Chuck Schneider, executive pastor of Sagemont Church in Houston, which funded the event, said the gathering's theme, "The Last Full Measure of Devotion," came from President Abraham Lincoln as he acknowledged those who gave the ultimate sacrifice at Gettysburg.
For believers, however, there is no fear of death, Schneider noted.
"The last full measure of devotion for us is the concept of what are we going to do as ambassadors, as we step off into the Kingdom. What kind of legacy will we leave? ... What will we do as good stewards?" he asked.
John Morgan, Sagemont's senior pastor, talked about "trying to make up for lost time" after he realized that during his 40-plus years at the church only one person had remembered it in her will.
After learning that about 70 percent of Americans do not have a will, Morgan decided to make sure everyone at Sagemont had one. When they offered a lawyer's services to set up wills for church members, Morgan said he thought 500 would show up. But that night more than 1,700 wills, powers of attorney and physician directives were distributed.
Soon after that, Schneider attended the Southern Baptist Convention in Indianapolis and heard from PhilanthroCorp, a planned giving services organization and partner of both IMB and the Southern Baptist Foundation. Nine months later, Sagemont leadership invited PhilanthroCorp to the church.
In about two years, families contributed more than $20 million to the Sagemont's nonprofit foundation, Morgan said, and nearly $20 million more is pending. God has provided for the church's needs, he said, since they committed to stop borrowing money in 1975.
"When we stopped begging the people and starting praising God and asking Him, the glory came down," Morgan said. "... All during this time period, we stayed the course of missions, missions, missions."
Then, saying "we have finally come to the good part," Morgan presented Elliff with a $200,000 check for the Cooperative Program -- the first check Sagemont has written from the endowment.
"Pastors, you don't have to save God any money, He's got plenty of money -- He just can't find any stewards to entrust it to," Morgan said. "When your church becomes that kind of a church and, pastors, when you get a vision that reaches beyond where you live, God will open up the windows of heaven and pour you out a blessing that you'll not be able to receive."
Sagemont Church has "a heart as big as the world," Elliff said after receiving the check.
"A legacy is something that is left behind," Elliff told the crowd. "What is your legacy? What will be your legacy?"
In a world where nearly 1 billion people likely will die without hearing the Gospel in a way they can understand, Elliff said it is "unthinkable, unacceptable." The IMB president called himself an "unashamed beggar" on behalf of the lost billions of this world.
Dave Clippard, IMB associate vice president of development, urged pastors to first create their family's personal estate plans and then help church members with estate planning. IMB's development office has several church legacy consultants who can help churches with planned giving.
In estate planning, "we simply ask a question, 'have you considered missions?'" Clippard said.
For more information about leaving a legacy in missions and ministry through giving, visit IMB's development office website at imbgiving.org or call 804-219-1405; visit the PhilanthroCorp website at www.aboutplannedgiving.com or call 719-955-2500; or visit the Southern Baptist Foundation website at www.sbfdn.org or call 800-245-8183.
Laura Fielding is an IMB writer. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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