GREENVILLE, S.C. — Have Southern Baptists said, “Enough!”? Have they reached their potential in reaching a lost world for Christ? Is their work done?
“I will not accept that Southern Baptists have said, ‘Enough!’” said Paul Chitwood, chairman of the International Mission Board’s (IMB) trustees. During the March 17-18 trustee meeting in Greenville, S.C., the Kentucky pastor challenged fellow trustees to encourage Southern Baptists to dig deeper and give sacrificially to missions during these difficult economic times.
Until giving increases, the IMB’s missionary count will remain in the mid-5,000s, said Chitwood, pastor of First Baptist Church in Mt. Washington, Ky. More will be needed to help reach 1.6 billion people who have little to no access to the gospel, he said.
“We must shout from the rooftops and the mountaintops the news that we cannot grow our missionary force because we do not have the money to do so…. (T)he possibility has now become a reality.”
Trustees appointed 89 new missionaries for a total missionary count of 5,569 during their meeting. Fourteen more missionaries have been delayed in being appointed because their stateside houses have not sold. The March appointment service would have been the IMB’s fourth-largest group of appointees had the 14 missionaries been able to participate.
IMB treasurer David Steverson cautioned trustees to be ready for a sobering financial report later this year, as Cooperative Program giving remains down by about 3 percent and the economy and financial markets continue to struggle.
Steverson also remained cautious in making projections for the 2008 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions.
The goal for the 2008 offering is $170 million. The 2007 annual offering totaled $150,409,653.86 but fell short of the $165 million goal.
In other business, trustees approved the appropriation of $503,868.51 for 27 human needs projects.
Trustees were reminded of the hard work and sacrifice missionaries make in honoring 43 who died last year.
With his voice breaking several times with emotion, Clyde Meador, the IMB’s executive vice president, read the names of seven active missionaries, one volunteer, three missionary kids (MKs) and 32 retired missionaries.
“These (retired) missionaries served 1,015 years, for an average of 32 years each,” Meador said.
Following a recent trip to Cuba to celebrate the centennial of the country’s Western Cuban Baptist Convention, Meador reported, “God is working in Cuba in amazing ways.”
According to reports from Cuban Baptists, 70 percent of Cuba’s 11 million people have received a copy of the “JESUS” film, received a gospel tract or heard a personal witness.
“Don’t you wish that was true in the United States?” Meador asked.
Cuban Baptists have a vision to start 100,000 new house churches and see 1 million Cubans give their lives to Christ by the end of 2010.
“Cubans have no doubt that the Lord is going to do this vision that He has laid upon their heart,” Meador said.
One local believer told Meador, “I am willing to sacrifice anything in order that others might know the true freedom that I know in Christ.”
The next trustee meeting will be May 19-20 in Denver. The appointment service will be held at Riverside Baptist Church on May 20.
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Hendricks is a writer with the International Mission Board.)