MARTINDALE?It was late last summer when Glen Howe met with the deacons at Martindale Baptist Church in the south central Texas town of Martindale. On the agenda was the $1,000 or so of surplus the church was taking in each month and what to do about it.
It’s a situation many churches would love to have. Howe, a former missionary in a new work state, had on his heart a plan: Use the extra funds to float one month of the year, December, on what was given the previous 11 months, a realistic goal given the church’s monthly receipts.
What the church gave in December, minus Cooperative Program and associational giving, would be sent to the mission field through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions?Southern Baptists’ year-end collection to fuel work abroad, 100 percent of which goes directly to the field.
After some discussion about the needs of the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board, which has some prospective missionaries on hold for lack of funds, the deacons gave a united thumbs up.
“I’ve never seen all of our deacons agree on something so quickly,” recalled Howe, whose church runs about 125 in Sunday school. “I mean, it was a matter of less than a minute. Every deacon in the room was saying, ‘Yeah, this is what we need to do.'”
Next, the issue came before the church.
“There was unanimity with no discussion. No questions,” Howe said.
When Howe came to Martindale in 1998, the church gave to Lottie Moon mostly through funds generated from a foundation of a deceased church member. Typically, the gift was around $2,500, Howe said.
“Every December I’d stand up and challenge the church with the same challenge: to make its largest gift to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. In other words, whatever amount you spend on your wife or on one of your children, give an amount larger than that. Make your largest gift to Jesus Christ and his cause by giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. And so the people really took me up on that.”
In 1999, the church gave $3,400 through the Lottie Moon offering. In 2000, the figure grew to $5,000, then $5,000 again in 2001. In 2002, the church doubled its gift to more than $10,000.
“We’re excited because we can see where
Church’s faithful tithes fueled decision to boost Lottie Moon giving
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the Lord could use us to give over $20,000?we could double what we gave last year.
“That has created a real air of excitement for us because at the same time I’ve been challenging the church to be not only a mission-giving church but also a mission-going church.”
The church is funding several women from its ranks to go to Russia on a short-term mission trip and is sending 15-20 families to a Mexican border town the weekend before Christmas with clothes and other items.
In October, Howe issued a call for those upon whom the Lord had placed a burden for missions.
“We had literally dozens of men say, ‘I want to be involved in missions.'”
Howe said his church has issued a challenge to other churches in its area to be sacrificial in their giving to missions.
“This is a time when we have to be sacrificial or the work will not be done the way the Lord wants it done,” he said.
The IMB reports that in 2002 the board appointed 412 long-term missionaries; because of budget constraints, though, only 300 are expected to be appointed in 2004. In 2002, 620 short-term workers went, but only 300 are expected to go next year. The current missionary count of 5,510 likely will fall by the end of 2004, the IMB states on its website.
Because of his earlier work as a church planter and mission pastor in Indiana, Howe said his heart is soft toward missions. He serves on the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention state missions committee.
Howe said he preaches through the Scriptures and “I preach on giving as I come to it. Where the Bible talks about giving, then we’ll talk about giving.” He emphasizes the obedience of tithing and “the joy of giving over and above that,” he said.