On Sept. 15, 1887, a diminutive woman named Lottie Moon sat down at a table in China and penned a letter that would transform the Southern Baptist Convention forever. Lottie called for prayer and financial resources to ensure the Gospel would be effectively preached. She linked both to the example found in Christmas. She wrote:
“Need it be said, why the week before Christmas is chosen? Is not the festive season when families and friends exchange gifts in memory of The Gift laid on the altar of the world for the redemption of the human race, the most appropriate time to consecrate a portion from abounding riches and scant poverty to send forth the good tidings of great joy into all the earth?”
Her call for prayer and financial resources is as relevant today as it was nearly 130 years ago. Fortunately, Southern Baptists were wise to follow her lead and eventually formalize two significant giving opportunities to accomplish her goal of Gospel proclamation: The Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.
The Cooperative Program is how Southern Baptists decided 90 years ago that we as a network of churches could most consistently and effective give financially to ensure the advancement of the Gospel within our states, across our nation and around the globe. I’ve often wondered if our forefathers could have ever imagined the impact that single decision would make in Southern Baptists staying the course as a Great Commission people.
The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions (LMCO) goes beyond Cooperative Program support for our missionaries and is also a lifeline for funding and sustaining missions overseas. Our 4,600 overseas personnel depend on LMCO for ministry support that includes vehicles, housing, equipment and ministry budget among other needs. This offering means everything to them financially. As a result of generous giving by Southern Baptists, our missionaries can spend their time preaching the Gospel rather than raising support.
There are some who believe we must rob one of these giving opportunities to pay the other; that if we give more or less to the Cooperative Program then it is either to the benefit or detriment of the LMCO. That simply is not the case. In fact, I’ve found the opposite to be true; that the more we give to one we more we give to the other. “Why is that?” you ask. I’ve not done a formal analysis of it, but I can offer an informed opinion after nearly four decades in ministry. Here are a few thoughts on how both can increase simultaneously.
Increased giving comes from a correct biblical worldview. The Bible is distinctively clear: Jesus’ expectation of us is that we will go into all the world and reach the nations with the Gospel. If that truly is our passion as well as our mandate, we will do whatever it takes, and that includes joyfully giving. A correct biblical worldview reorders how we spend our money. We’ll see missions as an eternal investment rather than a budget line item.
Increased giving comes because missions is a priority of the pastor. In virtually every case, the church whose pastor leads it into the community and around that globe sees an increase in generous giving and a desire to see souls saved. I’ve for years seen pastors protect their budgets and worry missions will bleed off valuable resources. This is a lie I’m convinced Satan has perpetrated on pastoral ministry because it is the antithesis of what the Bible calls us to as shepherds of our local flocks. Pastor, lead your people into the harvest fields at home and around the world and watch how the Holy Spirit will set hearts afire for that advance of the Gospel.
Increased giving comes because pastors preach and teach biblical stewardship. Yes, I know money is a sensitive subject but it is like any other doctrine we teach from the pulpit. Pastors, if we don’t teach what the Bible says about financial stewardship, then the majority of our people will never learn biblical stewardship from any other source. Make it a priority, teach so they’ll grow to maturity, challenge them in light of the Great Commission, teach giving on a regular basis above tithes and offerings (yes, that’s biblical too) and set big goals to accomplish over a period of time.
Increased giving comes as a matter of prayer. This is actually where a pastor should begin and then lead his church to pray for its giving. The world is a never-ending source of need. There is no way even cooperatively we can alleviate all that is spiritually and physically wrong with nearly eight billion people. However, the Holy Spirit has mightily used both the Cooperative Program and the LMCO to advance the Kingdom of God. But even within these two giving opportunities the place to start is with people. Ask, how can God use you, your resources, your church and your church’s resources to impact the lives of specific people in your community, nation and the world. See the people. Don’t pray for the masses; pray for individuals. See them, go meet them, know the challenges they face in life…then pray. I honestly believe you’ll see a marked change in your generosity.
This holiday season, Lottie’s call for international missions is as relevant today as it was 130 years ago. This truly is “the most appropriate time to consecrate a portion from abounding riches and scant poverty to send forth the good tidings of great joy into all the earth”