RICHMOND, Va. – International Mission Board trustees approved the appointment of 52 new full-time, fully funded missionaries, while also honoring the service of 80 emeritus missionaries during their Feb. 2-3 meeting in Richmond, Va.
Chuck Pourciau, trustee chairman and lead pastor of Broadmoor Baptist Church in Shreveport, Louisiana, presided over the two-day meeting, which included 53 trustees meeting in person and 17 joining online due to issues such as COVID-19 and inclement winter weather.
The new missionaries were honored during a Sending Celebration on Wednesday, Feb. 2, at Mount Vernon Baptist Church in Glen Allen, Virginia, which included a livestream option for families and church partners around the world to join in the event. Jarrett Stephens, senior pastor of Champion Forest Baptist Church in Houston, Texas, brought a message of encouragement to the new appointees.
‘Most important work in the universe’
In his presidential report to trustees, IMB President Paul Chitwood reflected on how the world has changed in the past two years, noting many people have lost numerous family members and friends in that time.
“What a powerful and painful reminder that the work we do together at the IMB is the most important work in the universe,” Chitwood said. “Whether from COVID or cancer or a car wreck, ‘It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes the judgment.’ The truth of Hebrews 9:27 is harder to deny in a global pandemic that has taken the lives of nearly 6 million people, and those are just the ones who got counted.”
He said that as the world finds it more difficult to ignore the reality of death, Southern Baptists have an opportunity to share the next Scripture verse in Hebrews 9:28: “so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for Him.” However, about 3,000 people groups still have no known believers among them.
“That’s why we still have a job to do,” he said. “The most important work in the universe remains unfinished. Thankfully we haven’t quit. In fact, we may be working harder than ever before.”
Chitwood said evidence reveals that support of Southern Baptists for international missionaries and for fulfilling the Great Commission is, indeed, growing:
• Lottie Moon Christmas Offering® (LMCO) gifts, through the first four months of the current financial year, are up 16.1% over last year.
• Report after report of record-breaking Lottie offerings have poured in from churches across the country.
• Gifts through the Cooperative Program are up almost 10% over the same four months of last year.
• In all, IMB’s combined revenue is currently running 13.6% ahead of last year.
Other areas of progress Chitwood noted:
• Churches which have never given to missions through the IMB before now know a missionary, and they are giving.
• The pipeline of missionary candidates is increasing consistently.
• For the first time in IMB’s history, future commitments to retired missionaries are fully funded.
• IMB has set systems in place to protect the most vulnerable from abuse and to deal appropriately with abusers.
• IMB is diversifying teams, as the IMB exists to serve all Southern Baptists in carrying out the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations.
“By God’s grace and in His favor, I believe what we are doing together at IMB is working,” Chitwood said. “The work … isn’t finished, and the vision has not yet come to pass. So we press on, until all whose names are in the Book of Life from every nation, people, tribe and language, have heard the good news.”
As Southern Baptists faithfully send more missionaries to fulfill the Great Commission, Chitwood has stressed the need to undergird those additional personnel with consistent, concerted prayer and ongoing generous financial support through the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. While applauding the recent improvements toward financial health, IMB’s Finance team notes that recovery from decades of revenue trailing inflation requires the continued generous support of Southern Baptists. IMB also is committed to ongoing vigilance in good stewardship — which is a foundational commitment in IMB’s