There are two distinctives that bind Southern Baptists together. The first is our shared biblical belief system. Unfortunately, the Bible can be mishandled in many ways and our Southern Baptist forefathers recognized that, so in 1925, they took the providential step to clearly define what Southern Baptists believe about the Bible.
That document is known as the Baptist Faith and Message (BF&M) and became our “statement of the historic Baptist conception of the nature and foundation of confessions of faith in our religious and denominational life.” The BF&M was updated in 2000 and reaffirms what we believe theologically and why we believe it.
The second distinctive that binds Southern Baptists together is our Great Commission calling to missions, and specifically our historic commitment to rally around international missions. We have always been, and we must always be, a “going” people.
There are times when our vast network of churches under the SBC umbrella is distracted by issues, concerns and disagreements, some of which are very important and some not so much. If we aren’t careful those distractions can cause us to lose our focus on our commitment to missions.
The thing that shakes me from the distractions and returns me to a Great Commission perspective is thinking about and gravitating toward our nearly 4,000 International Mission Board missionaries laboring in countries around the world. If you are wondering if our working together as Southern Baptists is relevant, I respond with a resounding, “Yes!”
We are involved in many excellent ministries as Southern Baptists, ministries like compassion ministries and Christian education, but we engage no greater endeavor than advancing the “Good News that will cause great joy for all the people;” the Good News that Jesus Christ is the only Savior for every tribe, tongue and nation on the earth. Global missions must be our passionate priority.
As Southern Baptists, our churches are the headwaters for the ecosystem that supplies all of our Great Commission enterprises that empty into the great ocean of international missions and the entity we’ve established to guide our work to the “uttermost parts of the earth.”
Think about it. Not only do our churches financially support missions locally, statewide, nationally and internationally through the Cooperative Program, our missionaries rise up in the local church, are called out by God and are sent out by the people who know and love them the most. All missions endeavors emanate from the local church, which is why Paul wrote of the church that “the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms.”
This is why the church exists; to make disciples and be a launching pad from which we send out disciples to make more disciples. But our generosity in prayer and financial support must travel with our sent ones. December is a season we as Southern Baptists set aside for prayer and giving.
This emphasis was initiated by our missions matriarch, Charlotte Digges “Lottie” Moon. Just a few years after arriving in China she saw the great needs among the people, and the great opportunity for Southern Baptists to invest financially in work that would echo for eternity.
Writing from China in 1887, she called Southern Baptists to “consecrate a portion from abounding riches and scant poverty to send forth the good tidings of great joy into all the earth.” She linked generous giving to the advancement of the Good News. This call for financial support eventually became known as the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering (LMCO).
Tennessee Baptists have repeatedly responded through the years to Lottie’s call of generosity and are leaders across the Southern Baptist Convention in LMCO giving. Last year, you sacrificially gave in excess of $10.3 million through LMCO, which are gifts beyond how your Cooperative Program giving also supports international missions. I believe Tennessee Baptists can eclipse that LMCO figure from last year. Let’s be known as a people who keep missions as our passionate priority.
It is a joy to be on this journey with you.