On July 12-14, trustees of the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Church (SBC) approved a measure to vigorously expand the budget for overseas missions. The approval followed a record $136.2 total contributions by SBC members in 2003, in the form of the traditional Lottie Moon Christmas Offerings to the IMB.
"Let me remind you that the total was $136,204,648.17," said David Steverson, the IMBs vice president for finance. "Some of my colleagues give me a hard time when I attempt to be so precise. However, we believe that the 17 cents is just as important as the $136 million. Scripture teaches us that the widow gave her mites -- probably about two cents -- and that gift was honored. We appreciate all those who contributed, regardless of the amount.
The contributions in 2003 were 18.4 percent higher than the offerings of 2002, reflecting the awakening of the sleeping giant of SBC missions in recent years.
"Last year, we awakened a giant," said Tom Hatley of Rogers, Ark. "When the need for more finances was personalized to the churches by the number of people who could not be appointed, they responded with generosity.
"The success of the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering last year, however, is not a laurel upon which we can rest," said Hatley, during the meeting held in Tyler Texas. "We still have many hundreds of people in the pipeline, awaiting their turn for appointment. That translates into many points of spiritual darkness which we could illuminate if we had the resources to do so.
"If they will go, we must find a way to send them. In all that we must do, let us do it with urgency. Dark corners of this world have yet to know of our Savior's love."
The next meeting of the IMB trustees will be in Richmond Va., on Sept. 13-15, 2004. According to the SBC newsletter Baptist Press, new emeritus missionaries will be honored during the service.