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Southern Baptist churches continue strong giving to Lottie Moon

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–When the offerings at First Baptist Church in Rockwall, Texas, began to drop following Hurricane Katrina and gas prices soared, the church’s pastor wondered if this year’s missions giving would suffer.

During a year where the fallout from natural disasters was continually in the headlines, Southern Baptists are resisting “donor fatigue” and responding with an outpouring of resources and manpower. So far, churches such as First Baptist are continuing to show their passion for supporting missionaries around the globe.

During their world mission emphasis, First Baptist raised $580,320.19 for international, national, state and local efforts. More than $400,000 of that figure will go to this year’s Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, which supports more than 5,000 overseas missionaries. The level of giving of the church’s members catapulted the congregation over their Lottie Moon goal this year of $320,000.

“I was completely blown away by [the offering],” pastor Steve Swofford said. “I thought, ‘This is not a good year to give a big goal.’ If we would have gone one dollar over the goal, I would have been excited.”

First Baptist of Rockwall is not alone in their successful offering.

First Baptist Church in Panama City, Fla., also surpassed their Lottie Moon Christmas Offering goal of $56,250 by raising more than $58,000 in the opening days of this year’s offering, in spite of a long year of dealing with hurricanes and disaster relief projects.

Following Hurricane Katrina, the Panama City church adopted Bay Vista Baptist Church in Biloxi, Miss., a congregation whose building was damaged in the storm. The Panama City church currently is paying the salaries of three of the Mississippi church’s staff members.

But pastor Craig Conner of the Panama City church, who has led the congregation for eight years, said he was not surprised by the response to this year’s Lottie Moon offering.

“We’re still hoping to raise more,” Conner said of his church’s giving to the offering. “When we give and the motivation is right, it’s amazing what God can do.”

With only about 13 members, most of whom are retirees, Tidwell Baptist Church in Greenville, Texas, also is looking to impact the overseas mission offering.

When the church began taking the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, Tidwell church members set a high per capita goal for this year’s offering with $769. The church’s overall goal is $10,000, which pastor Randall Rather said is the largest goal the congregation has ever set.

Rather said each year the congregation gives 26 percent of its undesignated church budget to mission efforts. Earlier this year, the church also gave $1,000 to Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.

“You challenge so that people rise up to God’s level, not just their level of comfort,” said Rather, who decided to triple his own gifts to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.

“I want [the congregation] to think, hear and seriously consider giving beyond what they have,” he said. “It’s not about seeing [a church] as too small to work but seeing God’s hands as so big they can work anywhere.”

This year’s national Lottie Moon Christmas Offering goal is $150 million.
For more information about the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, or to register your church’s goal for the 2005 offering and see what other churches plan to give, go online at ime.imb.org or go to ime.imb.org/goal

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  • Shawn Hendricks