ROGERS, Ark. (BP) -- It's a question that both haunts and drives Tom Elliff, the kind that sometimes wakes him in the middle of night. But IMB's president won't answer it until he dies, stands before the judgment seat of Christ and hears it fall from the lips of his Savior: "What did you do with what I entrusted to you?"
|"There are over 7 billion people on this globe, and unless something changes drastically...." |
-- Tom Elliff
Elliff posed that question to IMB trustees during their May 14-15 meeting in Rogers, Ar., saying it should be lodged in the mind of every Southern Baptist. Scripture clearly shows that God will hold every believer accountable for his or her response to the Great Commission, Elliff explained, telling trustees that the question has prompted him to issue an "urgent appeal" to all Southern Baptists to "carry the Gospel to the ends of the earth -- now."
"There are over 7 billion people on this globe, and unless something changes drastically, radically, it is estimated that fewer than half will ever have the slightest connection with evangelical Christianity in their lifetime," Elliff said. "Why would God entrust to us the greatest lostness in all of history if He did not expect us to do something about it?"
Elliff contrasted a time of unprecedented lostness with unprecedented access, resources and manpower willing to combat that lostness, such that "every lost person in this broken world should have a legitimate reason to believe that, if they can just hold on for a little bit, somebody is going to get to them with the truth."
But he warned of "disturbing signs" that show Southern Baptists "may not be prepared to fulfill our part in the Great Commission equation."
Elliff cited the continued five-year decline in missions giving through the Cooperative Program in spite of efforts to reverse the CP trend. Out of the $1.3 billion designated as "missions expenditures" in Southern Baptist churches in 2011, IMB received less than $92 million through CP, with another $146 million given through a relatively flat Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions.
The declining support has impacted the number of Southern Baptist missionaries serving overseas under IMB appointment, dropping below 5,000 to 4,850 at the end of 2012. But the drop isn't for lack of qualified applicants, Elliff said, noting that many missionary candidates must be put on hold until a position becomes vacant or additional funding is secured.
"In a generation that could literally fulfill the Great Commission by taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth, lack of missions support signals an impending retrenchment. That is unthinkable; in fact, it's unacceptable in light of the opportunity we have," Elliff said.
"Winston Churchill made a statement about men, but I want to say it about the Southern Baptist Convention.... To every man there comes a moment in his lifetime for which he and he alone is uniquely gifted, uniquely qualified. What a tragedy it would be if that moment found him unwilling or unprepared for what would be his finest hour.
"It's my conviction ... that all of us within the IMB family, as represented by you, our trustees, must be neither idle nor silent in this, our day of greatest opportunity."Trustees' resolution
As a "first step" toward combating these problems, trustees overwhelmingly approved a resolution urging Southern Baptists to recognize and rally around the unique Great Commission opportunity which Elliff believes Christ has presented. Read More