A few years ago, Steve Lakin’s church budget had a line of numbers his heart couldn’t reconcile. “I was meeting with the elder leadership here at the church, and as I was looking through our financial report, I saw we had a large surplus left over,” said Steve, pastor of First Baptist Church of Andersonville, Tennessee.
One of the elders grinned and said he was sure God had ways in mind to spend that money. Steve agreed. “That thought just kept reverberating in my head for the next several days,” he said. And as it did, those extra dollars fueled big dreams, dreams that didn’t end with that year’s surplus.
The little church of 125 people decided to step out and commit to something radical—to raise money equivalent to what it takes to fund one IMB missionary couple’s work, not just that year but in the years to come. “We got in touch with the IMB and shared what was on our heart, and they connected us with a couple who was getting ready to go the field who could be the ‘face’ of the need for us,” Steve said.
In the past, First Baptist had given generously to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, faithfully passing the $10,000 mark every year. But in the year of the surplus, the church took an additional $90,000 out of its budget that year to help support Kyle and Amber Wilkens,* IMB missionaries to East Asia. And in the years since, the church has set aside one Sunday a year as “sacrificial Sunday,” the day the congregation raises the entire $90,000 to give the IMB with the Wilkenses’ costs in mind.
“Every year, without fail, we’ve either gotten the $90,000 or gone above it,” Steve said. “We became motivated and moved to give radically to see the advancement of the gospel, and we began to see giving generously as our responsibility.” As a result, the church saw God do phenomenal things, he reported. “We’re just a small church; we’re not huge,” Steve pointed out. “We may be a ‘First Baptist,’ but Andersonville is a small town. But God can take small things and do great things with them, and through our giving to the IMB, we see how God is using us.”
It’s caused a cultural shift, he said. Through that direct connection to the Wilkenses, missions has come alive. The church knew their gifts mattered, but this put faces to the money they sent to the IMB, and now the congregation prays specifically, sends care packages, and actively goes on mission too, Steve said.
“If God can do this with us, then he can do it with you.”
“It has dramatically changed our view of the gospel and the way we see missions,” explained Steve. “People sometimes say, ‘It can’t be done in our church.’ But if God can do this with us, then he can do it with you.”
- Pray for churches to envision how their gifts to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering directly power the gospel going out to unreached peoples.
- Pray for more and more congregations to rise up as sacrificial supporters.
Grace Thornton is the author of the book I Don’t Wait Anymore: Letting Go of Expectations and Grasping God’s Adventure for You. She writes for the International Mission Board, Baptist Press and other Southern Baptist ministries, and blogs at gracefortheroad.com.