RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–The International Mission Board has recognized the 100 Southern Baptist churches that gave the largest gifts to the 2002 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions.
At the same time, IMB President Jerry Rankin is challenging all Southern Baptists to catch a vision for missions giving that matches the challenges and opportunities God is giving them.
For the first time, five of the top 10 congregations broke the $300,000 mark for the ingathering, which is named after the 19th-century missionary who gave her life taking the Gospel to the Chinese people.
Yet while the top 100 congregations gave more than $12.2 million to the 2002 collection, 89.4 percent of the $115 million total came from thousands of smaller Southern Baptist congregations.
“We are so grateful for the vision and generosity of Southern Baptist congregations when it comes to our world missions mandate,” said Billy Hoffman, IMB director of development. “Missions is what it means to be Southern Baptist.
“Whether a church has many members or just a few, missions giving through the Cooperative Program and the missions offerings makes it possible for them to be a vital part of the greatest missionary endeavor in history.
“We pray the missions vision of the churches will continue to grow, to catch up with the amazing things God is doing around the world and with the record number of church members coming forward for missionary service.”
Southern Baptist churches gave a record $115 million to the offering, an increase of $1.3 million (1.15 percent) over 2001 but almost $10 million short of the $125 million goal. To stay within the support provided by the churches, the IMB delayed 100 long-term missionaries and reduced the number of short-term workers this year by 30 percent.
The cumulative total for the 115-year-old offering stands at $2.3 billion. Every penny received goes to support missionaries and their ministries. The offering provides 50 percent of the International Mission Board’s annual budget.
TOP 10 CHURCHES
The top 10 churches in total-dollar contributions gave almost $2.9 million — 2.5 percent of the total and 16 percent more than last year. Champion Forest Baptist Church in Houston led the nation in that category with a collection of $358,527.
The four other congregations breaking the $300,000 mark were First Baptist Church in Jefferson City, Mo., $345,173; Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, N.C., $336,827; First Baptist Church in Rockwall, Texas, $324,668; and First Baptist Church in Jackson, Miss., $302,079.
Only one church, Calvary in Winston-Salem, passed that mark in 2001. That congregation’s $394,698 gift last year surpassed the next largest contribution by almost $111,000.
The other congregations ranking in the top 10 were: First Baptist Concord in Knoxville, Tenn., $261,987; Roswell Street Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., $252,462; Peachtree Corners Baptist Church in Norcross, Ga., $241,787; First Baptist Church in Fort Smith, Ark., $235,028; and First Baptist Church of Dallas, $220,525.
The top 50 churches in total dollar giving also distinguished themselves by surpassing the SBC per capita giving average of $7 per member.
Even though they are larger churches with memberships ranging from 1,700 to more than 13,000, all but one congregation registered a double-digit per capita gift. More than half of them gave more than $30 per member, and one church — 2,100-member First Baptist of Rockwall — came in at $153.58 per member.
Only the Winston-Salem, Rockwall, Jackson and Dallas congregations were among the top 10 in 2001.
STATE BY STATE
On a state-by-state basis, Southern Baptists in New York topped per capita giving to the offering with an average gift of $13.60. Mississippi, South Carolina and Hawaii registered per capita gifts of more than $10 per member.
New York Baptists also led the nation in percentage increase for the 2002 offering over the previous year. States recording double-digit percentage increases were: New York, 81.34; Ohio, 77.8; Hawaii, 33.89; Dakotas, 23.85; Michigan, 21.53; Minnesota-Wisconsin, 20.52; Missouri, 16.09; Colorado, 13.86; California, 13.35; Montana, 13.02; and Utah-Idaho, 12.98.
Thirteen states recorded decreases in their offerings, three with double-digit percentage losses: Pennsylvania/South Jersey, 10.01; Iowa, 14.95 percent; and New England, 24.31.
Texas led the states in total dollar giving, with a 2002 offering of $18.2 million, an increase of .22 percent over 2001. The other states ranking in the total-dollar top 10 were North Carolina, $11.7 million; Georgia, $10.1 million; Alabama, $9.4 million; Tennessee, $9.2 million; Mississippi, $7.6 million; South Carolina, $7.4 million; Virginia, $5.7 million; Florida, $5.6 million; and Arkansas, $4.3 million.
Almost $54.7 million — 47 percent of the offering total — was given by 2,108 of the Southern Baptist Convention’s 42,000 congregations.
Churches new to the top 100 ranking receive a plaque and a medallion in recognition; churches that repeat receive a 2002 medallion to add to the plaque they received earlier.
The goal for the 2003 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering is $133 million. However, IMB President Jerry Rankin has challenged churches to give $150 million, a 33 percent increase over 2002, as more appropriate to the overseas challenges and opportunities God has given Southern Baptists — and more in line with their ability to give.
Last year, Southern Baptist churches reported receiving a total of $9.4 billion for all causes. Less than 2.5 percent was channeled to world missions through the Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon offering.
About 2,000 churches gave more than $10,000 to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering in 2002. If 6,000 Southern Baptist congregations decided to break the $10,000 mark for the first time, it would “make history” for Southern Baptists, Rankin said.
“God has given us the privilege of living in an age when He is at work like never before,” Rankin said.
“Southern Baptists have opportunities to share the Gospel in places we would never have dreamed we would be able to go. People groups we thought were resistant to the Gospel are actually clamoring for us to come tell them about God’s love. He has given us the methods and the technology to take the Gospel to literally everyone in the world.
“One-fourth of the world’s people have practically no hope of hearing the Gospel unless we take radical action,” he added. “God is calling out new missionaries in record numbers to do just that.
“It is imperative that those of us who hold the ropes here at home be as completely committed to God in our praying and giving as these new missionaries are in their willingness to go. Southern Baptists have an opportunity to make history by giving ourselves sacrificially to every aspect of God’s mission to bring a lost world to Christ.”
Editor’s note: The top 100 statistics are based on calendar-year numbers, rather than September-October fiscal year reports or the IMB’s June-May accounting year for the offering.
— International Missions Emphasis 2003: http://ime.imb.org.
— Fast facts about the IMB: http://www.imb.org/core/fastfacts.asp.
— 2002 IMB annual statistical report: http://www.tconline.org/Stories/MayJune03/annualreport.htm.
The International Mission Board (www.imb.org) is a Southern Baptist Convention entity supported by the Cooperative Program (www.cpmissions.net) and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering (http://ime.imb.org).