HOUSTON (BP) – The coalescing factor behind a record missions gift by Houston’s First Baptist church is that it truly was an act of worship by the entire congregation, said Senior Pastor Gregg Matte.
The World Mission Offering – given in addition to regular tithes – is undertaken annually and primarily in support of the International Mission Board, North American Mission Board and Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. The 2021 goal of $1.4 million was not only met, Matte reported on Easter Sunday (April 4), but exceeded significantly with a cumulative gift of more than $2.4 million. On that day and those to follow, however, members gave an additional $220,000, bringing the total to $2,628,946.
Obviously, the total is important and how it helps efforts to share the Gospel around the world. But to church leaders, equally notable is that the gifts came from 2,820 individuals, couples and families – 433 of them first-time givers to the church.
“We felt if everyone got involved, the amount would take care of itself. I preached it, and we emphasized that we needed 100 percent commitment,” Matte said, adding that commitment included those worshipping in person as well as online.
The effort also became an opportunity to teach missions at home.
“We challenged kids to be involved and for parents to use this as a discipleship moment,” he said. “We heard amazing stories about children collecting coins for this offering.”
At one of the church’s campuses, Matte reported on Easter, children in the preschool ministry gave $1,061.62, “about $300 of it in pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters.” Included in that amount, Matte said, were bags of coins collected by two 3-year-old boys, their gifts each totaling $100.
With the amount given, the World Mission Offering will meet its goals of sending gifts of $1 million to the IMB, $300,000 to NAMB and $100,000 to the SBTC. For perspective, according to the IMB the global average needed to support a single missionary for a year is $60,000.
An additional $700,000 will support ministries such as those addressing human trafficking, Scripture translation and adoption, foster and orphan care.
Church leaders are currently praying over the remaining amount in excess of $500,000, Matte said. “We want to increase our denominational support and do some other things, help other ministries,” he said.
The World Mission Offering has been a part of the church’s history for more than 20 years, dating back to the leadership of legendary pastor John Bisagno. The goal for 2021 as well as the amounts designated toward the IMB, NAMB and SBTC had carried over from 2020, when Houston’s First gave $2,286,312. This reflects a trend in recent years, said Clark Reynolds, the church’s director of missions. However, 2021 now has the distinction of being the largest offering yet.
“We are so excited to be able to be part of what the Lord is doing by using this offering to bless others with the Gospel,” Reynolds said. “Our church has always been very generous, and as the missions pastor I am humbled at the way the Lord uses us as part of His plan.
“Houston’s First sees missions as discipleship – of those we are trying to reach with the Gospel as well as of our members. Giving to the World Mission Offering is a great example of the transformation that happens in both the giver and the receiver.”
In recent years members would bring their offerings forward over a three-month span. However, in 2021 those gifts were to be presented on a singular day – Feb. 28. Due to the winter storm that crippled Texas that month, the day was moved to March 28 – Palm Sunday. On that day attendees walked forward with an envelope that either contained their financial gift or had a checked box indicating they had given online. Others still attending digitally also gave their contribution.
Matte said he was shocked by total amount.
“I couldn’t believe it when I heard it. Praise God! I was hoping we’d exceed the goal, of course, but that amount is incredible,” he said.
The “who” of the offering is just as important, if not more so, than the “what” he noted.
“We’re really celebrating those 433 first-time givers,” he said. “It’s about people, not dollars. Those dollars are going to change people’s lives. It shows that the vision of our people extends past the United States. COVID-19 isn’t the only thing going on in the world. We’re taking steps to go further [for the Gospel].”