RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–If initial projections hold, Southern Baptist giving to the 2003 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering will be up between 18 percent and 22 percent over 2002, International Mission Board President Jerry Rankin announced March 10.
Surpassing the $133 million goal — or reaching the $150 million challenge goal — would mean loosening restrictions on missionary appointments that were imposed in 2003, Rankin said.
The record $115 million Southern Baptists gave to the offering in 2002 was an increase of 1.15 percent over 2001 but $10 million short of the goal.
“We are overwhelmed and praise God for the outpouring of support from our churches in their giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering,” Rankin said. “We are grateful for the special promotion Woman’s Missionary Union has given in encouraging churches to give generously.
“If the pattern of receipts continues through the next three months at this increased level, we should be able to relax some of our appointment restrictions and move waiting candidates to the field.”
‘STORIES OF SACRIFICE’
IMB staff and missionaries have been blessed by testimonies of how God stirred both large and small churches to new levels of sacrificial giving when they heard missionaries were being kept from the field for lack of finances, Rankin said.
“Gifts from some of the larger churches have been unprecedented, but it has been an almost daily emotional experience to hear from smaller churches that have multiplied their giving two, four or even six times,” he said. “There have been stories of personal sacrifice and multiple waves of giving again and again as God moves in the hearts of His people.”
— Maple Avenue Baptist Church in Smackover, Ark., a congregation of fewer than 100 in attendance, surpassed their $3,000 goal by 29 percent, taking in more than $3,872.
— Covenant Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., beat their $6,500 goal by 63 percent with a total offering of more than $10,600.
— Old Fort Baptist Church in Summerville, S.C., had failed to reach an $8,500 goal in 2002 but sensed God wanted them to set a $20,000 goal for the 2003 offering — and members gave more than $30,000.
— Richland Baptist Church in Richland, Wash., more than doubled their $16,000 goal with an offering of $36,543.
— Southcrest Baptist Church in Lubbock, Texas, set a challenging goal of $15,000 and members were excited to discover they gave more than $57,000.
— Edgewood Baptist Church in Columbus, Ga., had given $32,000 in 2001 — its largest offering ever — but decided to raise its sights toward a goal of $44,000 — and rejoiced when members gave more than $152,000.
— Members at Calvary Baptist Church in Idaho Falls, Idaho, decided to aim for an amount equal to a missionary’s annual salary. An anonymous donor offered to match every dollar given with six more, and their offering passed the $36,000 mark. One sixth-grader emptied her piggy bank of $35 when she heard that every dollar she gave would turn into seven.
— Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, N.C., became the first congregation in the Southern Baptist Convention to reach a $500,000 goal. Pastor Al Gilbert challenged the church, a perennial leader in total-dollar giving, to increase its offering by more than 39 percent over 2002.
— First Baptist Church in Dallas became the first congregation to give more than $1 million to the Lottie Moon offering after giving $220,525 in 2002. Pastor Mac Brunson said God is moving in the hearts of young people in church: In the past year, more than 100 said they believed God was dealing with them about some type of Christian service.
BROKEN HEARTS KEEP CARING
A one-time outpouring of response will not suffice, however, when God is continuing to call more and more new missionaries for overseas service, Rankin said.
“As grateful as we are for these gifts to the Lottie Moon offering, it will be important for churches to sustain this increased level of giving to next year’s LMCO, as well as to the Cooperative Program,” Rankin said. “Once we send missionaries to the field, it is imperative that we sustain their support.”
Southern Baptist hearts that are broken over a lost world also should be broken over America, Rankin said.
“I also would encourage churches to give just as sacrificially to the Annie Armstrong Offering at this Easter season,” he said. “The North American Mission Board also has had to defer sending missionary personnel in a crucial hour. Southern Baptists must seize the opportunity to impact our nation and Canada with the Gospel.”
‘WE WILL BE FOUND FAITHFUL’
With God moving in unprecedented ways all over the world, Southern Baptists will be found faithful to their missions mandate, Rankin said.
“Last year, baptisms overseas exceeded 500,000 for the first time. Our missionaries were able to engage 192 new people groups,” he said. “Global events are creating a spiritual hunger, traditional barriers are falling, and the harvest is accelerating. That’s why God is calling out more and more missionary personnel.
“Southern Baptists have been blessed richly in numbers and resources, and I believe we will give an account to God for how we respond to the responsibility and opportunity to fulfill the Great Commission of our Lord,” he added. “It looks like this year’s Lottie Moon Christmas Offering will reflect the priority Southern Baptists give to missions.
“I believe we will be found faithful in doing whatever it takes to reach a lost world.”
— See the latest results of the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering: http://www.imb.org/core/lmco03results.asp.
— Lottie Moon gifts accepted through May 31:
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: FOR THEIR SAKE.