By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
In the midst of challenging economic times, supporting missions and ministries in the state can prove difficult.
However, over the last 10 years Louisiana Baptists have demonstrated a strong commitment to state missions by their growing support of the Georgia Barnette State Missions Offering. The offering has gone from approximately $1.2 million in 2005 to just under $2 million in 2013 [thanks in part to a large one-time gift], and $1.6 million in 2014.
“Louisiana Baptists want to be a part of reaching the world and North America,” said David Hankins, executive director for Louisiana Baptists. “But when it comes to reaching those living inside our borders, it becomes personal. They want to do whatever needs to be done to reach the estimated 2 million people who don’t know Jesus.”
“Be Something” taken from Ephesians 5:1, where Paul encourages the believers living in Ephesus to “be imitators of Christ,” is the theme for this year’s offering.
The offering is named after Georgia Barnette, the first elected and paid WMU executive director/treasurer in the state. She would travel by boat, pirogue, horse and buggy, and train from her home in New Orleans to other areas of Louisiana to visit state missionaries who were planting churches.
Church planting, compassion ministries, Woman’s Missionary Union Scholarships to Louisiana College, Disaster Relief operations, mission projects, radio outreach and ‘Here for You,’ Louisiana Baptists new multi-platform media strategy, are among the wide array of missions and ministries supported through the offering.
Sept. 13-20 has been set aside as the Week of Prayer for state missions and ministries. Resources, including videos, demonstrating the scope and impact of the Georgia Barnette Offering have been mailed to churches across the state. Additional resources are available online at www.GeorgiaBarnette.org. This year’s offering goal is $1.8 million.
Because of generous giving, Louisiana Baptists are able to continue the vision of Georgia Barnette more than 100 years after she first led women to begin taking up an offering for state missionaries in 1907. The offering was named after her in 1937.
Lane Corley, church planting strategist for Louisiana Baptists, said church plants who receive Georgia Barnette funding represent a fulfillment of a goal of the President’s 2020 Report to plant 300 new churches in Louisiana. Already this year, Louisiana Baptists are on pace to plant 35 churches, up from the 2014 total of 28.
Corley hopes Georgia Barnette funds can be used by church planters in parishes like St. James Parish, which has only one Southern Baptist Church to minister to the 22,000 people living there.
“Much of the population growth in state has occurred along the I-10/I-12 corridor in south Louisiana,” said Corley. “If we’re serious about reaching our state, we must plant more churches who can in turn, engage their communities with the Gospel.”
Among those benefiting from Georgia Barnette church plant funding is Progression Church in Baton Rouge, one of the churches featured in the Week of Prayer for state missions and ministries. The church that meets on the LSU campus started with 20 attending its Sunday worship service when it first began in January 2014, and averaged 90 in the spring.
“The Georgia Barnette offering allows us to practically accomplish the mission that God has given us – to plant a church in Baton Rouge to reach as many Millennials as possible and plant other churches that do the same,” said Brian Crain, pastor of Progression Church.
A personal responsibility
Janie Wise, women’s missions and ministries strategist for Louisiana Baptists, noted that Louisiana Baptists share a responsibility to assist church planters, compassion ministry sites and others involved with missions around the state.
“The money given stays right here in the state, to help further the gospel,” Wise said. “If we don’t take care of the lost in the state, who will?”
Even though the week of prayer for the Georgia Barnette State Missions Offering is a few weeks away, churches are encouraged to begin promoting it now. Wise said churches that have not yet received promotional materials should contact her at 318.448.3402.
In addition to printed materials, online promotional pieces can be accessed at www.GeorgiaBarnette.org. Once there, users can access videos of churches and ministries featured for each day of the week of prayer, drama and sketch ideas, sermon outlines, teaching guides, promotional tools, clip art, a list of speakers and worship ideas.
John Kyle, director of communications for Louisiana Baptists, noted that in light of recent court decisions and other events in our culture, there has rarely been a more urgent time to pray for and contribute to this effort.
“Our state is dark and is getting darker,” Kyle said. “The only way for the darkness to win is for the light to retreat. It’s time for us who claim the name of Jesus to be the salt and light He commanded us to be and that our state so desperately needs.”