FIRST-PERSON (R. Lance): No doubt about it
What about beyond Alabama? Despite the eroding economic conditions in Alabama, Alabama Baptists continue to be the leader in giving through the Cooperative Program for SBC mission causes. This is an encouraging indication of the commitment Alabama Baptists have to reaching people in North America and around the world. Alabama is not the wealthiest state in the U.S., but Alabama Baptists are among the most missional in going beyond our borders with the Gospel and being sacrificial in giving to missions.
Consider these facts: In 2009 Alabama Baptists sent through the Alabama State Board of Missions $21,533,332 to the International Mission Board. That is almost one-third of all funds received by the Alabama State Board of Missions in that particular year. If you count monies sent for North American missions in that category, then the total comes to $31,818,505 dollars or more than 47 percent of funds received in 2009. In fact, of total receipts from Alabama Baptists through missions offerings (Cooperative Program, Annie Armstrong, Lottie Moon and World Hunger), 59 percent of those funds goes to SBC causes.
Alabama has only one state convention charged with the responsibility of reaching the 50-60 percent of its population who are unreached. There are 42 conventions supporting the work of reaching North America and the ends of the earth. In the future, we are all going to have to be even more effective in pushing back the darkness of a lost world. We have to tackle the huge challenge together as Southern Baptists. To seek to do otherwise is to fragment the fragile sense of cooperation which has made us the largest evangelical group and arguably the most missional people in the history of Christianity.
Personally, I grieve over the mischaracterizations offered by some who question the commitment and loyalty of Alabama Baptists in Great Commission ministries. These uninformed people, no matter how well-placed, are not encouraging the kind of cooperation needed to reach a lost nation or world. Baptists do not have a structural problem, but admittedly, like any other Christian people, we do have a spiritual one. Can we be more effective in reaching people for Christ in Alabama and around the world? Yes, absolutely yes we can, but name-calling and disseminating inaccurate information through blogs and tweets are not the answers for our future.
Baptists are not Republicans and Democrats arguing for particular legislation in Washington or in Montgomery. We are God's people on mission with the Great Commission in our Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth. That is the spirit of Alabama Baptists. No doubt about it!
Rick Lance is a state missionary and executive director with the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions. This article originally was posted at www.RickLance.com.