Editor’s Note: IMB hosted a press conference with Dr. Paul Chitwood, newly elected IMB President, on Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018. Dr. Clyde Meador, interim executive vice president, moderated the press conference. Also representing IMB were Dr. Chuck Pourciau, chairman of the Presidential Search Committee, and Dr. Rick Dunbar, chairman of the IMB board of trustees.
Clyde: Good afternoon folks. We welcome you to a press conference with Dr. Paul Chitwood, the newly elected President of the International Mission Board. To my right, here, is Dr. Rick Dunbar, the Chairman of the trustees of the International Mission Board; Dr. Chitwood, on my left; and then next to him is … Dr. Chuck Pourciau, who is the Chairman of the search committee seeking our new President of the International Mission Board. This is for invited press, only and we are glad you have joined us this afternoon. We ask you to be sure and mute your audio on whatever system you’re using. We invite you to send your questions or comments by chat, only, and send them to Mark Ritter, who is the host of this press conference. We welcome your questions this afternoon, but first, going to ask Dr. Chitwood to give us some opening remarks.
Dr. Chitwood: Thank you Clyde and thank you to all the members of the press who will help us to continue to champion the story of the Southern Baptist Convention’s cooperative mission work through the International Mission Board. We’re grateful to have a few minutes with you today. I’m grateful for God’s grace in my life and in the life of my wife, Michelle. We were raised by Southern Baptists, we were educated by Southern Baptists, discipled by Southern Baptists, equipped by Southern Baptists, and given opportunities to serve and grow and lead by Southern Baptists. We’re incredibly humbled by this opportunity that the Lord has set before us.
Dr. Chitwood: As I served as a member of the Board of trustees, from 2002 to 2010, the Lord used that time really to change my ministry and to change my life. So much so that Michelle and I questioned our own call to missions as we were meeting our missionaries who were going out and going to the appointment services, and those were very emotional moments with Southern Baptists gathering together to commission those who were going to the ends of the Earth on the Lord’s behalf, on our behalf. We felt compelled: “Do we need to do that, as well?” And in time of searching, in our lives, and seeking counsel, from Scripture and from the Lord, and from our IMB staff and missionaries, and others, we just came to a clear sense of understanding that God had called us to be mobilizers of the mission.
Dr. Chitwood: And mobilizers of our missionaries, and so I sought as a pastor, as a professor, as a state missionary, state executive, and whatever roles the Lord has allowed me to have in Southern Baptist life, I have sought to do precisely that: To mobilize our missionaries and mobilize Southern Baptists to be on mission, mobilize the resources that are necessary to carry out the Great Commission task, and we have been blessed in those different roles. But to now be seated today, in this seat, is humbling, and really, we’re overjoyed by the opportunity that is before us to continue to work to support our missionaries and to see that our Christ is known among the nations.
Dr. Chitwood: I’d like to share with you a few of the things I communicated to the Board of Trustees yesterday and to those who were in the room this morning, just to give a context to my leadership as I begin my role at the IMB.
Dr. Chitwood: First, I do not bring a new vision to the IMB. In fact, I don’t believe the IMB’s vision is ours to fashion. God has given His vision to His church. That vision stated in Revelation 7:9 of “a multitude from every language people tribe and nation” is His vision. … He has given that vision to Southern Baptists — He has given that vision. We sought clarity on a vision statement, when I was a board member and Chair of the Board, and we went to Scripture. This is what we found. We just felt it communicated what Southern Baptists have been trying to do for decades through the International Mission Board, and it was a crystal clear way to communicate our work together as Southern Baptists. So, this is the vision that we will continue to champion at the International Mission Board, and for the International Mission Board.
“God has given His vision to His church. That vision stated in Revelation 7:9 of ‘a multitude from every language people tribe and nation’ is His vision.”
Dr. Chitwood: Second, I look forward to working under the authority of and in partnership with our Trustee Board. A relationship of mutual respect and submission and partnership between the Board and the President is the foundation upon which any successful organization is built, and I believe it’s vital for the flourishing of Southern Baptist missions. Those board members have been sent to us from our churches and the stewardship, the fiduciary role, that they play in connecting the IMB to our churches and to our convention is critical. And I’m grateful to serve with those men and women who are in the board member seats at this time and the history of International Mission work of Southern Baptists. I’ll enthusiastically implement the policies adopted by the board, and I know that I’ll be able to enjoy the support of the board, as it’s already been communicated to me.
