ARLINGTON?More than 600 people attended a luncheon Feb. 10 hosted by the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention to honor its top giving churches and to celebrate Southern Baptist missions.
The Cooperative Program Luncheon?held during the emPOWER Conference in Arlington?exceeded attendance projections, SBTC officials said.
Prior to keynote speaker Jerry Rankin’s address, Mac Brunson, pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, told how his congregation committed to giving more to missions while embarking on a $44 million facilities upgrade.
“God has invited Southern Baptists to be part of his mission-sending program,” said Brunson, whose daughter serves Southern Baptists abroad. “He has given Southern Baptists the premier missions giving and sending program” in the CP.
Brunson said many churches believe more CP giving reduces available funds for church ministry, but the opposite is true, he said.
Not only is the church giving monetarily, more people are surrendering to ministry, including Brunson’s youngest such encounter, a 13-year-old, and the oldest, a 77-year-old man who believes he’s being called to ministry.
“I told him, ‘I don’t know quite what to do with you, but God does and we’ll work at it together.'”
First Baptist, Dallas, gave a record $1.2 million through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions. Brunson presented the check for that offering to SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards at the luncheon. State conventions typically administer missions offering gifts, 100 percent of which goes to the mission board for funding.
Rankin, president of the International Mission Board, a former missionary and a Southwestern Seminary graduate, said he is grateful for the faithful missions giving of Southern Baptists of Texas churches.
He told of joining the heads of other evangelical missions groups for a retreat and hearing one leader tell of his organization’s 30 percent attrition rate for missionaries because they could not raise enough support to sustain themselves once on the field.
He said he was almost embarrassed because Southern Baptists were experiencing their eighth straight year of missions giving gains.
“God continues to bless that vision” of the Cooperative Program, begun in 1925.
Even with gains however, Southern Baptist giving has not kept pace with unprecedented numbers of mission field volunteers, Rankin said.
Last year, Southern Baptist missionaries saw nearly 500,000 people baptized, started 16,000 new churches and began working among 192 new people groups, 140 of which heard the gospel for the first time, Rankin said.
“God’s mission will be fulfilled. The only question is, ‘Will we be faithful to participate?'”
Like the contemporaries of Caleb who were afraid to go up against the inhabitants of Canaan as recorded in Numbers 13:31, “We’re overwhelmed by the lostness” and other worldviews that are the antithesis of the gospel.
Such overwhelming lostness can be found in cities such as Jakarta, Indonesia, with 12 million people, Mexico City with 19 million and the megacities of China. “We are prone to say, ‘Lord, it’s too much.'”
Caleb, unlike his contemporaries, believed Israel could prevail, Rankin noted.
“Caleb saw them, but he saw them through the eyes of God.”
God was faithful to Caleb because Caleb had a spirit to follow God fully, Rankin said.
The churches that follow fully “are the churches that God is blessing in their ministries and outreach,” Rankin said.
The following churches were honored for missions giving through the Cooperative Program, in categories of total dollars and per capita giving.
Per capita giving leaders were:
1. Little Cypress Baptist Church, Orange.
2. Leavell Baptist Church, Beaumont.