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FBC Cullman staff takes icy plunge after church doubles giving to Lottie Moon offeringcomment (0)

April 7, 2011

Ed Hayes believed that something “dramatic” had to be done.

This past summer during the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in Orlando, Fla., Hayes learned that the International Mission Board would be limiting the number of new missionary appointments and scaling back its missionary force from 5,500 to 5,000 through natural attrition — completions of service and retirements.

He also heard reports that 6,426 people groups still haven’t been reached with the gospel.

“How can we talk about cutting back on the total number of missionaries and, at the same time, reaching more people?” asked Hayes, who has been pastor of First Baptist Church, Cullman, for 27 years.

“I know these are hard times … [but] I knew we needed to do something to turn that around.”

The following Sunday, Hayes told the West Cullman Baptist Association congregation he felt convicted that there were missionaries who were called and ready to go to the field but there was not enough money to send them.

“I think we need to raise our Lottie Moon goal,” Hayes told the crowd of about 550. “I think we need to double what we gave last year.”

He challenged the members of his congregation to save throughout the year and double what they gave to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions the previous year.

Jim O’Dillon, minister of education and outreach for the church, wasn’t expecting the announcement and admitted he was more than a little skeptical.

At that point, First, Cullman, already had set its offering goal at $60,000. O’Dillon said he didn’t think that goal was reachable, since the church raised $39,200 the year before, just short of its $40,000 goal.

“It came close but there was no cigar,” O’Dillon said. “I’m thinking the economy is not much better … and when [the pastor said] that … I thought, ‘The man has gone completely nuts. There is no way we can give $80,000. He has set a goal that is doomed to fail.’”

He was not alone in his assessment.

“When [the pastor] first said it, I thought, ‘Yeah, right,’” church member Kathy Hacker said. “I thought, ‘Well, he’s really going to have to sell missions to get that.’”

And Hacker said that’s exactly what her pastor did that Sunday.

Hayes made his case for the thousands of people groups who have no access to the gospel and why more missionaries must be sent to reach them.

“He made it very simple,” she said. “That [piqued] my interest. … It was very inspirational.”

Hacker liked the sermon so much she had DVD copies made and gave them to several families in the congregation.

Each week, Hayes reminded the congregation to continue saving for the offering.

One Sunday, sticks of Wrigley’s Doublemint gum were handed out as members left the auditorium. The gum served as another reminder for them to “double” their offering.

Instead of waiting for December, some members began to turn in a little of their offering each month. A few weeks before the church’s 2010 offering deadline, the gifts had grown to $72,000 — far exceeding its official goal of $60,000.

Though the pastor and his staff were surprised and pleased by the amount, Hayes said he became concerned the giving might level off.

“If we don’t do something dramatic as a staff to get the attention of the church,” Hayes said, “that’s probably about where we’ll stay.”

He decided it was time to “have some fun.”

Hayes told church members that if they raised the remaining $8,000, then he and the church leadership — including O’Dillon, who originally doubted the goal could be reached — would take a polar bear plunge into the outdoor pool at the local aquatic center.

In the remaining weeks, more than $17,000 was raised, which put First, Cullman, well over its goal with $89,350.

“The church responded tremendously,” Hayes said. “We talked about it and focused on it … and I think that was the key … just a simple, brief reminder weekly.”

On Feb. 6, the church leadership took the plunge — everyone except for Hayes.

“My doctor short-circuited my participation,” said the 68-year-old, who has had a variety of health challenges in recent years. “[The doctor] absolutely forbade me to do this. Everybody teased me about getting out of it … but I really wanted to do it.”

Since the church exceeded its goal, O’Dillon has realized two things. First a church can do amazing things when it works together. Second he learned that jumping into an ice-cold swimming pool in February is similar to being “stung by a jellyfish.”

Hayes said if First, Cullman, gets close to its goal next year, then he may commit to doing something else “dramatic.”

“There is a lot of world to reach,” Hayes said. “We can do this.”  (BP)

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