The Subtle, Passionate Irreverence of Our Beloved Lottie Moon

Undoubtedly, one of the most famous heralds of the gospel to China—and in Southern Baptist missions history—Lottie Moon’s most lasting legacy may be in the mobilization of the US church.

She was a prolific writer, and one of the most common subjects in her letters was the call of Southern Baptist churches to support and send into global missions. She wrote, “But how inadequate our force! Oh! That my words could be as a trumpet call stirring the hearts of my brethren and sisters to pray, to labor, to give themselves to this people.”

Through these words, and many others like them, Lottie Moon sounded a trumpet call to our churches that resounds still today. Hear her clarion call.

Lottie Moon Anchored Her Advocacy in the Gospel

“I long to see Southern Baptists rise up to the measure of duty and privilege in giving the gospel. . . .” 

The gospel is the good news that God has looked upon sinful men and women and sent his Son—God in the flesh—to bear his wrath against sin through his substitutionary death on the cross. Jesus displayed his power over sin and death through his resurrection from the grave. Everyone who turns from their sin and themselves and trusts in Jesus alone as Savior and Lord will be reconciled to God forever.

The gospel is literally good news, and Lottie Moon longed to see churches rise up to the call and privilege of declaring that gospel to the nations. The gospel yet remains good news, and our churches need to hear her trumpet call anew.

Lottie Moon Called Southern Baptists to Give and to Go

In light of greatness of the gospel, Lottie was often baffled at the lack of zeal and commitment to the mission by the church back home. You can actually feel the frustration in some of her letters. “One is amazed that Christians in the West do not bestir themselves to give the gospel to this people,” Lottie wrote. She was utterly baffled. Christians had tasted of the goodness of God and yet were not stirred to give all for the gospel.

“Pocketbooks with redefined priorities are just as important to sending a multitude of missionaries as individuals who are eager to go.”

By her estimation, though, the gospel calls for a change in priorities. And not just for those who are being sent but also those who are sending. “It does seem strange that when men and women can be found willing to risk life—or, at least, health and strength—in order that these people may hear the gospel, that Christians withhold the means to send them.” Pocketbooks with redefined priorities are just as important to sending a multitude of missionaries as individuals who are eager to go.

Lottie Moon Inspired Southern Baptists

Understanding the gospel, the vast needs around the world, and the commission given by Christ to the church, Lottie wrote, “The opportunities for work are simply boundless.” She was overwhelmed in that work and chose to reach back to her sending base to communicate the vast opportunities.

Lottie called them to take up the cause and represent Christ in light of the vacuum of those who were sending and being sent. “O that the people of God would rise to their opportunities!” Her cry for us to rise up to embrace the boundless opportunities before us inspired a previous generation. And her cry reverberates anew to inspire yet another.

Lottie Moon Challenged Southern Baptists

While a diminutive woman, Lottie displayed colossal courage in her work among the unreached in China. Yet, she determined not to carry the burden alone. She persistently communicated with seemingly increasing passion over the years the great needs of the people for the gospel and the call of the church to address it.

“We believe, too,” she wrote, “that the money needed is in the denomination and that it will be forthcoming. We are convinced that the brethren and sisters at home will not allow [us] to languish for want of more laborers or of material support.” Undoubtedly, she believed, supporting churches would rise to the occasion. “O that the Lord may open the hearts and purses of our Baptist hosts. . . .”

“Lottie was shocked the church and willing missionaries would not be stirred to give and go.”

Her Trumpet Call Echoes Forth Today for Limitless Opportunities

Lottie Moon didn’t believe in leaving well enough alone. With a subtle, passionate irreverence she tirelessly mobilized her own generation to go and to give for the sake of the unreached. And she laid the foundation for our generation.

Mobilization, for her, rested in both the duty and privilege of the gospel. In fact, she was shocked the church and willing missionaries would not be stirred to give and go. Further, she used her status to inspire churches to embrace the limitless opportunities for both. She courageously challenged Southern Baptists because she simply could not be silent. Communicating in faith, she trusted the church would most certainly respond.

Today, we—like Lottie—anchor the mobilization of Jesus’s church in the gospel. And it is my hope to follow in the direction of Lottie to inspire a new generation to give, go, pray, and send. The opportunities are limitless; therefore, we must not be silent. In the same way Lottie emphasized moving the church in her own day toward deeper engagement in the mission, may her passionate desire enduringly resound in our own churches, for the glory of God among the unreached.

D. Ray Davis serves on the mobilization team at IMB. He and his family previously served among Sub-Saharan African Peoples. You can follow him or discuss this topic with him @DRayDavis.