Spring – the other missions season
February 23rd, 2021 / By: Gary Ledbetter | Editor / comments
Charlotte* came back from her first disaster relief deployment in tears. She’d been involved with a feeding unit and was delivering boxed food to families lined up in their cars. At one car the father asked why they were doing this, feeding free of charge. She explained the gospel to him and he prayed to receive Christ right then.
Earlier in the deployment she asked a more experienced worker how “all this” happened—trained people with different tools and tasks, people from a half-dozen states by her reckoning and all apparently on the same page. The volunteer described how cooperative missions giving allows for state DR teams to develop and for state and national offices to coordinate responses to disasters.
Charlotte had never heard of the Cooperative Program until she became a volunteer. A lady in my church told a similar story, and on her return from a deployment became an enthusiastic advocate for CP to all who would listen. Likely some of you have had that moment when you planted a church or sent your kid to the mission field or got hands on in missions that made cooperative missions funding about something important to you.
This issue of the TEXAN is full of missions. We devote six pages in the middle of the paper to showing the 2020 giving reports of our churches, based on what our records show of receipts for the Cooperative Program and other Southern Baptist causes. We do that for a couple of reasons. First, we want you to look at this and see if it comports with what you believe your church sent. The other reason is so you can celebrate with us your church’s stewardship of our worldwide missions enterprise. It’s personal to all of us if you think about it.
I’m a member of a church that was started by another church 60 years ago. That church was started by one before it and so on. If you attend a church, somewhere in your genealogy is missionary funding that helped your church or one of its grandmother churches launch. That funding may have come from out of state. If your pastor, or you, ever attended a Southern Baptist seminary, you are a beneficiary of Cooperative Program funding. Some, like my son and his wife, have adopted from a child-placement agency funded through the CP giving of Southern Baptist churches. And thousands of strangers have been fed, rescued and spiritually refreshed by Southern Baptists in yellow disaster relief shirts. It’s like a long parade of individuals or families walking by to assert that the Cooperative Program is relevant to them. I’m one of those.
I also know how a pastor feels when he preaches about stewardship/tithing and folks fold their arms and give him the “Of course you believe this; you want to get paid!” look. My pay and this paper are paid for by the CP giving of the churches. But I won’t apologize for highlighting something God has used to bless the nations just because I’m somewhere in that pipeline. The honor of being onsite, in many places, where God has used the generosity of churches to provide life-saving help and the message of eternal life has made me convinced for life.
You’ll notice that church giving to our international missions offering and North American missions offering is also listed in our giving report. We promote international missions in December and you can see the fruit of that effort in the “sending celebration” story in which 33 people committed to share the gospel in far-flung places. March is Annie Armstrong Offering for North American Missions month. The North American Mission Board coordinates much Southern Baptist church planting and, through Send Relief, disaster relief in the U.S. and Canada. The work of NAMB is crucial for our churches as they strategize evangelistic efforts in places that may not come to the minds of those of us focused on our local communities. They can also be a go-between for churches and state conventions as they seek key places to spend their missionary effort and resources. You’ll see in this issue some information about how you and your church can lend strength to gospel missions on an increasingly lost continent.
There is also a line in the giving report for the Reach Texas Offering. This is the state missions offering for our nearly 2,700 SBTC churches. It is used for church planting, evangelistic initiatives, foster and adoption support, and disaster relief. These are high-impact ministries for sharing the gospel with people in times of greatest need. If your church has never supported Reach Texas, consider it for this year. That week of prayer comes in September, but you can give now.
Look up your church in these pages in the TEXAN. I hope we got your information correct; let us know if we didn’t. But more than that, I hope that you will see that your church’s giving to priority missionary ministries reflects your sincere heart for souls you’ll never meet, who live in places you’ll never visit.
I am not remotely embarrassed to ask you to be generous with these ministries that I’ve seen up close for more than 30 years.