International Missions Offering

The IMB is the Southern Baptist sending agency for international missions. Each year over half of the agency’s operating budget comes from the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering (LMCO). This offering is given during the Christmas season and is used directly for the sending and maintaining of global workers among the nations. Parkwood gives to the same offering, but we have elected to use the name International Missions Offering (IMO) simply because the name offers more explanation. The IMO is the offering we give for international missions. We significantly emphasize the IMO every year at Parkwood because we believe two truths, and all of missions come together in these two realities. First, we believe that the God of the Bible is worthy of all worship, and his desire is to redeem a people lost apart from his salvation that he might receive their worship and glory in rescuing them. Second, we believe that in the Bible our God has made clear the marching orders for every follower of Christ to magnify the glory of God and proclaim the gospel of God in all the world. Because we are driven by these two realities, we must not rest until Christ returns and announces the mission is complete. Until that day, therefore, Parkwood will give, send, and go to our neighbors and to the nations, and this coming Sunday, December 20, offers a remarkable opportunity as we give to the 2016 International Missions Offering.

As you think about giving, consider this word from our Kids Pastor Ryan Foster:

Imagine what happens when kids begin to see beyond themselves to see how they can be a part of God’s work in the world. Each Wednesday night, 225 Kids & Leaders get together for Awana, a night focused on scripture memory, relationship building, and lots of fun with recreation. This time of year is really exciting for them because it means store night. Store night is a blast because the kids trade in shares to buy gifts for their family, friends, and/or themselves. Shares, paper money with dollar equivalents, are earned throughout the year as the kids learn verses and do other awesome things. This month, we challenged our kids to do something new: to give more than they take. 

With the help of Pastor Kem Lindsay, Jacob Mennear, Lisa Taulman, and our amazing Awana leaders, we hosted a special offering service last week where the kids could give their shares to missions. It was really important to us that they understood how and why they were giving. We explained how their shares would be able to purchase specific things like Bibles, SIM cards with videos articulating the gospel, and even supporting a missionary family for a week on the field. 

After explaining, we showed video of a Nigerian village with whom we are partnered giving as they danced to the playing of drums. As the drums begin, the people come forward to give their offering. All the kids were glued to the screen and became so excited to give like the Nigerian village gave. After praying, I told them it was their turn to give and invited to come. Row by row, with the drums beating in the background, the kids came to drop their shares into baskets at the front.

What happened next, none of us fully expected: 120 Kindergarten-5th graders gave 1,180 shares, which we matched with $1,180. The entire amount was given to the International Missions Offering! Their giving, instead of buying more gifts for themselves, provided enough to support an entire missionary family on the field for 8 days! 

The Bible says that God loves a cheerful – literally “hilarious” – giver. There were a lot of hilarious kids last week, and my continued hope is that on December 20 they will see how Parkwood gives to the gospel and goes to the nations to advance the Kingdom of God. As one mom told me later, “I asked my son in the car how much he was going to give. He emphatically answered, ‘All of it!’” Wow, that kid’s perspective demonstrates the way we all should give and view the gifts and resources God gives us.

Would you consider giving like that, not out of abundance but sacrificially? Perhaps a little more explanation of what the IMB will do with these funds would help. Christ was clear regarding the extent of the mission when he said to begin where you are and continue to give, send, and go into all the world (Matthew 24:14, Acts 1:8). The IMB takes that commission seriously and sends intentionally to global cities and extreme places. They send to global cities because of the vast numbers of people in cities like Dubai and Shanghai that are lost and without the gospel. And they send to extreme places because it’s easy to get people to go to luxurious locations but difficult to convince them to go to demanding or dangerous places. The IMB sends people to global cities and extreme places because more important than preference is the desperate need for the gospel among millions and millions of unreached people who are dying with no one telling them that they can live. For example, one of those extreme places is Central Asia where many of the world’s least evangelized live with little access to the truth. In the Caucasus Mountain region of Central Asia – between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea – exist more than 2,000 villages where 45 distinct languages are spoken… and the vast majority of them are unreached with gospel.