Dr. Chitwood: Third, Michelle and I will have as our goal in this role, to wash the feet of our missionaries. Even as I lead our staff, I am so grateful for God’s call upon their lives, and the work that they’re doing and new ones are going out to do. We appointed 42 new missionaries last night. Michelle and I just had the opportunity to spend a few moments with more than 100 missionaries who are here for their orientation and training, preparing to go to the field. What a poignant reminder to us of what this role is about: That we are here to rally Southern Baptists to support those missionaries who are taking the gospel to the ends of the Earth. We are here to do everything we can, to get any hurdle or barrier out of their way, so they can do what God has called them to do. And what an incredible privilege that is.
Dr. Chitwood: Fourth, I will work and I will call on Southern Baptists continue their work to increase our commitment to see that the gospel gets to the very ends of the Earth. I desire, as I think every other Southern Baptist does, to once again see our career mission force growing in number. In order for that to happen, they’ll need to be a greater generosity, and a greater willingness to sacrifice from those of us who are here, supporting those who are going overseas.
Dr. Chitwood: Southern Baptists are generous people. And there are many causes that we can support, but there is no greater cause than the cause of taking the gospel to the nations. And I believe there’s not greater avenue to do that than through our own missions-sending agency, the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. So as we work together to fund the mission, we want to continue to maintain and even shore up an organization that is strong, and that is stable. I do not envision a reorganization coming out of the gate in my tenure as President, instead to just continue the good work that has been set in place by this board and those who have led in the past — and ensure that the missionaries have what they need to get the job done.
Dr. Chitwood: I hope that we can reestablish a strong and growing missionary pipeline, candidates who will be ready to go when the resources God provides through Southern Baptists are available. Also, I hope that we can establish a leadership pipeline where our existing personnel are equipped and empowered to use their God-given gifts, to their fullest potential, to every level in the organization, and where they will always be ready to accept more leadership responsibilities in the organization.
Dr. Chitwood: Then I committed to the trustees — early on to the search committee, but also to the full board over the course of the last couple of days — that I will work with them to guard our partnerships, our partnership with Southern Baptist churches of every size,and in every context, the partnerships that the IMB is blessed to share with our SBC entities and entity heads and we thank God for each of those entities and the way that He has used them to bolster and increase the work of the IMB. We will seek to guard the relationships that we share with our state conventions, recognizing the incredible generosity of their support, and providing for the missionaries and the needs of the IMB. Obviously coming out of the state convention executive director fellowship, I have strong relationships with those who are leading our state conventions, and I hope to continue to guard and use those relationships in a way that will be a blessing to the work, to Southern Baptists, and specifically, to our missionaries.
Dr. Chitwood: Then, of course, our local associations and back to the local church level. These are relationships that I think can best be guarded and utilized as we are accountable to one another as we are encouraging to one another and as we seek to walk side by side, and work hand in hand with one another. Southern Baptists’ system of missions requires from all of us, at every level, genuine respect, deep humility, unbroken trust, and mutual loyalty. And that is what I commit to Southern Baptists and to every level of Southern Baptist leadership. As we work to guard a reputation and a brand and our integrity, I will seek to make our mission force and our staff look like the churches we serve.
Dr. Chitwood: In order to do that, we need more ethnic diversity and more African Americans in leadership roles at the IMB, as well as not only here in Richmond, but overseas. We want to be intentional about including females in appropriate leadership roles. In order, again, to guard our integrity before the churches and to reflect the Southern Baptist Convention of churches here at the IMB. In guarding our integrity as an organization, I will also seek to use the IMB Presidency as a platform to champion the Cooperative Program and certainly the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering®.
“I want to call on Southern Baptists to make this year’s offering the largest in our history.”
