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Annie offering reaches $56.5 million

TALLADEGA, Ala. (BP)–Southern Baptists gave $56.5 million in 2009 to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions. The amount was 2.7 percent (or $1.5 million) off the previous year’s giving mark and $8.5 million below the stated goal of $65 million.

Richard Harris, interim president of the North American Mission Board, shared the total in an address to the Woman’s Missionary Union board of trustees at the Shocco Springs Baptist Conference Center in Talladega, Ala.

The $56.5 million received in 2009 is the fourth-largest total in the offering’s history.

In a year filled with 10 percent unemployment, a bleak housing market and other distressing economic news, Harris said the amount given to “Annie” was a blessing.

“Only God could do that,” Harris told the WMU leaders Jan. 10, “and only through the faithfulness of people like WMU ladies out there lifting up the opportunities and needs.”

Harris expressed his appreciation for WMU’s year-round efforts to promote missions and missions giving.

“I appreciate the partnership we’ve shared,” Harris said. “We are about the same thing — trying to advance the Kingdom for missions. I thank all of you for what you are doing. In some of our churches there would be no emphasis on missions if it wasn’t for you. You keep it up on the front burner. You wave the flag. And we at NAMB are indeed grateful.”

Wanda S. Lee, WMU executive director, joined Harris in celebrating the giving achievement.

“In a year of significant financial challenges for many within our denomination, we are excited about this level of giving to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering,” Lee said.

“Through missions discipleship, Southern Baptists understand the spiritual needs across our nation and the kind of resources it will take to share Christ effectively. WMU is grateful for and committed to our strong partnership with NAMB staff and missionaries as together we seek to engage more people in fulfilling the Great Commission.”

Before Harris’ remarks, North American Mission Board missionary Michael Allen shared about his ministry as pastor to the diverse community surrounding his Uptown Baptist Church in Chicago.

“I like to say that there are three things that power our ministry: prayer power, financial power and people power,” Allen said. “WMU has given all of that to the ministry of Uptown for many years.”

Allen ministers to a broad range of residents who live and work near the church. The ministry includes a shelter for up to 50 homeless women who sleep in the church basement, a weekly meal that serves more than 250 people and an addiction recovery program.

“You can pray that we will see more women come to Christ through the shelter,” Allen said. “And pray that our church continues to be on mission in the Acts 1:8 model.”

Referring to the daunting task of reaching the 258 million people in North America who do not know Christ as Savior, Harris spoke from 2 Chronicles 20, telling those present, “The battle is not ours, it’s God’s.”

Regarding current challenges Southern Baptists face, Harris asked, “Is our problem primarily organizational or is it primarily spiritual? I believe it’s the latter.”

Harris shared research indicating that since 1998, the number of SBC churches that baptized no one has increased to the point that now 25 percent — one in four — recorded zero baptisms in 2008. Churches baptizing five or fewer and 10 or fewer also are on the rise. Only 21 percent of SBC churches baptized 11 or more in 2008. The number of churches baptizing no teenagers also is increasing.

In addition, Harris said membership trends indicate that 71 percent of SBC churches are either plateaued or declining.

“Now I ask you this: Are we seriously thinking we can fulfill the Great Commission with 71 percent of our churches that are either plateaued or declining? I think not,” Harris said.

Harris shared NAMB’s key focus areas — Sharing Christ, Starting Churches and Sending Missionaries — with the group and a number of current initiatives the entity is working on, including “Across North America,” the first phase of the 10-year God’s Plan for Sharing (GPS) national evangelism initiative. Across North America launches in the weeks leading up to Easter.

The goal for the 2010 Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions is $70 million. This year’s North American Missions Emphasis theme is “Live with Urgency: Share God’s Transforming Power.” Churches and individuals who wish to promote the offering can find resources at www.anniearmstrong.com.
Mike Ebert is communications team leader for the North American Mission Board.

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  • Mike Ebert