INDIANAPOLIS (BP)–J.D. Greear recalls a time when he didn’t see missionaries in a very positive light.
“I once concluded that missionaries were pastors that could not get jobs in the United States,” said the pastor of the Summit Church in Durham, N.C., during the International Mission Board’s annual pastor’s dinner June 9 in Indianapolis.
“It changed for me in college when God, in a very real way, opened my eyes to what it meant for 1.8 billion people to have never heard the name of Jesus,” Greear said. “God changed my prayer from, ‘I’ll go if You want me to go’ to ‘I’ll go if You let me go.'”
Greear eventually took his passion for missions to his congregation, which has partnered with the International Mission Board on various missions endeavors.
“We want everybody [in our church] to be part of [missions],” Greear said. “The local church is ultimately responsible for that. We want to plant [churches] through the IMB, not just say, ‘You guys do it for us. Here’s some money.'”
Greear was one of about 500 pastors and church leaders from top-giving churches who were honored by the IMB for their faithful support of missions. Their gifts to the 2007 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering helped raise $150,409,653.86 — an amount that exceeded the previous year’s offering by $231,000, but fell short of $165 million goal. Next year’s LMCO goal is $170 million.
“Although we did not meet our goal of $165 million dollars,” IMB President Jerry Rankin said, “in context of the economy of our country and the strained church budget and personal financial crisis, we are grateful that this reflects the heart of Southern Baptists in giving to missions.
“Through your testimony, you encourage more churches to be involved in what God is doing,” Rankin said.
As the dollar’s value overseas continues to fall, Southern Baptists will be needed more than ever to meet the challenge of sustaining the number of missionaries on the field.
Frank Page, the Southern Baptist Convention’s outgoing president, expressed his thanks for more than 5,300 IMB missionaries on the field for their commitment to the Great Commission task.
“We love you, we support you and as I’ve said over and over, Southern Baptists will support international missions,” he said. “International missions continues to be the heartbeat of who Southern Baptists are and who we support.”
Dickie Nelson, the board’s regional leader for South America, shared the need for more missionaries in the region, which will be highlighted in the organization’s promotions this year. Four hundred people groups in the South America region have less than a 2 percent evangelical Christian presence, he said. Some have no access to the Gospel.
“They need to hear the story of Jesus,” Nelson said. “Our vision is that every person in South America would have the chance to hear the Gospel.”
Shawn Hendricks is a writer for the International Mission Board.