Getting Baptists to agree on mission priorities is like the proverbial task of making sausage. Everyone wants their favorite ingredients in the mix, and by the time it's finished, we don’t necessarily want to know what’s in it. We just hope everyone will find it agreeable when the work is done.
Such is the case with international missions. Each church has unique preferences for the way they want to do missions, the country that they want to serve and the specific ministry organization(s) they select for mission engagement. That is the nature of local church autonomy.
Among Southern Baptist churches the dominant organization of choice is the International Mission Board (IMB).
One year ago this month Southern Baptists faced a tall mountain, wondering if it could be scaled. Budget deficits exceeding $200 million forced our beloved IMB to ask missionaries to consider the option of stepping down from their positions.
When the final numbers were tallied, more than 1,100 valuable members of our international mission team no longer had a job at IMB. The overseas mission force lost 983 team members. The stateside staff trimmed another 149 people from the payroll.
Drastic monetary shortages required radical cuts in personnel, and most Baptists understood. But we still grieved over the reduction of our international missionary presence. We evaluated our giving and recognized that the dollars flowing from the people in our churches to the people serving overseas was not what it should be. Gratefully, many Baptist churches responded with generous gifts to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions (LMCO).
We commend churches and individuals that modeled generous giving to international missions last year through this annual offering.
On page 14 of the December 3, 2016 issue of the Biblical Recorder, we published a chart that identifies churches in North Carolina that led the way through their generous support of missions through the LMCO. The column on the right side of the page lists the 50 churches in the state with largest offerings.
The left column identifies the per capita giving of the top 50 churches in N.C. This measuring rod allows churches of every size to be recognized for their extraordinary support of spreading the gospel through LMCO.
It is especially noteworthy that five churches are in the top ten of both lists. This is exceptional. The churches are Parkwood, Gastonia; Mount Vernon, Boone; Idlewild, Matthews; First, Cary; and First, Durham.
A total of 23 churches showed up in the top 50 of both lists. Again, this is unusual and highly commendable.
Every individual and every church that gave to LMCO is important. Without the participation of all Southern Baptist churches last year’s all-time record offering of $165.8 would not be possible.
As we enter the week of prayer for this year’s LMCO, I am praying that Baptists around the world will ask God to use us to impact the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ through the most generous, sacrificial gift we have ever invested in international missions.
We hope you receive a week of prayer brochure from your church to guide you through your daily prayers. The IMB website also provides resources for the week of prayer. Please use these resources.
As David Platt recently reported, IMB is now operating with a balanced budget. Next year’s budget, combined with another generous LMCO, will keep our international mission agency working in the black. This is an important part of our testimony to a lost world.
This editorial is like Lottie Moon – it’s short. But if these few words can have only a tiny fraction of the impact of this woman’s life on eternity, God will be glorified. Let’s give generously.
About Lottie Moon
• Name: Charlotte Diggs Moon
• Birthday: Dec. 12, 1840
• Attended Albemarle Female Institute, female counterpart to the University of Virginia
• One of first women in South to receive a master’s degree
• Taught school in Kentucky, Georgia and Virginia
• Sister, Edmonia Moon, was appointed to Tengchow, China, in 1872, a year before Lottie
• Served 39 years as a missionary, mostly teaching at a girls’ school
• She mostly served in Tengchow and P’ingtu.
• The smell of her cookies drew people to her house
• She was 32 years old when she left for China
• She had turned down a marriage proposal and left her job, home and family to follow God’s lead
• Her letters home detailed the hunger for truth among the Chinese and the struggle of so few missionaries taking the gospel to the 472 million Chinese in her day
• She challenged Southern Baptists to go to China or give
• By 1888, Southern Baptist women had organized and collected 43,315 to send workers needed in China
• In 1918, Woman’s Missionary Union named the annual Christmas offering for international missions for Lottie Moon