EDITOR'S NOTE: April 9 is Cooperative Program Sunday in the Southern Baptist Convention.
Despite being raised in Baptist churches most of my life, the Cooperative Program and North American Mission Board were foreign to me. Before I became a church planter's wife, I had very little working knowledge of what they are or what purpose they serve.
Today, my understanding of the Cooperative Program and North American Mission Board has deepened. I recognize them as a friend and resource, equipped and eager to maximize efforts in aiding church planters and their families to reach people for the glory of God.
Bryson and I have been married a little over five years. I knew when he proposed that his passion was to reach as many people as possible with the Gospel of Jesus. It was mine too, so we made a good match.
Soon after our wedding, we moved from our home state of Texas to Arizona. Six months after we moved, God led us to a small Southern Baptist church plant in North Phoenix called Valley Life Church. We quickly recognized the mighty work God was doing through this church to reach the community with the Gospel and were eager to jump on board.
The church's vision is to "Make disciples. Plant churches." It was a matter of time before Bryson's desire to plant was married to a real opportunity. When my husband started his paid internship with NAMB, we were in an unusually challenging season of life. Bryson worked long, tiresome hours as a car salesman to make ends meet, so our time with him at home was minimal. Our family had expanded to include a feisty little boy and I was expecting baby number two. I knew that if all went according to plan as Bryson worked to plant a church in three years' time, our family would be well supported by NAMB which poured so much genuine love and care into its church planters.
That was two and a half years ago, and in the course of time God has used NAMB to encourage, equip and enable our family to begin this journey of church planting. Today my husband has planted the fourth Valley Life Church here in the Phoenix area, and we're so excited to help build a legacy of making disciples and planting churches.
Friends and family often ask me about our church plant and how I feel about Bryson being a pastor. Sometimes their excitement for us is coupled with a sympathetic caveat about how hard it will be on the family since pastors are often "on call."
For our family though, it is the opposite.
We are so incredibly thankful to the Cooperative Program, which has directly helped Bryson get ahead of his fundraising needs by financially contributing to our church plant. For the very first time in five years of marriage, he has a job that consistently allows him to spend precious time with his family. Honestly, we are only a few weeks into this new life. Bryson and I are calling it the honeymoon phase because it has been so sweet.
Now that he is able to devote the bulk of his time to our church plant, a huge load has been taken off my plate. For one, I love his job. It doesn't steal hours away from our family and I recognize the good fruit Bryson's work is producing in our marriage, our children and the people who make up our church. Knowing our family's financial needs are met affirms the dream God has given me to raise our babies without the need to find an extra job to pay our bills.
Being a Southern Baptist church planter has been such a blessing. I am grateful to Southern Baptist churches who participate in the Cooperative Program, to NAMB, to our sending church (Valley Life Tramonto in metro Phoenix) and all those individuals who have helped our family during this exciting new season of church planting.
For resources related to the Cooperative Program, go to sbc.net/cp. Marlee Isom and her husband Bryson are being assisted by the Cooperative Program and North American Mission Board as Bryson plants Valley Life Church Camelback in the metro Phoenix area. This article and others highlighting the Cooperative Program are posted at talkCP.net.