By J.D. Greear
DURHAM, N.C. (BP) – A lot can be lost in a single generation. The writers of Scripture often warned the leaders of Israel that unless they rehearsed the works of God to their children and grandchildren, a generation would arise that “knew not the Lord or His ways.”
Southern Baptists have a lot to pass on to the next generation, and one of the most important principles is the concept and practice of cooperative mission. Our cooperative mission strategy has yielded one of the greatest gospel impact movements in history.
A key element of our cooperation is the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions alongside the Cooperative Program through which our churches give throughout the year. Both the Lottie Moon Offering and the Cooperative Program are the primary source of funding for our International Mission Board, with CP also supporting other facets of our work, such as the North American Mission Board.
For several years, the Lottie Moon Offering has approached or surpassed $160 million.
Those numbers are a cause for celebration. The IMB has had to make some difficult decisions a few years back. We’ve all felt the sting of having to pull hundreds of missionaries from the field for lack of funding. So to see Southern Baptists respond by giving more towards missions sends a signal: We want to see this change.
Cooperation between churches for the sake of mission is what drives the Southern Baptist Convention. Of course, Baptists didn’t invent the idea of missional cooperation. All throughout the New Testament, we see churches partnering together to advance the mission. The apostle Paul mentioned giving– from one church to another – in several of his letters (Romans 15:26; 1 Corinthians 16:1; 2 Corinthians 8-9; cf. Acts 11:27-30).
Interestingly, when Paul mentions the gift given by the Macedonian Christians in Romans 15, he calls it koinonia – literally, “fellowship.”
The church I pastor, The Summit Church, has “fellowshipped” with the SBC since our birth, and it is a partnership that has greatly enriched our church. For instance, the SBC enables and equips us to send our people out in ways that we simply could not do alone. We currently have more than 200 people serving in more than 30 countries, most of whom are with the IMB. That’s an enormous investment, and we are incredibly grateful to stand with Southern Baptists in support of all our convention’s missionaries.
Four out of five of all the people we send through the IMB go to the “10/40 Window,” that area of the world with the least access to the gospel message. Without the assistance and funding of the IMB, we simply couldn’t send like we do. And I know that’s true for countless churches throughout the country.
The gains in our Lottie Moon giving offer a challenge as we move forward. We believe that the next wave of missions will be carried forward on the wings of business, because what exists as only a “window” for professional missionaries is often a wide open door for people in business.
I saw a great example of this through my dad. He worked for 35 years for a large American-based textile corporation. In his last few years before retirement, he volunteered to oversee the construction of some new plants in East Asia. There he was able to rub shoulders with businessmen I would never have been able to get close to had I gone as a missionary. My dad led one of those businessmen to Christ. His “mission trip” didn’t cost the church or the IMB a dime. In fact, he got paid to do it.
I believe that God has already placed in His church the skills necessary to penetrate the most unreached parts of our world – and that many of those skills are in business. That’s why, at the Summit, we’ve started to encourage people to take their work overseas as a part of missions. We have 65 people in the pipeline now who are preparing to move their lives overseas through business in order to partner with our IMB career missionaries. We also are beginning to talk with many of our retired members about giving the first two years of their retirement to join a team overseas. And we’ve long been calling our college students to give one summer and the first two years after graduation to serving on one of our church planting teams. We tell them, “You’ve got to get a job somewhere. Why not get it where God is doing something strategic for His mission?”
As we say at the Summit, “Whatever you’re good at, do it well for the glory of God, and do it somewhere strategic for the mission of God.” The question is no longer if we’re called, only where and how.
In our commitment to missions through the Lottie Moon Offering and the Cooperative Program, it’s also a promise from God about what He wants to do in our future, and an invitation to follow Him into that future. But that means new, humble, gospel-driven and mission-focused thinking. So let’s ask for more than we’ve “asked or imagined” (Ephesians 3:20–21) up to this point, believing that God desires to give it, and let’s risk everything for the God who promises to fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by His power (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12).
J.D. Greear is president of the Southern Baptist Convention; pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; and author of several books including “Gaining by Losing: Why the Future Belongs to Churches That Send.”