New service pathways were promoted as the IMB grappled with budget shortfalls. In a rapidly urbanizing world, missionaries embraced partnerships with global Christians to get the gospel to unreached peoples and places.
During the 2010s, the International Mission Board grappled with the realities of world-wide urbanization. By 2008 over half the world’s population was living in cities, and missionaries developed networks across the world to work through how to ensure every population segment in every city has access to the gospel. Increasingly, they started relying on partners to help tackle this overwhelming task, including local Christians, U.S. Southern Baptists, and like-minded missions organizations.
Budget shortfalls forced the IMB to address funding challenges, as well. In 2015 IMB president David Platt acknowledged that current income could not continue to support missionary work around the world. The painful decision was made to draw down personnel numbers. Over 1,100 missionaries and staff left, of their own volition, through the Voluntary Retirement Initiative and the Hand Raising Opportunity.
The IMB also announced new pathways for serving on mission overseas, including pathways that did not involve financial support from the IMB. Southern Baptists were given opportunities to serve on missionary teams while living in countries as professionals, students and retirees. IMB leaders urged churches to consider anew the part they each could play in training and sending out their members to serve overseas.
Missionaries also recognized the value of equipping more missionaries found within the missions harvest, particularly in areas like Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and East Asia, where missionaries have worked since the beginning of Southern Baptist missions history. Missionaries began mobilizing local Christians to embrace their own calling to share the gospel with those both in their own neighborhoods and around the world.
Significant Ministry Events
Tom Elliff Elected Executive Leader
Pastor and former IMB missionary Tom Elliff was elected president of the International Mission Board. During his three-year tenure, he challenged Southern Baptist churches to do “whatever it takes” to get the gospel to the world’s 3,800 unengaged, unreached people groups — groups in which less than 2 percent of the people are evangelical Christians, with no active church planting strategy among them.
David Platt Elected Executive Leader
Pastor and well-known author David Platt was elected president of the International Mission Board. He led the organization through a period of tough decisions to tackle deep financial challenges. His passionate belief that every believer should be on mission brought about new pathways of overseas service, including opportunities for students, professionals and retirees to join missionary teams.
Missionary and Staff Count Decreased by Over 1,000
In 2015 the International Mission Board addressed budget shortfalls through the Voluntary Retirement Initiative and a Hand Raising Opportunity — opportunities for missionaries and staff to move out of IMB service of their own volition. Personnel numbers decreased by more than 1,000. Two years later, the IMB announced a return to financial solvency with a balanced budget of $262 million.
'Foundations' Document Clarified Missionary Task
International Mission Board leaders released the "Foundations" document to provide clarity and common understanding of core missiological convictions, key terms and the six components of the missionary task: entry, evangelism, discipleship, healthy church formation, leadership development and exit.
Paul Chitwood Elected Executive Leader
Kentucky Baptist Convention executive director and former IMB board member Paul Chitwood was elected the 13th executive leader of the International Mission Board. His passion for telling the stories of God at work through IMB missionaries encourages Southern Baptists to consider anew how to work together toward “a great multitude ... from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” (Revelation 7:9) who know and worship our Lord Jesus Christ.
Missions in Context
Major World Events
Major Earthquake Struck Haiti
An earthquake of 7.0 magnitude struck 16 miles from the capital of Haiti, causing massive structural damage as well as loss of life. Death tolls range widely, anywhere from 40,000 to upwards of 300,000.
Chavez Declared ‘Economic War’ in Venezuela
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez declared “economic war” on the nation’s bourgeoisie and private businessmen, triggering the beginning of an economic crisis for the petroleum-rich country. Shortages of food staples and other necessities led to a massive refugee crisis.
Arab Spring Began
Anti-government protests, eventually becoming known as the Arab Spring, began in Tunisia and spread throughout Northern Africa and the Middle East. These political and social uprisings, calling for democracy, gained momentum through the use of social media and caused massive government upheaval in nations including Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Bahrain. The successful uprisings of Egypt and Tunisia triggered the Syrian Civil War (2011-present) leading to over 5.5 million refugees and millions more internally displaced people.
Japan’s Largest Earthquake Triggered Tsunami
On March 11, 2011, Japan experienced an earthquake with a magnitude of 9.0, resulting in a tsunami that caused over 15,000 deaths. The tsunami critically damaged the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant, which led to the evacuation of over 150,000 people.
South Sudan Gained Independence
South Sudan became the world’s newest internationally recognized nation, after voting overwhelmingly to secede from Sudan. South Sudan is home to more than 60 ethnic groups. All IMB missionaries working there left by 2018 due to ongoing civil war.
Ebola Epidemic Declared in West Africa
From 2014 to 2016, the Ebola virus claimed the lives of over 11,000 people in several West African countries, primarily Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The disease grew into an epidemic due in part to poverty, poor sanitary conditions, fear and distrust of government and healthcare officials, and traditional burial practices.
Brazil Reported Zika Virus Outbreak
The Zika virus, primarily transmitted by infected mosquitos, broke out in Brazil and then spread rapidly throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. The disease rarely causes death in those infected, but pregnant women who are infected have a much higher rate of birth defects. It also has been known to trigger Guillain-Barre syndrome.
