By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
BRENTWOOD — If actions truly speak louder than words, then Tennessee Baptists are beginning to catch a vision of the importance of the Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions to ministry efforts in the state.
But there’s still a long way to go.
In 2013-14, Tennessee Baptist Convention churches contributed $1,532,060 through the Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions, an increase of 5.41 percent over the prior year (see list of top 10 percent of churches in both total and per capita giving on this page).
Through January of this year, Tennessee Baptists already have given $1,321,703, an increase of 2.41 percent over the same time period last year.
“The Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions is to Great Commission work in Tennessee what the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering is to the International Mission Board and what the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering is to the North American Mission Board,” observed Randy C. Davis, executive director/treasurer of the TBC.
“We are so grateful for the Great Commission giving of all of our Tennessee Baptist churches to the Golden Offering,” Davis said.
Last year’s offering, however, was given by about 1,137 churches, less than half the total number of cooperating TBC churches.
TBC leaders agree that part of the problem may lie in the mistaken belief that the Cooperative Program and GOTM both support the same things.
That’s not the case, says William Maxwell, administrative director of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.
“The Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions and the Cooperative Program do not fund the same things,” Maxwell stressed.
“They complement each other and provide specific funding for specific ministries,” he said.
“The Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions is a vitally important direct link between the local church and the missions and ministries being done with excellence in our own back door,” Davis said.
He noted that no TBC staff salaries are funded through the Golden Offering.
And, Davis added, as with both the International Mission Board and the North American Mission Board, personnel expenses and necessary administrative costs are covered through Cooperative Program giving for global and local Great Commission work.”
“Every dollar is used to impact lostness right here in Tennessee,” Davis said.
He stressed that “there is an urgency about reaching Tennesseans for Christ and strengthening and starting churches in the state.”
With action taken by messengers at The Summit last November at Brentwood Baptist Church, Brentwood, the Golden Offering is even more significant, TBC leaders agree.
Messengers adopted Five Objectives which will shape the direction of the convention for the next 10 years.
The Five Objectives are:
(1) Seeing at least 50,000 Tennesseans annually saved, baptized, and set on the road to discipleship by 2024;
(2) Having at least 500 Tennessee Baptist churches revitalized by 2024;
(3) Planting and strategically engaging at least 1,000 new churches by 2024;
(4) Realizing an increase in local church giving through the Cooperative Program that reaches at least 10 percent by 2024; and
(5) Realizing an increase in annual giving for the Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions that reaches at least $3 million by 2024.
Maxwell said the GOTM is critical to the success of the key objectives of planting 1,000 new churches and revitalizing 500 congregations. “GOTM provides the direct funding for churches in these two areas while Cooperative Program provides the means to implement this work,” he said.
Maxwell also noted that GOTM provides the only funding in Tennessee for the “compassion ministries carried out by ministry centers in our associations. Funds for these ministries that used to come from the North American Mission Board are no longer available to the state and GOTM is making up the difference.”
Other ministries made possible by GOTM funding include subsidies to allow children to attend Journey and Impact camps each summer as well as Special Friends Camps. Funds also provide ongoing maintenance and repair for 11 Baptist Collegiate Ministry centers on college campuses around the state, Maxwell added.
Vickie Anderson began serving Jan. 1 as the new executive director of Tennessee Woman’s Missionary Union, the entity which takes the lead in promoting the GOTM offering each year.
“We are very grateful for the 1,137 churches who gave last year to the Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions,” she said.
“Our gifts work together to enable ministries all across Tennessee to meet needs and impact lostness,” Anderson observed.
“Our desire today is the same as when W.C. and Mildred Golden led Tennessee Baptists to begin a state missions offering in 1902 — to see Tennesseans saved, baptized, and discipled,” she added.
Davis observed that Tennessee, along with other neighboring southern states, have been a “generous financial funnel” that God has used for almost a century and a half to support the expansion of His kingdom.
“But indicators in recent years have shown us that we have been in a downward spiral,” Davis said.
Yet, he noted, in the last two years the Golden Offering has seen a significant increase and Cooperative Program giving is up for what it was at the same time last year. “These are very encouraging trends,” he said.
He is optimistic of the future because “Tennessee Baptists have a history of giving generously to demonstrated need that will impact the work of God.
“I believe wholeheartedly that within the next 10 years we will see the amount given to Tennessee missions through the Golden Offering more than double.”
Pastors of two of the Golden Offering’s best supporting churches are enthusiastic about the offering which directly supports mission work in Tennessee.
“One of the reasons the Golden Offering is so important to our church is because we have a history of missional giving,” said Troy Styers, pastor of First Baptist Church, Grand Junction, the leading church in per capita giving to the Golden Offering last year.
Styers noted that First Baptist also gives generously to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering.
Styers said he believes that “the Lord blesses churches that have missions giving as a driving force in the life of the church.”
The pastor added that giving to the Golden Offering is a way “for us in the southwest corner of Tennessee to have an incredible opportunity to help impact the state in such a way that otherwise we would not be able to do.”
Kirby Woods Baptist Church in Memphis gave the largest dollar amount to the Golden Offering last year.
Pastor Jim Collier stated, “The members of Kirby Woods Baptist Church believe that Tennessee Baptists can do more together than we can individually. We cooperate with other like-minded churches in order to see Jesus exalted and sinners saved. The Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions allows us to join with others to see churches planted and revitalized, and lost people won to Jesus and folded into one of His churches. We have done this for years, and we continue to participate.
“Not only is our participation a legacy, but we also whole-heartedly agree with Tennessee Baptist’s Five Objectives,” Collier continued. “We desire to see an increase in baptisms. We know of the need for more churches, strategically reaching pockets of lostness across our state. The Golden Offering represents one of our best ways of joining these efforts.
“Finally, we believe in giving through the Cooperative Program. KWBC desires the TBC to give away most of its money for missions. As we entrust our CP dollars to this endeavor, it’s only right that we give an extra gift — the Golden Offering — to accomplish missions at home in Tennessee. We value our cooperative partnerships, so we give.”
[table id=1 /]