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FIRST-PERSON: Is anyone concerned?

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Recently the Southern Baptist International Mission Board was forced to limit the number of candidates they could approve because of financial concerns. Next we were told that the Lottie Moon Christmas offering would fall well short of its goal.

These two announcements, back to back, should have caused a passionate response from Southern Baptists. My biggest concern, though, is that no one seemed to be too concerned about it. Where was the passionate appeal to come to the aid of those who serve us on the front lines pushing back the veil of darkness? It has always been the passionate mission zeal of Southern Baptists that has caused us to rise to the occasion. A few years ago there was a projected shortfall of the Lottie Moon international missions offering and IMB President Jerry Rankin made a strong appeal on behalf of our missionaries — and we responded.

Have we allowed the current financial downturn to cause such personal anxiety that we have lost our perspective on money? Five times in the context following the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6, Jesus deals with anxiety. On three occasions the instructions are in the imperative, meaning they are a command. He deals with issues such as clothes and food — the everyday stuff of life. He then reminds them that what differentiates between the believer and the non-believer is the understanding that we have a Father who knows our needs. We can rely on Him to provide the necessities of life. After all, we just learned to pray for our daily bread.

How, then, do we overcome the anxiety that accompanies a financial recession? We seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.

Are we responding to the financial downturn like Kingdom citizens or like citizens of this world? Are we anxiously hording in fear or are we investing first in the kingdom, seizing the opportunity to demonstrate to the world the difference between those who know the King and those who don’t?

I believe that the current financial crisis may provide the greatest opportunity we have had in years to demonstrate what it means to be Kingdom persons. Ministry needs are greater than ever and people are looking for someone to step forward who has some answers. Your church can be a vital resource to your community, providing help when people are most needy.

In order for this to be a possibility, Kingdom people must respond with a Kingdom perspective. These are the days for believers to generously invest in Kingdom causes through their church. This will, in turn, allow churches to invest more generously to Kingdom causes through the Cooperative Program. Negativity has a domino effect. When individuals fail to exercise faith in giving, churches respond in the same manner and the end result is that those most dependent on our generosity — those at the ends of the earth — are most severely impacted.

Who will begin the Great Commission Resurgence? We don’t have to wait until a committee has been appointed and a re-organization of the denomination is debated. We can begin the Resurgence today by practicing good stewardship through the local church.

Let’s consider anew the challenge God gave to His people in Malachi. “‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows. Then I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of the ground; nor will your vine in the field cast its grapes,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘All the nations will call you blessed, for you shall be a delightful land,’ says the Lord of hosts” (Malachi 3:10-12).

God’s desire in opening the windows of heaven was inextricably bound to His concern for the nations of the earth. Could it be that our failure to trust God in the area of our finances is standing in the way of revival? You can begin a Great Commission Resurgence today by practicing generous biblical stewardship.
Kenneth S. Hemphill is the SBC’s national strategist for Empowering Kingdom Growth.

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  • Kenneth S. Hemphill