Novel Coronavirus Detected in China
In early December, residents of Wuhan, including vendors at a seafood market, began exhibiting pneumonia-like symptoms. On December 31, China notified the World Health Organization of this “pneumonia of unknown cause,” which came to be called COVID-19. Wuhan residents were encouraged to wear face masks and to avoid public gatherings. Neighboring countries started tightening traveler screening processes.
Honoring Faithful Service
Brennan and Veronica Masterson*
An illiterate South Asian man wanted to tell his village about the truth he learned. For three years, he prayed for an opportunity to share his faith, but he was unable to read God’s Word for himself. Then he met Brennan and Veronica.*
Jeremy and Camille Strickling*
The Stricklings* serve in a volatile country where they’ve experienced bombings, political unrest and the deaths of friends and colleagues. Can God work in such a place?
Todd and Tara Dressler*
Three of their IMB coworkers were martyred in a terrorist attack.
Kim’s books gave a voice to the faithful who went before her, and they left us with a treasure when we suddenly lost her.
Mark and Vesta Sauter
Mark and Vesta polled more than 100 missions organizations and found none that commissioned Deaf missionaries. So they opened the door.
God at Work
Stories From The Field
As Arab Spring Falters, 'Open Hearts' Find God
The fourth anniversary of the Arab Spring uprisings arrives with little sign of real change in the Arab world, except for precious signs of God at work amid the chaos. ...
Blessing with God's Grace
An Indian doctor admits that patients in hospice care can be a "real mess," but smiles from the patients keep him going.
Refugees Seek Hope in Europe
Insulation and paper clung to the rafters of the former factory like clothes drying on a line. On the concrete floor, shards of glass were mixed with piles of trash. Old desks held overused pots and gritty pans while filing cabinets stored clothes. Long-forgotten cisterns, a plastic bucket and a rope provided somewhat fresh water. ...
Past, Present and Future
Bangalore Baptist Hospital opened the door for ministry in India, and it now dreams of doubling its future impact.
Ukraine Conflict Prompts Local Church Response
Artillery shells rock buildings. Armed men run through the streets firing their weapons. Citizens take refuge in any safe haven they can find. Yet, Christian workers in eastern Ukraine say the church has never been more alive. ...
The Next 100 Years
Emeritus missionary Shirley Clark, age 100, shares her hopes for missions for the next 100 years.
A week after a catastrophic earthquake hit Port au Prince, Haiti, young men talk with Mark Rutledge, a Baptist Global Response representative, about the need for aid and relief in their communities.IMB Photo
A crowd gathers to watch the "JESUS" film in a rural village near Shonapur, Bangladesh.IMB Photo
Hundreds of protesters rally outside the Egyptian embassy in London, England, during the uprising in Egypt that called for President Hosni Mubarak to leave office.IMB Photo
Nepali Christians gather to sing and pray during a service at a small church in Hokse, outside Kathmandu, Nepal.IMB Photo
A Southern Baptist nurse visits the home of a tuberculosis patient in a Central Asian town.IMB Photo
International World Changers participants and a local translator pray with a young mother on the day she received her first Bible, in a migrant worker settlement in Thailand. Just one day later, she put her faith in Christ as her Savior.IMB Photo
Volunteer missionary Steven Kunkel, son of IMB missionaries in South America, teaches a Saturday Bible study for children at Jesus the Gospel Church in Shiojiri, Japan. At age 5, Steven couldn’t speak because of autism, a developmental brain disorder. In 2012, Steven spoke four languages — including Japanese — and was learning five more.IMB Photo
Connie Hook practices Malagasy Sign Language with two students at a Deaf school in Antananarivo, Madagascar. Connie, an interpreter for the Deaf at an elementary school in Evans, Georgia, went to Madagascar on a trip with Warren Baptist Church in Augusta, Georgia.IMB Photo
Daniel Park, pastor of New Song Church in Carrollton, Texas, teaches the T4T (Training for Trainers) church planting method to African believers on an island in Lake Victoria in Uganda.IMB Photo
Baptist Global Response (BGR) worker Erlyn Santos and earthquake victim Susannah Refamonte embrace amidst the rubble of Refamonte's home as they review the blueprints for her new home. BGR, a Southern Baptist relief and community development organization, provided housing materials for 100 families affected by a 7.2 earthquake that rocked the Philippines in 2013.IMB Photo
Eric Haney (left) talks and prays with a refugee he met through some friends in Stockholm, Sweden. The man would possibly be sent back to his home country because of visa issues, and he was concerned for his safety because of his new Christian faith.IMB Photo
A Christian worker talks with the father of a Syrian refugee family he meets with on a regular basis. The family was forced to escape war-torn Syria and make the 25-mile journey to the border of Jordan. The Christian worker meets with them (and many others like them) to share Bible stories, pray, and just be available as a person they can talk to and trust.IMB Photo
Children play with kites in a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan.IMB Photo