As a child I learned that the money Baptists give to missions is one of the best ways to give and be assured the assistance we give makes all the difference in the world--the difference between clean water and filthy contaminated water. Southern Baptist have been digging wells, stocking streams with fish, and teaching agriculture skills to get more bountiful crops for decades. We have annual offerings for all kinds of things. Hunger Funds, Baptist Children's Homes, Associational ministries, State Missions, Home Missions, and Foreign Missions. I learned all these things in missions groups and Vacation Bible School. Southern Baptists have the means to reach people in disaster situations and hundreds of countries. We train Disaster Relief teams to go into storm-ravaged towns and assist people with food, clothing, water, and the Gospel message.
When reports are given at the Convention each year, the messengers are told multiple stories of where the money is going. Sadly, many of these reports are poorly attended as I understand it. Therefore, few pastors can return and pass on the information they learned to their respective churches. Our Baptist papers give reports. Who reads them? I wonder how many Southern Baptist churches today don't bother to teach missions to children and teens. As a member in a small New England church in the late '70's, we taught how the Cooperative Program supported hospitals, missionaries, teachers, seminaries, seminary students, church plants. We witnessed summer missionaries come to our church and teach Backyard Bible classes in our neighborhoods. We learned of Sojourners commissioned to various places around the world in service for our Lord.
I am old. I am settled. And I am saddened. Some advocate new systems to educate our children about the Bible and the doctrines of our faith. Discipleship Training use to be the place to learn those things. So many voices seem to say the CP is no longer the viable method of reaching the world for Christ. 10,000 missionaries around the world might have a different opinion of that. Without our support they would not be offering hope to those in Japan right this minute. David Brumbelow of Gulfcoast Pastor has written an excellent post entitled "How To Give To Japan Disaster Relief" that all SB pastors ought to consider promoting. But with all the talking heads on television and the ads for giving to Star-a-thons and the Red Cross, will people listen?
"And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith." Matthew 13:58
I think part of the problem with today's "young and relative" message is the need to "feel" their faith rather than act upon the faith they are given. Faithful obedience is the back on which emotion rides. When we are faithful stewards of God's blessings, we give to God and rest in His grace to multiply His kingdom. Jesus was known for multiplying what little others gave Him and making it go farther than anyone could imagine. However, there was a time in His home town when "He did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith." Matthew 13:58.
Notice it was not their lack funds, or of knowledge or feeling, but their lack of faith. I'm sure glad Jesus didn't base His mission to go to Calvary on how He felt about hanging on a cross in the noonday sun for the billions He had not personally shook hands with and handed a cup of rice.
Do we need to hand a Bible to every person in the world? Yes. Will more be handed out if we give money to people who can mass-distribute them, or by lugging around a knapsack on our backs? Will my two-week mission trip to Peru, Uganda, or Japan make a difference in the lives of the lost? Of course, but will the thousands of dollars for expenses for my trip be more effectively used by a missionary who is already trained in the language and well-versed in the culture of those places? If the latter is true, I'm sure the reward my Savior brings in His hand will be sufficient enough to quell any ooey-gooey temporal feeling I might miss today.
May God open our hearts to understand what we give may not necessarily make us feel good about our own involvement. We may feel disconnected from the work of His servants abroad. We may never see the fruit till we meet them in Heaven. But if we are faithful to what He calls us to do, we will be like the church in Macedonia and Thessaloniki and give from our lack so others will be blessed.
Give to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering. Give to Lottie Moon. Give to the Cooperative Program.
Pure Water, Pure Love is one outreach program that the Woman's Missionary Union promotes to help bring clean water to nations where disease and pollution is rampant. Just thought I'd mention it. Have a fund-drive to dig a well somewhere. You'll be just as involved with that as if you'd be shoveling the dirt.