The final total for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions for 2016 has been released by the IMB: $152,982,560.94. Round it up to $153 million and the 2017 total is a staggering $12.8 million lower than last year’s record $165.8 million. Read BP on it here.
This is no surprise to the Executive Committee whose monthly reports have given indications of a large drop, nor to the IMB which has been operating on a budget projection of $153.5 million, nor to observers like me who have been watching monthly figures. I notice that no report on the offering actually gives the dollar figure of the drop. Perhaps our loyal, SBC and IMB loving writers cannot train their fingers to juxtapose the numbers 165.8 and 153 on the screen.
But let’s be positive here:
- $153 million is a staggering sum for international missions. Thank God for the generosity of Southern Baptists who gave, virtually every SBC church in every state.
- IMB has things well in hand and no longer budgets to spend as if the goal will be met. The institutional memory of the mammoth deficits of the recent past will remain with IMB trustees and leadership for a long time.
- The amount of the decrease is about the same as the entire budget for Gateway Seminary. The amount of the offering is almost equal to the total budgets of all of our six seminaries.
It might be good to consider:
- As with almost every other metric in Southern Baptist life, revenues are flat and in some areas declining.
- Southern Baptists have the ability to respond as they did last year with the record $165.3 million offering. Most pastors would tell their church, “If we can do it once we can do it again, and again. So, let’s do it.” Same for LMCO.
- While a one-time crisis-based surge is good, it would be better if we had a permanent surge of IMB support. There are no less lost people in the world.
Thinking ahead in regard to international missions:
- The model of the 20th century of fully-supported personnel is going to be supplemented by a variety of alternatives in response to financial and other factors.
- I don’t know anyone who has the ability to see where this will be a decade or so in the future.
- Southern Baptists will continue to invest heavily in the LMCO.
- It sounds rather retro but it would be helpful if churches gave greater prominence to the WMU and the Southern Baptist mission education programs rather than the panoply of ad hoc alternatives many of which push their overseas work.
At any rate, let’s not sniff at $153 million but rather thank God for how much we have to invest in His work.