By Timothy Cockes
KNOXVILLE — First Baptist Concord in Knoxville, Tenn., presented International Mission Board president Paul Chitwood with a special check for $100,000 toward the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering during a special service on Jan. 5.
Chitwood accepted the check, which brought First Baptist Concord’s total Lottie Moon giving for 2021 to more than $425,000. Gifts to the Lottie Moon offering go directly to worldwide missions and make up more than half of IMB’s budget.
Senior pastor John Mark Harrison said the church is having a special worship night each Wednesday in January to celebrate the renovation of its worship center, and members wanted to emphasize the important of missions giving during the first service.
“We’re very honored to have Dr. Chitwood,” Harrison said. “He’s been such a great leader for our convention of churches, and so our church family, not just our staff is really excited about having him. Missions is very important to First Baptist Concord and so this was a really exciting evening because of our heart for mission and his effective leadership in sending missionaries to the nations.
“In a very difficult season culturally and in our convention of churches he (Chitwood) has been able to be that steady presence to keep us focused on the mission and keep us focused on getting the Gospel to the ends of the earth. I’m just so thankful for his steady-handed leadership.”
Chitwood praised Harrison for his leadership and emphasis on missions giving in a tweet Wednesday night.
“Pastor John Mark began his ministry here (First Baptist Concord) right as I was starting with IMB,” Chitwood said. “He’s been Great Commission focused from day one with no let up in sight.”
Since 2015, the church has given a total of $1.9 million to the Lottie offering. Since the church had such a large total offering amount for 2021, members decided to donate an additional $100,000 to take its cumulative Lottie Moon offering total over $2,000,000.
Harrison explained the church did not have a specific monetary goal in mind for the Lottie Moon offering this year, and he cares more about the heart of his congregation than any dollar amount.
“We want to continue to tell the church, while we will continue to invest in the facilities that we have, our heart is to continue to give to the nations. … Our church has really rallied behind that heartbeat,” he said.
He said the church has really emphasized cooperative giving the past few years, and the Lottie Moon offering is a clear demonstration of the cooperative power of Southern Baptists.
“I’m thankful for the purity of the Lottie Moon Christmas offering and the Annie Armstrong Easter offering, that they go specifically to workers and to the field,” Harrison said.
“The return on investment to the nations and the impact that one local body can have around the world through the Lottie Moon Christmas offering and what we can be a part of, is just so much greater than anything that we could ever build on our own. The win here is that God’s people get to be a part of something that’s much bigger than what one congregation can do.”
Harrison concluded that missions cooperation is one of the shining aspects of the SBC and encouraged churches to focus on that above all things.
“That’s one of the reasons we’re Southern Baptist is our statement of faith and cooperating together for missions impact,” he said. “We just really believe we can do more if we all leverage our resources together than we could ever do on our own.
“I would encourage churches all across our convention to participate in the offering so that we can be a part of something together that we could never accomplish on our own and really see the Gospel extended to the ends of the earth.” B&R