It was about a year ago that us Southern Baptists learned a somber truth: our International Mission Board had been deficit spending for several years and selling property to try to make ends meet to support the almost 5000 foreign missionaries on the field. This was not sustainable and to break even the IMB would need to find a way to bring hundreds of missionaries back home.
The shock rippled throughout our churches and challenges were issued. If we did not find a way to increase support to our missions organizations then we were going to lose many seasoned frontline troops in the war to push back spiritual darkness. Here, as one small voice among many, I published an article called About Those Red Cups. I wrote it during a time that a few loud people were making a big deal about Starbucks using plain red cups at Christmas time, as if such were a great offense to the gospel (it’s not).
In my article, I said that if 8 million Southern Baptists would commit to give just an additional $5 each (or about the price of a cup of coffee or two in a fancy red cup) to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, then we could instantly increase the IMB’s funds by $40 million, covering and surpassing the projected $25 million shortfall.
Many others urged similar things. In 2015, Lottie Moon brought in a record high $165.8 million, surpassing the old record by almost $10 million dollars. That is a thing to be praised, but it can only begin to lay the foundation for the future. The year was already too far gone. About 1000 of our missionaries had to come home. And if our uptick in giving was only for a year then it still leaves a precarious road ahead for our foreign mission teams.
As Southern Baptists we claim to be all about the gospel and missions. We need to put feet and dollars to our words.
As followers of Jesus we are each tasked to be disciple-making disciples where we live, work, and play. God has placed each of us in the here and now to make his glory known through the message of Jesus. For most of us, our personal mission field will rarely extend beyond our communities.
But then there are those who he leads to uproot from their homes and go to different cities, states, and countries to take his gospel and make disciples. It is the responsibility of those of us who stay behind to do all we can to support through prayer and giving those who go to the far reaches of the globe.
Paul lauded the Philippians church for their partnership with him in the gospel. Amazingly, he was able to say, “You have given me enough. I am well provided for; you don’t have to keep sending me money for this trip” (Philippians 4:10-20). What a glorious thing that would be if we could have missionaries taking the gospel to every unreached people group throughout our world and the word come back to us, “Thank you for your gift! We are well supplied.” This can only happen if missions giving is in our blood.
We can talk the talk all we want, but do we live “worthy of the gospel” (Philippians 1:27), which would include supporting those who spread the gospel far and wide? Are we willing to make sacrifices as individuals, families, and churches to see more and more people come to know Jesus?
Of course, the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering are just two of many ways we can support foreign missions work, but they are the two ways, along with the North American Mission Board, we have banded together as Southern Baptists for years to support the spread of the gospel throughout the world.
At the moment, we have a little more than five months before we celebrate Christmas. The 2016 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering campaign will be here before we know it. So I want to issue to you a challenge to give more to missions in three ways: First, as an individual commit to give an additional $5 to the LMCO this year. This is the same “red cup” challenge from last year. Forgo a cup of coffee or two. Forgo a soda or two. If you were planning on giving $0 to Lottie Moon, then give $5. If you were planning on giving $5, then make it $10; $100 then $105; $1000 then $1005. The math still works: 6 to 8 million Southern Baptists each giving an additional $5 adds up to $30-$40 million additional dollars for the IMB.
Second, as a family eat at home one night that you planned on eating out and give that as an additional offering to the LMCO this year. If you go to Pizza Hut and buy two large pizzas, it will run you at least $20-$30, not even counting the drinks. If you go to WalMart for a loaf of bread, jar of peanut butter, and bag of apples, you can feed the same number of people for under $10. I like eating out just as much as the next guy. I’m not asking you to change your lifestyle here (unless you feel convicted about that), but to change just one meal. Take that $10+ you save and give it as a little extra gift to Lottie Moon.
Third, as a church commit to give an extra 1% to the Cooperative Program. The 1% Challenge has been around for a while. When it was first issued, we raised our CP giving and associational giving by 1% each. Many churches have done that; some churches have given more. If that’s your church, then great. If not, then commit as a church to examine your finances and give an extra 1% as able.
Each of these challenges are small sacrifices in and of themselves, but thousands of churches and millions of people together making small sacrifices add up to large gains. That is why we cooperate as a convention of churches—we can do more together than we can do apart. However you choose to respond, let us band together and show that missions and the gospel is what we are about in both our going and giving, and let our record numbers of 2015 be eclipsed in 2016 and beyond.