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Cooperative Program Helps Church Planters Get off the Ground From Coast to Coast

Cooperative Program
Kody Aten preaches during a gathering of Freedom Church in Gloucester, Mass. A native New Englander, Aten prayed for years for an opportunity to lead a church in the region.

Editor’s note: October is Cooperative Program Emphasis Month in the Southern Baptist Convention.

NASHVILLE (BP) — The Gloucester Fisherman’s Memorial, built in 1925, faces the harbor in honor of the thousands lost at sea in this Massachusetts city’s history. On its base facing the waters is Psalm 107:23 – “They that go down to the sea in ships ….”

While a tribute to those who helped build Gloucester’s connection to the sea, the inscription is incomplete in its meaning. Psalm 107 gives examples of those who reject the Lord time and again, but come to an understanding of His redeeming love. Of those sailors, it concludes, God “brought them to their desired haven.”

Kody Aten prays that Freedom Church will grow as a navigating force to the cross.

“The biggest misconception about New England is that people are atheists. They’re not atheists,” he said, adding that many focus a lot on religion while missing the essential relationship for salvation found in Christ.

The people also have a bit of a blue-collar edge, something Aten understands from having grown up nearby in Connecticut. He can also connect with those trying to break from addiction, an epidemic that Aten had to address himself by entering rehab at 18 years old.

“Those are my people,” said Aten, who moved to Gloucester in 2020 to start Freedom Church. “I can talk to them. God has broken my heart for this city.”

He has noticed a consistent line of questioning from guests to Freedom Church. How do they afford the materials and setup? How is Aten able to devote all of his attention to serving as a pastor?

The answer comes from the faithful giving of Southern Baptists through the Cooperative Program. October is Cooperative Program Emphasis Month.

“We talk about the importance of giving and don’t hide the fact that we’re connected to Southern Baptists,” Aten said. Freedom Church is also part of the North American Mission Board’s Send Network.

Across the country, Pastor Brad Ormonde Jr. of Garden City Church in Beaumont, Calif., thought he understood the reaches of the Cooperative Program. A lunch with Jonathan Jarboe, president/CEO of the Baptist Foundation of California, this summer after the SBC annual meeting made him realize it was even more.