By Randy C. Davis
TBC Executive Director
The world is in chaos. Wars rage. Terror perpetrated by evil people has nations on edge. Millions are displaced, and the debate over refugee resettlement is burning white hot. The world’s spiritual soil is as fertile as it ever has been and cries out for a broad spreading of gospel seeds. This world desperately needs Jesus.
Southern Baptists have historically rallied to the moment and responded to the call of Christ to go into the world and make disciples of all nations. However, I believe we as Southern Baptists stand at a crossroads. Either our action will be the substance that validates our calling, or it will be hollow “Great Commission” rhetoric with no action and it will expose the superficiality of our Christianity.
In other words, it is time to put our money where our mouth is.
This year, David Platt, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board, made the difficult decision to downsize IMB personnel by 600 to 800 people, many of them missionaries being recalled from the field. One of the reasons for doing so was to financially restructure the organization to be a better steward of the resources the IMB receives from Southern Baptists. Another is to stretch the dollars it does receive, and that’s a variable that needs to increase.
It is currently the time of year when Charlotte Digges “Lottie” Moon, writing from China in 1887, called Southern Baptists to “consecrate a portion from abounding riches and scant poverty to send forth the good tidings of great joy into all the earth,” linking generous giving to the advance of the Good News. This call for financial support eventually became known as the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. It is a vital lifeline to supporting our global missions effort.
But it is not our only missions-giving opportunity.
Ninety years ago, Southern Baptists established Cooperative Program giving to even more comprehensively sow gospel seeds locally, nationally, and globally. They recognized we would not sustain an effort to reach the ends of the earth if we failed to reach Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria. Dr. Platt has often referenced the “SBC Ecosystem,” that interwoven fabric of Southern Baptist life that advances the gospel at all levels of an Acts 1:8 strategy (Example: A young person led to Christ in a local church is discipled and introduced to missions through a Baptist Collegiate Ministry, eventually graduates from seminary and goes on to serve cross-culturally through the IMB). The Cooperative Program is the beating heart that gives life to our missions ecosystem.
The LMCO is obviously vital and as Southern Baptists we must respond to Lottie’s question through this offering when she asked, “Why should we not … do something that will prove that we are really in earnest in claiming to be followers of Him who, though He was rich, for our sake became poor?” However, we must also respond to that question on an ongoing basis.
Unfortunately, too many don’t understand the Cooperative Program or don’t value its importance — or both. Did you know that if churches on average increased their Cooperative Program giving just 2 percent, we could replenish the IMB with the 800 lost missionaries? If churches would return to 10 percent Cooperative Program giving, the norm just a few decades ago and one of the Five Objectives Tennessee Baptists have affirmed for the next nine years, we could add 2,000 additional missionaries while also accomplishing Great Commission work on the local, state, national, and international levels.
The Great Commission is more than just “going,” and we appear superficial if we never get beyond the rhetoric of inspiring people toward a general vision. We must dig down and feed our roots of stewardship and giving. When generosity fuels our gospel sowing, we “will prove that we are really in earnest in claiming to be followers of Him who, though He was rich, for our sake became poor?” We will have successfully heeded Lottie’s call.
And more importantly, Jesus’.
It is a joy to be on this journey with you.