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The number of missionaries exceeded 5,000 as more and more unreached people groups were engaged. In countries hostile to the gospel, missionaries developed creative methods to enter an area and make disciples.

2000s Overview

At the start of the new millennium, the New Directions initiative was moving full-speed ahead: in 2001, the number of International Mission Board missionaries exceeded 5,000 for the first time, and 30 active, ongoing church planting movements were reported around the world.

Even the global age of terror, which hit the United States with full force on September 11, 2001, didn’t dampen missionary enthusiasm. Two months after the attacks, the largest group of new missionaries to date, 124, were appointed to serve around the world. Tragically, throughout the decade Southern Baptists died in terrorist attacks, including relief workers in Iraq, medical professionals in Yemen, and a missionary in the Philippines.

As missionaries continued to engage greater numbers of unreached people groups, often in areas with open hostility to the gospel, they had to find creative ways to share God’s Word and make disciples. Some were able to live in countries by taking on jobs as teachers and business owners; others simply had to make disciples in secret.

During this decade, challenges also hit the IMB’s budget. In 2003 the organization was forced to limit missionary appointments for the first time since the Great Depression, due in part to Lottie Moon Christmas Offering® shortfalls and declining investment income.

In 2009 the IMB reorganized its field structure to better reach people groups around the world. Leaders recognized that diaspora groups — people living outside their home cultures, such as Indians in Africa — were overlooked in the organization’s geographically-based structure. Nine affinity groups were created to ensure strategies would incorporate everyone within an ethnographic grouping, wherever they were in the world. One of these affinity groups was the Deaf — an acknowledgment that Deaf culture and identity often surpass national identity.

IMB Milestones

Significant Ministry Events

Missionaries Required to Sign 'Baptist Faith and Message'

The International Mission Board began requiring all missionaries to sign the "Baptist Faith and Message 2000" as a sign of agreement with essential Southern Baptist beliefs.


Missionary Count Exceeded 5,000

The International Mission Board’s missionary count exceeded 5,000 for the first time — meeting one of the major goals of Bold Mission Thrust, adopted by Southern Baptists 25 years earlier.

Missionary Commissioning Service

Oral Learners Engaged Through Storying

The International Mission Board began emphasizing the use of chronological Bible storying to share God’s Word with oral learners — those who learn through non-literate means. Orality became a major emphasis as missionary teams started to engage millions who either couldn’t read or who preferred to digest Scripture through oral methods like storytelling and song.

Bible Storying Cloth

Over 500,000 People Baptized

For the first time, Southern Baptist missionaries and their overseas partners baptized more than 500,000 people in a single year.

Baptisms in South Asia

Budget Shortfalls Cut Missionary Appointments

Budget shortfalls forced the International Mission Board to limit new missionary appointments for the first time since the Depression.

Baptists Praying at a Missions Events

Field Work Restructured as Affinity Groups

Overseas work was restructured into nine affinity groups so ministries could expand beyond traditional geographic approaches to those in which all people groups, regardless of where they lived, could have access to the gospel. Leaders considered how to ensure people such as South Americans living in Europe or Asians in Africa were not overlooked in mission strategies. The Deaf were recognized as an affinity group, affirming the perspective that most of the world’s Deaf possess a shared identity that supersedes their ethnic identity.

Missionary Looks at Map

Missions in Context

Major World Events

Civilians Allowed Access to Military-Grade GPS Signals 

The U.S. government’s Global Positioning System (GPS) had been available to civilians since 1983; however, signals were intentionally degraded to work only within a radius of 100 meters. In 2000, civilians were granted full access to military-grade GPS for both civil and commercial uses. GPS is an invaluable tool for missionaries as they travel for ministry and track locations of churches and unreached people groups.     