Dr. Chitwood: With regard to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, I want to call on Southern Baptists to make this year’s offering the largest in our history. Never before have we had the needs and opportunities that we have at this moment in history. We have thousands of missionaries on the field, 42 more appointed last night. Those missionaries deserve our full generous and gracious sacrificial support. And I’m hoping that we will see that support of Southern Baptists grow, and I am hoping that we’ll see it grow in a significant way during this Lottie Moon Christmas Offering season that is about to launch. I feel so blessed to be in this seat as we launch the 2018 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering season — to see what God will do through Southern Baptists who, I know and believe, are generous people and who are passionate about the work of getting the gospel to the nations.
Dr. Chitwood: So with those things in mind, just as an opening statement, we’d be glad to entertain any questions that you have.
Clyde: Thank you, Dr. Chitwwod. Jane Rodgers from the Southern Baptist Texan asks: What plans do you have to encourage Hispanics and Hispanic churches to be more involved in missions?
Dr. Chitwood: I appreciate that question very much. We’ve worked very hard in Kentucky to elevate the role of Hispanic leadership in our state. We have as our church planting leader and campus missionary leader in Kentucky, a brother from South America. We have also individuals on our staff, one from Mexico, one from Cuba who work across our state with church planting and with ethnic ministries and are seeing more and more involvement. So I do want to see that at the IMB. And I believe, as it’s happening in Kentucky, that will be born out of a couple of things specifically. One: out of the relationships that we’re able to build with our Hispanic churches and our brothers and sisters in Christ. As is true in Kentucky, it’s true across the Southern Baptist Convention, a significant percentage of the new church plants in the SBC are Hispanic churches. And so finding ways to elevate those leaders in different roles in the SBC, and certainly at the IMB, I think is critical for our futures. I stated a few moments ago, the more we reflect as a Southern Baptist Convention of churches, those individual churches, and individual members of the SBC family, the stronger we’ll be as an IMB, the better poised and positioned we’ll be to reach the nations with the gospel.
Dr. Chitwood: So, again, building those relationships will be key. Then secondly, I think finding more way to involve those churches, those local congregations, in the messaging of the IMB, and in unique opportunities and partnership with the IMB — that will be key. So targeting those churches so they know, “Hey, we know you’re here, we love you, we need you,” I think that’s a good place to start.
Clyde: Thank you. David Roach from Baptist Press is here in the room with us. David?
David: Thanks. In the plenary session, Chuck, you referenced a “God moment” that the committee had that really cemented your decision to nominate Dr. Chitwood. I wonder if you can elaborate on that a little bit and tell us whatever can about that. And then the second part of the same question, I wonder if you, Dr. Chitwood, had any similar God moments where it was really cemented in your mind that this was His call for you?
Clyde: Chuck, it’d be good if you repeated that question that David asked.
“We knew that when you have that many people to get a unanimous vote, it would have to take something that God would do.”
Chuck: Okay, the question that was asked was in our preliminary session, I referenced that a previous chairman had told me that you would have a “God moment,” and you would notice that God moment, you would know it when it happened, and it would remove all doubt. And I said, we had our God moment, it did remove all doubt, and that enabled us enthusiastically and unanimously to recommend to the board Dr. Chitwood. As much as I can say about it, without getting into specific details and breaking confidences, is that the search was not a straight line. It went down a lot of roads, we had to stop and back up down other roads, and had to stop and back up, go down other roads and had to stop and back up. Went down some roads more than once.
Chuck: At one point, we recognized that when you have 15 people who are good people, who understand the magnitude of this task, not one of them is going to say, “Yes, I’m for him,” if they’re not. And so we knew that when you have that many people to get a unanimous vote, it would have to take something that God would do. And while we had plenty of discussions about candidates, and we had strong candidates with strong support, there came a point when we started fasting and praying, each Tuesday. Then on a Tuesday, God moved on our hearts as a committee, and by the end of that Wednesday, we came together as one and said we need to pursue Paul.
Chuck: And we need to meet with him, again. Then when we met with him again, back in September, we had another meeting a few days later: “So how do y’all feel?” And it was just one, two, three, four, five, six, just 15 people, who all, very enthusiastically, said, “This is God’s man.” So I guess, to see that committee come together like they did, without question, without hesitation, without any member hesitating to support Paul, after all the different dialogues we had and inability to get full support for anybody else. When that happened, we knew God had done it.
