On Dec. 18, Paul Chitwood, president of the International Mission Board (IMB), visited the Raleigh-Durham, N.C., area to meet with leaders from five area churches that also happen to be among the top 10 missionary-sending churches in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). J.D. Greear, SBC president and pastor of The Summit Church, hosted the meeting at the Capital Hills campus of The Summit Church in Raleigh.
“We wanted to connect with them knowing that they are such strong partners with the IMB,” Chitwood explained in a Facebook Live broadcast with Greear. “We have the privilege at the IMB to be the sending arm of Southern Baptist churches, and knowing that these churches are so committed to sending, how can we send more in partnership?”
Represented at the meeting were pastors and staff from The Summit Church as well as North Wake Church in Wake Forest, N.C.; and Imago Dei Church, Providence Baptist Church and Open Door Church, all in Raleigh. Leaders from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) also were present.
Chitwood explained that many of the leaders had personal experience being overseas, which led them to a passionate commitment to get the gospel to the nations. This commitment led to a culture among the churches and SEBTS.
“It has created a dynamic push of people out,” Chitwood said. “It all goes back to leadership.”
In the meeting, Chitwood cast a vision for the future of the IMB, including the desire to send more full-time missionaries to the field. There are currently 3,660 active missionaries, and the IMB is preparing to send more, with a goal of adding 500 additional personnel by 2025.
“We want to steward well what the Lord has given us,” Chitwood told the group. “Five hundred more is a goal. We are asking God to provide more missionaries and the money to send them.”
A theme of both the meeting and the broadcast was the Go2 initiative that challenges college students to commit their first two years after graduation to serving with a church plant in the U.S. or overseas as they begin their careers. Internationally, this initiative takes place through the IMB’s Journeyman program, where graduates serve their two years in a city as a fully funded missionary.
Chitwood stated that the Go2 initiative has been a tremendous blessing for missionaries currently serving who feel the need to have more people alongside them.
Greear echoed, “All the regions of the world are asking for more people, and the IMB is ready to send more people. We have open spots and there is a Macedonian call from some of these people, asking [people] to come and help.”
Since becoming IMB president in November 2018, Chitwood has spoken to 35 different churches, at about 30 denominational-type gatherings, and at five of the six Southern Baptist seminaries. He is currently preparing for his seventh trip overseas, where he already has met with two-thirds of the overseas personnel and their 2,880 children.
Speaking of his commitment to connect personally with Southern Baptists, Chitwood told Baptist Press, “Churches who fund the work of the IMB need to know it’s their IMB.”
Leaders also heard from top level IMB staff. John Brady, vice president of global engagement, gave a tour around the globe, with a detailed update of God’s work through IMB missionaries in different parts of the world. Todd Lafferty, executive vice president, and Zane Pratt, vice president for global training, hosted a dialogue where the pastors and leaders could ask questions about current processes and share feedback about their experience as sending partners.
During the Facebook Live broadcast, when Chitwood asked Greear what God had laid on his heart in the role of SBC president, his one-word response was “Sending.”
“The reason that Southern Baptists have chosen to come together is for missions,” Greear said. “There is something we can accomplish through the unity together overseas that we just can’t accomplish by ourselves. I think that’s what unites Southern Baptists, it’s what excites Southern Baptists.
“What if this was the greatest sending chapter that Southern Baptists ever had?”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Amy Whitfield is associate vice president for convention communications for the SBC Executive Committee.)