Month: October 2020

IMB celebrates $159.5 million Lottie Moon Christmas Offering total, exceeds goal

The International Mission Board is reporting a 2019-20 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering total of $159.5 million, the second highest offering in history. This total exceeds by $4.5 million the 175-year-old organization’s budgeted goal of $155 million. IMB also received $97.2 million from the Southern Baptist Convention’s Cooperative Program for 2019-20.

“I’m thrilled to report that the Lottie offering is growing again,” said IMB President Paul Chitwood. “A growing Lottie offering means that more lost people, not fewer, will hear the gospel and be saved. A growing Lottie offering means that more hurting people, not fewer, will be helped and offered hope. A growing Lottie offering means more missionaries, not fewer, will go to the ends of the earth to carry the good news. Thank you, Southern Baptists, for growing the Lottie offering!”

The offering reflects the commitment of Southern Baptist churches to support international missionaries and reach every language, people, tribe and nation with the gospel. One hundred percent of gifts given to this offering are used for the support of missionaries. 

This year’s generous gift is all the more celebrated during a year in which many families worldwide experienced significant loss of income due to COVID-19. 

“Everything we thought COVID-19 would take away from us, God gave back—and more—through the Lottie Moon offering and the generosity of the Southern Baptist family,” said Price Jett, IMB vice president of finance, logistics, travel and technology. 

“God has blessed IMB the past year, just as he has for 175 years. I have to believe he has big plans in store for Southern Baptist missions,” Jett said.

Sandy Wisdom-Martin, executive director of national Woman’s Mission Union, also celebrated the faithfulness of churches and the way God led people to give sacrificially.

“The sacrificial gifts offered by faithful Southern Baptists this giving cycle are substantial enough to tip the scales of eternity in favor of the Kingdom,” Wisdom-Martin said. “Names will be written in the Lamb’s Book of Life as a result of what was stewarded well. What a privilege to join God in his redemptive work in the world.”

The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering supports more than 3,500 full-time missionaries and their families. These personnel live among the lost in order to reach the nations with the gospel. 

IMB President Paul Chitwood spoke to trustees in the meeting of the board on September 30 about the multitudes who remain unreached. 

“As an organization representing Southern Baptists and their calling before God to share Christ among the nations,” Chitwood said, “we have felt a great responsibility during this pandemic to care for the gifts they so graciously entrusted us. To Southern Baptists, again, I want to say, thank you for allowing us to serve you in carrying out the Great Commission in partnership with you and your church. Much remains to be accomplished, but together, under the power of Christ, we can continue to welcome the multitudes before his throne (Rev 7:9).”

This year’s Lottie Moon and Week of Prayer stories emphasize God’s goodness of provision, but also the vast needs that remain. From a children’s shelter in Kenya, to fish farm in Peru, to a radio ministry in Europe and a clinic in Thailand, God is at work but also revealing the significant need of the nations to turn to Him. 

Charlie and Shannon Worthy build strong partnerships with believers in Italy to advance the gospel. They understand that working alongside local believers to plant churches and disciple believers will produce fruit long past their time there as missionaries. And the support they receive from Southern Baptists makes all the difference.

“The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering is critical to what we do,” said Charlie. “We are grateful for Southern Baptists, and we are grateful and honored to be Southern Baptists.”

Chitwood urges churches to remain committed to the task, even as take time to celebrate his generous provision. 

“Please join us as we step into a new fiscal year, trusting God and calling upon you to be generous in your praying, sending, going, and your increased giving through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. There is no greater work than the one we share in proclaiming Christ to people groups who have never heard of his great name!”

Reaching the next generations requires love, pastor says

MALAKOFF  First Baptist Church in Malakoff is navigating a challenge common to many Southern Baptist congregations today—maintaining the strength of a faithful congregation despite the inevitable deaths of its oldest saints. 

