Steve Swofford came with a vision 27 years ago—a vision for what a church could do to support missions around the globe.
At First Baptist Church Rockwall's annual missions offering day in December, that dream was realized in a single Sunday when church members gave more than $1 million.
"I had prayed secretly in my heart that someday before I retired we might get a million dollars but I never dreamed it would be this year," Swofford said.
For his entire tenure as FBC Rockwall's pastor, Swofford has designated the first Sunday of each December as a day for the church to give generously toward reaching the ends of the earth with the Gospel, and generosity has increased each year.
"We're charged to win the world, and it's an expensive venture to try to win the world," he said.
Every November, Swofford preaches on the importance of missions and invites missionaries to share their stories in hopes of reminding the local body of its importance in Great Commission endeavors. Over the years, the pastor said he's seen the congregation take hold of the charge.
"They have caught the vision. It is now important to them, too. It's not just my deal. It's their deal now. That's what makes all the difference."
All of the donations collected from the annual missions day offering are divided between state, national and international missions, with 10 percent going to the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, 20 percent to the North American Mission Board's Annie Armstrong Easter Offering and 70 percent to the International Mission Board's Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.
"We start in our own backyard, but we can't stay there," Swofford, a recent member of the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee, said of supporting missions at every level. "We've got to go all the way around the world."
Prior to pastoring FBC Rockwall, Swofford was pastor at two other churches, one with about 100 members, the other with about 400. He has led an annual world missions offering day at all three churches and encourages pastors with congregations of every size that the generosity seen at FBC Rockwall can be achieved anywhere. Making missions a financial priority, he noted, is never a hindrance.
"Every time I've ever done it over these 40 years, the regular offering was over budget, and a lot of times twice the normal.... I really strongly believe that God blesses the church that tries to bless the world."
JC Davies is a correspondent for the Southern Baptist TEXAN (texanonline.net), newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.