Is Lottie Moon Starving?

Posted on December 14, 2011 by Dr. Jerry Rankin in Rankin Connecting

Several years ago the International Mission Board encouraged churches to give more generously to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering by using the theme, “Is Lottie Moon Starving Again?” The promotion generated a backlash from many who considered this disrespectful of Lottie Moon who literally starved to death. She was a pioneer missionary to China in the 19th century and challenged the Woman’s Missionary Union to take an offering at Christmas to send more missionaries. Eventually this annual mission offering, begun in 1888, was named for Lottie Moon and has raised almost four billion dollars for missions.

More than 50% of the budget of the International Mission Board comes from this voluntary annual offering. Contrary to the perception of some, none of the offering is used for administration or promotion but 100% goes directly overseas to support over 5,000 missionaries and their ministries. In the past, a significant portion of the offering was used for capital projects overseas such as building churches and providing homes and vehicles for the use of missionaries. But with subsidized dependency being reduced and record numbers of missionaries being appointed, most of the offering is for missionary support.

This has always been true, even from the very beginning. Lottie Moon asked that $1,000 be raised to send an additional missionary, but the initial offering reached $3,000 and three missionaries were sent to China. Obviously the cost of missionary support is much more today! In the latter years of her ministry Lottie gave away most of her food and resources to feed starving Chinese people in the midst of a severe famine. In failing health, she boarded a ship to return to the U.S. but died enroute in the harbor at Kobe, Japan in 1912.

The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering is literally the sustenance for Southern Baptists fulfilling the Great Commission and reaching a lost world. In addition to the portion of the Cooperative Program received by the IMB, this annual offering determines whether or not new missionaries can be appointed and whether or not field strategies can be funded.

A few years ago Southern Baptists gave more than $150 million dollars two successive years, but since then receipts have continued to decline. Three years ago opportunities for short-term service through the International Service Corps had to be discontinued, eliminating hundreds of positions that provided vital service to mission strategies. The number of career missionaries being appointed had to be restricted to be compatible with financial resources. The appointment of two hundred qualified missionary candidates had to be deferred.

Limited resources have continued to reduce the missionary force around the world from a peak of 5600 to 5000 at a time of unprecedented opportunities for evangelistic harvest. The continuing engagement of unreached people groups with an Christian witness has languished due to the lack of new personnel and resources for strategic advance.

Yes, it is a difficult time economically when church budgets are strained and personal resources limited, but will we not recognize the priority of reaching a lost world. We continue to indulge in expensive Christmas gifts and providing for our own comforts and needs while a lost world is starving spiritually. In failing to give generously and sacrificially, resources for sending missionaries are being reduced. Lottie Moon is, indeed, starving again!

2 Comments on “Is Lottie Moon Starving?”

  1. Stan Stepleton

    Greetings Dr. Rankin,
    While I agree with the post, you are using an outdated number of personnel figure. As of 11/16/2011 the total field personnel under appointment is 4,887 according the the website. By my estimation the company needs to further reduce that number by about 387 to come to a parity of income to expense ratio. I believe the LM offering has been decreasing in direct proportion to the multitude of other Christmas offerings taken and local needs of the churches. 2012 will be a lean year for M’s on the field. Southern Baptists could do so much more.
    Grace and peace, Stan

  2. Regina Sullivan

    Mr. Rankin, In my new book, Lottie Moon: A Southern Baptist Missionary in History and Legend (LSU Press: 2011), I have demonstrated that Moon did not actually starve herself to death. All the best, Regina D. Sullivan

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