Jody Jones, the church’s pastor, said First Baptist Malakoff, a congregation approaching 140 years of existence, has “a great history” but is focused now on growing new leaders who exhibit the commitment of previous generations in a way that is relevant to the present time.

“I think we’ve gotten so comfortable with the older generation and their consistency, their support and their encouragement that we sometimes fail to carry on the legacy that they taught us,” Jones told the TEXAN.

In the seven years Jones has been the church’s pastor, First Baptist Malakoff has hosted at least 130 funerals, he said. Not all of those funerals were for church members, but it illustrates the significant number of empty seats left as the natural course of life unfolds.

God has “brought a lot of new people” to keep the congregation moving forward, Jones said, adding that many are from the Boomer generation who find nearby Cedar Creek Lake appealing for retirement. Most of them are coming from the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, he said, and they “bring a lot of new life into the church.”

First Baptist Malakoff also is seeing people begin walking with Jesus. “We’ve done, I think, a little over 140 baptisms in the seven years we’ve been here,” Jones said, adding they have 10 more lined up.

“People’s lives have been changed. That’s exciting for a small town of 2,300 people where you see that many people come to know the Lord,” Jones said. The number is a good mix of children, students and adults, he said. “It is great for our church to know that we’ve had that kind of an impact in this community.”

The older generation “left a great model for us because they were so loving, and I think the generations following them, including mine, have a lot to learn from them. I think love is the key as we move forward,” Jones said.

As churches struggle to reach new generations, “it comes down to loving them right where they are and listening to them,” the pastor said. Part of that happens at First Baptist Malakoff when the older women disciple the younger women and older men disciple younger men.

Churches run the risk of being seen in the community as pretentious, Jones said, so he urges people to do all they can to counter that impression. In practical terms, that might mean “being real with them, talking to them at the gas pump, talking to them at the pharmacy and the grocery store, making those connections.”

The Cooperative Program is a thread that runs throughout the church’s history and remains strong today, bridging the generations.

“We’re trying to focus on being kingdom-minded and not so much FBC Malakoff-minded because we know the kingdom is much bigger than our church,” Jones said.

CP giving “is just something we do,” Jones said, comparing it to a believer tithing in order to be obedient to God’s command. “Our church has that same mindset for supporting the Cooperative Program. We do it because we know we’re being obedient to the Lord.”

The church is encouraged by work that’s being done through the International Mission Board and North American Mission Board, Jones said. They also appreciate the resources that come with being a part of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. In fact, First Baptist Malakoff was instrumental in the SBTC’s founding.

“We have been blessed and have used those resources quite often. … I know for cooperating and fellowshipping and getting together with other churches and ministers, it’s great to have that like-mindedness,” he said.

In recent years, members of First Baptist Malakoff have traveled to India, Costa Rica and Guatemala to serve in Christ’s name. Early in the global pandemic, they heard of some specific needs in India where people were without food, and they were able to send money that was freed up when activities were canceled at the church because of the virus. 

“We were able to send some of those funds to two different parts of India to help with feeding families and getting the gospel to those families,” Jones said.

Years ago, the church started a food pantry and clothing ministry in Malakoff called Faith in Action Outreach, which now operates independently but still draws volunteers from the church. 

The church also assists in disaster relief work when needs arise.

“For such a small community, I would say our church has had an amazing impact not only locally but around the world,” Jones said. “We’re looking forward to the years ahead.”  

Llegar a las próximas generaciones requiere amor, dice el pastor

MALAKOFF  First Baptist Church in Malakoff is navigating a challenge common to many Southern Baptist congregations today—maintaining the strength of a faithful congregation despite the inevitable deaths of its oldest saints. 

La Primera Iglesia Bautista (PIB) de Malakoff está afrontando un desafío común a muchas congregaciones Bautistas del Sur hoy en día: mantener la fuerza de una congregación fiel, a pesar de la inevitable muerte de sus santos más antiguos.