The national goal for this year’s offering is $175 million, but that goal would be reached if every Southern Baptist gave only $30. What if every Southern Baptist gave $150? The total offering would be nearly $1 billion. Consider how many global workers we could send to global cities and extreme places with that much money?! In the days and hours leading up to Sunday, December 20, consider giving to the International Missions Offering for the sake of God’s glory among the nations.

Fasting and Prayer

And when you fast…

It is puzzling how often the phrase “fast and pray” occurs in the Scriptures and yet how rarely it is practiced or even discussed in the American church. Fasting occurs in the Scriptures in several contexts. Fasting is for worship, mourning as well as confession and repentance, decision-making, petitions for help or preparation, and longing for Jesus’ return.

First, fasting is in the context of worship. The church of Antioch, for example, was “worshipping the Lord and fasting.” Coupled with worship, fasting appears as an aspect of personal worship in Deut 9:9 and Luke 2:37, and of corporate worship in Isaiah 58:3-7 and Acts 13:2. In this case, the individual or the church is not fasting for something as much as fasting in worship. It was part of worship. Fasting says, “I worship you; I treasure you, God, more than I treasure _____.”

Second, fasting is often found in contexts of confession and repentance and mourning over sin. This impetus of fasting is observed in 1 Samuel 7:6, Daniel 9:3, and Joel 1:13-14 as people of God are confronted with sin and consequently fast before the Lord. In contexts of confession and repentance as with worship, fasting is performed by individuals and collective groups as they grieve over their personal sins or the sins of the people of God. In some instances, like 1 Samuel 31:13 or Nehemiah 1:4, situations of mourning do not involve confession or repentance of sin directly and yet still occasion a motivation for fasting. When grief ensues or when sin is committed, fasting says, “God, I need you more than anything, more than that which is now lost, or more than that which occasioned my sin.”

Third, fasting is practiced throughout Scripture when people are faced with a decision. The congregation at Antioch fasted before they sent off Paul and Barnabas in Acts 13:3, and, following their sending church’s example, Paul and Barnabas fasted before they appointed elders in Acts 14:23. Fasting was characteristic of the decision-making process. People typically fasted during intense times of seeking direction or before making decisions of particular import. Here, fasting says, “God, you alone are wisdom and truth, and from you alone I seek direction and guidance.”

Fourth, petitions for help or preparation often prompt fasting. In 2 Chronicles 20:3-4, Jehoshaphat proclaimed a fast for Judah when faced with enemies; in Ezra 8:21, the fast was for protection over the people of Israel before a dangerous journey; and in Esther 4:16, fasting preceded Esther’s going before the king unannounced. In each of these occasions, the fast was not connected directly to making the decision as in the previously mentioned context. Rather, the decision had been made or the cause for concern already enacted. In these instances, fasting was connected to the petition for help in impending circumstances. They faced a difficult situation and fasted as they sought preparation for the task or help from God’s hand. Fasting says, “You are my only source of strength, O God. I need you more than physical sustenance, and I place myself in your hands alone.”

Finally, fasting is prescribed for longing after Christ’s presence, specifically in the second coming. When John’s disciples asked Jesus, in Matthew 9:14-15 (also in Mark 2:18-20 and Luke 5:33-35), why they and the Pharisees fasted but the Lord’s disciples did not, Jesus responded by assigning a specific purpose to fasting: longing for his presence. Jesus said that they had no reason to fast while he was with them, but his disciples would fast when he was taken away from them. Since the ascension, therefore, it has been appropriate to fast for Jesus’ second coming. Fasting says, “I am not made for this world; I am made for you. I long for you more than food. I desire for you to satisfy my soul more than I wish for food to satisfy my hunger.”

These contexts summarize five biblical motivations for fasting. Found on so many pages of God’s Word, can we possibly ignore fasting? As an element of worship, as an expression of dependence, or as a spiritual discipline, fasting is undeniably biblical, not only relevant but significant for each of us. If you would consider participating as we prepare for a day of corporate prayer and fasting on Wednesday, December 16, consider some of the contexts previously mentioned and the passages referenced above. Now to be sure, we have discussed specifically the why of fasting. We will turn our attention to how next week. If you would be willing, consider investigating further by reading and meditating on Matthew 6:16-18, and even watch or listen to a previous sermon from that passage.