Elliff asks Baptists to commit to missions during time of greatest lostnesscomment (0)
June 20, 2013
International Mission Board (IMB) President Tom Elliff challenged Southern Baptists to commit to being “Totally His” and cooperate for the sake of the gospel during the mission board’s report at the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) annual meeting in Houston.
Now is the time of greatest lostness in the world, Elliff said, when nearly 1 billion people are likely to die without ever hearing the gospel in a way they can understand. But also during this time, access has never been easier and resources have never been more abundant.
“God has given Southern Baptists something incredible, and that is an understanding of what it means to cooperate,” Elliff said. “The essence of [the Cooperative Program (CP)] is that we found out how to work together. Are we going to let that slide? Are we going to retrench in this day of the world’s greatest lostness? Are we going to refuse to sacrifice?”
Elliff mentioned five new IMB engagement initiatives: Global Connect, Global Strategic Mobilization, Ready Reserves, Macedonian Project and School of Prayer for All Nations, all of which give Southern Baptists more ways to partner with IMB in reaching the lost.
Elliff thanked Southern Baptists for the $149.3 million given to international missions in 2012 through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, the third-highest amount given in the offering’s 124-year history.
Southern Baptists also gave $96.6 million dollars to IMB through the CP. Lottie Moon and CP dollars support the 4,874 Southern Baptist representatives and their 4,000 children serving in 144 countries. But, Elliff noted, “the sober reality” is that support for CP has been declining and IMB is still short of their budget.
“If we intend to keep missions personnel on the field, it is imperative for us to learn what it means to give ... sacrificially,” Elliff said.
IMB representatives and their partners saw more than 337,000 people profess faith in Jesus in 2012, more than 266,000 people confessing Christ through baptism and about 24,000 new churches planted.
Southern Baptists engaged 133 people groups for the first time in 2012, and 1,827 Southern Baptist churches and entities are in the process of committing to embrace a people group.
During his presentation, Elliff began telling a story that spans decades, lives and continents. At the heart of this story, he said, are two issues: first, people who are totally His, and second, people who have learned “the secret” of cooperating.
The story began in a church: Paramount Baptist Church, Amarillo, Texas. Sam Cordell had been taught about missions by his church and even went on two international missions trips. One day, Cordell was intrigued by his church’s planned missions trip to Montana and decided to join the team.
He met his future wife, Debbie, there, and it wasn’t long before the couple was doing missions together. They became church planters in Montana. Then they became burdened for the world and were appointed as IMB representatives to South America in 1991, first serving in Chile then in Ecuador where they worked with the Quichua Indians.
Gary Hollingsworth, former pastor of First Baptist Church, Trussville, and now pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church, Little Rock, Ark., spoke about how both churches had partnered with the Cordells in Ecuador.
For Immanuel Baptist, getting involved in missions was “our first step in terms of really going beyond giving,” Hollingsworth said.
Through the work of partners like Immanuel Baptist and the Cordells, “God began to bless among the Quichua,” Elliff said. In less than a decade, Cordell had discipled and trained 200 Quichua believers to share the gospel and trained 41 Quichua to plant churches. In the process, one of the men began to stand out — Cebrián Bolívar, who planted and led 26 churches himself.
After some time, the Cordells began to realize their work among the Quichua was drawing to a close, and they began to think about serving in another area of the world.
“We’re not to be settlers, we’re to be pioneers,” Elliff said. “We’re not to just settle down and enjoy the light.”
When the Cordells announced they were leaving South America for southern Asia, Bolívar asked if he could come with them. Bolívar was not an obvious choice as an overseas worker — he grew up on a small farm in the Andes Mountains where farmers eke out a meager income.
But he has now been working in southern Asia with Sam Cordell for nearly two years. Even with the Quichua believers bonding together, there was not enough money to fully support Bolívar, Sam Cordell said. But Immanuel Baptist has helped support him as well.
The Cordells’ story is not the story of just one church or one man and his wife, Elliff said. It is the story of Southern Baptists cooperating to touch the ends of the earth.
“Would it not be the case that if we would give ourselves to putting our hot hearts around the stackpole of international missions that God might smile on Southern Baptists and give us more days?” Elliff asked. “Oh, God, I pray that that would be the case. And I pray that you and I would decide to be totally His, absolutely surrendered to Him.”