ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–It seems like there is always a new study coming out these days with more bad news for evangelicals. Now, I think that these studies are important and necessary. We can’t fix our problems until we know what is broken and why.
But for Southern Baptists there is some great news to start the new year. Our Cooperative Program giving was way up in 2006. And for those of us involved in reaching North America, it was an incredible blessing to find out that our Annie Armstrong Easter Offering broke the all-time record. More than 58 million dollars was given, exceeding our goal by more than 2 million dollars. One hundred percent of this money goes directly to North American missions. Thank-you, Southern Baptists!
Having the opportunity to work with Southern Baptists across this continent, I get to see first-hand what this money does. I constantly am amazed by the commitment and excellence of missionaries, church planters, seminary professors and denominational servants for whom this money is the life-blood of their work. As I write this I am in Wyoming teaching at the state evangelism conference. I wish all of you could see the heart of these wonderful people. Many of them drove hundreds of miles through high winds and ice-covered roads to be here. They are serving with little recognition but with great joy and love for the people of this state. And they came here hungry to pray, and to hear from God about how better to bring the Good News to the people they serve.
I often wonder if Southern Baptists even know about all that their giving does. For instance, do you know that your giving enables the North American Mission Board to endorse 2,671 chaplains, all of whom are committed to biblical truth and evangelism? These faithful chaplains serve in hospitals, law enforcement, disaster relief and community venues. More than 1,000 of them serve in the military. Many of these chaplains are with our soldiers in the most critical moments of their lives -– and sometimes in their final hours on earth. That alone is enough for me to want to give more.
How about this for good news? Last year our chaplains shared the Gospel more than 26,000 times. More than 4,700 people professed faith in Christ, and 1,212 were baptized. One of our chaplains recently returned from Iraq, tired and in need of refreshment and assistance in moving back into life in America. Your giving helped send him to a retreat we sponsor for returning chaplains. In this chaplain’s battalion 13 were killed in action, 40 were wounded. But the chaplain led 22 in his battalion to faith in Christ and baptized 11. Six sensed a call to ministry, three have applied to seminary and one already is enrolled at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. How’s that for good use of God’s money and good reason to give?
Chaplain Martin Chang held a New Year’s service for his soldiers, and revival broke out. In a three-hour service, more than 80 soldiers lined up to come to Christ and to renew their walk with Him.
“God is doing something great here and I thank Him for His power!” Chang said.
How will you personally give and how will your church give to missions this year? I believe with all my heart that we can do what God has called us to do better together than separately. The key to seeing this increase in missions giving continue is to tell the stories of the mighty things God does when we give, so that all of us see the value in the Kingdom investment we make. I will try to keep doing that in these columns this year. Southern Baptists, you are giving your money to leaders who will use it with integrity, accountability and eternal impact. And because you give, you are making evangelism good news again.
John Avant is vice president for evangelization at the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board.