Mission giving up for Southern Baptists

By June 10, 2004

USA (MNN) — Southern Baptist churches — and their 5,376 missionaries around the world — are celebrating a monumental $136.2 million response to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions.

When the books on the 2003 offering closed May 31, Southern Baptists had given more than $136-million — an increase of almost $21.2 million (18.4 percent) over 2002 — the largest dollar increase in the offering’s 115-year history.

“Southern Baptists are shouting ‘Glory to God!’ over this says International Mission Board President Jerry Rankin. “God’s people feel His heartbreak over 1.6 billion people with little hope of even hearing about Jesus Christ . They were distressed that qualified missionaries were being held back for lack of finances. And they responded with a vision and passion only God’s spirit can inspire.

“We are especially grateful to Woman’s Missionary Union for their whole-hearted partnership in encouraging Southern Baptists to step up to this tremendous challenge.”

Rankin appealed to the churches for sacrificial giving because financial support had been lagging behind the increasing numbers of church members coming forward for overseas missionary service. The IMB was forced to limit missionary appointments and cut stateside staff in June 2003 to keep expenses in line with income.

The board now can loosen restrictions on missionary appointments, Rankin says. After projections indicated the offering would surpass its $135 million goal, the agency’s trustees voted in May to send 200 more long- and short-term missionaries than previously had been planned.

“Because Southern Baptists gave so unselfishly to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, we are sending out more missionaries this year,” Rankin says. “The result will be that more people groups will be engaged and more individuals will hear the gospel.

“God’s desire is for all the world’s peoples to know Him, and His spirit is moving in Southern Baptist churches to fulfill the Great Commission in their Jerusalems, Judeas and Samarias — as well as to the ends of the earth.”

“Last year, more than 510,000 believers were baptized by Southern Baptist missionaries and their national Baptist co-workers,” Fort says. “Our missionaries were able to engage 192 new people groups with the gospel.

“All the turmoil and uncertainty in the world is creating a spiritual hunger, and people are unusually responsive to the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ. Traditional barriers are falling, and God is opening doors that have been closed for centuries. The harvest is accelerating, and God is calling out more laborers to work in the fields.

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