EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated since it was originally published.
NASHVILLE, Tenn., (BP) — “Cooperative missions has a name and a face — actually, tens of thousands of them,” Paul Chitwood, president of the International Mission Board (IMB), said. “They are the names and faces of Southern Baptist missionaries who have been sharing the Gospel among the nations for the past 174 years.”
Connecting those faces of the real people who are on the field to the financial resources needed to keep them there is what drives congregational giving.
Peyton Hill, pastor of First Baptist Church in Prattville, Ala., found this to be true as he planned his church’s giving goals for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.
Hill wanted to answer the question, How can we go further with our giving?
The hurdle comes when the giving is not viewed as tangible — when there is no personal connection between the money and the ministry.
While IMB missionaries make real moves in ministry every day, not every congregation grasps that reality in their weekly giving.
Hill wanted that to change. His goal was to connect the giving with specific missionaries.
The average cost to support one missionary for an entire year through the IMB is $62,000. This cost covers all forms of support needed including salary, medical, language study, housing, visa, travel, ministry and other expenses.
Hill’s challenge to his church was to support two missionaries, a financial goal of $124,000.
Making the personal connection between the finances and the ministry gave the congregation a whole new motivation and inspiration to give. The goal was to put names and faces on the giving.
By defining so precisely where the money given would go and how it would impact the Gospel being spread, Hill saw his church rise up and get excited about giving again.
“The church just ran with it,” Hill said.
Other congregations and pastors latched onto the idea of personalizing the offering.
“When we learned that it takes $62,000 on average to support one missionary on the field, our plans changed,” Marshall Blalock, pastor of First Baptist Church in Charleston, S.C., said. “Making the personal connection to fully fund one missionary as a church family is both a joy and a challenge for us.”
Blalock said his congregation views the goal as a way to bless a specific missionary but also to bring hope to lost people who, by God’s grace, will one day worship Him with every language, from every culture and nation.
Blalock said he hopes that this personalization and the public ownership of the offering goals will encourage every Southern Baptist church to be involved with LMCO.
Starting small and building on progress could be the key to an increased heart for giving, Blalock said.
“Perhaps they [churches] could start by funding a missionary for a week, $1,200, that would be a great start. If every church that presently does not give would take that challenge, it would add $27 million to the Lottie Moon Offering and send more missionaries to reach thousands upon thousands of lost people with the hope of the Gospel,” Blalock said.
Hill noted that the offering could be viewed in a percentage form as well.
“Individuals and families are saying ‘I’m going to give a 100th of a missionary,'” Hill said. “It’s not just an arbitrary number that they write a check for.”
Chitwood said this fresh perspective on the LMCO is a step in the right direction of being able to send more missionaries to the field.
“Simply put, more missionaries means that more people hear the Gospel, believe the Gospel, and spend eternity in heaven rather than in hell,” Chitwood said. “We have a goal of sending more missionaries. Growing the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, all of which is spent on our work among the nations, is how we will meet that goal of sending more missionaries and seeing more people reconciled to God through a saving relationship with Jesus.”