Dr. Robert Haskins recently called my office inquiring information on Sue Howell, Oklahoma's first WMU Corresponding Secretary. She has been considered as an inductee into Oklahoma Baptist's Hall of Fame and Dr. Haskins was trying to find some historial research on this pioneer.
What began as a search for basic information regarding this woman's life, turned into several weeks of a fascinating study on the history of the women's work in Oklahoma. As I looked through the fragile pages of history dating back to the beginning of our convention, I was struck by the questions and issues women were asking 100 years ago. How can we gain the support of a younger generation? How can we keep the spirit of missions alive? How can we better support missions?
Interestingly, our churches are still asking these same questions today. We are dedicating more money and energy investigating our emerging generation. We continue to try to be relevent in our culture. And we must continue to ask the question, "How do we keep the spirit of missions alive?"
It saddens me that as Southern Baptists we have fallen short in reaching our goal for the annual Lottie Moon Christmas Offering that supports our international missionaries. While God continues to call out people to reach the nations, we have failed to sacrifice our own selfish materialism. And I'm not just talking about individuals (although it always comes down to the individual). Many churches continue to decline in their Cooperative Program giving (although Oklahoma is doing better than most). I recently heard a church staff member make the comment, "We've been saying we have 5,000 missionaries since I can remember. Why aren't we sending more?"
While some are speculating that the convention structure needs to be re-appropriated, I contend that it's not the structure of Southern Baptists. It's our general commitment to supporting the structure. If every Southern Baptist tithed on a regular basis and every church committed 10 percent to the Cooperative Program, we could easily send twice as many international missionaries and our local churches would have enough to expand their own local missions and ministries.
May I also remind you that no other denomination has been as successful at international missions than Southern Baptists? For more than 100 years, because of the Cooperative Program and gifts to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, our missionaries are able to perform the task God has called them to do and not come home to raise their support.
Do we do everything right? Nope. We're human and we all make mistakes. Is it time to re-evaluate? Possibly. Don't we all need to re-evaluate our priorities and commitment regarding giving? May the Great Commission Resurgence begin in our hearts and also in our sacrifice.