National WMU President Debby Akerman said in her address, "With Jesus' words in Mark 8:34, 'Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me,' the bar was raised for those following Jesus."
"For the disciples He had called, as well as those who were the unnamed, not yet committed faces in the crowd, Jesus raised the bar of discipleship to a level that would now require wholehearted surrender, sacrifice and service," Akerman told state WMU executive directors and staff, state WMU presidents, and national WMU staff.
"A level that would connect the Great Commandment to love God with all your heart, soul and mind and your neighbor as yourself, to the Great Commission, to go into all the world to teach all nations," she said during the Jan. 11–13 meeting. "It requires sacrificial living.
"We, too, must say with those who came before us, taking up the Calvary cross of sacrifice, that we will wholeheartedly follow Jesus and do whatever My Lord gives me to do."
Tom Elliff, IMB president, also illustrated the need for raising the bar of missions involvement with some statistics:
-- 75 percent of the world's population live in areas hostile to the Christian faith.
-- Almost two-thirds of IMB's budget comes from the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. This offering provides funding for the almost 4,900 missionaries on the field. Currently there are 864 strategic need requests from the field but the current budget will only allow 576 new personnel to be sent this year. There are missionary candidates in the application process who could fill the remaining strategic needs if more funding were available.
"We need spiritual revival," the International Mission Board's leader said. "Missionaries working in difficult places would never be sustained by a mediocre faith.
"Missions involvement cannot be limited to a trip, or a focus for one week during the week of prayer," he said. "We must have a furnace of prayer, 365 days a year, to pray for an awakening across our nation and to pray for the nations."
Pedro Hernandez, a missionary with the North American Mission Board, also underscored the importance of an awakening across the nation and the critical role of prayer. He and his wife Marjorie are church planters within the New York Baptist Convention.
Evangelical Christians comprise roughly 4 percent of the population in the New York metro area, Hernandez said. There are about 220 churches, which translates as one church for every 76,000 people.
"Many people in our area are apathetic," he said. "They view God as a myth or maybe something even good, but not for them. Think of our metro areas as a training ground to reach post-modern culture."
Hernandez expressed gratitude for all of the prayers, especially in regard to Hurricane Sandy, which opened doors for ministry as people experienced tremendous loss.
"You may not see the results of your prayers," he said, "but they go far and make a difference. Day after day, we see prayers answered. God is working. We need to raise the bar. They are never enough prayers. There is never enough missions."
Andrew Mann, also a church planter with the North American Mission Board, serves in the Bronx as pastor/executive director of Graffiti 2 Community Ministries with the assistance of Proof, a professional therapy dog that works beside him in the ministry.
Mann also thanked Woman's Missionary Union for their prayer support and for raising awareness about human exploitation. "WMU brings a breath of life to a church," he said. "You are such a blessing. Through your Project HELP focus on Human Exploitation, you helped raise awareness in our area of needs related to human trafficking in New York City."
In closing, Akerman said, "WMU in our churches strengthens every generation to live surrendered to the call of Jesus to follow Him. As WMU guides our churches to look at the world through the eyes of Jesus and to love the world through the heart of God, Who so loved the world that He gave us Jesus, they will have a biblical, missional worldview.
"We extend a call to our churches and all who are part of WMU to live a totally surrendered life in Christ," she said, "to live a life marked by personal sacrifice to advance the Gospel of Christ, and to live as a servant of our King Jesus through the missions objectives of WMU."
In other business, the Executive Board of national WMU:
-- Awarded nearly $178,000 in endowments, grants and scholarships in partnership with the WMU Foundation.
-- Approved $175 million as goal for the 2014 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.
-- Approved $60 million as goal for the 2015 Annie Armstrong Easter Offering.
-- Adopted a new achievement plan for Royal Ambassadors, called RA Trek, to be available in the fall.
Julie Walters is the corporate communications team leader for WMU. 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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