What would Lottie say?

     You can count on one hand the Missionaries that have had as great an impact on the missionary movement as did Lottie Moon.  Outside from the Apostle Paul, William Carey, the Judsons, and Luther Rice, it is hard to find anyone else that has a legacy that has lasted and made the crater-type of impact as has the legacy of Charlotte Diggs Moon.  The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering is the single largest annual offering gathered by any group of Christians in the world, and it was her idea.  She is an acknowledged saint to a faith tradition that is suspicious of saints.  She has become a cultural heroine to a degree unapproached by any missionary - or for that matter, any American - that ever went to China.   In spite of all that, one can only wonder what role Lottie Moon would be allowed to play if she were just starting out in ministry today. Would Lottie Moon gain an appointment by the current nternational Mission Board (IMB)?  It is possible.  It depends on how well they got to know Lottie. 

     To their credit, the IMB has no shortage of single women serving as missionaries.  No single demographic group of people has done as much for the cause of missions as single women.  But if the new SBC leadership has done one thing well, it is to make their position clear on the role of women in ministry:  "you can't be pastors, obey your husbands, you can't be deacons, you can't teach men, and do as the men tell you."  Would Lottie Moon meet this type of criteria?  Would she play ball and be submissive to her male missions directors?  Clearly, her acceptance as a missionary candidate would depend on her willingness to abide by SBC and IMB policy. How would she fit in today?
     The key lies in looking at how Lottie conformed to the standards of her day in 1873, when she sailed for China, and the 40 plus years she spent there. Lottie had been a teacher, and continued as one when she began her work in China.  She quickly mastered the language and was adamant about adhering to Chinese culture when it did not directly conflict with her faith.  She was a pioneer in contextualization, becoming the first missionary in China to adopt wearing Chinese clothing and using Chinese customs primarily in order to gain trust among the Chinese.  In these things and others, Lottie was a pioneer, although her immediate supervisors considered her more of a loose cannon than a visionary.

     Very soon, Lottie became frustrated.  She became convinced that her talent was being wasted and could be better put to use in evangelism and church planting.  She had come to China to "go out among the millions" as an evangelist, only to find herself relegated to teaching a school of forty "unstudious" children.   Lottie felt that she was chained down, unable to be used as God had called her.  She viewed herself as an oppressed class - single women missionaries - and her writings were an appeal on behalf of all those who were facing similar situations in their ministries.  In the article The Woman's Question Again, published in 1883, Lottie wrote:  "Can we wonder at the mortal weariness and disgust, the sense of wasted powers and the conviction that her life is a failure, that comes over a woman when, instead of the ever broadening activities that she had planned, she finds herself tied down to the petty work of teaching a few girls?" 

     One might wonder if there are any current single female missionaries  that feel the same way, or perhaps any single females that would like to be missionaries, but aren't allowed to be, that feel the same way.

     Most people get the feeling that the current SBC leadership doesn't like women that "rock the boat".  If that is true, then they definitely would not like Lottie today.  Lottie was accused of "lawless prancing all over the mission lot," because of her ideas and her strength of spirit.   She came under fire for writing things like: ".what women want who come out to China is free opportunity to do the largest possible work.what women have a right to demand is perfect equality."   Lottie was not pleading for women's rights as much as she was pleading for the right to use her God given talents the way that God was leading her.  Lottie's boat was not headed the direction she thought God had called her to go, so she started rocking it to get it to go in the right direction.

      Lottie insisted that God was calling her to do evangelism and church planting.  Her field director did not see it the same way.  She was  needed to teach and to do "women's work."   That was her specific assignment from the Foreign Mission Board, and was administered by her field director, T.P Crawford (a man that had trouble dealing with both Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong).  Fearing that the few rights that women in the missions field had might be revoked, Lottie continued her writing.  "Simple justice demands that women should have equal rights with men in mission meetings and in the conduct of their work."   Lottie left no room for doubt on her position.  In regard to her field director's attempts to pigeon hole her and limit her effectiveness as a minister, she wrote, "[His plans] would make him, through the Board, dictator not only for life but after he had passed from earthly existence.If that be freedom, give me slavery." 

     Lottie's effectiveness as a missionary and her lasting testimony is tied directly to her strength as an individual and her belief in her call.  Had she done as she was told, Baptist life may have never known her  name, other than one of the names on the list of all those that have given their lives in the service of the gospel.  That list is special,  indeed, but we all know Lottie's name, and it's because she valued her call from God more than any of the directives she received from the SBC pipeline.

     Forbidden by the SBC to teach men, or to plant churches, or to  evangelize, Lottie did all three.  She plunged into the local life of her village like no other missionary before.  She eventually gained the trust of her village, and soon she was the driving force behind what became the largest evangelical movement in China up until that time.   She continued her life's work until 1912, when she went to be with her God that she loved so much.  She died partly because she was so malnourished.  She had literally given all her food away to the hungry villagers she shared her life with. 

     Her story is so much more than a legend to us.  It has inspired  generations of us.  It has shaped the  modern missions movement.  She was a century ahead of her time in adapting to the ways of the people among whom she lived in order to bring the gospel to the lost.  She had no time for people who would stand in the way of what God had called her to do.  She broke the rules that she found to be unjust.  She called for radical policy changes. She demanded that women be treated equally as men in regard to ministry. She angered many of her "superiors" and was constantly being chastised for her methods.  She rocked the boat, and she paved the way.  She set a sterling example for missions and ministers that her denomination  is ignoring. 

     Would Lottie Moon be appointed today? 

By Allen Thomason, Coordinator for the North Central Region of The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

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