Elliff challenged Southern Baptists to greater missions involvement following the results of the 2010 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.
Doubts about the strength of America's economic recovery and rumors of a double-dip recession didn't stop Southern Baptists from giving $145,662,925 million in 2010 to tell the world about Jesus Christ. The offering supports the nearly 5,000 Southern Baptist missionaries serving around the world through the International Mission Board, providing housing, salaries, medical care and children's education. The cost averages $46,700 annually per individual missionary.
In 2009, that support enabled missionaries and their national partners to baptize more than 360,000 people and start more than 29,000 churches.
Elliff and Woman's Missionary Union (WMU) Executive Director/Treasurer Wanda Lee both expressed deep gratitude for Southern Baptists' investment in international missions and faithfulness to fulfill the Great Commission.
"In the midst of continuing economic challenges … this offering total gives evidence that Southern Baptists remained focused on missions," Lee said. "We are grateful for every church and every WMU leader that kept missions before their congregation with a challenge to give sacrificially so all the world may know of our Savior's great love."
The 2010 offering is $3 million less than the $148.9 million Southern Baptists gave in 2009, a 2.2 percent decrease, and $8.3 million less than IMB needs to meet its 2011 operating budget. Offering receipts also fell well below the national goal of $175 million. Elliff said the "deficit is a matter of concern, but the issue is ultimately spiritual, not fiscal."
"Every offering is a picture of our heart. And it illustrates whether we have faith in God — that's what stewardship is all about," Elliff said. "When we give generously, not only do we accomplish more on the field, but more is accomplished in our own heart because we're expressing our trust in Christ.
"God is calling Southern Baptists to a spiritual awakening -- an awakening of our faith — without which it is impossible to please Him."
Now, more than ever before, Elliff said, it is critical to press forward with taking the Gospel to those who haven't heard.
"Never has the cry of the lost been more desperate and the opportunity for sharing the Gospel been greater," he said. "The fact that there remain 3,800 people groups that are not engaged with the Gospel coupled with the fact that, barring an awakening of our faith, 1.7 billion people will die without hearing the name of Jesus, should be totally unacceptable to those of us who call ourselves by Christ's name.
"We will not evangelize the world by simply falling out of bed tomorrow morning and going about our business as usual. We must awaken to the trumpet call of faith."
Regardless of the budget deficit, Elliff said the IMB will not retreat during what may prove to be the most effective season of the organization's 166-year history.
"Through our cooperative efforts God has enabled Southern Baptists to develop two of the most dynamic and effective mission organizations anywhere in the world, six of the finest training institutions in the evangelical world, along with our other wonderful entities that speak to the great need of mankind," he said. "Add to these the amazing, supernatural strength of our local churches and we have a great cloud of witnesses capable of awesome exploits in the struggle for the souls of men.
"Your IMB intends to move forward, driven by a sense of urgency and with faith — faith in God and faith in Southern Baptists. My prayer is that in the days ahead we will see a level of sacrifice, generosity and concern that we have never seen before within the Southern Baptist Convention.
"One can only wonder what could be accomplished if we as Southern Baptists rose up to the level of faith that God wants us to experience."
Compiled by International Mission Board communications staff.
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