Monthly Archives: December 2016

Open on Christmas

open-christmas

Christmas is just 2 days away. For years, pastors and faithful church attenders have laughed at those that attend church on the Sunday before Christmas and on Easter. Church signs proudly displayed that they are open between these two holidays. But when Christmas falls on a Sunday, as it does this year, being open on Christmas isn’t such a sure thing as many churches have cancelled their services.

This will be the third time since I have been a pastor that Christmas has fallen on Sunday. I remember the first time that there were few people in church, then the second time the church was packed. I have no idea what Sunday will bring, but I have never considered not having church on this day.

I have read several debates about this issue: we do not have church on Christmas when it falls on another day of the week; Sunday is not the biblical Sabbath anyway; Christmas is not a day of rest anyway; and several other ways that church leaders have excused their decision.

My concern is that the heart of the decision to not have services since Christmas falls on Sunday is made out of convenience, not out of conviction.

I will be the first to admit that Christmas morning will be busy. We will open presents, we will cook and have breakfast that will not include cereal or something in the microwave (which only happens on Christmas), we will start getting stuff ready for lunch, and we will get dressed and be in church before 11:00 (one of us will be there before the others).  But what kind of lesson would I teach my kids to say, “We are celebrating the birth of Jesus today, but we will not go to church today like we do every other Sunday because Christmas is just too busy”?

You see, this issue is greater than Christmas being on Sunday because we have settled for convenience over conviction for a long time. I see families each week that decide not to gather for Bible study and worship because there is too much going on. Sunday is the only day they have to sleep in. The kids are tired. It was a rough week, blah, blah, blah. These parents would state that they are followers of Christ, but they choose regularly to skip the command to worship corporately because it is more convenient.

Yes, I believe you should be in church on Christmas this year, but I also believe you should be in church every Sunday. Even if I was not a pastor, I would hold this conviction, which was modeled by my parents and I consider it my responsibility to model the same to my children. When faced with conviction or convenience, maybe they will think of the busy Christmas morning and the priority of corporate worship.

I hope to see you Sunday morning!

Why I Promote the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering

It is one of my favorite times of the year: the Week of Prayer for International Missions and the time when we collect the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. I unapologetically promote the Lottie Moon Offering and challenge our church to give sacrificially. I enjoy promoting the offering each Sunday. Why do I support the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering (LMCO) to this degree?

Lottie Moon was a lady that sought God and worked wholeheartedly. “How many million more souls are to pass into eternity without having heard the name of Jesus?” That question, central in letters that she wrote, seared her heart as she planted her life in China more than a century ago. It compelled her to flee the safety of the Baptist missionary compound in order to live among those “heathen” to whom she felt called. It gave her the strength to place her 4-foot-3-inch body in the path of an anti-Christian mob intent on harming believers and saying, “You will have to kill me first.” She prospered, but it was not materially, as she had little. But the Lord used her to see people saved and to create a passion among Southern Baptists for missions support.

There is no doubt that God has called me to pastor, not to serve as a career missionary overseas. That does not, though, give me permission to turn a blind eye to missions, and in this case, international missions. I get to champion the work of our missionaries and lead people to financially support their work. While our church has been blessed with our partnership in Chile, most of the church will never go on an international trip. Financially and prayerfully supporting the work will be the extent of most church members’ involvement in international missions.

The need to give is great, as there are more than 6,000 people groups today with an evangelical Christian presence of less than 2 percent, making them unreached. Of these people groups, about 3,000 of them are also unengaged, meaning there is currently no evangelical church-planting strategy among them. At this point in time, hundreds of millions of people are likely to die without hearing the Gospel in a way they can understand. As we give sacrifically, more missionaries can be sent to reach these people. We often allow our setting of multiple churches in a small area to influence how we view the rest of the world, but there are billions of people that have never heard the Gospel for the first time!

I support the LMCO because it works! Last year, our missionaries reported 127,385 new believers and starting 3,842 new churches! A total of 1,993,368 people heard the Gospel last year! Thus, our gifts had an eternal impact on the lives of these new believers by helping to bring them to Christ. A result of our giving is more people in heaven and less people in hell!

I attended college and seminary with individuals who were called to the mission field and prepared themselves to go to unreached people groups, but they are still at home. Their calling has not changed, but the money to send them is not available. The reason the money is not available because Southern Baptists have not given it. I support the LMCO so that these individuals can fulfill their calling.

I support the LMCO because I have seen it work with my own eyes. When I first started going to Chile, there were three IMB missionaries among the Mapuche. I saw them loved by the people that they were reaching. I visited churches that they helped start and others that they helped strengthen. I heard the stories from pastors about the influence of the missionaries, and similar stories were told from church members. Two years into our partnership, all of the missionaries were gone. Many variables played into the IMB’s decision to remove them, but the bottom line was a financial issue.

I grew up in church but knew nothing of the LMCO until I was in college. I can vaguely remember a lady doing a skit dressed up as Lottie Moon when I was a kid (I was confused because I knew her name was not Lottie Moon), but there was little focus on the offering. I do not want anyone that is part of a church I pastor to be able to say the same thing. I want them to know about the sacrifice of Lottie Moon and why the offering that bears her name is essential.

The need is great, so I challenge you to give sacrificially to the LMCO. You may never know the impact of our gift, but you carry out Jesus’ words to “store up treasures in heaven.”