RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–It’s a new record that’s reaffirming an old commitment. $137,939,677.59 — that’s what Southern Baptists gave to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions in 2005, making it the single most successful year in the offering’s history.
The $137.9 million marks a 3.03 percent increase over 2004’s $133.9 million Lottie Moon offering, not to mention a 1.28 percent gain over the old record set in 2003 -– $136.2 million. More than 5,100 International Mission Board missionaries depend on the annual offering, of which every penny is used to support their work sharing the Gospel around the world.
“This historic level of giving will enable us to send an increasing number of God-called missionary candidates moving toward appointment,” IMB President Jerry Rankin said. “It will enable us to push forward in fulfilling the vision of bringing all peoples to saving faith in Jesus Christ. At a time of economic uncertainty, and a year in which massive amounts of funding have been directed toward hurricane relief and recovery, it is gratifying to see God prove His faithfulness through Southern Baptists.”
Clyde Meador, IMB executive vice president, echoed Rankin’s sentiments and acknowledged the critical role of the Woman’s Missionary Union in the offering’s success.
“The IMB wouldn’t be able to do any of this without the faithful support of our state and national Woman’s Missionary Union partners,” Meador said. “Long ago, WMU laid the foundation for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering because they understood the eternal significance of sharing Christ with a lost world.
“Today, they remain committed to international missions as they promote the Lottie Moon offering on a grassroots level to more than 42,000 Southern Baptist churches.”
“We are grateful that Southern Baptists continue to give sacrificially to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering as evidenced in the record offering totals for 2005,” said Wanda Lee, executive director/treasurer of national WMU. “In partnership with state WMU offices, WMU leaders in churches and the International Mission Board, it is a joy to see our churches embrace the Great Commission.”
Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., took the No. 1 spot on the list of 2005’s top 100 giving churches, adding $656,951.44 to the Lottie Moon offering. Among the top 100 churches, Mount Vernon Baptist Church in Boone, N.C., gave the most per capita. With 827 members, the church contributed an average of $243.74 per member, totaling more than $201,000 –- a record high of its own.
Allan Blume, Mount Vernon senior pastor, said he isn’t surprised by his congregation’s missions-motivated giving. The church has sent more than a dozen missionaries overseas through the IMB during the past decade, in addition to taking part in numerous short-term, volunteer mission trips.
“This is really not out of the ordinary,” Blume said. “Without a doubt I would say there is more than a heart for missions among the people of Mount Vernon –- there is a passion for missions. And that passion is driven by the biblical values of the Great Commission and the urgency of sharing Christ with people of every tongue, tribe and nation.”
Billy Hoffman, IMB director of development, said giving is a fundamental way for churches to encourage their congregations’ active involvement in missions.
“We must never forget the vital role we all have in sending missionaries to unreached people,” Hoffman said. “Every level of giving through Southern Baptist churches to send short-term and career personnel represents a ‘mutual fund’ investment in God’s kingdom enterprise that will surely yield eternal benefits.”
While $137.9 million is an impressive figure, Rankin believes the numbers that matter most reflect changed lives. It’s important to remember that Lottie Moon isn’t about money, he said, but about world’s 3.7 billion least-reached people.
“Southern Baptists are impacting the world in tremendous ways,” Rankin said. “In 2005, your giving has resulted in 137 newly engaged people groups. You have directly supported thousands of missionaries as they and our overseas partners baptized more than 459,000 new believers and started some 17,000 new churches.
“What a privilege it has been to serve you and your church as we take the good news of Jesus Christ to peoples who have never had access to the Gospel. God has truly blessed our joint efforts.”
The record-breaking offering put to rest reports in the secular press over so-called “donor fatigue,” which many feared would limit Lottie Moon funding. In fact, the opposite has proven to be true for Southern Baptists, said David Steverson, the IMB’s vice president of finance.
“Just six short months ago, almost every major newspaper was running articles about how Americans were experiencing a new phenomena they were referring to as ‘donor fatigue,’” Steverson said. “People had given to tsunami relief, Hurricane Katrina and Rita relief, and earthquake relief. Southern Baptists led the charge in supporting all of these causes in a tremendous way.
“Now, unlike many other organizations, Southern Baptists have shown with this record Lottie Moon Christmas Offering where their hearts and their checkbooks really are –- in missions! They are being on mission with God to see that all the peoples of the world have an opportunity to hear about Jesus Christ. We are grateful to God for Southern Baptists and their generous spirit in supporting missions around the world.”
Donor fatigue wasn’t the only concern for the Lottie Moon offering in 2005. Rankin noted Southern Baptists also had to look past a series of distractions.
“A great deal of attention has been focused on the IMB over the last year -– controversial policies and dissension within the board of trustees –- but Southern Baptists have looked beyond these issues to realize we are about sending and supporting missionaries to reach a lost world,” Rankin said. “Nothing reflects the heart of Southern Baptist churches for our mission task as giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.”
The significance of the new Lottie Moon landmark gift is put into perspective when compared to the offering’s humble past. The first Lottie Moon Christmas Offering was taken in 1888 and collected $3,315.26 –- enough to send three Baptist missionaries to China. By today’s standards, however, that amount is only enough to support a missionary for one month. To date, $2.6 billion has been given over the offering’s 117-year history.
As for its future, Rankin believes the record offering in 2005 is evidence of genuine progress toward completing the Great Commission, though much work remains to be done.
“Our goal last year was $150 million and it’s going to be again in 2006,” Rankin said. “But that’s not some magic number –- it’s simply a measure of our momentum. Yes, meeting the $150 million mark will allow us to move more candidates through the appointment process and take the Gospel to new unreached people groups. But in reality, it’s going to take a lot more to reach every corner of this lost world for Christ. To do that, the Lord must teach us the true meaning of sacrifice.
“Thank you for your faithful giving. Truly it will touch many lives as we strive to accomplish the goal of all peoples knowing Him, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
To learn more about the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, visit ime.imb.org or call (800) 999-3113.