During the 2002 International Missions Emphasis, Dec. 1-8, Southern Baptists will focus on God's passion for every people group to know Him. This year's theme, That All Peoples May Know Him: Seek God's Passion, emphasizes God's people understanding His heart for the lost nations.
The goal for this year's Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions is $125 million – every penny of which will go to support missionaries and their ministries. The International Mission Board draws 35 percent of its income from the Cooperative Program, Southern Baptists' unified budget. The Lottie Moon offering provides 49 percent.
Getting the good news of God's love to each of China's 1.3 billion people is a mind-boggling challenge, but reports indicate God is working in amazing ways throughout the world's most populous country.
Southern Baptists must not miss the opportunity to get involved, say five leaders who participated in a mid-October "vision trip" in China sponsored by the International Mission Board.
Walking along the Great Wall — a 2,300-year-old marvel that stretches 1,500 miles across northern China — reminded the visitors that the task of reaching China with the gospel is enormous.
"As I stand here on the Great Wall, I am overwhelmed by the magnitude of the task in China," said Morris Chapman, president of the Southern Baptist Executive Committee.
"But I am excited to learn that 80 million people in China know Christ as personal Savior," he added. "They are worshiping the Lord, studying His Word, growing in His grace, beginning to send out missionaries. What an exciting thought!"
The vision trip team toured historic sites, prayerwalked a Taoist temple, listened to the testimonies of new Christians, and met students in a school for some of China's 450 minority ethnic groups.
"This is a 'kairos' moment for China, a marvelous opportunity," said Phil Roberts, president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo. "The years of hardship the Chinese people have endured have worked to make them open to spiritual things. We need to seize the moment and understand that here is an open door that we need to walk through as soon as possible."
The scope of China's need for the gospel is staggering, said Dorothy Patterson, first lady at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.
"All you have to do is set foot in a place like this to know that we have a task before us that's overwhelming," she said. "There are so many people, if they could just hear the name of Jesus. If they could just know that there is a God who loves them."
Most Southern Baptists can't imagine the lostness of China's masses, said Paula Hemphill, first lady at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.
"The thing that amazes me is that we are really almost unconscious of the darkness and blackness of this world," she said. "When you drive through the streets of this city and you see millions, literally millions of people who have not had the chance to respond to the good news of Jesus Christ, and His grace and mercy, it breaks your heart."
Prayerwalking in a Taoist temple — moving slowly through the smoke from hundreds of burning incense sticks — made team members more keenly aware of dark powers that keep people in spiritual darkness.
"As I walked into this Taoist temple, there was an overwhelming sense of oppression," Chapman said. "As we prayerwalked in the temple garden, I was overwhelmed with the vast need in the world and particularly here in China.
"I think God is saying to us that China is the place that must be reached before Christ comes again. While we need a witness all over the world, there seems to be an urgency about China."
Understanding God's passion for a lost world must drive Southern Baptists to prayer and sacrifice, said Susie Hawkins, first lady at the Southern Baptist Annuity Board in Dallas, Texas.
"We must never underestimate the power of prayer," she said. "It's just crucial to the Kingdom of God.
"We've got to become people of prayer who are willing to sacrifice time and energy and understand God's ways and how He builds His Kingdom. We've got to pull away from the affluence and all that we have and look at how the rest of the world lives.
"It is such a great blessing to be able to see. It breaks your heart, but it reminds you of the great privilege it is to know the Lord and be His child."
God's Heart for China
This year's International Missions Emphasis (http://ime.imb.org), focusing on the challenge of reaching Chinese people with the gospel, gives Southern Baptists a new opportunity to hear God's heart for China, Chapman said.
Traveling in China has been a time of reflection for me," he said. "I have thought how this nation and many others so desperately need the gospel. And yet I don't know that there is any country more open to the gospel today than China.
"This summer we cast a vision to Southern Baptists called Empowering Kingdom Growth," he continued. "We are praying that every Southern Baptist would ask, 'Am I a Kingdom person? If not, how can I be? If so, how shall I live?
"I believe that if we will begin to think in terms of what we do for the Kingdom — not for ourselves, our church, our work, our family, our own ambitions, the material things of the world, but for the Kingdom of God — I believe we will see God do something we have never seen in our lifetimes. I think it will be inexplicable to the world what God would do."
Give Like God Gives
Southern Baptists planning what they will give to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions must plan with the needs of the world in mind, Patterson said.
"When we come to Christmas and we're making gifts to everyone you can imagine, God forbid that we would forget to make our most substantial, sacrificial gift to the Lord Christ Himself," she said. "And what better way to do that than to invest it in spreading the gospel around the world."
All-out missions giving — as well as praying and going — is critical, Hemphill said.
"It's almost like we are on a sprint to the end," she said. "Everything is accelerated and we don't know how long the doors will be open. We should challenge each other to give beyond our wildest imaginations, because that's the way God gives to us."
The missions challenge facing Southern Baptists is far greater than their human ability, Chapman said.
"As never before, we must depend on the power of God. We must pray that God's spirit would move mightily among Southern Baptists; that He might be able to use us as a living testimony of a living Christ, who not only died on the cross but arose from the grave."
IMB Fast Facts
Field Personnel under appointment: 5,364
Field Personnel appointed 2001: 1,155
2-year ISC/Journeymen/Masters: 768
Volunteers 2001: 33,963
Overseas baptisms 2001: 395,773
Overseas churches 2001: 61,569
Overseas church membership 2001: 5.8 million
New churches started 2001: 5,775
People groups engaged 2002: 1,497
People groups of the Last Frontier: 2,161
Population of the Last Frontier: 1.70 billion
World population 2001: 6.1 billion
LMCO receipts Christmas 2001: $113 million
LMCO goal for Christmas 2002: $125 million
IMB budget for 2002: $263 million
World Hunger/Disaster Relief: $6.6 million