November 30, 2013

What's up with Lottie Moon?

In recent years (and months, even!), the Lord has brought many people from wide and varied backgrounds into our congregation. Some of them have come from other states (or even other countries); some from other church or denominational backgrounds; and some have been newly brought to Christ, though growing up with little or no Christian background at all. Praise God for the diverse family that He is building here at Pleasant Ridge! Truly, what we have in common is Jesus!

But the fact of our diverse backgrounds means that, sometimes, certain things may get ‘lost in translation’, as they say. There are compartments of our lives that may not exactly compute with the folks down the pew, because they have landed at PRBC from a completely different chute. For instance, what exactly is this etouffee that the pastor and his wife keep serving at their Sunday lunches? And what is this Facebook thing that all the young folks seem to talk about? And what do why do we call our meals fellowships? And do Cincinnatians mean ‘vacuum cleaner’ when they say ‘sweeper’? And what’s up with all this talk about Lottie Moon? Is that a person? Or does it have something to do with those folks who wear strange hats and ring bells outside of Kroger at Christmastime? And what has all this to do with missionaries?

Confusing, I know! The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering® is a Southern Baptist tradition like no other. And yet, if you are not coming out of the Southern Baptist chute, you too might wonder at an offering with such a strange name! As a kid, I think I had it confused with some group of people I’d heard of called the Moonies – whom I think I pictured as quasi-Shriner’s (or something like that)! Some of you may be similarly confused! So let me demystify you just a bit.

Who was Lottie Moon, and what exactly is this offering named in her honor? Well, to put it briefly, Charlotte Diggs ‘Lottie’ Moon was the most famous of all Southern Baptist missionaries. Born in Virginia in 1840*, she set sail for China at the age of 32 and spent her life there, sharing Christ with a feistiness that must have been a sight to see for someone who reportedly stood only four feet, three inches tall! For nearly forty years she lived among, loved, and shared Jesus with her Chinese neighbors and friends. Surely many are in heaven today, worshiping at the feet of Jesus, because of her witness for Him!

But many more have since followed in that heavenly train – not only because of Lottie Moon’s direct missionary work, but because of the way she stirred up the churches at home to give, so that many more like her could go and speak for Jesus at the ends of the earth. In 1887, she wrote a famous letter in the Foreign Mission Journal, urging her fellow Southern Baptist to open their purse strings to the cause of world missions, and suggesting Christmas as the perfect season for doing so:
Is not the festive season, when families and friends exchange gifts in memory of The Gift laid on the altar of the world for the redemption of the human race, [is this not] the most appropriate time … to send forth the good tidings of great joy into all the earth?
And thus it was that Southern Baptists began the tradition of collecting, each Christmas season, a special offering to support their international missionaries. The tradition continues down to this day, the offering having since been named in the great missionary’s honor. 100% of the money that is given goes directly to international mission work. Today our denomination fully supports nearly five thousand international missionaries. And over half of the money needed to do so is collected through this one offering! It’s an incredibly worthy cause (the gospel!); and an incredibly sound kingdom investment. And I hope, now that you know the story behind its unique name, that giving liberally to this offering will become a tradition of your own … so that many, many more – “from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues” – will someday join Lottie Moon (and you, and me!) worshiping at the feet of King Jesus.

*My information about Lottie Moon comes mostly from the International Mission Board pamphlet: Lottie Moon: Remarkable Gift, Incredible Life.  For more on her life, visit the IMB's "Who's Lottie" page.

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