As I was growing up in Southern Baptist churches, and later served as pastor for five of them, at least two things were consistent: Christmas and Easter were marked mainly by huge emphases on missions offerings: the Lottie Moon offering for international missions at Christmas, and the Annie Armstrong offering for home missions at Easter.
So dominant were these mission offerings that I knew almost nothing about Advent until I came to seminary, Holy Week was barely on the radar screen of my liturgical awareness, and Lent, I thought, was just for Catholics.
That approach had both a down side and an up side: we missed the liturgical richness associated with those two seasons of the church year, but we raised gobs of money for missions around the world. Many of us who parted ways with the SBC during the past two decades now find ourselves on the flip side of that equation: we’ve rediscovered the Christian calendar and gained much from emphasizing Advent, Lent, and Holy Week in worship — but in the process we’ve let missions giving go by the wayside.
Those of us who were so excited about beginning something new in the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship said at the time that one of our primary goals was to establish a new mission sending organization that would support the kind of socially compassionate missions to the most neglected people that we saw being cut from SBC programs, and there was a lot of early interest in raising money for a single “Global Missions” offering.
Over the years, however, with the economy stumbling and without Lottie and Annie to keep us on track, our tangible commitment both to CBF as a movement and to global missions has faltered. As offerings have dropped, CBF has been in a budget-cutting mode for some time, and it’s been years since the organization appointed any missionaries who weren’t paying their own way. Although established mission activities have been sacrosanct while other programs and staff were cut, that can’t continue forever.
If CBF congregations don’t pick up the slack and get serious about supporting missions again, some of those ministries we claim to believe in so much will also fall to the budget-cutting ax.
CBF of North Carolina, one of the few religious organizations that’s still growing, actually surpassed its budget goals this past year, and is using the surplus to challenge individuals and churches to contribute more to global missions. CBFNC will match every dollar given by individuals or congregations in North Carolina — up to $100,000 — that is given between the recent CBFNC meeting in Asheville and the upcoming CBF national meeting in Tampa.
I suppose even folks who are out of state could participate if they have connections to send a contribution through a CBFNC church: I’m confident that CBFNC wants to see the entire $100,000 matched and delivered to the missions effort.
As we approach Easter this year, don’t miss the deep spiritual richness of Holy Week, but please don’t forget the importance of sharing Christ’s love with those who are hurting most. Whether you call Annie’s name or not, celebrate Easter with a significant contribution to the Global Missions Offering, let CBFNC double your gift, and keep those vital missions alive.
[To donate, send a check with “Global Missions Offering Challenge” noted in the memo section. You can send it to either CBFNC or directly to CBF.
CBFNC, 8025 North Point Blvd, Suite 205, Winston-Salem, NC 27106
CBF, P.O. Box 101699, Atlanta, GA 30392
You may also donate online using this secure link.]