It’s Thanksgiving season. Around this time of year, I try to make a list of things I’m thankful for. Here’s my list for 2015:
1. I’m thankful that my wife has come through breast cancer surgery and treatment after being diagnosed last year. We have learned anew that God is faithful. We will trust Him one day at a time.
2. I’m thankful that a number of churches in my town welcome immigrants and refugees in the love of Christ. These churches understand that the nations have come to us and are making the opportunity count for the gospel. What about your church?
3. I’m thankful for International Mission Board (IMB) missionaries who continue working faithfully in some of the most difficult places on earth. While many Christians are giving in to fear and anger because of the terrible events happening around the world, missionaries – who are often the closest to real danger – serve with joy and courage. They know the One who has called them. Is it safe? Not necessarily. Is it obedient? Yes!
4. I’m thankful for the missionaries and IMB staff members who have decided after much prayer (and many tears) that God is calling them to accept the current voluntary retirement incentive. Funding realities make a reduction of 600 to 800 workers unavoidable, but that doesn’t make it easy. I’ve had the privilege to work alongside some of these folks for more than 30 years and to help tell their stories of God’s wonderful works. He will honor their service. We should do the same.
5. I’m thankful for the missionaries and staff who have decided to stay at their current tasks. They, too, have shed tears as they have sought God’s direction, and they will face challenges in the days ahead. Pray for them – and join them in the global mission of God.
6. I’m thankful for the people, churches, associations, state conventions and other Southern Baptist institutions that have offered everything from vehicles and housing to jobs and strategic mission assignments in the United States to missionaries who have accepted the voluntary retirement incentive. What an expression of love and support. If you want to pitch in to help returning missionaries, email [email protected].
7. I’m thankful for the people and churches increasing their giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions during a challenging time (goal: $175 million). You and your church play a vital role.
8. I’m thankful for the 35 new IMB missionaries appointed Nov. 8 to serve around the world. Why send new missionaries when others are coming home? Because God is still calling people out of local Southern Baptist churches to reach the nations. Because nearly 3 billion people worldwide still have no realistic access to the gospel, including thousands of unreached people groups. Because the Great Commission still stands.
“Retreat from the Great Commission is not an option for us,” writes IMB President David Platt. “IMB is working to ‘reset’ for a future marked not by a decreasing mission force, but by an exponentially increasing mission force taking the gospel to the nations. What does that ‘reset’ look like? It is still a work in progress and will be for several years to come, but I can tell you this: It’s all about connecting Southern Baptist churches to the nations. When you look at the pages of the New Testament, you don’t see global mission boards like the IMB, but you do see local churches active in global mission …
“No church is too big or too small to be a part of a global mission. I was talking with one pastor recently who has 30 members in his church.
“They don’t yet have a building in which to meet. However, they have already adopted an unreached people group, and the Lord has set apart one family to move and work for the spread of the gospel to that people group. I praise God for pastors who believe global missions is more important in the local church than even having a building, and I pray that God will continue to raise up thousands of churches like this across the SBC. Further, I pray that thousands upon thousands more men and women will answer God’s call to take the Gospel to those who have never heard it.”
That’s a vision to be thankful for – and to follow.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erich Bridges is the International Mission Board's global correspondent.)