. 

Referring to himself as a “byproduct” of the Cooperative Program (CP), Whitworth has benefited at almost every stage of his life from cooperative generosity expressed through the CP.  

“The Cooperative Program was used to help start churches in locations where I grew up in Maryland, and my church family was a part of the Cooperative Program and the journey and the blessing that came from the Cooperative Program,” said Whitworth. 

Later, when Whitworth felt the Lord calling him into ministry, he attended Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, one of the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) six seminaries that are funded by the Cooperative Program. 

At the local church level, as a pastor and planter, Whitworth continued to see the power of cooperative giving and championed the CP as it fueled not only the Kingdom work he was doing, but that of so many others locally, nationally and globally. 

“I was a cheerleader or champion of the Cooperative Program because the Cooperative Program had already blessed me, and I knew the value of what it did to not only bless guys that are preparing for ministry, but also how critical it was to send people who felt like God was calling them into international missions or church planting here in the United States or Canada,” said Whitworth. 

Still a faithful champion of the CP, Whitworth now, as a state convention executive director, conveys this investment of cooperative missions to churches as something that is so much more than a “program.” 

“I’ve had people say this to me: ‘When does this program end?’ You know, because it’s called a ‘program,’ and typically a program is for a time but not forever. It really doesn’t have an end…because it’s not a program, it’s a plan. It’s a unified giving plan,” said Whitworth. 

He continued: “So, whatever a local church, which is autonomous, decides to give to the Cooperative Program that’s a part of a unified plan. But the most beautiful thing, and the most important thing, is it all goes together as part of the plan to impact lostness here in the United States and Canada and around the world.” 

When SBC churches in Pennsylvania and South Jersey give to the Cooperative Program, they are sending 33% of their resources to the national SBC office in Nashville, Tennessee, where their gifts are then distributed to support national and international missionaries, fund SBC seminaries and assist the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC). 

The leftover 67% of CP funds then remain in Pennsylvania and South Jersey for church resourcing, disaster relief efforts, multiplying church centers, next generation ministry, partnerships, pastor/staff benefits and other essential Kingdom work. 

“I’m an avid believer [of] ‘to much is given, much is required,’ and over the years Southern Baptists have blessed Pennsylvania/South Jersey with millions upon millions of dollars to do the work that we do here.” 

Whitworth continued: “We’ve been giving away more, but what we keep helps us impact nearly 14 million lost people in Pennsylvania and South Jersey.” 

In Southern Baptist life, Pennsylvania/South Jersey has the fourth largest population amid non-south conventions, with only Canada, California and New York preceding the two-state region.  

Cooperative Program funds that stay in Pennsylvania/South Jersey go towards BRN Evangelism Grants, Hunger Grants and Compassion Grants, trainings and conferences, pastoral crisis assistance, internships, discipleship workshops, church health assessments and materials, service opportunities, such as Serve Tour Philadelphia and Serve Tour Erie, and helping churches take next steps. 

“We try to do everything we can to be great stewards of the money churches entrust into our care to not only impact what we are doing, but to impact lostness around the world,” said Whitworth. 

Whether supporting Kingdom work in Pennsylvania/South Jersey or the outermost parts of the world, the Cooperative Program is an investment Southern Baptists have continually supported but is hardly possible without a heart posture of generosity. 

“It’s an expression of generosity. The more you give, the more God moves and blesses…you can’t outgive God. If your heart is in the right place to give so that God can do more through His people, then do it,” said Whitworth. 

Keeping with the theme of generosity, Whitworth revealed that the BRN is in the works of producing an all new podcast about generosity. As something the Lord laid on his heart, Whitworth will be exploring the heart posture of generosity and how it relates to living on mission for Christ.  

Whitworth shared his motive behind the upcoming podcast, saying, “Generosity is a byproduct of a healthy disciple [and] of a healthy church…because it models and reflects the heart of our King Jesus.” 

He continued: “Was not God generous in giving us his only begotten Son, so that we might have life through him and a relationship with God for all eternity? Was Jesus generous in giving up his life by going to a cross and dying for our sins so that we might have life through him with a Father who created us? The answer to all that is, yes! Generosity models what God has done for us through Jesus Christ.” 

Through this new podcast, Whitworth will touch on topics such as: Why God Measures Generosity, Understanding Biblical Stewardship, Why People “Freak Out” When it Comes to Asking for Money, Generosity and Discipleship and, one of Whitworth’s favorites, Generosity is the New Evangelism. 

“We live in a world where people are skeptical of the church. I don’t think they’re skeptical of Jesus, but they’re skeptical of the church. They’re skeptical of Christians,” said Whitworth. 

He continued: “So, why would generosity be the new evangelism? If Christians would show this, it can open the doors to a lot of gospel conversations. It can open the doors to introducing Christ to people that don’t even know anything about him.” 

This new podcast is slated for production this spring/summer and will be available on Spotify, Apple Podcast, Google Podcast and Amazon Music as well as online at brnunited.org/news. 

Hear more about how your cooperative giving is helping to accelerate Kingdom movement in PA/SJ through the BRN in this month’s episode of Celebrating Cooperative Missions (this podcast is also available on  SpotifyAppleGoogle, and Amazon Music):