Published December 16, 2004
It's amazing what God can do.
That's the sentiment of pastor Andy Merritt and members of Edgewood Baptist Church in Columbus as they reflect on last year's Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions.
"In 2002 our church gave its highest Lottie Moon Offering ever, somewhere around $32,000. We were grateful because our goal had been $26,000.
"Last year, in response to IMB President Jerry Rankin's plea for additional missions support, we stretched ourselves and raised the goal to $44,000 - and began a serious prayer effort that we would reach the goal.
"To make a long story short, the final offering came in at a little more than $152,000 and we're still shaking our head at what the Lord released in our midst," Merritt says.
Edgewood does not brag about the achievement and actually downplayed its involvement in the record-breaking offering. But its commitment to international missionaries reflects the level of sacrifice shared by Georgia Baptist churches of all sizes when they give sacrificially.
It's not the amount of the gift but the amount of the sacrifice, many pastors and WMU leaders say.
This year Georgia Baptists have set a goal of $11,000,000 for the seasonal offering, an increase of $1,000,000 from the previous year.
Barbara Curnutt, executive director-treasurer for Georgia Baptist Woman's Missionary Union and Women's Enrichment Ministry, is grateful for the role Georgia Baptists continue to play in the worldwide missions enterprise.
"In spite of terrorist threats, violence and feelings of uncertainty, God is unmistakably at work in our world. Without question we are living in one of the most exciting and opportune moments in all of history.
"We are witnessing a remarkable response to the gospel in Asia, Africa, Central and Eastern Europe, and the Middle East, and our missionaries are at the center of what God is doing. They desperately need our prayers as they share Christ in a dangerous and hostile world, and they need the financial resources to seize this unique moment of opportunity," she said.
"God has richly blessed Georgia Baptists and it is our joy and our responsibility to share those blessings with the workers He has called into the harvest."
Curnutt mentioned recent reports of a 19 percent jump in overseas baptisms in the past year. A record 500,000 professions of faith were reported in 2002, only to be dwarfed by more than 600,000 conversions in 2003, the most recent year for which figures are available.
That momentum in world evngelism, which took years to build, must continue if Southern Baptists are going to remain effective in reaching the world for Christ, she added.
Eleven Georgia churches among Top 100 in total giving
Eleven Georgia Baptist churches were among the Top 100 contributors to the 2003 offering, according to a report released this month by the International Mission Board. The report comes as Southern Baptists set their sights on a record $150 million national goal for the Christmas offering.
Georgia churches making the top contributers list were: Number 9, Roswell Street Baptist Church, Marietta, $306,980, Ernest Easley, pastor; Number 21, Johnson Ferry Baptist Church, Marietta, $165,879, Bryant Wright Jr., pastor; Number 31, Blackshear Place Baptist Church, Flowery Branch, $142,471, Jeff Crook, pastor; Number 47, Curtis Baptist Church, Augusta, $115,597, Mark Harris, pastor; Number 48, First Baptist Church of Norcross, $115,260, Lee Smith, pastor;
Number 51, First Baptist Church of Jonesboro, $112,894, Dean Haun, pastor; Number 68, Mount Vernon Baptist Church, Atlanta, $100,437, Sam Boyd, pastor; Number 69, Prince Avenue Baptist Church, Athens, $100,212, Bill Ricketts, pastor; Number 85, Warren Baptist Church, Augusta, $91,554, David Fleming, pastor; Number 87, First Baptist Church of Woodstock, $91,304, Johnny Hunt, pastor; and Number 99, First Baptist Church of Thomasville, $82,602, Dan Spencer, pastor.
Georgia places twelfth among 41 conventions in per capita giving
Georgia with total gifts of $11,906,281.56, placed twelfth among 41 state conventions or fellowships in per capita giving. Georgia's per capita amount was $8.66 based on 1,374,922 members in the state convention.
Hawaii placed first in the category with $212,186.55, or $12.75 per capita with its 16,646 members. New England placed 41st with $25,237.66, or $1.09 with its 23,100 members.
Seven churches rank in Top 100 in per capita giving
Seven Georgia Baptist churches also ranked in the Top 100 based on per capita giving. Among those were:
Number 9, Annistown Road Deaf Mission, Snellville, $275.19 per capita based on $9,631.55 and a membership of 35, Michael Gahn, pastor; Number 19, Ways Baptist Church, Wrens, $208.06 per capita based on $12,900 and a membership of 62 (see related story on page 4), Wayne Turpin, pastor; Number 33, Chapel Hill Road Baptist Church, Douglasville, $161.29 per capita based on $8,709.71 and a membership of 54, Mack Lively, pastor; Number 57, First Baptist Church of Norcross, $129.51 per capita based on $115,260.92 and a membership of 890; Number 67, Providence Baptist Church, Louisville, $122.22 per capita based on $4,400 and a membership of 36, Doug Wasden, pastor; Number 81, Pine Crest Baptist Church, Gainesville, $112.24 per capita based on $24,581.51 and a membership of 219, James Nichols, pastor; and Number 99, Parrott Baptist Church, Parrott, $100.89 per capita, based on $2,825 and a membership of 28, David Martin, pastor.
The listing of churches by amount given and by per capita was to recognize the sacrifical giving of churches of all sizes - both large and small, said an IMB spokesman. It was the first time that the Richmond, Va.-based agency recognized the churches that gave the most per member.
IMB President Jerry Rankin said last year's impressive response to the offering shows that missions is a high priority to Southern Baptist churches of all sizes.
"We are grateful for the impressive offerings of many of our larger churches," Rankin said. "But it was an emotional experience to receive testimonies from many smaller congregations that went above and beyond what they had ever given before or would envision being a possibility."
Southern Baptists responded last year by giving a record $136,204,648. That total was an increase of almost $21.2 million - 18.4 percent - over the year before when churches fell $10 million short of their goal.
The 189 churches that made up the two top 100 lists - 11 of them were on both lists - contributed more than $15.3 million, 12.2 percent of the offering's total amount.
"It's unbelievable," said Billy Hoffman, the board's director of development. "It's not about being a big church, but it's about churches getting a passion for missions and giving to missions."
Last year, there were about 10,000 Southern Baptist churches that didn't participate in the offering. Hoffman hopes the smaller churches that have set a tremendous example in their giving will encourage other congregations to participate this year.
"These smaller churches helped release missionaries so they could go to the field," he said. "They can contact friends at other churches and say, 'Our church made a difference, so can yours.'"
First Baptist Church in St. Joseph, Mo., topped the per capita list by collecting $341,368.35. With 374 members, that amount averages out to $912.75 per member. They were the only church to crack the top 10 on both lists.
Bettendorf Mission Baptist Church in Bettendorf, Iowa, made the top five list with only three members, collecting a total of $1,180. That amount averages out to $393.33 per member.
Though the total amount wasn't collected until after the Dec. 31 deadline, First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas, was the first church to give more than $1.16 million to the offering. It was the largest sum given by a church to Southern Baptist overseas missions. Their end-of-year results rounded out the top 10 with $290,312.24.
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