How many missionaries could be sent from just a fraction of all Southern Baptist churches today? At the International Mission Board dinner June 12 during the SBC annual meeting in Phoenix, 1,350 Southern Baptists estimated their churches, right now, have a combined potential of 28,551 missionaries.
“A word we’ve been using a lot in the IMB lately is ‘limitless’ — and tonight, we invite you to imagine the truly limitless possibilities that exist for the spread of the gospel in the world if we will take seriously the sending of missionaries from every one of our churches,” IMB President David Platt told the church members and leaders attending the event.
Southern Baptists estimate their churches potentially could send 28,551 missionaries — right now.
Following a rousing welcome by a Japanese taiko drum corps, Platt told attendees the passionate and sacrificial story of historic missionary Adoniram Judson. Newly married, Judson and his wife, Ann, sailed on a 114-day voyage to India, with plans to continue their missionary journey to Burma.
“As soon as they arrived in India, everyone told them, ‘You can’t go to Burma,’” Platt recounted. “Ship captains, government officials, missionaries, even William Carey himself said, ‘Get Burma out of your mind.’ The country is ruled by a despot, they’re known for savage, barbaric practices, they have no religious toleration, and you just plain can’t survive. … Every missionary who had gone to Burma had either died or left.”
Eventually the Judsons boarded a docked ship that was on its way to Rangoon, a city in Burma. But only days into the journey, Ann gave birth to a stillborn baby, and the young couple buried their child at sea.
“When they arrived ashore, they found a land filled with swarming crowds, Buddhist temples, leprous beggars, and children running around with no clothes while smoking cigars like they were adults,” Platt said. “Immediately, they started learning the language, and as soon as possible, they started working on translating the Bible into Burmese.”
Judson continued his mission with deep resolve, but not without significant trials: It took six years after landing at Rangoon to witness the first Burmese person baptized. Judson buried multiple children and two wives. He was imprisoned, tortured, and suspected of being a spy.
As the end of his life neared, Judson concluded, “One prayer, my God! Thy will be done — one only boon I crave: To finish well my work — and rest within a Burma grave!”
Platt said Judson’s commitment to share the gospel at all costs reflects the very reason Southern Baptists are meeting in Phoenix now.
“And tonight, I want to call pastors all across this room to raise up and send out multitudes more Adoniram and Ann Judsons from our churches — multitudes more men and women who will give their lives and their families for the glory of Christ in nations where His name is not yet known,” Platt urged.
“For years now, we have declined in the number of Southern Baptist missionaries serving around the world. But this year, the stage is set for that trend to be reversed. The stage is set for Southern Baptists to send more missionaries, through a multiplicity of pathways.”
Platt recounted that when Ann Judson was home in America, she pleaded, “I want the Baptists throughout the United States to feel that Burma must be converted through their instrumentality. They must do more than they have ever yet done. They must pray more, they must give more, and make greater efforts to prevent the missionary flame from becoming extinct.”
Platt urged church members and leaders to answer the Judsons’ heart cry. In response, Southern Baptists in attendance compiled the number of students, singles, husbands, wives, moms, dads, kids and grandparents in their churches who might take the gospel of Jesus Christ to the billions of people who have yet to hear it.
“Oh, Southern Baptists, 200 years later, would that be said of us: that we felt the nations must be converted through our cooperation, through our praying more than we ever have before, giving more than we ever have before, and sending more than we ever have before,” Platt said.
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Julie McGowan is IMB public relations manager.