Southwestern promo seeks to offset Lottie shortfall

FORT WORTH?Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary has created and launched a free video and other promotional resources to support the call of SBC President Johnny Hunt and other SBC leaders for a special Great Commission emphasis known as Christmas in August.

The emphasis draws awareness to the nearly $30 million dollar shortfall in the 2008 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for international missions and asks churches to make a special effort to give in August as well as December this year to recover the deficit.

Southwestern designed the video to serve as an announcement in church services to make Southern Baptists aware of the need and to tell them how they can be part of the solution. A two-minute video, along with images for announcement slides, web banners, posters and bulletin inserts, are available for free download at Details on the special emphasis and how to make contributions are also posted on the site.

Thomas White, vice president for communications and student services at Southwestern, initiated the idea for the seminary’s involvement after receiving a message from a former student about raising funds to go overseas.

“I have former students who may have to come off the field if this gets worse and current students who will not be able to go unless the funds are available,” White said. “If we don’t give, they can’t go. More importantly, over 6 billion people will face eternity, and we must get the gospel to them.”

“If Southwestern can help our local churches and the convention fulfill the Great Commission in any way, we want to be a part of that.”

Individuals and churches can give to the Lottie Moon offering year-round, so this emphasis is not calling for a new offering, White said.

Hunt and others have promoted the Christmas in August offering in light of reports from the International Mission Board (IMB) that they have been forced by the shortfall to suspend crucial missionary endeavors and reduce the number of full-time missionaries they can send to the field.

Southwestern President Paige Patterson has committed to having a special offering for the emphasis during a fall chapel service. Despite the current national economic situation, Patterson said sacrifice for the sake of the gospel is imperative.

“Southern Baptists simply cannot allow the mistakes of Congress and the monetary establishment to curtail our missionary enterprise, regardless of the financial hardships thrust upon us,” Patterson said.

“Southwestern has suffered as much as any institution or agency, but we plan to do our part, which will include a boot offering early in the fall. While we know that whatever amount is given will certainly not turn the tide, we can at least do our part, and we will emphatically make every effort.”

In a July panel discussion with D.Min. students at Southwestern, Nathan Lino, an IMB trustee, spoke with students about the serious nature of the situation. He explained that because of the shortfall, the IMB only has the funds to appoint 200 missionaries to the mission field in 2009, and as of May, 191 had been appointed.

“So, from May until December of 2009, are you as a Southern Baptist satisfied with the fact that we can afford nine missionaries?” Lino asked.

“Here’s the sad factor: In 2008, if you count the money given to buildings, missions and budget giving, Southern Baptists gave $12 billion to our churches. Of that, 2.5 percent got to the IMB, and only 5 percent of the world’s population lives in the United States. I think we need a Great Commission Resurgence. I think we’ve lost our focus, and we’ve got to get back to valuing the people overseas who are dying more than we do the programs that satisfy our happiness here in the states.”

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