As millions of Southern Baptists in 40,000 churches focus on a season of giving for international missions, every church — including the smallest among the collective group, such as First Baptist Church in Boise City, Oklahoma, and Somerset Hills Baptist Church in Basking Ridge, New Jersey — make an eternal difference in the gospel resounding to the ends of the earth.
In Oklahoma, 90 percent of the Southern Baptist churches have fewer than 100 people attend on an average Sunday. First Baptist Boise City stretches to about 120 on a good Sunday, still notably smaller than the average church attendance of about 300 across the Southern Baptist Convention. In New Jersey, the average attendance of Somerset Hills Baptist Church is 70.
In smaller towns such as these, life can seem simple. But priorities for the dedicated Southern Baptists in these small churches are clear, and a commitment to international missions is strong, evidenced by their focus on the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.
“The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering is a significant part of our church’s involvement in International Missions,” said Trevor Bulls, pastor of FBC, Boise City. “We will begin promoting the offering on December 4, showing promotional videos each Sunday during our morning worship services in December, and will make the prayer guides available in our church bulletin for people to individually pray during the Week of Prayer for (international missions).”
First Baptist, Boise City, will host an International Mission Board missionary family as guest speakers in their Dec. 11 Sunday worship service to share about international missions work, to teach the congregation about missions, and to promote the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.
“I was able to contact the IMB, and request for a missionary to come to our church, and they promptly responded and got us connected with a missionary family to speak in our church,” Bulls said. “This is the first time we have contacted the IMB to request a missionary to come to speak during the LMCO, and we are excited to be able to have a missionary family with us to help us better understand the work of the IMB, and to be able to put a face and voice with the LMCO.”
“We have a goal of $9,000 for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering,” Bulls said of the Oklahoma church. “We raised that goal from our previous goal of $7,000 in 2015. To my knowledge the church has never not met its Lottie Moon Christmas Offering goal.”
Members at Somerset Hills see the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering as an opportunity to have a direct part in spreading the gospel throughout the world.
“By watching the videos and praying for the week of prayer missionaries found in the brochure and giving throughout this season, the evangelism and missions temperature in our church raises to a great level,” said Ted Harvey, pastor of the New Jersey church. “Our hearts are moved and our imaginations are inspired when we see the great sacrifices that so many make who leave everything behind and go to a far away and distant land to show others Jesus’ love.”
Somerset Hills doesn’t set a numerical Lottie Moon goal anymore, mainly because “we always found ourselves setting it too low, and we would feel ashamed for our lack of faith,” Harvey said. One year, a church member suggested the church set its goal as “unlimited” to stretch themselves, and they’ve been doing that ever since. In 2015, the church gave $18,650 to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.
“I think the reason we are so easily able to raise so much for such a small congregation is because our hearts are truly moved and we are inspired by the sacrifice of others,” Harvey said. “We could not do this without the promotional materials that come from the International Mission Board. Not only are they informative, but they are produced with such excellence that you can’t help but put the materials down until you’ve read them and prayed for the missionaries.”
First Baptist Boise City’s month-long focus on international missions will continue with a showing of “The Insanity of God” movie on Sunday, Dec. 18, during the evening worship service.
In a church where resources are limited and staff is stretched thin — Bulls is joined by Tim Baldridge, minister for worship, as the church’s ministerial staff — such a commitment to missions is notable. But the members of First Baptist Boise City see missions as a core responsibility as part of Christ’s Church.
“The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering is very important in the life of our church,” Bulls said. “It is the primary means by which our church is able to participate in international missions. We live in a very rural and isolated area. Our ability to be involved in missions efforts is somewhat limited simply because of our location. The LMCO enables our church to be connected to the international missions efforts of Southern Baptists.”
Bulls noted that for the church, the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering represents not only a time of giving, but also a time of praying for international missions. December is also a concerted time, he said, for “educating ourselves, and the next generation, of the importance of the Great Commission call upon the life of the Christian.”
“I see these two groups at work: You’ve got a group of churches that are praying, giving and sending out missionaries, and a group of missionaries, then, who are spreading the gospel in some of the hardest, most difficult, dangerous-to-reach places and places in the world, and together, there’s a unity there that is resounding to the glory of God,” IMB President David Platt said in the video titled “Resound.”
As churches partner together to take the gospel to unreached people and places, the effort is founded in a desire for every church member to play his or her part in the Great Commission.
“It is always my prayer, that through all of these efforts, the Lord would call from amongst our children and youth the next generation of missionaries and pastors,” Bulls said. “I’m grateful for the materials that the IMB makes available to small rural churches to help us engage our people in missions, teach our people about missions, pray for missions, and labor to raise up new missionaries! Our church could not do these things on our own.
“Were it not for the International Mission Board and the LMCO, it would be almost impossible for our small rural church to be a part of taking the gospel around the world. Our church is grateful for the opportunity to participate in the Great Commission through the LMCO and the IMB.”
Harvey also sees the offering as an example of Southern Baptists’ partnership in missions.
“I think cooperating with 40,000 other churches helps in raising a great offering because we don’t feel alone, and we know that our efforts are being matched by so many others,” he said. “We can’t help but feel God just has to bless that.”
Find resources here — such as videos, stories, photos and leader guides — to help lead your church in giving to support international missions.
The national goal is $155 million. Every gift enables missionaries to be sent to make disciples and multiply churches among unreached peoples and places for the glory of God.
This article was first published by The Baptist Messenger.