November 12th, 2009 10:25 EST
Southern Baptist Convention Tries to Influence History One More Time
Will the Southern Baptist Convention step up to the plate and hit the ball out of the park this Christmas?
The second largest denomination--and the largest Protestant denomination--in the U.S. is approaching a critical choice point in December 2009.
The denomination has announced since 2007 that an additional 2,800 missionaries could help it complete the 2,000-year-old task of global evangelization.
A new study, The State of Church Giving through 2007: What Are Our Christian Billionaires Thinking--Or Are They? (19th edition), calculates that the cost to field those additional missionaries would require an increased donation of $7 per Southern Baptist.
The annual Lottie Moon Christmas Offering is held in Southern Baptist churches each December. The question: Will Southern Baptists put their donations where their stated goal is?
Published by empty tomb, inc., based in Champaign, IL, The State of Church Giving through 2007 considers the SBC approach to its goal as a case study. The following excerpts from the book summarize points from the analysis.
Â· "The case study of the Southern Baptist Convention describes a denomination with a clearly stated goal, that is not effectively meeting that goal. The difference between the Southern Baptist Convention and many other denominations and multi-denominational groups, is that the Southern Baptist Convention has a large, at-scale clearly stated goal around which congregations can gather."
"The stated goal of the Southern Baptist Convention is the Great Commission, which involves taking the Gospel to everyone on earth. To do that, its International Mission Board has said that it needs an additional 2,800 missionaries. When this need was publicized, additional missionary candidates applied. The cost to fund the additional missionaries was not publicized. The money to fund the additional missionaries was not received."
Â· The 2008 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, 100% of which supports the SBC International Mission Board (IMB), was $9 million less than the 2007 amount. One denominational official described the consequences: "We`ve had to take drastic measures. We`re not sending the number of missionaries to the field we normally do. It means that some who are called, gifted and ready cannot go. We`ve canceled or scaled back short-term missionary programs knowing the results from some present work will not be realized."
Â· Johnny Hunt, president of the SBC, has been instrumental in promoting the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force, stating, "It`s about all of us, starting with the local church, taking a look to see if we`re doing the best we`ve ever done in our lifetime to fulfill the Great Commission."
Â· "The difference between the stated goal of the denomination, to reach a lost world, and its practice was summarized by Jerry Rankin, president of the IMB, this way: `Are we saying that five thousand missionaries are enough ... to evangelize the rest of the world while we support over 100,000 pastors, church staff, and denominational workers in our own country?`"
Â· "Southern Seminary President Al Mohler, acknowledging the fact that the SBC was formed in 1845 `for the solitary purpose of getting the Gospel to the ends of the earth,` declared, `There is a generation ready and waiting to be challenged to do something great for the cause of Christ. I say we take this opportunity.`"
The specific opportunity is for Southern Baptists to increase their donations to the upcoming Lottie Moon Christmas Offering by an average of $7 per member in December 2009. The result would be enough to fund present activities, and field the additional 2,800 missionaries.
Will they seize the present opportunity to put feet on the Gospel, and set a standard for other denominations to follow?
The eyes of the nation are on the Southern Baptists.
Other findings in The State of Church Giving through 2007. The new book also tracks membership, giving, and mission support trends in various denominations in the U.S. A country-specific cost estimate for addressing eight causes of death in children younger than five is developed as well. The cost estimates are for 68 countries that account for 95% of the under-five child deaths around the globe, and include cost estimates for malaria, measles, and diarrhea, among other causes of death. The book also explores the role that Christian billionaires could take in fostering increased missions support within various denominations.
The new book is available from Internet bookstores, and from the empty tomb Web site at: www.emptytomb.org/pubs.html. The retail price is $34.