Christians pray for others' hearts to be stirred toward Christ but they also need to pray that their own hearts are continually stirred by a deep burden for the spiritually lost, Elliff told International Mission Board trustees during their Aug. 27-28 meeting at the IMB International Learning Center in Rockville, Va.
Elliff said he has a hard time sleeping after watching the evening news, not just because of wars, disasters and other tragedies, but because "every one of us has learned how to look at the most horrific things you can imagine and be unmoved by them."
"We know where the great tragedies are, we see people running for their lives and starving physically," Elliff said. But most often they also are starving spiritually.
"We've learned how to be aware of lostness but not be moved by lostness," Elliff said. "We have a tendency when speaking of lostness to speak of it statistically." But statistical overload, he said, doesn't equate those numbers with individuals in dire need of Jesus.
The words of Proverbs 24:11 haunt Elliff: "Deliver those who are being taken away to death and those who are staggering to slaughter. Oh, hold them back" (NASB).
"'Hold them back,' God says. That's our mandate," Elliff said. "Everything we do must be framed in the light of the lostness of this earth. That's what we're about."
Southern Baptist churches need to be focused together in one sacred effort of pulling people back from lostness and an eternity separated from God, he said.
"Missions is the stack pole of the Southern Baptist Convention," he stated. "Missions is all about lostness."
When Southern Baptists give to the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, it isn't to meet a need IMB has, Elliff stressed. It's to meet the need the world has for the Gospel.
Meeting the real need
Every penny of the $175 million LMCO goal is absolutely needed, David Steverson, IMB vice president of finance and treasurer, told trustees during his report.
Southern Baptists' international missionary count remains under 5,000, a limit necessitated by the economic downturn of the past few years.
The LMCO goal since 2009 of receiving $175 million within one year has not been reached. The closest the offering has come to $175 million was slightly more than $150 million in 2006 and 2007 and nearly $150 million in 2012.
"People ask, 'Why not lower the goal?'" Elliff told trustees. "The problem is not the goal; it's not high enough.
"We need to reach that goal just as a testimony of our awareness of the lostness of the world," he continued. "I am grateful for every coin that has come, for every person that has sacrificed, but now is not the time to retrench.... There has never been a greater time for missions than this."
Hispanics engaging lostness
Underlining that point, trustees approved IMB's launching of a new initiative called the Kairos Project to mobilize Hispanic Southern Baptists to serve as cross-cultural missionaries. They will serve in strategic roles around the world where their language skills and cultural affinities will provide greater access to reach others with the Gospel. Kairos is a Greek word that means "at the opportune moment."
Hispanics are one of the fastest-growing segments of the U.S. evangelical community, including Southern Baptists. It is estimated that the number of Hispanic Baptist churches will double to 7,000 by 2020.
IMB is seeking qualified applicants for the Kairos Project within the International Service Corps (ISC) category of missionary service. ISC terms are typically two to three years. It is anticipated they will serve in Europe, Central Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia and Latin America.
Applications to serve in the Kairos Project currently are being accepted at the imb.org website. Within the online application form, type "Kairos Project" in the box titled, "Type of Job Assignment Preferred."
Hispanics who want to be considered for Kairos Project missionary deployment to the field by the end of 2014 should initiate the ISC application process this fall. More information on the project is available from IMB initial contacts at 888-422-6461; email, firstname.lastname@example.org.
IMB is engaging 204 people groups that have no access to the Word of God, reported John Brady, IMB vice president of global strategy.
To help address this need, IMB's office of orality strategies has put together a team to translate key Bible stories into oral Scripture resources so people can hear the Gospel for the first time in their heart (native) language. The project is called Storying Together.
In other business:
-- Trustees expressed appreciation for a $5.3 million estate gift, one of the largest gifts designated for the Lottie Moon offering ever given. They also gave thanks for two other estate gifts, totaling more than $56,000.
-- Trustees approved a revision to IMB's mission statement to read: "Our mission is evangelizing, discipling and planting reproducing churches among all peoples in fulfillment of the Great Commission."
-- Trustees learned about the launch of Skybridge Community, a new Marketplace Advance initiative to help North American Christians living overseas find ways to more intentionally be involved in missions where they are located. Skybridge Community's website will launch in September at skybridgecommunity.com.
-- Trustees recommended 24 missionaries for emeriti status, representing 623 years of service.
-- Trustees appointed 65 new missionaries honored at a service at Liberty Baptist Church in Hampton, Va., bringing IMB's missionary total to 4,885.
The next IMB trustee meeting will be Nov. 7-8 in Charlotte, N.C., with a missionary appointment service Nov. 10 at Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte.
Kate Gregory writes for the International Mission Board from Richmond, Va. 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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