Unreached gain So. Baptists’ ‘embrace’
Alan James, Baptist Press
June 20, 2011

Unreached gain So. Baptists’ ‘embrace’

Unreached gain So. Baptists’ ‘embrace’
Alan James, Baptist Press
June 20, 2011

PHOENIX — Hundreds of

pastors, church leaders, laymen — young and old — made their way down the

aisles. Some carried small children. One limped forward with a cane.

On the final evening of the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) annual

meeting, they filed to the front of the Phoenix Convention

Center hall, following the International

Mission Board’s (IMB) presentation June 15.

They shared a public commitment for their churches to “embrace” one of the

approximately 3,800 people groups currently not engaged by anyone with an

intentional church-planting strategy and where less than 2 percent are

evangelical Christians. The crowd gathered in front of the stage shortly after

IMB President Tom Elliff extended the invitation for Southern Baptists to

signify their willingness to embrace these unengaged, unreached people groups.

“To the best of our knowledge … nobody has them on the radar screen,” Elliff


“It’s like having people standing out in the cold around your house while you’re

enjoying a wonderful warm meal. You know they’re out there but you have no plan

to go out there and offer them anything.

“Well, I believe Southern Baptists do.”

To reach them, Elliff added, “It’s going to take nothing short of being willing

to lay down your life.”

BP photo

Delivering his first report to messengers as president of the International Mission Board (IMB), Tom Elliff told the 4,800 messengers God is moving through IMB missionaries, but that it will take a movement of Southern Baptist churches to reach the world’s 3,800 unreached, unengaged people groups.

Go here to view a photo gallery of N.C. Baptists at the annual meeting.

Forty new IMB missionaries who were commissioned earlier that evening were

standing at the front to receive commitment cards from those who responded.

“We need to be bearers of the light, whatever the cost,” Elliff said. “Do we

just want to be Southern Baptists, or do we want to be New Testament people (like

Peter and John) who cannot stop speaking?”

Elliff continued, “(These) people groups … as best we can tell, we have

absolutely no one saying, ‘I want to reach them. We’re going to ask God for a

strategy, we’re going to figure out a way to get boots on the ground.’”

IMB is using the word “embrace” to identify this effort.

“It’s not a matter of yanking names off (a map) and saying we’ll sign up,”

Elliff said. “No, no … we want this to be a lifetime marriage between the two

of us.

“We don’t just want you on our parking lot or in our store. We want you in the

cash register, behind the counter and in the warehouse. Everything we have is

yours because it’s always been yours.”

The evening program was the culmination of a series of challenges issued by

pastors and convention leaders throughout the convention and the Pastors’

Conference that preceded it.

Earlier in the day, messengers heard that “anything can be accomplished if God’s

people join together” from David Platt, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala.

“What drives passion for unreached peoples is not guilt. It’s glory,” Platt


“Glory for a King, for a King who deserves the praise of every people group on

the planet.”

‘Don’t drop the cross’

The challenge also was extended through the presentation of a wooden cross

during the IMB’s report to the SBC. Handcrafted

by a missionary who was killed in 2002, the cross — bearing the words “Don’t drop

the cross” and the verse Rev. 7:9 — served as a visual reminder of the cost for

Southern Baptists to take the gospel to the far corners of the earth.

SBC President Bryant Wright, pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., presented

the cross to Southern Baptists during the program.

The cross was made by William Koehn, who lost his life Dec. 30, 2002, when a gunman shot and killed

him and two others — Kathleen Gariety and Martha Myers — at Jibla Baptist Hospital in Yemen where they


Nearly a decade after their deaths, a Christian worker in the Middle East gave the

cross to Wright about two weeks earlier in Cairo, Egypt. They stood

in a cemetery near the grave of Oswald Chambers, who wrote the devotional My

Utmost for His Highest.

“We’re reminded of the cost that it is to reach the hardest places still on

earth,” the worker told Bryant.

“I want to give this cross to you as a challenge to you and Southern Baptists

to not drop the cross,” the worker said. “Remember the peoples that are yet

unreached and unengaged.”

The worker broke into tears as he shared what his three fallen colleagues meant

to him and so many others.

“They gave it all and that challenges me,” the worker said. “They didn’t stop

until He was done, and then He took them home and that’s what I want to be — my

utmost for His highest.

“It’s worth it all,” he said.

“It’s worth it all.”

“If you make a commitment today,” Wright told the crowd, “it may cost you your

life, not just a lifetime of service, not just temporary service, but it may

cost any of us our life.”

Giving up a comfortable life here in the States hasn’t been easy for Christy

and Ryan Campbell and their five children, who will be serving in sub-Saharan Africa. Members of Faith Baptist Church in Youngsville, N.C., the couple

were among the 40 newly commissioned missionaries.

“Though I had surrendered to missions as a fourth-grade girl, I found my role

as a mom and wife living the American dream quite comfortable,” Christy

Campbell told the crowd.

“Hesitantly I agreed to pray, and God clearly revealed to me that the time had

come to go.”

The couple will be joining nearly 5,000 missionaries on the field. In Elliff’s

report, he shared that IMB workers reported 360,876 baptisms in their work with

Baptists overseas, 29,237 churches planted, 920 people groups currently engaged

and 114 new people groups engaged. Southern Baptists gave $7,985,000 that went

toward hunger and relief, and $145,662,925 to the 2010 Lottie Moon Christmas


“Although it did not reach our goal, it still is the fourth-highest Lottie Moon

offering in the history of that offering,” Elliff said. “That, with the economy

and everything that went on in this world and in our country (this past year),

we’re so grateful….

“Now, you know that I’m going to ask us all to step up to the plate,” he added.

“We can do better than that. The truth about giving is … that we cast ourselves

totally on the providence of God. That’s what turns giving into a faith


As Wright told the crowd earlier in the program, “let us not drop the cross.

The challenge has now been passed.”

To see the “Don’t drop the cross” video, go to


To learn more about how a church can embrace an unengaged, unreached people

group, go to


For more information about this year’s Lottie Moon Christmas Offering theme, go

to iamsbmissions.com.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — James is a senior writer for the International Mission Board.)