Jody Jones, el pastor de la PIB de Malakoff, una congregación que se acerca a los 140 años de existencia, dijo que la iglesia tiene “una gran historia”, pero ahora está enfocada en el crecimiento de nuevos líderes que exhiban el compromiso de las generaciones anteriores de una manera que sea relevante para este tiempo.

“Creo que nos hemos sentido tan cómodos con la generación mayor y su consistencia, su apoyo y su ánimo, que a veces fallamos en continuar con el legado que nos enseñaron”, dijo Jones al TEXAN.

En los siete años que Jones ha sido el pastor de la iglesia, la PIB de Malakoff ha organizado al menos 130 funerales, dijo. No todos esos funerales fueron para miembros de la iglesia, pero ilustra la cantidad significativa de asientos vacíos que quedan a medida que se desarrolla el curso natural de la vida.

Dios ha “traído a mucha gente nueva” para que la congregación siga avanzando, dijo Jones, y agregó que muchos son de la generación Boomer y que se encuentran cerca del Lago Cedar Creek en miras a la jubilación. La mayoría de ellos vienen del Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, dijo, y “traen mucha vida a la iglesia”.

La PIB de Malakoff también está viendo a la gente comenzar a caminar con Jesús. “Hemos realizado, creo, un poco más de 140 bautismos en los siete años que hemos estado aquí”, dijo Jones, y agregó que tienen 10 más en fila.

“La vida de las personas ha cambiado. Es emocionante para una pequeña ciudad de 2,300 personas, ver que muchas personas han llegado a conocer al Señor”, dijo Jones. El número consiste en una buena combinación de niños, estudiantes y adultos, dijo. “Es grandioso para nuestra iglesia saber que hemos tenido ese tipo de impacto en esta comunidad”.

La generación mayor “nos dejó un gran modelo, porque eran muy cariñosos, y creo que las generaciones que les siguen, incluida la mía, tienen mucho que aprender de ellos. Creo que el amor es la clave a medida que avanzamos”, dijo Jones.

A medida que las iglesias luchan por llegar a las nuevas generaciones, “todo se reduce en amarlos justo donde están y escucharlos”, dijo el pastor. Parte de eso, sucede en la PIB de Malakoff cuando las mujeres mayores discipulan a las mujeres más jóvenes y los hombres mayores discipulan a los hombres más jóvenes.

Las iglesias corren el riesgo de ser vistas en la comunidad como pretenciosas, dijo Jones, por lo que insta a las personas a hacer todo lo posible para contrarrestar esa impresión. En términos prácticos, eso podría significar “ser sinceros con ellos, hablar con ellos en la gasolinera, hablar con ellos en la farmacia y la tienda de comestibles, hacer esas conexiones”.

El Programa Cooperativo es un hilo conductor a lo largo de la historia de la iglesia y sigue siendo fuerte hoy, uniendo generaciones.

“Estamos tratando de enfocarnos en tener una mentalidad de Reino y no tanto en nosotros mismos como PIB de Malakoff, porque sabemos que el reino es mucho más grande que nuestra iglesia”, dijo Jones.

Contribuir al Programa Cooperativo “es simplemente algo que hacemos”, dijo Jones, comparándolo con el diezmo de un creyente que está siendo obediente al mandato de Dios. “Nuestra iglesia tiene la misma mentalidad para apoyar el Programa Cooperativo. Lo hacemos porque sabemos que estamos siendo obedientes al Señor”.

La iglesia se siente alentada por el trabajo que se está realizando a través de la Junta de Misiones Internacionales y la Junta de Misiones Norteamericana, dijo Jones. También aprecian los recursos que obtienen al ser parte de la Convención de los Bautistas del Sur de Texas. De hecho, la PIB de Malakoff fue fundamental en la fundación de la SBTC.