Terrorists Attacked the United States 

In the deadliest terrorist attack in human history, hijackers crashed planes into the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. Another hijacked plane crashed in a Pennsylvania field. In a matter of hours, 2,977 people were killed, and 25,000 were injured. A few weeks later, the U.S. launched Operation Enduring Freedom with airstrikes against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. On November 13, the International Mission Board appointed 124 new missionaries — the largest group to date — despite global fears in this new “age of terror.”  

2001 - Sept 11 #2 (Wikimedia Commons)


Not Dangerous but Lost

After the events of 9/11, Southern Baptists were urged to look "beyond the wall" that separates Muslims and Christians.


Tsunami and Hurricane Wreaked Havoc in Asia and the U.S. 

The day after Christmas 2004, a massive earthquake and tsunami struck vast stretches of Asian coastline, killing over 227,000 people. Southern Baptists responded by sending missionaries, volunteers and more than $16 million in relief aid, and many areas untouched by the gospel opened up for the first time. A few months later, Hurricane Katrina hit the southern United States, causing around 1,800 deaths and $125 billion in property damages. 

2005 - Hurricane Katrina #3 (Wikimedia commons)

Apple Released the First iPhone 

Apple Inc. revolutionized cell phones and Internet communications with the iPhone, the first mobile phone to use touchscreen interactivity. Social media quickly took off as apps like Facebook (launched in 2004) and Instagram (2010) became available at the touch of a button. Missionaries began using smartphones to access language learning tools, evangelism apps, social media platforms and more to make disciples among thousands of languages and cultures. 

2007 - iPhone

Great Recession Crippled the U.S. Economy 

Considered the most severe economic crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s, the Great Recession affected real estate, banking and world financial markets. U.S. unemployment was close to 10 percent, and the Dow Jones plummeted to half its value. Residual effects included a downturn in charitable giving over the next few years, including donations to the International Mission Board and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering®. As a result, the IMB limited the number of new missionaries sent in 2009.

Circuit City Going Out of Business

Missionary Profiles

Honoring Faithful Service

Martha Myers

Her casket was built by the people of Yemen “who loved her.” Over 40,000 Yemenis filed past her body on the day of her funeral.

Martha Myers

Todd and Kimberly

Centuries of Islam, Communism and no gospel access cemented shut the hearts of a Muslim people group in a Balkan nation, but Todd and Kimberly believed the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword.

Todd and Kimberly

Troy and Tracey Lewis

Empty pill boxes, nausea, depression. Troy and Tracey believed people on the cusp of entering eternity had the most urgent need for the gospel.


Ying and Grace Kai

Within a decade, more than 1.7 million people became Christians, and more than 150,000 churches were started.

Ying and Grace Kai

Zane and Catherine Pratt

Zane and Catherine marched up to the tomb of a ruthless conqueror known for the eradication of Christianity in Central Asia and said, “We’re back.”


God at Work

Stories From The Field

Aid Workers in Iraq Faithful unto Death

It had been a good day in Mosul, Iraq. Five Southern Baptist workers were making progress toward a water purification project. They had met with officials and laughed with new Iraqi friends. They were headed home for a night's rest before starting again the next morning. ...



Judson - Tale of Two Men

Adoniram Judson labored tirelessly to spread the gospel in Burma. Two hundred years later, a Burmese evangelist is doing the same.


Grieving Christians Aid Their Tsunami-Stricken Village

“Daddy, what's that?" Paramesvaran looked toward the ocean. Curiosity turned to horror as a 30-foot wave bore down on the man and his 5-year-old son, Kirubasan. He grabbed the boy and ran. But it was too late. ...

South Asians Play in Ocean

Nigerian Baptists Celebrate 150 Years of Gospel Witness

Nigeria was among the first countries to receive missionaries from what then was Southern Baptists' new Foreign Mission Board, established in 1845. Thomas Jefferson Bowen set sail for Nigeria in 1850. He began his ministry in the town of Abeokuta. ...

Nigeria Baptist Convention 150th Anniversary



Since the beginning, missionaries have given their lives to take the gospel to people who are worth dying for.

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