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Dr. Sullivan's Commentary



Dancing with the one who ‘brung’ you

As a Texas pastor for almost 14 years, my wife and I came to love the state for its influence for the gospel.

Even in those days, the University of Texas Longhorns was among the great football teams in America. At the peak of their glory, their coach was the colorful Darrell Royal.

One year, Royal led the Longhorns to the New Year’s Day Cotton Bowl using a second string quarterback after the first string quarterback was injured early in the season. When the coach was interviewed about his expectations of the bowl game, he was asked which quarterback would start since the first quarterback had recovered. Royal’s reply was, “You ought to dance with one who brung you!” I have always translated that to mean, whatever or whoever makes you what you are—don’t ignore it or them.

Southern Baptists are a great denomination in large part because in 1925 we took a giant step in learning to cooperate. At the heart of this decision and discovery was the Cooperative Program, Southern Baptists’ unified budgeting system. The Cooperative Program has allowed us to field and fund the greatest missionary enterprise in the history of Christian missions. To be sure, we are not the only denomination fielding and funding a missionary system. I take nothing away from others and rejoice when anyone is coming to Christ.

However, it seems to me that Southern Baptists are no longer “dancing with who brung us.” It is the Cooperative Program and the missionary offerings that keep our missionaries on the field and allows us to work alongside them. Without the Cooperative Program we would have to bring these missionaries home. We cannot go into all the world, all the time, at the same time without the Cooperative Program.

Theological education is the other basic area supported by the national Cooperative Program. The Cooperative Program allocates over 94 percent of its total budget to missions and theological education. We have been and are still training the most dedicated and viable pastors, ministers and missionaries in the world. Compare the expenses of a Southern Baptist student for graduate education with others and you will soon understand—“we ought to dance with who brung us.”

I am a product of the Cooperative Program. I was saved in a church started by Cooperative Program funding; called and educated in a Baptist college and seminary, etc. As a result, it is in my nature to support this great missionary/education delivery system. It is not a “sacred cow” but it is a “sacred how.” You will never convince me that God did not put this Cooperative plan in the minds and hearts of our early leaders. 

Some cry, “I want to be independent.” Please do not confuse independent with non-cooperative. Southern Baptists are independents who have chosen to cooperate. This is a miracle and the Cooperative Program is the centerpiece of that miracle. Let’s “dance with the one who brung us!” 


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