FT. MYERS, FL – December is the time of year when Southern Baptist churches take up their annual Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. As you would expect, some churches sacrifice for missions while others do not. Most churches give at least something to the annual international missions offering, but the amounts vary widely.
TBNN has learned of one church that has given new meaning to sacrifice. At Southside Baptist Church of Ft. Myers, the body has decided to sacrifice their own needs and wants in order to support overseas missions work. According to Senior Pastor Donald Watts, “Jesus gave us the Great Commission, and we are willing to hurt to make it happen.”
Last year, Southside Baptist gave only $750 to the Lottie Moon Offering (this from a church with a membership of 850 and weekly attendance of 300). Both the pastoral staff and the deacons were embarrassed by this low amount. Deacon Herman Thomas informed us, “Last December we had to tell the local association how much we had given. I felt ashamed. We are one of the larger SBC churches in our area, but our $750 was the lowest amount given to Lottie Moon. We didn’t want to look bad again this year.”
What was Southside to do? The church leadership formed a 12-step action plan this past March to deal with the problem. Southside’s goal, which was warmly embraced by about 62% of the church body at a business meeting, was to raise the most money in their association for Lottie Moon 2007. The plan involved sacrifice and discomfort, but the church decided that missions is worth it.
The action plan involved denial in several areas. They are as follows:
1. Weekly pulpit flowers will be downsized from large to medium.
2. Starbucks coffee will no longer be served at the Welcome Center (Folgers is now offered).
3. The proposed construction of the softball field on church grounds will be delayed until March 2008.
4. Weekly church newsletters are now bi-monthly.
5. Youth pizza parties will be sponsored by the hosting parents.
6. No new Christmas greens will be purchased this year.
7. Any money designated for local and state missions will be allocated for Lottie Moon.
8. Barbecue will no longer be served at Wednesday night suppers (sweet tea and banana pudding remain).
9. The Lord’s Supper will be held only once every six months (grape juice is expensive).
10. Tuesday night evangelism will be canceled (to save electricity).
11. Giving will be the sermon topic each Sunday in October and November.
12. The pastoral staff and deacons will be expected to tithe on a regular basis.
According to Pastor Watts, “We feel comfortable that we will have a much better showing than last year. This 12-step plan, which we call Sacrifice Hurts but Missions is Worth It, will ensure that we meet this year’s Lottie Moon goal of $3000. I guarantee you that we will not be lowest in our association this year. It’s all about the missionaries.”
Deacon Thomas agreed, saying, “We just want to obey Jesus. He told us, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.’ No matter how hard it is, we must obey Him and follow His example.”