Month: October 2002

Grateful Hearts

It is obvious that the new paradigm for a state convention is working for the SBTC. Each day new churches affiliate with us while others are calling for us to send a representative to talk with their church bodies. This is certainly an encouraging sign to all of us.

The convention met its annual budget by August this year, and God continues to send His increase. These are facts that we rejoice in, but more than anything else, facts we are humbled by. I encourage you to join me in giving God thanks for the new souls saved, the new work started, and the abundant supply provided by Him to make it all possible.

Our convention in Houston is just around the corner. I trust you will remember this date in prayer and pray for God to give us a great time together. Let us expand our vision, extend our faith, and maintain the course He has set us on.

For me, personally, it is a joy to be a part of a convention that is transparent in its operations and unapologetic in its goals. See you in Houston.

A Spiritual Response to Hunger

It was in the mid-eighties, I think. Rock stars and celebrities were all about world hunger. They competed to look and sound the most compassionate about the hungry children of Africa during a time of severe famine. Americans gave millions to the cause and tons of food were sent around the world. By the time administrative and transportation costs were factored in, the money was greatly diminished. By the time corrupt governments and competing factions took their portions, the amount of food actually delivered to the most needy was paltry when compared with the noise made back in the U.S. Those of our beautiful people who kept track of the project were disillusioned by the results of their good intent. Most, with shorter attention spans, moved on to homelessness or AIDS relief in a few months.

As it happens, this was the year of the greatest giving to the SBC hunger relief offering. Even that benchmark was unimpressive beside the hundreds of millions represented by the “We are World” celebrities. Still our own collection was supercharged by the constant media attention so that our people were more attuned to hunger needs than anytime since. We should be more constant than that.

Since that time, the needs have grown. Drought and in endless civil war in Africa, war in Eastern Europe, natural disaster in Central Asia, overpopulation in several places-all these have grown worse since the mid-eighties. At the same time, Americans are still too fat. We have what we need and more. The needs are poignant and real.

I believe that American Christians are and should be among the most generous people in the world. It is likely that Southern Baptist people are giving some money through several, less efficient, giving channels. It is also likely that we intend to do better than we do. This gap between feelings and action is a good reason to consider the SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission’s direct bank draft giving plan as means of supporting hunger relief. A bank draft makes your contribution automatic though hopefully not thoughtless. I’m not a big fan of letting people into my bank account but I think we can trust ERLC. This issue of the TEXAN contains information on using the plan.

Projects that involve our children in saving and collecting money for hunger relief are also worthwhile. Piles of coins can add up to significant contributions in an average-sized church. It is also a great teaching tool for the whole church. Your church needs to be reminded that prosperity is a stewardship and that the needs of others are a call to service. Sometimes our children are our teachers.

We don’t have that many rock musicians batting for us these days. What we have instead is an efficient channel for hunger relief. Southern Baptists also have in place workers who will accompany physical bread with the bread of life. Because we have missionaries in well over 100 countries as well as in all 50 states, we do not need an additional bureaucracy for food distribution. The building of our great missionary force is itself a work of compassion toward our lost fellows even as surely as it is an act of obedience to the Lord that sent us. The world of those more affected by sentiment than belief will not understand that but we know that our obedience and love are one thing-a spiritual response to the grace of God.

Every dime we collect for hunger relief goes for hunger relief. It’s an amazing fact that grows out of our response to the Great Commission. That good news needs greater prominence in our churches. Our people will effectively give ten, twenty, or thirty percent more to combat hunger when we turn away from good relief organizations that cannot offer 100% efficiency. We can also address worldwide needs more thoroughly because we have so many workers in so many places. SBC hunger relief truly is the best deal around.

My intent here is two-fold. None of you reading this need to be convinced that we have abundant resources badly needed by others. Instead I’d like to encourage you to highlight this cause in your church. Many of our folks need to hear from their pastors that hunger relief is a worthy spiritual cause that can be well addressed through our denominational agencies. Secondly, we need to recognize that our momentary compassion must be nailed down with action. A regular program like the direct bank draft plan can apply our warm feelings in a way that makes a difference.

Mere sentiment and media hype will result in fitful responses to big problems. Our love is based on more than sentiment. It has its source in a Lord who does not forget the least of his brethren. While Jesus taught us to focus on more than the physical needs of those around us, he also showed us that mercy and love for our neighbors should go beyond theory and intent. Support for SBC hunger relief is a great way to start.