For at least 2.9 billion people in this world there will be no Christmas this year, or the year after that, or even ten years from now, if something does not change.
It is amazing to me to hear and see (with the world of social media) how often and how many people can exclaim already “finished (or almost) with Christmas shopping!” This is not necessarily an unworthy goal for those who do a lot of this sort of thing with only 55 shopping days left until Christmas. As many of us who are winding up our Christmas shopping daily, I can’t help but wonder how many of us have even began to think about our Christmas giving?
Certainly there are many worthy causes to which you can give during the Christmas season. On the top of the list for many of us is Operation Christmas Child: packing shoe boxes to send gifts and the gospel to literally millions of children all over the world through Samaritan’s Purse. Many will give gifts and dollars to ensure that families in our own communities enjoy the same sort of holiday the rest of us do. While all of these (and more) are worthy and worthwhile to support, ask yourself this question: how much are you giving to ensure that someone who has never heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ may hear the gospel this Christmas season? (this is not to say that some if not all the above options could be possible answers to that question).
There is no greater gift for Christmas than the gift of the Gospel. Without the gift of the gospel, there would be no Christmas. “For unto you is born this day in the City of David, a Savior Who is Christ the Lord. . .” Though this is originally spoken to shepherds (Luke 2), we have been given the same message, and the message of the child in the manger is one that is to reach every people group on earth before He returns as the Coming King (Matthew 24:14).
Sometimes I am asked why I am Southern Baptist. I can give multiple reasons in regard to denominational distinctives and theological truths, but if I may be so bold, one of the chief reasons I remain Southern Baptist is this: Missions and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. (Our annual missions offering for international missions named after a 19th century missionary to China).
I was astounded today to read and think on the implication of this: in Southern Baptist churches in 2012 over $12 billion dollars were placed in offering plates. Our Lottie Moon International Missions offering, while the goal was set for $175 million, hovered around $150 million.
We cannot be so naïve or theologically irresponsible to suppose that the only thing that stands between 2.9 billion people who have never heard the gospel is simply money. As Pastor David Platt has observed, unreached peoples are not unreached peoples simply because we lack the resources but they remain unreached because we lack the resolve (message at SBC 2011 pastor’s conference). We know that God is sovereign over each and every soul on earth, but we also know that He has made each and every one of us responsible to share the gospel (Matt. 28:19 – 20) and the least we can do is support our missions in the darkest corners of the world with the resources we have. I believe truly sacrificial giving will result in sacrificial going. Giving our resources will increase our resolve to go. Ridding our wallets of mammon is ridding our hearts of the greatest of American gods.
In all of the language that is being used to speak of “essentials” and “non-essentials” in Washington I wonder what would happen if we had those type of discussions in our church conferences and business meetings? I know that there are all sorts of wonderful ministries, missions, and activities that local churches spend their dollars on, but what can we do without so that others may know that “God is with us”?
Your challenge: Complete your Christmas giving early, then give some more. Even if your church has not announced a goal for Lottie Moon yet (most probably haven’t), give this Sunday. Get that special envelope, write in the memo, and prepare for the greatest season of giving we have ever seen as Southern Baptists.
If you are not a Southern Baptist and you wish to give to focused, international and intentional missions for the unreached peoples of the world (or you are Southern Baptist and you wish to give to something in addition to our international offering) I recommend some of the following:
Bible Translation Projects for Peoples without the Word of God in their language:
Other gospel-driven missions: