If you were a part of the IMB Sending Celebration at SBC Annual Meeting this year, there was probably a particular moment or two that you will not likely soon forget. My moment came when thousands in our Southern Baptist family gathered to pray for the missionaries we were commissioning. I was standing backstage dutifully directing traffic and telling the new missionaries where to go next when I realized what was happening.
I ran out from behind the curtain so I could be a part of the moment. Our plan to send the missionaries into the audience so we could say a prayer for them became much more than simply the next part of the worship service—it became a heartfelt demonstration of the SBC’s cooperative purpose in mission.
It was a display of love and admiration for those we were sending, and everyone in the room felt the power of our unified body gathered together for one common purpose. It was a worshipful moment, as together we commissioned those who were obediently following God’s call to unreached people and places around the world.
Many have said that the IMB sending celebration was the highlight of the SBC gathering this year, and when you think about it, that’s exactly how it should be. The primary reason the SBC was formed was for the sending of missionaries, and this has been the heart cry of Southern Baptists ever since. It is—and should be—our rally cry. The following are seven ways that missionary sending impacts Southern Baptist life.
1. The sending of missionaries unifies us for a common purpose.
As Southern Baptists, we know that we can do more together than we can apart. When we come together to send and support missionaries, there is little focus on the things about which we disagree. Our cooperative effort for the spread of the gospel around the world unites us.
2. The sending of missionaries communicates who we are.
We are a coalition of churches bound together to send and support missionaries. When we publicly show our cooperative efforts towards that end, we show the world that our purpose is to share the love of Christ with all nations. And we demonstrate unity beyond our differences.
3. The sending of missionaries helps us to keep an outward focus.
As we work to send missionaries to unreached peoples and places, our desire is to be a reflection of God’s character and kingdom to the whole world. This begins in our own churches and communities and spreads to the ends of the earth. With a focus on the nations, we become more diverse, more welcoming, and more loving towards all people—both inside and outside our churches.
4. The sending of missionaries requires continued innovation, creativity, and cooperation.
The task of going to unreached peoples and places presents a variety of unique challenges, from cultural and linguistic barriers to government restrictions to treacherous terrain to social and political hostility. This is not an assignment for the faint of heart. It requires great tenacity and perseverance. As churches who send and support the men and women who take on these challenges, we must work with the same ingenuity and wisdom to ensure that we are supporting them well throughout the entire journey.
5. The sending of missionaries is a sobering reminder of the task unfinished.
As we pray for and support our brothers and sisters who have answered the call to go to the nations, we are reminded of the sacrifice they and their families are making. There is no guarantee of comfort, safety, or success in this line of work. But the missionaries we send choose to faithfully, obediently, and joyfully give their lives for the sake of the gospel going forth. These missionaries daily ask the same question as the apostle Paul, “how can they believe without hearing about him?” They are resolved to go and tell.
6. The sending of missionaries is a regenerative and multiplicative process.
The men and women who join our missionary force are able to go make disciples because they themselves have been discipled in our churches. They were taught to walk with the Lord and obediently follow his direction. They were discipled to a life of godliness by mentors who modeled the life of the church. They were equipped for the task of evangelism and educated about God’s heart for the nations by the loving churches who are sending them out. Thus, they go to do the same among the nations.
7. The sending of missionaries is something worth celebrating.
As we look towards the day when we can worship with all nations, tribes, and tongues around the throne of God, we celebrate the work he is doing around the world. His gospel is being proclaimed and his glory shown as we send faithful men and women to share the good news everywhere. This work, these people, his glory—they are cause for great celebration!