GREENSBORO, N.C. (BP)–Hot eggs, bacon, biscuits and grits greeted dozens of Southern Baptist messengers June 14 in Greensboro, N.C., at the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering Celebration Breakfast.
Hosted by the International Mission Board, the breakfast is a way to thank churches for their faithful support of the Lottie Moon offering, every penny of which is used to support more than 5,000 IMB missionaries. Though 2005’s offering set a record, IMB President Jerry Rankin opened the event with a solemn reminder.
“Four years ago we found ourselves in a crisis with a severe shortfall in giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering,” Rankin said. “For the first time since the Depression years of the ’30s we actually had to defer the appointment of missionaries.
“As we sought the Lord, we were convicted of three things: that God did not want us to trust in our own resources and the affluence of Southern Baptists but [to] walk by faith … He also taught us that we needed to be better stewards of the resources that we did have … He also convicted us that if this crisis could be used to awaken churches to the priority of giving to missions … it would be worth it to go through a year or two of austerity.
“For the last three years we have seen a sustained level of giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering that is absolutely phenomenal, reaching a new record this year of $137,939,677,” Rankin continued. “We just want to thank you.”
The $137.9 million marks a 3.03 percent increase over 2004’s $133.9 million Lottie Moon offering and a 1.28 percent gain over the old record set in 2003 –- $136.2 million.
Rankin asked Bryant Wright to pray before the breakfast, noting that the church where he is pastor, Johnson Ferry Baptist in Marietta, Ga., gave more than $659,000 to the offering, earning it the No. 1 spot on the list of 2005’s top giving churches.
“I want to thank you, Lord, that you give us the privilege of giving,” Wright prayed, “and thank you for what it’s meant for the life of Johnson Ferry –- the giving, going, praying and partnerships in missions that we’ve experienced.”
During the breakfast Rankin recognized Kanoot Midkiff, minister of missions and senior adults at Mount Vernon Baptist Church in Boone, N.C. Midkiff’s church earned the honor of the highest Lottie Moon giving per capita: $243.73 for each of Mount Vernon’s 827 members, a grand total of more than $201,000.
Midkiff credits volunteer mission trips, personal relationships with overseas missionaries and the IMB’s multimedia resource materials for helping make Mount Vernon’s Lottie Moon offering so successful. He said “Eloise” -– an IMB staff member who stars in “The Task” video series for youth -– is especially popular.
“Working with senior adults, to see somebody from every generation on mission, not just from birth but all the way to the grave, leaving a legacy of faith –- this is the way our folks witness somebody who’s investing her life … Our youth really enjoy her, our senior adults tolerate her, and our pastor just loves her,” Midkiff said.
BEYOND REASONABLE MEANS
Rankin also praised the thousands of smaller churches in the Southern Baptist Convention who gave sacrificially.
“Of course we’re always thrilled to get reports of phenomenally large gifts, often from the largest churches of our convention,” he said. “But I can assure you that what thrills our heart most are the testimonies from many of the smaller churches that give far beyond their reasonable means.”
Gustavo Vasquez, pastor of Iglesia Bautista El Calvario in Seymour, Ind., joined Rankin on stage to talk about how his 47-member congregation managed to give more than $10,000 to the Lottie Moon offering last year.
Vasquez explained that he had asked his church what their Lottie Moon goal should be. Someone shouted $500, Vasquez said, and then $1,000. More shouts came, and suddenly the goal had hit $6,000.
“That was a scary thing … because the year before it was $1,500,” Vasquez said. “But then we said, ‘Let’s not set a goal; let’s let God set a goal in our hearts.’ We prayed about it, and we let the Holy Spirit tell us how much God wanted us to give.”
One woman in the congregation gave up two weeks of paychecks; another man took a second job so he could contribute his offering. But Vasquez said the Lord honored Iglesia Bautista’s sacrifice, returning to some members more than three times what they gave.
“Our motivation is God Himself –- He has passion for the lost souls, and He has placed in our heart the same passion for the unreached people,” Vasquez said.
After thanking church messengers for their support, Rankin reminded the crowd that the Lottie Moon offering is about much more than money –- or awards.
“I want us to recognize the LMCO is not just to meet the needs of missionary support in our overseas budget,” Rankin said. “It’s not a matter of taking pride in the amount we’ve given collectively or meeting or exceeding our church goals. It’s recognition that God has called us as His people and blessed us to be a blessing to the nations.
“I pray that your giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering was not just a one-time raising of funds for international missions, but that your church has been exemplary in giving because your church has given itself to the Lord and to His will to serve Him in reaching our nations.
“We’re grateful for your partnership with us, not only for your generosity in giving, but for your heart for the nations and your support of the International Mission Board.”
To learn more about the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, visit www.ime.imb.org or call 1-800-999-3113.