LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–More than 350 representatives of small to large Southern Baptist churches were honored for their 2008 gifts to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions during a June 23 luncheon at the SBC annual meeting in Louisville, Ky.
Recognized as either the top dollar-giving or the highest per capita-giving church in their local association to the Annie Armstrong Offering, the churches — along with associations, state conventions and Woman’s Missionary Union — were praised for raising more than $58.1 million in 2008.
Wayne DuBose, pastor of First Baptist Church in Minden, La., credited the congregation’s passion to reach the unreached for giving both the highest in dollars ($26,177) and per capita in the Louisiana Baptist Convention’s Webster-Claiborne Baptist Association.
“We preach and teach that the church exists for those outside our doors,” DuBose said.
Pastor Bill Sharp, representing First Baptist Church in Minor Hill, Tenn., the top per capita-giving church in the Tennessee convention’s Giles Baptist Association, said, “Our people are big on missions, whether it’s Annie Armstrong, children’s homes or local missions.
“We try to be missions-minded,” Sharp said. “Our ladies shot for a goal and we reached it.”
North American Mission Board President Geoff Hammond said the overall 2008 Annie Armstrong offering of $58.1 million was just 2.3 percent less than the year before. He reminded luncheon attendees that 2008 will be long remembered for the start of the worst U.S. recession of the last 60 years and for $4-per-gallon gasoline.
It’s too early to tell how the 2009 Annie Armstrong campaign is going, Hammond said, but he expects to see a preliminary trend by the end of July.
“Being in this room means your church and your association have influenced people to give to North American missions,” Hammond said at the luncheon. “On behalf of our missionaries, thank you from the bottom of my heart for giving to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering.”
Noting that North America is a mission field, Hammond said the United States and Canada are two of the few industrial nations continuing to grow. Canada is growing by 250,000 immigrants a year, he said, while the U.S. will have 100 million more people in the next 35 years.
“Thirty years from now, we’ll see an American population that is 30 percent Hispanic and 46 percent Anglo,” Hammond said. “Folks, we have to reach the peoples of North America and you are NAMB’s key partners. It is going to take praying, giving and going.”
All of the world’s religions are represented in the United States, Hammond said, and it is No. 5 in the world in the number of ethno-linguistic groups -– behind only India, China, Nigeria and Thailand.
“God is going to hold us accountable for reaching North America for Christ,” said Hammond, adding that there are some 255 million “lost” people in North America.
In discussing Southern Baptists’ newly launched evangelism initiative -– “God’s Plan for Sharing,” or GPS -– Hammond said NAMB and its partners, state conventions and associations, recently conducted four successful GPS pilot programs in Georgia, California, Texas and Pennsylvania.
“Between February and the weeks leading up to last Easter, these pilot programs touched 270,000 homes or almost 1 million people. Under GPS in 2010, we want to sow down the Gospel for three weeks before Easter. We have the potential of touching one-third of the population of the United States — some 32 million homes,” Hammond said.
Richard Harris, NAMB’s senior strategist for missions advancement, said NAMB had 5,611 commissioned missionaries and 3,077 chaplains at the end of 2008.
“In 2009, we will commission 330-340 new missionaries and chaplains for an all-time high, an average of about 30 a month,” Harris said. “We commissioned 144 missionaries and chaplains in February, 89 in May and will commission another 100 or so in Denver in October.”
Saying 46 percent of NAMB’s budget comes from the Annie Armstrong offering and 36 percent from the Cooperative Program, Harris said, “We’re in some troubled times -– economically, politically and spiritually.”
Woman’s Missionary Union, headed by Executive Director/Treasurer Wanda Lee and President Kaye Miller, was lauded by Hammond and Harris for their support of the Annie Armstrong Offering.
“We couldn’t do what we do without you ladies,” Harris said. Lee replied that the partnership between NAMB and WMU “has never been closer or better.”
Also speaking at the luncheon were NAMB Week of Prayer missionaries Willie Jacobs of Memphis and Gary Smith of Winnipeg, Ontario.
“We want to thank you, churches, for your support,” said Jacobs, adding that Memphis is ranked No. 2 in the U.S. in crime. “In spite of that, God is doing a work in Memphis. We’ve only been there for one year, but we’ve seen God do some mighty things. We sow down the Gospel in Memphis seven days a week.”
Describing Canada as one of the most unchurched nations in the world, Smith said, “You can drive 31 hours in Canada and not find a SBC church or an evangelical witness, not one. This is a needy place for the Gospel. That’s why we are here and why you commissioned us as missionaries. And that’s why you give.”
NAMB’s Harris also released the top 10 states for Annie Armstrong donations in 2008: 1. North Carolina, $6.08 million; 2. Alabama, $5.85 million; 3. Georgia, $5.1 million; 4. Texas (BGCT), $4.7 million; 5. Tennessee, $4.06 million; 6. South Carolina, $3.9 million; 7. Mississippi, $3.8 million; 8. Florida, $2.9 million; 9. Texas (SBTC), $2.5 million; and 10. Louisiana, $2.2 million.
Mickey Noah writes for the North American Mission Board.