International Mission Board (IMB) President Paul Chitwood thanked Asian American Southern Baptists for sending, giving to and praying for missionaries during an online monthly meeting June 25.
In a conversation with the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) Asian American Collective on “staying missionally engaged,” he encouraged participants to consider joining the mission field, and to point others who may be interested in international missions to the IMB.
Speaking about IMB’s goal of reaching growing urban centers across the globe and addressing participants from Los Angeles and New York City, Chitwood said, “Many of you have a much better idea as to how to do that than the typical IMB missionary who came from a little town in the Southeastern United States … please come and partner with us.”
Chitwood addressed a question about how to encourage next generation church leaders who feel there is no home for them in the denomination and perceive Asian American initiatives to be targeted toward first generation immigrant populations.
He assured listeners of his priority to rebuild or establish new relationships with church plants and other groups “to grow this cooperative missions family.”
“The intent behind that is not to grow the International Mission Board, not to have bigger numbers or more success at the IMB,” Chitwood said. “We are a vision-driven organization. Our vision is a vast multitude standing before the throne … it’s the vision of heaven.
“What we know is that vision will not be fulfilled by white Southern Baptists. That vision will not be fulfilled just by Southern Baptists. That vision will be fulfilled by God’s church everywhere and anywhere it is.”
Ezra Bae, who serves as an IMB mobilizer for Asian American churches, added that second generation leaders, having grown up knowing their parents’ culture and American culture, have cross-cultural experience and “can do a lot of what’s on the mission field.”
Chitwood pledged to work more closely with Asian Americans and speak out on behalf of them in regard to racism, having recently reflected on violence toward Asian Americans in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. He also encouraged them to remain steadfast in their own fight against racism and support of Black brothers and sisters.
He said to look at the 2020 Baptist Faith and Message, which states in Article 15: “In the spirit of Christ, Christians should oppose racism…”
“We have not agreed to a statement of faith that says racism is wrong. We believe racism is wrong,” Chitwood said. “But we have agreed to a statement of faith that says Christians should oppose racism.”
Chitwood encouraged younger Southern Baptists, in particular, to not grow weary in doing good.
“When you’re standing against racism, you are doing what Southern Baptists have agreed to do. Whether we have [done it well] is another question, but you are doing what we have professed that we will do. … Do not sit down, continue to stand.”
Peter Yanes, SBC executive director of Asian American relations and mobilization, said in a statement to the Biblical Recorder, “Amid this ongoing pandemic and racial unrest, our Asian churches shouldn’t lose sight of the importance and the urgency of the gospel. The Asian American Collective of 2,000 churches can do better and stronger by coming together to reach our communities for Jesus Christ in partnership with our Southern Baptist Convention mission entities, like the International Mission Board.
“We’re grateful for Dr. Paul Chitwood and the IMB’s strong commitment to stand by us against all forms of xenophobia and racism, and the partnership to reach Asians locally and globally with the gospel.”