“Hemos sido bendecidos y hemos utilizado esos recursos con bastante frecuencia… al cooperar, tener compañerismo y reunirme con otras iglesias y ministros, he podido apreciar lo genial que es que todos tengamos una mentalidad similar “, dijo.

En años recientes, miembros de la PIB de Malakoff, han viajado a la India, Costa Rica y Guatemala para servir en el nombre de Cristo. Al principio de la pandemia mundial, se enteraron de algunas necesidades específicas en la India, donde la gente no tenía comida, y pudieron enviar dinero que se liberó cuando se cancelaron las actividades en la iglesia debido al virus.

“Pudimos enviar algunos de esos fondos a dos partes diferentes de la India para ayudar a alimentar a las familias y llevar el evangelio a esas familias”, dijo Jones.

Hace años, la iglesia comenzó una despensa de alimentos y un ministerio para proveer ropa en Malakoff llamado Faith in Action Outreach (Fe en Acción) que ahora opera de manera independiente, pero aún cuenta con voluntarios de nuestra iglesia.

La iglesia también ayuda en el ministerio de Alivio en Desastres cuando surgen necesidades.

“Para una comunidad tan pequeña, diría que nuestra iglesia ha tenido un impacto asombroso no sólo a nivel local, sino también en todo el mundo. … Esperamos ver más en los años venideros”, dijo Jones.  

God’s “economy” transforms giving in Wild Peach church

Mark Brumbelow peered over at his wife, Cherry, riding in the passenger seat, and uttered a simple promise. Grace Baptist Church, located in the unincorporated community of Wild Peach, a place easily missed if one blinks while driving through coastal Brazoria County, 60 miles southwest of Houston, had a history of unlikely blessings. What Cherry had burning in her heart could have been called unlikely. For a 23-member church, it was certainly ambitious. Really, it was just plain audacious.

“I’ll pray about it,” he told her. 

Mark, pastor of Grace Baptist since 2007 and a deacon there before God wrestled him into pastoral ministry like two of his brothers and his father before him, certainly knew God’s faithfulness to his flock. He had lived through it. But he could also count. 

That week in December 2013, Mark and Cherry and their youngest son, Jeremiah, had spent three days in Dallas at a new processing center for Operation Christmas Child, the annual Samaritan’s Purse ministry that Grace Baptist had participated in for 10 consecutive years. 

Cherry says she had long considered the “shoebox” gifts that churches around the world pack and OCC delivers to be a first-rate global outreach to needy children. But she left Dallas that week with a heightened sense of mission: Operation Christmas Child, above all else, is a global evangelism endeavor—an instrument God uses by way of crayons, toothbrushes and toys—to lead thousands of children and their families to saving faith in Jesus Christ each year. 

On the long drive back to Wild Peach, Cherry spilled what was welling up in her heart.

“I believe God wants us to pack 500 shoeboxes this year.”

Mark admits he was moved by the visit to the Operation Christmas Child processing center, but those 23 church members had stretched a little that year to pack those 43 shoeboxes, then pay the suggested donation per shoebox to cover shipping.

“I was proud of those 43 shoeboxes, and I’m still proud of those 43 because each one represents a soul that Jesus died for,” Mark says. “But I told Cherry, ‘You know, I believe we could pack 500 shoeboxes, but I believe it would come at the expense of our other missions causes. I believe it would hurt our Lottie Moon Offering. I believe it would hurt our Cooperative Program giving, what we give to our local pregnancy center—all these other ministries.’”

Yet Mark had promised to pray about it. 

Not long after that, he was preaching from 2 Kings 4 on the story of the widow whose sons were being threatened with enslavement because she couldn’t pay her late husband’s debts. In the passage, the prophet Elisha, having been told the woman’s only asset was a small jar of olive oil, tells her to visit all of the neighbors and to gather empty jars.

After gathering her many jars, the woman begins pouring oil into them, and the oil lasts until the last jar is filled. Elisha then instructs her to sell the oil and live off the proceeds.

