Every September Georgia Baptists receive a very important offering, our State Missions Offering. Every dime of this offering goes to the direct support of mission work in our home state. It has always been an important offering. That has never been truer than it is right now.
We are living through the toughest recession in my lifetime, and I know you are feeling the pinch. The double-digit unemployment has hit our state very hard. It has impacted what our people have been able to do in giving through their local church. This impacts the local church and ultimately the association, the state convention, and the Southern Baptist Convention.
One thing I believe with all my heart is that our Georgia Baptist folks are profoundly committed to missions and to supporting missions through the Cooperative Program. I am confident that as the economy improves and more people return to work, the offerings will return to more normal levels.
Our current financial challenges are creating something of a domino effect. Due to the economic crisis, Cooperative Program gifts have retreated. Much of our state missions ministry is supported through the Cooperative Program. Therefore, state missions ministries are greatly impacted by the decline.
One way to deal with this challenge is to give as never before to the State Missions Offering. A generous offering at this time will go a long way toward blessing the work of missionaries throughout our state convention. Church planting, evangelism, youth ministries, ministry on our college and university campuses, our conference centers, Sunday School, discipleship, music ministries, menís and womenís ministries, and many more are directly affected by the level of our giving.
This challenge is compounded by the fact that we are beginning the process of putting into place the return of mission funds to the North American Mission Board as requested by the Southern Baptist Convention. The plan is to utilize the returned funds for greater effectiveness in planting Southern Baptist churches and doing evangelism in the largely unreached areas of our nation.
As tough as this is, I believe it is the right thing for us to do. We are so blessed in the South with a large number of Southern Baptist churches, but it is not so in other parts of our country. I believe it is time for Southern Baptists to rise to the occasion and start new work all over the Northeast, the West, and the upper Midwest.
An aggressive missionary movement and a powerful moving of God are needed in this country as never before. We need to do all we can to plow the ground and plant the seed so the millions of lost will have an opportunity to be saved and receive the gift of eternal life.
The State Missions Offering has been overlooked by many of our churches and it is absolutely critical that we now awaken to the needs within our own state. No doubt, God is at work, but we must also acknowledge that He has invited us to join Him in His work. You can make a difference. Your church can make a difference in what we are able to do in reaching Georgia for Jesus Christ.
State Missions Offering materials are available to you. I encourage you to go to the Georgia Baptist website, www.gabaptist.org, and order the materials that have been made available. While you are on the site, I encourage you to click on the videos. You will be inspired. You can order the State Missions Offering materials online and utilize them to inform your congregation of the needs across Georgia.
Our theme this year is, PLANTING THE GOSPEL, A New Church in Every Community. The specific dates are September 15-19, but many of our churches emphasize and receive the offering throughout the month of September. The goal is $1,750,000. We are capable of far surpassing that goal if we will promote the offering, encourage faithfulness, and dig deep in order to shatter the darkness of lostness in Georgia.