Erich Bridges/International Mission Board
RICHMOND, Va. (BP) – Southern Baptists gave an unprecedented $154 million to the 2013 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, breaking the record for the largest total in the offering’s 125-year history.
The 2013 offering, finalized June 5, reached $154,057,852.36. The total represents an increase of nearly $4.8 million over 2012, or 3.2 percent. It tops the previous record, $150.4 million in 2007, by more than $3.6 million, and marks the fourth increase since 2008.
“This gives us an opportunity to reflect on the incredible generosity of Southern Baptists over many years,” International Mission Board (IMB) President Tom Elliff said. “The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering represents well over half of our budget each year, so those who give sacrificially and out of concern for the lost can be assured that an enormous portion of all that happens overseas can be directly tied to their support.
“It’s estimated that close to 1 billion people living now are very likely to go through life without ever hearing the gospel in such a fashion that they can understand it and respond to it in faith,” Elliff said. “Our missionaries are ‘chasers after darkness.’ We’re looking for those dark corners of the world where the light of the gospel has yet to be shed so we can get the message of Christ into the hearts of people who need so desperately to hear about it.”
Wanda Lee, executive director/treasurer of Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU), which promotes the offering in partnership with IMB, also expressed gratitude:
“How exciting that Southern Baptists would give the largest amount ever to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering on the 125th anniversary of both the first offering for international missions and WMU!” Lee said. “In 1888, when WMU was founded, it was for the purpose of ‘stimulating the missionary spirit’ and ‘collecting funds’ to support the work of missionaries around the globe. We are grateful for the response of our churches as they embrace both personal missions involvement and sacrificial giving so the story of Jesus may be shared with all who have yet to hear.”
While the total fell short of the $175 million goal, the new record is good news for more than 4,800 Southern Baptist missionaries worldwide who depend on the offering to fund their efforts to spread the gospel. Named for Southern Baptists’ most famous missionary, the Lottie Moon offering – and Southern Baptists’ regular giving through the Cooperative Program (CP) – funds missionary salaries, housing, medical care, children’s education, field transportation and other expenses. Supporting one missionary overseas costs an average of $140 per day. Every penny of the Lottie Moon offering goes to the IMB overseas budget, which directly supports missionaries and their work.
The offering does far more than pay for basic needs, however. It provides the “resources that enable us to chase the darkness,” Elliff said.
That means helping missionaries and their national partners go into areas untouched by the gospel, engage people groups with no believers or Scriptures, start churches and make disciples. Missionaries and their ministry partners communicated the gospel to more than 1.6 million people, led more than 235,000 people to faith in Christ, baptized more than 114,000 new believers and started thousands of churches and believer groups that will become churches, according to IMB’s 2013 annual statistical report (reflecting 2012 year-end statistics). Beyond that, trained disciples among 235 people groups engaged their own people inside their countries. Disciples among 56 people groups engaged different groups or cities within their countries – and workers representing 20 peoples went out from their own countries to reach different groups. In other words, they became cross-cultural missionaries.
In addition to the sacrificial gifts given through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and Cooperative Program, Elliff emphasized that “we must continue to explore new avenues that God is placing before Southern Baptists to send more and more missionaries to the field.” Read Elliff’s full May 14 report to IMB trustees.
And he remains convinced even greater Lottie Moon giving is on the horizon, too – especially in light of this year’s increase.
“It is my feeling that as long as there are Southern Baptists, every person in this world should have a legitimate reason to believe that if they can just hang on a little longer, we will get there with the gospel,” Elliff said. “To that end, it is important for each Southern Baptist to know just how grateful we are for their giving.” (*Names changed.)