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Churches respond: Lottie Moon finishes
with $136 million, largest increase in history

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–Southern Baptist churches — and their 5,376 missionaries around the world — are celebrating a monumental $136.2 million response to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions.

When the books on the 2003 offering closed May 31, Southern Baptists had given $136,204,648 — an increase of almost $21.2 million, or 18.4 percent, over 2002 — the largest dollar increase in the offering’s 115-year history.

“Southern Baptists are shouting ‘Glory to God!’ over this marvelous response to the needs of a lost world,” said International Mission Board President Jerry Rankin. “God’s people feel His heartbreak over 1.6 billion people with little hope of even hearing about Jesus Christ. They were distressed that qualified missionaries were being held back for lack of finances. And they responded with a vision and passion only God’s Spirit can inspire.

“We are especially grateful to Woman’s Missionary Union for their wholehearted partnership in encouraging Southern Baptists to step up to this tremendous challenge.”

“We are grateful for the priority that Southern Baptists have placed on missions support by giving sacrificially to the Lottie Moon Christmas offering,” said Wanda Lee, executive director/treasurer of national WMU. “It is a privilege to partner with state WMU offices, WMU leaders, the International Mission Board, and missions advocates in our churches as we collectively seek to engage literally everyone in the mission of God.”

Rankin appealed to the churches for sacrificial giving because financial support had been lagging behind the increasing numbers of church members coming forward for overseas missionary service. The IMB was forced to limit missionary appointments and cut stateside staff in June 2003 to keep expenses in line with income.


The board now can loosen restrictions on missionary appointments, Rankin said. After projections indicated the offering would surpass its $133 million goal, the agency’s trustees voted in May to send 200 more long- and short-term missionaries than previously had been planned.

“Because Southern Baptists gave so unselfishly to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, we are sending out more missionaries this year,” Rankin said. “The result will be that more people groups will be engaged and more individuals will hear the Gospel.

“God’s desire is for all the world’s peoples to know Him, and His Spirit is moving in Southern Baptist churches to fulfill the Great Commission in their Jerusalems, Judeas and Samarias — as well as to the ends of the earth.”

Such a stirring among Southern Baptists is just one dimension of a powerful movement of God’s Spirit around the world, said Gordon Fort, the IMB’s vice president for overseas operations.

“Last year, more than 510,000 believers were baptized by Southern Baptist missionaries and their national Baptist co-workers,” Fort said. “Our missionaries were able to engage 192 new people groups with the Gospel.

“All the turmoil and uncertainty in the world is creating a spiritual hunger, and people are unusually responsive to the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ. Traditional barriers are falling, and God is opening doors that have been closed for centuries. The harvest is accelerating, and God is calling out more laborers to work in the fields.

“This is the greatest day of opportunity we have ever seen.”


That calls for churches to make an ever-deepening commitment to the commission Christ gave them to make disciples of all peoples, said Larry Cox, the board’s vice president for mobilization.

“The task before us is enormous, and God’s Spirit is moving quickly,” Cox said. “Southern Baptists will have to move quickly if they are going to keep up with Him.

“We are not sending out these new missionaries for one year only. If they are going to be able to stay on the mission field — if we are going to be able to send the others God also is calling — we must sustain and increase this level of giving.

“Southern Baptist churches love missions. We are all about missions,” Cox said. “Nothing stirs our hearts more than the thought of people who never had the opportunity to hear the Gospel just because we didn’t provide the resources needed for someone to go and tell them.”
— Fast facts about the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering: http://ime.imb.org/Offering/fastfacts.asp
— Because you gave: http://ime.imb.org/Offering/storiesgive.asp
— The Acts 1:8 Challenge: http://www.actsone8.com.
— What is the Cooperative Program? http://www.cpmissions.net
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: MORE WITNESS.

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  • Mark Kelly