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Early reports: Baptists giving with passion to Lottie Moon


RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–Southern Baptists are responding with vision and passion to this year’s Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, if early reports are an indicator.

This past summer, the International Mission Board announced it was delaying the appointment of about 100 new missionaries because support from Southern Baptist churches had not grown as rapidly as the number of church members coming forward for overseas service. IMB President Jerry Rankin challenged Southern Baptists to respond by increasing their LMCO goals by 33 percent.

It appears that many churches thought even a 33 percent increase wasn’t enough.

For example, First Baptist Church of Grayson, Ky., a congregation with about 200 in Sunday School, set a church record when they gave $2,500 to the 2002 Lottie Moon offering. The church was moved, however, by the news that new missionaries were having to wait for appointment and decided to set a goal of $10,000 for this year’s offering. Pastor John Newland told church members they could easily reach that goal if each church member set aside just $3 a week for 17 weeks.

In the space of a few weeks, the church gave $5,400 — more than twice the previous year’s record amount. As of Dec. 14, the congregation had given $6,466.

Beulah Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla., surpassed its Lottie Moon goal in 2002 with an offering of $1,500. Missions became more personal for the congregation of 110, however, when the son of their associate pastor was commissioned for overseas service.

This year, their pastor challenged the congregation to set a goal of $1,500 and match it from their bank account if the goal was reached. When they received their offering, it totaled more than $7,000.

REACH FOR A CHALLENGE

Washington Baptist Church in Greer, S.C., had already increased its offering goal by 20 percent when pastor Andrew Hines challenged the congregation to raise it another $4,000 and reach for a challenge goal of $10,000.

A young couple from the church, Kerry and Neltia Henderson, had just completed the “40 Days and 40 Nights” missionary field training in East Africa’s bush country. Church members were excited when they received a letter from their new missionaries that asked everyone try to give $100 more to the offering than they gave last year.

As of mid-December, the church had raised $12,000 and was expecting to receive more before the end of the month.

In Wyoming, Wright Baptist Church, a congregation of 80 people, accepted a challenge goal of $5,000 for their offering — an amount several times more than they had ever given. When their contributions were totaled, the congregation was excited to see they had given $12,488.84.

“I truly believe that many ‘small’ churches across the country will rise to the occasion as God prompts the hearts of His people to give so the Gospel will continue to go forth,” pastor Clay Alexander wrote. “I look forward to seeing what God will do through the faithfulness of His people.”

A MONTH’S OFFERINGS

Martindale Baptist Church in south-central Texas has been dramatically raising its international missions offering goal for several years. In 2001, the congregation gave $5,000, an increase of almost 50 percent over its offering two years earlier. Last year the church doubled its giving to more than $10,000.

This year, pastor Glen Howe, himself a former North America Mission Board missionary, pointed out that the congregation was taking in about $1,000 a month above its budgeted needs. He asked the church to apply those extra funds to expenses during December and use that month’s offerings to increase their contribution to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. Both the deacons and the congregation agreed to the proposal without discussion or debate.

“We’re excited because we can see where the Lord could use us to give over $20,000 — we could double what we gave last year,” Howe said. “That has created a real air of excitement for us.”

New Hope Baptist Church in Rock Hill, S.C., has always been generous in its support of the Christmas offering. Last year, the church, with about 100 in Sunday School and 150 in worship, surpassed their $2,500 Lottie Moon goal by 20 percent.

This year, however, interim pastor Bob Freeland — a retired pastor who has led volunteer teams to Brazil for several years — challenged the church’s Woman’s Missionary Union to set a visionary goal. A goal of $10,000 was announced, and by Dec. 7 church members had given $11,461.

“What rejoicing at the end of the service when the amount was announced,” Freeland said. “Shouting — not real loud — and clapping, and we burst into the doxology! It is exciting. Isn’t that wonderful!?”

GROWING IN VISION AND PASSION

Tiburon (Calif.) Baptist Church set a Lottie Moon goal of $12,500 this year — the highest goal the church had ever set and more than twice what it had given in previous years.

The church, however, has been growing in its missions vision and passion, joining the IMB’s Global Priority Network and adopting an unreached people group in the Middle East. On the first Sunday of its offering campaign, church members gave $7,500, and they hit $20,767 on the second Sunday.

“I know we will have more come in,” one church member said. “I’m excited to be in a church that is interested in building the Kingdom!”

Kathleen Baptist Church, a congregation of about 500 in central Florida, gave about $20,000 to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering in 2002. This year, however, pastor Danny Hood challenged them to double their giving.

Moved by the reports of missionaries who were ready to go but could not be sent for lack of funds, the church set their goal at $40,000. When they held their ingathering on Dec. 14, however, church members gave $75,463.22.

“Praise Jesus! It was the largest one-time offering they have ever received,” said Tim Hood, the pastor’s son and a former IMB missionary journeyman. “That they gave so much is a blessing and tremendous testimony of obedience, but that they are capturing God’s heart for the nations will change the world!”

EXCITEMENT ELSEWHERE

Enthusiasm for this year’s Lottie Moon Christmas Offering can be seen in other quarters as well:

— Missionaries in Central Asia planned a walk-a-thon for Christmas Eve morning. Prayer supporters back in the United States pledged donations to the offering in return.

— Missionaries in the International Mission Board’s North Africa and Middle East region received their annual missions offering in a retreat setting where they were joined by about 30 short-term volunteers from the United States. When the receipts were totaled, the group had given $23,000 — 85 percent of it from 139 missionaries and children.

— A single team of missionaries focused on taking the Gospel to the Arabs of Morocco gave more than $3,200 to the offering.

— Three Baptist churches in Japan sent Lottie Moon contributions totaling $12,344 to IMB headquarters in Richmond, Va.

— Staff and trustees of the International Mission Board gave more than $255,000 — an amount exceeded by only six churches in 2002. The trustees registered 100 percent participation in the offering for a total of $100,214. The staff and trustees combined — 550 people — averaged gifts of $463 each.

“Our trustees are again leading the way for Southern Baptists. This is a great example for all of us,” said Avery Willis, the board’s senior vice president for overseas operations. “The staff also has given sacrificially because we see every day the need to send these delayed missionaries that God has called to the unreached peoples of the world.”

‘RICHLY BLESSED’

Sacrificial expressions of personal commitment to the mission task are encouraging, IMB President Jerry Rankin said.

“We are richly blessed by being able to work each day with a staff that has a devotion and passion for undergirding and supporting our missionaries around the world,” he said. “To see them make this kind of sacrificial financial commitment to their support, knowing the needs of their families and limited resources at this time of the year, stirs my heart.

“And while our trustees are leading their churches to give at a significant level to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, they also have reflected their personal commitment to what we are all about by giving more than $100,000 this year. I trust Southern Baptists and all our churches will follow their example.”

Southern Baptists not only are responding to the plight of missionaries who can’t go and a lost world that needs to hear, but also to the tremendous openness missionaries overseas are reporting among people groups that have never before heard the Gospel, Willis said.

“This is the greatest time of opportunity we have ever seen as Southern Baptists,” he said. “I believe that, as they begin to see the world as God sees it, we will see the greatest Lottie Moon Christmas Offering in history. I see it as a chance to put our money where our mouth is.”
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(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: GOOD NEWS FOR IMB.

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  • Mark Kelly