The 2008 Lottie Moon Offering goal was $170 million dollars. The final total of LM collections for 2008 equals $141,315,110.24. The decline of 6.05% in receipts compared to last year LM receipts translates into the largest dollar decrease in the history of the offering. The decision has already been made to suspend the ISC and Masters Program in the IMB and restrict the number of new long-term personnel and journeymen. Because the IMB will not be replacing short-term personnel completing their term of assignments, the International Mission Board's missionary count will be reduced by up to 400 by the end of 2009, and will eventually be reduced by approximately 700 missionaries.
However, rather than blame the economy for such a drastic downturn in Lottie Moon and Cooperative Program giving, one might wish to take a look at a Southern Baptist church in Louisville, Kentucky to identify problems we face in the Southern Baptist Convention. Macro problems always have micro sources. To know what is going on in the SBC at the national level, one must understand what is taking place in local
Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, Kentucky is doing a great deal for the community of Louisville and gospel missions around the world. However, while the church's support of mission causes has exponentially increased the last decade, support for the Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon offerings has declined. When one inquires of leadership at Sojourn why they fund missionaries directly from their church, and why they have decreased on a percentage basis their giving to CP and LM, they have an answer. They do not point to the financial burden of constructing a new building the church needs to contain the crowds, nor do they point to any disagreement within their local Southern Baptist association or state (in fact, they have a great working relationship with the Kentucky Baptist Convention), nor do they point to any theological differences within the SBC. Rather, they will tell you about a missionary family that Sojourn is supporting overseas as an example of why they must fund missions directly. This family does not qualify for appointment to the IMB for two reasons.
(1) The couple uses real wine during communion, so they could not say they "abstain" from wine. Abstinence from wine, according to some Baptist Identity radicals, is "obedience to Christ and holiness before God." This missionary family is considered "unholy" and ungodly for drinking communion wine. Ironically, they do not drink wine on any other occasion.
(2)The wife has not been baptized in a Baptist church. Never mind she was baptized by immersion as a believer in a Christian church, her baptism simply wasn't in a Baptist church.
There comes a time when Southern Baptists need to realize that some growing, conservative, evangelical churches such as Sojourn are refusing to support the Southern Baptist Convention because of our silly extra-biblical traditions and our tendency toward codifying our legalism in institutional policies that become post de facto edicts to SBC churches.
If we wish to grow CP and Lottie Moon during difficult economic times we will denounce all attempts by Baptist Identity radicals to define "obedience to Christ" and "holiness to God" in a manner that goes way beyond the truth of Scripture.
Sojourn is hosting an interesting forum regarding the SBC on Tuesday of the Southern Baptist Convention. Let's hope that we all can get to the place in the SBC where we can tell the truth about what is really happening in our Convention because we place loyalty to Christ above any fear of offending strategic people in high places of authority in the SBC.
In His Grace,