Lottie Moon Goal $170 million: Focus on South America
HOUSTON (BP)-This year’s Week of Prayer for International Missions, Nov. 30-Dec. 7, focuses on missionaries who serve in South America as well as churches partnering with them, exemplifying the global outreach supported by Southern Baptists’ gifts to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. This year’s theme is “GO TELL the story of Jesus;” the national offering goal is $170 million.
Meanwhile, as they celebrated the largest number of missionaries under appointment in recent years, trustees of the International Mission Board also heard some cautionary finance reports during their Nov. 10-11 meeting in Houston.
The potential effects of investment losses, a weakened dollar and flattened giving to the Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon Christmas Offering could have a significant impact on the board’s work next year.
These economic pressures forced board members to approve a budget for 2009 that includes no room to exceed the total number of missionaries currently under appointment. Attrition in the missionary force (completions, retirements, resignations and deaths) creates the need to appoint new missionaries each year, but IMB President Jerry Rankin said the ability to expand the missionary force beyond current levels rests in the hands of Southern Baptists.
“God has always proved His faithfulness through the giving of His people that His mission might be carried out around the world,” Rankin said. “Even in these austere economic times we must press forward in our vision to reach a lost world and be obedient to our Great Commission task.
“God continues to call missionaries from Southern Baptist churches, and we pray Southern Baptists will not be deterred from providing the support needed in spite of the personal sacrifice that might entail.”
The $319.8 million budget approved by trustees marks a $15 million increase over 2008 expenditures, $10 million of which will be used to offset the rising cost of support for missionaries already on the field.
On Nov. 11, trustees appointed 105 new missionaries at Houston, First, bringing the current number of field personnel to 5,541. The Houston group is the third-largest number appointed since at least 1980. Trustee chairman Paul Chitwood of Mt. Washington, Ky., First, acknowledged that this feat, in spite of a tough economy, is much to the credit of Southern Baptists and God’s eternal glory.
“The question facing us now as we look to the future is: Will we again experience a setback?” Chitwood asked. “Southern Baptists will decide the answer to that question as they give their gifts through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering this year.”
Southern Baptists gave a record $150.4 million to the Lottie Moon offering in 2007; the 2008 goal represents about a 16 percent increase.
“You can’t get more for your money than sending a missionary,” said David Steverson, IMB treasurer and vice president for finance.
“That’s an investment-not an investment that you put in your portfolio-it’s an investment in the lives of people around the world.”
Steverson said that the IMB’s well-diversified portfolio helped minimize investment losses during the recent market crash, falling about 19 percent compared to an average market drop of 40 percent.
“Our faith is in the Lord-not in our bank balance,” Steverson said. “I’m convinced that in trying times we need to be dependent on God. Maybe that’s what He’s trying to tell us-‘Depend on Me, not on your resources.’ So that’s what we’re going to do.”
Chitwood called on trustees to make Southern Baptist churches aware of the need to give and challenged them to “dig deeply” into their own pockets for the Lottie Moon offering.
“I pray our generosity would match that of the Macedonian churches who gave as much as they were able, and (the Apostle) Paul says, gave even beyond their ability to do so,” Chitwood said. “I know these are challenging days-they’re challenging days in my church. They’re challenging days for all Southern Baptist churches.
“But by God’s grace, and through our sacrifice, if we give beyond what we’re able to give, I trust God will honor that by both meeting the needs in our homes and churches and meeting the needs on the mission field.”
Trustees were given good reason to answer Chitwood’s challenge. They were presented with record numbers of church growth and Gospel advance in the 2008 Annual Statistical Report, reporting missions data from the previous year.
Southern Baptist missionaries and their partners worked to share the Gospel among more than 1,190 people groups, about 100 of them for the first time. Previously no one had been trying to start new churches among them. The newly engaged groups have a combined population of more than 188 million, nearly all of them less than 2 percent evangelical Christian.
In 2007 missionaries and their partners also saw the number of overseas churches climb to the highest level in history-nearly 182,000, surpassing the 10-million-member mark for the first time. Of that number, 27,000 of those churches were newly started.
Baptisms topped 565,900, an average of about one baptism per minute.
Rankin closed his report by asking trustees to sign a large globe as a symbol of their commitment to fulfilling the Great Commission.
“A thrilling aspect of our work over the years has been to see the attitude of our missionaries who started using the expression ‘wigtake,'” Rankin told trustees. “When faced with a challenging assignment or dangerous and formidable task, they respond with that expression-wigtake-whatever it’s going to take.
“That is the attitude and commitment we all must have. Whatever change is necessary. Regardless of how it may affect us personally, whatever the cost and sacrifice, driven by vision, faith and courage we will do whatever it takes to reach all the peoples of the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”