IMB President Paul Chitwood encouraged Southern Baptists to “support the home team–which is the IMB” while donning a jersey and oversized baseball cap. The crowd cheered as Chitwood reminded messengers that IMB missionaries are a part of their team. IMB Photo
Editor’s note: This article was written by Leslie Peacock Caldwell, managing editor for the IMB.
NEW ORLEANS (BP) – Paul Chitwood, president of the International Mission Board, started IMB’s report to the 2023 Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting with a request. He asked the more than 11,000 messengers if they would record a greeting to missionaries overseas to be shared in a monthly online meeting of IMB field personnel and staff. The crowd enthusiastically participated with applause and cheers.
Connection of Southern Baptists to 3,500 missionaries and their 2,700 kids was central to the report. Chitwood expressed his desire for more churches to have a personal relationship with a missionary on the field and to consider the IMB as their own.
Through Church Connections efforts, Chitwood reported, missionaries and churches are building deeper partnerships and giving the work overseas “a name and a face.” Church Connections is a commitment of IMB missionaries to initiate a relationship with all Southern Baptist churches. Churches who do not yet know the missionary assigned to their church were encouraged to stop by the IMB exhibit booth during the event or email email@example.com.
Chitwood shared the impact Southern Baptists had through IMB workers in 2022, made possible through record Lottie Moon Christmas Offering giving and $100 million in Cooperative Program receipts.
Missions work by IMB missionaries included:
- Gospel work in 122 countries;
- 21,000 new churches planted;
- Gospel shared with 728,000 people;
- 178,000 came to faith in Jesus Christ;
- 102,000 people were baptized.
These statistics are shared in IMB’s 2022 Annual Statistical Report, which is available to the public.
Chitwood thanked God for the 79 newly appointed missionaries participating in the Sending Celebration directly following IMB’s report. He also acknowledged 1,200 missionary candidates currently in the application process before emphasizing his desire to see even more workers on the mission field needed because of the daily growth of those dying without Christ.
“Your IMB missionaries are addressing the world’s greatest problem with the only solution, God’s solution – the Gospel. But they need your prayers, your support, your continued generosity, and more workers in the harvest,” he said.
“This can only happen if we work together to raise up more missionaries and champion the Lottie Moon offering and the Cooperative Program,” Chitwood continued.
“Southern Baptists,” Chitwood said, addressing the crowd, “there are countless other overseas organizations and groups your church can support and partner with. We thank God for them and their impact. But there is only one that belongs to you.”
Chitwood stressed that the IMB is the only organization that ascribes to the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, answers to trustees approved by Southern Baptist churches, audits financial statements under SBC oversight, reports to the SBC Executive Committee and messengers at the annual meeting, and sends missionaries rooted in Baptist theology and ecclesiology.
“So, here’s my ask of you: Keep cheering for the home team, which is the IMB!” Chitwood encouraged, as he stressed the personal connection of Southern Baptists to IMB missionaries. “Let us not forget our collective promise to hold the ropes” for missionaries bringing the hope of the Gospel to the lost.
“For 178 years, you have obeyed the Great Commission by sending missionaries overseas through your International Mission Board. But we need more,” Chitwood said.
He confirmed the growing need for missionaries with the statistics that in 1979, with a world population of 4.3 billion, IMB had more than 3,000 missionaries. Today, with a world population of 8 billion, IMB has only 3,500 missionaries. From 2008-2018, 2,000 IMB missionaries returned to the U.S. and were never replaced because of the lack of financial support.
Chitwood recounted a story of a pastor who spoke to him, shortly after he became IMB president in November 2018. “Mr. President, everything the IMB needs – more missionaries and more money – is in our churches, but you’re going to have to ask for it,” the pastor told Chitwood.
Speaking to the annual meeting messengers, Chitwood said, “Southern Baptists, I’m asking for it.”
He continued, “I believe in what we do together. My prayer is that God would open the floodgates and send us 400 new missionaries this year and money to support them. We all believe in the Revelation 7:9 vision of the great multitude. And despite the challenges we face as a convention … we must remain unified in addressing the world’s greatest problem. We can do this.”
Chitwood closed his address with an excerpt from an annual meeting report from 1866. That year, the IMB had $1.78 in the accounts and a committee was appointed to consider the future of Southern Baptist missions work overseas.
Chitwood read from the committee’s report: “Go forward. ‘Tis His to open a passage through the deep waters; ‘tis ours to move onward. We can discern but one command, we realize but one trust; we are burdened with but one duty, we feel but one desire in this work – Go forward. Through God we will obey.”
Chitwood concluded his report and took questions from the floor.
The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering is a registered trademark of Woman’s Missionary Union.