Thursday, September 10, 2015

Lottie Moon: records, deficits, projections

The chart below shows the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering goal, receipts, and projected income from the offering as used to prepare the IMB budget.

Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions (in millions of dollars)

Year          Goal     Received      Budgeted    Under Budget

2010          175          145.7           175              (29.3)
2011          175          146.8           175              (28.2)
2012          175          149.3           175              (25.7)
2013          175          154              175              (21)
2014          175          153              180              (27)

Total          875          748.8           880              (131.2)

 Obviously, the decision was made to keep goals high after the recession, to continue to spend as needed, to budget as if the goals were met, and to make up the deficit by using reserves and by using income from overseas property sales.

It wasn't a bad plan in 2008, 2009, and 2010 but it was apparent that Lottie Moon receipts, the bulk of the IMB budget, were not going to recover anywhere near the goals. In fact, receipts would not recover to previous levels until the best LM year ever, 2013.

Recent IMB statements put the total deficit spending since 2010 as $210 million.

The Black Thursday announcement by IMB that 600-800 personnel must be cut, immediately, to stanch the hemhorraghing of red ink and put the organization on a solid, stable footing for the future was the cumulative result of years of overspending. Others may analyze previous decisions as to fiscal propriety.

Consider, though, the reflexive response of the many Southern Baptists in the pulpits and pews of our almost 50,000 churches: Let's give to Lottie Moon as never before. Let's not wait until Christmas but start right now.          

While some leaders trot out the old whips ("we only give about $18 per person to the LMCO," "Southern Baptists give less than 2% of their income to their church," "state conventions keep too much money," etc.) and flail away, I'll just look at the possibility or probability of the Lottie Moon offering being bumped up enough to stave off massive personnel cuts from our overseas force.

Lottie Moon's biggest year was 2013, $154 million. Three other years (2006, 2007, and last year) were above $150 million. The LM goal has been $175 million since 2009. We haven't met a goal since 2003. That was the year that LM receipts increased over $20 million from the previous year.

We are a weaker convention of churches now. We are more divided now. We baptize less these days. There are bright spots in our convention but most would say that we are less vigorous and healthy.

The Great Commission Resurgence Report called on Southern Baptists to set and reach a $200 million Lottie Moon Goal. We didn't set that figure. We haven't met any goals. But the GCR group had the number about right if we are to put IMB on solid financial footing. We need another $50 million annually. Unless we drop a couple of seminaries and the state conventions drop their take of the CP dollar to forty cents, neither of which have a snowball's chance in Gehenna of happening, the CP revenues for IMB are not going to generate much in additional dollars.

That leaves dear old Lottie, where a dollar for Lottie is a dollar, the full 100 cents, for the IMB.

I'm of the opinion that we could have another big year for Lottie Moon, one where receipts skyrocket up $20 million, $30 million or more. It can happen. Southern Baptists can make it happen.

I am not of the opinion, nor do I know of any Southern Baptist who is of the opinion that this can be done year-after-year-after-year, which is what would have to happen to avoid the deep missionary cuts that begin shortly.

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