MEMPHIS, Tenn. (BP)–International Mission Board trustees rejoiced during their March 19-21 meeting in Memphis, Tenn., that the 2006 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering is projected to exceed the goal of $150 million, which would be a record.
Trustees appointed 49 missionaries, affirmed evidence of greater Southern Baptist involvement in the West Africa region and heard a challenge to embrace change to reach the world’s unengaged peoples.
David Steverson, vice president of finance and treasurer for the International Mission Board, reported the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering is projected to exceed the $150 million national goal for 2006. A final report will be released after the May 31 close-out date for the offering receipts.
Steverson expressed thanks to Southern Baptists for their sacrificial giving and growing passion for sharing the Gospel with unreached people groups through the offering.
In 1888, a the first offering of $3,315.26 funded three missionaries’ work alongside Lottie Moon, he recalled. Today, the offering — named for Moon — continues to help send and support missionaries to reach all peoples for Christ.
Trustees appointed 49 new missionaries March 21 during a service at Kirby Woods Baptist Church in Memphis. The latest addition of missionaries brings the total number of overseas personnel to 5,160, including more than 4,000 long-term missionaries on the field.
In other business, IMB Personnel Committee Chairman Paul Chitwood said that the ad hoc committees revisiting a baptism guideline and prayer language policy for missionary candidates, both adopted in November 2005, had concluded their work and reported to the Personnel Committee. Their recommendation will be presented to the full board in May.
WEST AFRICA REJOICES OVER PROGRESS
Following a year-long campaign to highlight mission efforts in West Africa, regional associate Roger Haun reported how God is moving in the region.
Through regional mobilization summits, stories and various promotional materials, the region now has 300,000 prayer partners. More than 200 churches attended West Africa summits in Florida and Missouri. In the process, about 20 churches adopted people groups. More than 120 other churches made some type of commitment to help the region.
“The response has been phenomenal,” Haun said. “We’ve been very pleased by the number of Southern Baptists who have responded. It’s been beyond our wildest expectations.”
Trustees appointed three missionary couples to the region during the Memphis meeting. By the end of this year, the region expects to receive more new missionaries than in the last three years combined, Haun said.
The region has the world’s largest number of unreached people groups of fewer than 100,000 people. IMB personnel are giving priority to reaching all people groups of 100,000 and more throughout the world and, therefore, need church partners to step up and engage many of those smaller groups still unreached, such as in West Africa.
‘WE MUST EMBRACE CHANGE’
In order to reach more unengaged people groups, IMB President Jerry Rankin contended Southern Baptists must be willing to embrace change.
“The changes in our churches, our denomination and American society are apparent,” Rankin said. “It is obvious we are living in an era of global change that is continuing to open many unprecedented doors of opportunity to share the Gospel.”
By the end of the decade, Rankin hopes to see 10,000 Southern Baptist churches involved in strategic partnerships overseas. Other goals include expanding the missionary force from a little more than 5,000 to 8,000 and engaging unreached people groups.
But first, Southern Baptists must identify and let go of strategies, programs and methods that no longer are relevant in today’s society, Rankin said. He stressed that the International Mission Board must remain firm in message, purpose, mandate, principles and values, but said the agency’s organization, strategies, methods and programs must be open to change.
“How do we as a mission agency remain relevant and on the cutting edge of effectiveness? It will not be without a readiness to embrace change.”
SBC PRESIDENT STRESSES URGENCY FOR REVIVAL
In a meeting filled with prayer and emotional pleas for a widespread spiritual revival, SBC President Frank Page challenged Southern Baptists to hone their focus on God’s work with a renewed sense of urgency. Page said efforts to impact the world for Jesus Christ are encountering resistance and spiritual attacks.
“In our convention [and] in our work we have been fighting the wrong enemy,” he told trustees, referencing Ephesians 6.
“Our struggle is not against flesh and blood.”
A revival, Page contended, is needed among Southern Baptists to reawaken God’s people.
“I’m asking every entity, every church, every associational meeting, every state convention in which I speak to join with me in begging God for a Holy Spirit movement,” he said.
“I do believe we are at a crossroads moment, an irrecoverable moment and we cannot miss another opportunity…. God is a God of victory. God wants to see the nations come unto Him.”
MISSIONARIES NEEDED FOR ‘FULL-COURT PRESS’
Trustees also heard reports on the progress of missionary couple Carl and Kay Garvin, who were attacked Feb. 23 during a robbery in Tanzania. Both continue to heal from their wounds.
The couple was robbed at a hotel while working with a volunteer team in the area. A robber shot Kay in the chest, barely missing her heart and other vital organs. Carl’s arm was badly cut and broken by a machete. Gordon Fort, vice president for Overseas Operations, reported that the attack on the Garvins is just one example of a series of events — persecution, a political uprising and health-related issues — that have happened to missionaries in recent weeks.
“I believe we’ve seen an intensifying of the spiritual struggle around the world,” Fort said.
But these events give Southern Baptists no reason to be afraid or back down, he added.
“We continue to believe that we should be on the offensive. If there ever was a time when we, as Southern Baptists, should take the resources that God has entrusted to us and go out on a full-court press, it is in this day,” he said.
The next trustee meeting will be in Kansas City, Mo., May 7-9. A missionary appointment service will be held May 9 at Pleasant Valley Baptist Church in Liberty, Mo.