NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–You’re about to sit down to watch a movie or your favorite team play but realize something’s missing. Bingo! You remember: the popcorn. You rush into the kitchen, grab a bag from the pantry and throw it into the microwave. Three minutes. That’s how long it will take. What do you do with those three minutes? Sometimes three minutes seems like an eternity, doesn’t it?
It is, for some people.
Twelve people die in Central America every three minutes without knowing Jesus Christ as their Savior. Imagine what that means for the 138 million people who live there. Central America is one of the smaller geographic areas on earth. Think more globally. One-fourth of the world’s population — 1.5 billion people — has little or no prospect of hearing the Good News of God’s love. Most haven’t even heard the name of Jesus Christ. Romans 10:15 says, “How welcome are the feet of those who announce the gospel of good things!” (HCSB).
Southern Baptists have been people of Good News for nearly 150 years. One of the main reasons we formed into a convention was our focus on missions. We wanted to reach the world for Christ. Only God knows the millions of people who have received Jesus because Southern Baptists sent a missionary to share Him with them. God is still at work in unprecedented ways through Southern Baptist missionaries and their coworkers. Three of 13 church-planting indicators — new churches, new outreach groups and new believers in discipleship training — jumped 40 percent in 2002. As many as 20,000 people are coming to faith in Christ each day in China. But our task is far from completed.
Southern Baptists always have risen to the occasion and now the situation is critical. God has been calling out record numbers of new missionaries from among our churches, more than 1,000 each of the past two years, to a total of 5,510 on the field. Our hearts ache for the world’s peoples to know Christ.
But now it’s time for our pocketbooks to ache a little as well. Churches continue to give more each year through the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, but increases in giving have not kept pace with the increase in appointed missionaries.
From 2000 to 2002 the missionary count grew 8.7 percent but income from CP and LMCO increased just 1.5 percent. On average, Southern Baptists give a little more than $8 per person to the Lottie Moon offering.
The IMB has had to delay sending new workers and reduce staff in order to stay within the support being provided by the churches, but IMB leaders are determined to stay focused on the mission of making Jesus Christ known among all the peoples of the world and make the best, most strategic use of limited resources.
The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering plays a critical role in supporting the work of Southern Baptist missionaries, providing about half of the IBM’s total budget; every penny received through the offering goes to support missionaries and their ministries. IMB President Jerry Rankin has challenged each church to increase its goal this year by 33 percent to signify the kind of sacrifice needed to reach our lost world for Christ.
Ask God how He wants to use you to reach the people of the world with the Gospel. It’s a great way to fill the time while you’re waiting for your popcorn.
James T. Draper Jr. is president of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.