By Johnnie Godwin
Contributing Columnist, B&R

Johnnie Godwin

Johnnie Godwin

A friend of mine heard the only thing that matters between birth and death dates is the “dash.” So he challenged himself with a motto on his cell phone: namely, “Max the dash!” A baby named Lottie Moon was born on Dec. 12, 1840 and died Dec. 24, 1912 at age 72. But, oh, how she maxed the dash! You may not hear the SBC mission goal for 2015 in her name is $175 million. But that’s just money. Her dash was cause and effect! I’m writing about that.

Why? and How? Greats from Nietzsche to Frankl have said, “If a person has a ‘why,’ almost any ‘how’ will do.” Today, we look at chaotic effects over all the cosmos and ask, “Why?” Other than writing off all senselessness to sin, we don’t know why people do the evil they do. Cause and effect are elusive and puzzling. But for Lottie Moon, her ‘Why?’ was Christ; and her answer was yes — to give her life to follow her ‘Why?’ It was Matthew 28:18-20; Luke 9:23.

I write this at Christmas in the context of the Great Commission. I write in a time of missionary retreat. The retreat is accompanied by the blame game of why we would retire 800 mostly senior missionaries and appoint hundreds of new ones. I don’t see anything positive about the blame game: divisive missionary strategies, mismatching projected income in SBC reports of projections from 2007-2015 with overspending, etc. Nor does it help to lay Christmas guilt on SBC families that on average give less than 3 percent to Christian ministries. I don’t believe cause-and-effect will simplify things.

Lottie-Moon.001How to continue the “worthy.” The theme of the New Testament is joy, not a down in-the-mouth spirit and a grim pessimism. The living Lord is risen and reigns today and forever! The gospel is still good news. We have 4,000-plus foreign missionaries who’ll get 100 percent of the Lottie Moon Christmas offering support besides gifts from the Cooperative Program and other sources. They spent half a lifetime just getting ready to go abroad. And I’m determined they can count on us to hold the ropes instead of drawing them up or cutting them loose.

Once I was in a church that gave 16 percent of its total offerings to the Cooperative Program. During a building program, we approached the fall with a windfall exceeding budget. A committee moved we dedicate all income over the budgeted amount to the building program — forget about the 16 percent Cooperative Program matter. I challenged that. A committee reported that only 28 cents on the dollar of Cooperative Program money got to the foreign fields. Other monies went to seminaries, etc. I moved a substitute motion to give 16 percent over budgeted funds to the Lottie Moon Offering — out of which every penny would get to the foreign fields. The mission-committed church approved the substitute motion and stood with applause. Every church has its trouble-makers, and I used to be one. But what was at work here? It was the cause-and-effect principle. It was Why? And How? Let us hold fast to our convictions with actions. In so many words, the apostle Paul said more than once he commended churches for good — but do even more.

Compare Christianity with humanity. The tithe was the Old Testament minimum required to keep from robbing God (book of Malachi). Grace identified in the Sermon on the Mount shows us that we’re free and expected to do more under grace than required under Law. For example, walking the grace mile with joy, not just the law mile required under Roman occupation. Yet, we may give 3 percent per household?

On Dec. 1 Mark Zuckerberg announced that he and wife Priscilla Chan are donating 99 percent of all they own — some $45 or 46 billion now — to charitable causes. They want to make the world a better place. Mark indicated that why and causes as he held their new little daughter: Maxima, or Max for short. They want to max the dash for all the world! How do we Christians measure up against these humanitarians? How could we do less?

I challenge myself and all of us to let Christ be our “Eternal Why? And to let His ways become our “How!” How about matching Lottie Moon’s life? Or more simply, I challenge you to max the dash for our Master!

— Copyright 2015 by Johnnie C. Godwin. Contact him at: