Are we really serious about the Great Commission? We’re about to find out. The significance of the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering (LMCO) is being tested right now. In the next four weeks we will know if our churches "get it" or if the LMCO is just another one of those routine things we do.
In 2009 Southern Baptists hit a high mark, supporting 5,600 missionaries on the international mission field through the International Mission Board (IMB). Since then, reduced financial support for missions through the Cooperative Program and LMCO has forced IMB leaders to decrease the number of missionaries to about 4,800. That number needs to be reduced again to at least 4,200 – perhaps to 4,000 – by early 2016 in order to operate within the gifts we give our missions personnel to work with.
So IMB is cutting personnel at least 12.5 percent and up to 16.5 percent, depending on how many missionaries respond to the Voluntary Retirement Incentive they were offered in September, and depending on how many additional missionaries will be eliminated due to trimming some positions.
Viewing the percentages, IMB has already reduced the work force more than 14% since 2009. Baptists have forced another 12.5 to 16.5 percent reduction (4,800 to 4,200 or 4,000) this year.
If churches are serious about responding to the immediate crisis, each church needs an LMCO offering that is 12.5 to 16.5 percent higher than last year’s LMCO gifts. That does not allow for increasing our missionary force. It only permits the status quo.
If we want our missionary force to return to 2009 standards, churches should consider an LMCO that is 33% above last year’s gifts. Excessive? Impossible? Not at all. Our God specializes in doing the impossible.
IMB President David Platt likes to remind church leaders, "It’s actually the local church that is the agent that God has promised to use for accomplishing the Great Commission." The cutbacks are not an IMB problem. This is a local church problem. The local church is both the source of missionary funding and the beginning point for the mission vision.
For years I have been reminded that IMB does not send out missionaries. Local churches send missionaries; IMB’s role is to serve the local church by facilitating international missions. I hope we still believe that.
I am praying for you and your church as you weigh the gravity of the challenge we face in obeying the Great Commission. I hope more churches of every size will show us what generous giving looks like. Did you read some examples in my recent editorial? Click here to read it now.
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