“It was that widow’s responsibility to gather empty containers,” Mark says, “but it was God’s responsibility to fill them. God spoke to us just as clear as could be that night. I sensed the Lord asking, ‘Can you get 500 empty shoeboxes?’ 

“‘God, we can and we will.’ And he said, ‘You get ’em and you just watch what I do.’

“I announced to our people that we felt like God was definitely leading us to pack 500 shoeboxes the following year. They looked at me like I’d lost my mind—like a calf staring at a new gate. … But they love their preacher and they want to follow, and I praise God for that. They said, ‘Well, we don’t know about that, but we’ll try.’” 

That year, 2014, was transformational at Grace Baptist Church.

Little answers to prayer began to mount exponential results. Church members took the challenge heartily. And some members in the church discovered the economic value of couponing. 

“There were times the store was paying us to carry out toothbrushes or combs,” Cherry recalls.

The final tally was 532 Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes that year—and God provided the funds to cover the shipping costs.   

Mark’s greatest fear had been that the church’s shoebox giving would come at the expense of other missions. Not only did that not happen, but giving to every ministry outside the church—including the Gulf Coast Baptist Association; the Cooperative Program missions through the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention; the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for global missions; giving to a local pregnancy center; and the port ministry in Freeport—all increased.

The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, one of several the church takes up for special mission emphases in addition to budgeted giving, doubled in 2014. Total missions giving has steadily increased every year since. And it’s been common in recent years for around 20 percent of Grace’s members to spend a week working with Volunteer Christian Builders, a group that helped raised Grace’s building back in 2003.

“The change in our people from 2013 to the end of 2014, I wouldn’t take anything in the world for it,” Mark says. “We saw God move in ways that literally changed our lives. … It showed us, go to God when you have something big; don’t be afraid to step up in faith when it doesn’t make sense.”

The goal for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering that year, usually a specific amount, was instead a concept: Obedience. The word was written in marker ink on the line where the goal is listed on the promotional posters that line the walls of many Southern Baptist church hallways. The people gave sacrificially from what they had, and God provided the increase, Mark says.

“God whittled me down to size that year,” he recalls. “He showed us that he was big enough to bless this ministry—and this one and this one and this one.”

The church has also grown numerically, more than doubling to 52 members. All the while, Mark has pastored the flock while also keeping a small taxidermy business afloat.

The boldness to keep boosting its Operation Christmas Child giving has grown too, in proportions the members of Grace Baptist would never have imagined.

In 2015, the church set a goal of 2,000 shoeboxes. They packed 2,172, shipping included. Storage became a challenge that year, and someone donated a 40-foot storage container, which the church insulated and air conditioned to keep things like crayons from melting during the Texas summers. 

In 2016, they surpassed their goal of 5,000 shoeboxes. In 2018, one year after Hurricane Harvey destroyed or damaged the homes of seven church members, Grace Baptist was able to pack and ship more than 10,000 shoeboxes. This year, they are aiming for 12,500. The shipping will be $108,000, Cherry says, but God has always provided—from the sacrifices of church members to people outside the church who have heard what they are doing and have wanted to help.

“What we’ve learned when you’re dealing with impossible numbers is that numbers really don’t matter because without God you can’t do it, and with God you can’t fail,” Mark says. “So the only number that matters is the number God gives you.”

Mark says he is personally motivated by a belief that Jesus is coming back soon. He says he seeks no glory for Grace Baptist but only for the Lord who has allowed them to “be in on it.” 

“We don’t know how long we’ve got. We don’t know how many more days we have to serve him, so let’s make it count and live our lives in such a way that when he comes back, he’ll find us real busy doing the right stuff.

“Whether it’s packing shoeboxes or whether it’s the Cooperative Program or it’s Lottie Moon, lay logic aside and just pray and ask the Lord what he wants you to do. If you hear something that scares you half to death, then make sure it’s him telling you. But when you are sure, then be fearless.”