David: Can I follow up with one thing that you said?
Chuck: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
David: You said you all felt you had to meet with him again, so I guess you met with him earlier in the process and then this kind of came back around?
Chuck: Our process was to interview candidates one time and then if we felt like God was leading in that direction, that we would ask them for another interview. And that’s what it was, we knew we doubted that we would be able to get where we needed to go with just one interview, but we also knew that with one interview we probably could either eliminate them or them eliminate us. And so if it got to the point where both parties wanted another interview, we knew that it was something we needed to investigate. So yeah, that was the second interview of Paul. The “God moment” led to the second interview of Paul.
David: I don’t want to monopolize the time, but are you able to say how many people you had at least two interviews with?
Chuck: I’m going to, I’m going to say this: we interviewed several people, period. I’m not going to say how many we interviewed once or twice. What I can say, is that we interviewed some fantastic candidates. Didn’t interview a bad one. Didn’t interview one that did not impress us. We interviewed some fantastic candidates, and while those candidates had support on the committee, they did not have the support of the committee. It was only with Paul, that we found the candidate that had the support of the committee. And that’s how we ended up where we did.
Dr. Chitwood: Thank you for the question, David. I think for me, and for Michelle, this was not a role that we pursued. In fact, in the first interview, one of the committee members asked, “Why do you want this job?” And my response was, “I don’t want this job. And anyone who is pursuing it simply doesn’t know what it is.” So I had the opportunity to work with Jerry Rankin, when I was a board member and board chairman, and just seeing the toll that that took, the sacrifice that it entails, understanding and placing yourself at the epicenter of spiritual warfare, why would any of us run to that? And so I made it clear to the committee that I wasn’t running to it. However, I also made clear to the committee, that should God call me, to the position — I mean there would be no greater privilege in my life, and I would run to God’s call in my life — and I would run to God’s call if He called me to the position. That has been confirmed. You ask about ways that that was confirmed. That’s been confirmed all along the way in some very specific ways, and I’ll reference a few of those. We’re Baptists, and we wait for the final confirmation to be a word from the Lord’s people. The Lord’s people today who are represented by the trustees of the International Mission Board spoke, and so that was a final confirmation for us. It was today, and we praise the Lord for it.
Dr. Chitwood: But along the way we knew that we should continue in the process at the invitation of the committee if and when it came because of some specific things. There were some Bible passages as Michelle and I were reading just separately and daily and praying separately and together some that just coming in front of us, and I trust you know how that works sometimes. The Lord just keeps, not haphazardly, but He just keeps bringing a Bible passage in front of you that He’s using to speak through, and that happened. There were a couple of places in the Bible I would not open my Bible to because I didn’t want to see that again, and then the pastor would preach from it or we’d have it come at us in some other way. So the Lord used that to confirm.
Dr. Chitwood: For our family, this was a huge moment for us. While we were already fully committed, but just within the last 10 days, we have a foster daughter; because parental rights have been terminated, she’s available for adoption, and so we have begun the process of adopting her. As the process was winding down with the committee, we knew this entails a move to Richmond, Virginia. So I called the social worker and said, “I may have a job offer that will come in the next few weeks from out of state. Don’t know for sure, but we would need to move. Because we’re already in the process of adopting her, we’d like to have permission to take her with us and then finalize the adoption.”
Dr. Chitwood: We were not granted that permission. The state will not allow a ward of the state to move to a different state. That’s just a hard and fast rule. There were no exceptions, and so we’re left to wonder, “How will this work out?” Anyone who’s worked through the adoption and foster care process understands that’s so unpredictable. It can take years to finalize. Anyone asks how they could pray for us, that’s what we want you praying. Most people didn’t have a clue what was going on with us.
Dr. Chitwood: As I was pulling into the Warren Baptist Association building Monday night of last week ready to speak at a retirement ceremony, one of our directors of missions or associational mission strategists is a full bird colonel and a chaplain in the guard. He was retiring from that role but will continue on in his associational missionary strategist role. I was sitting in the parking lot getting my thoughts together, about to go in. My phone rang, and mind you, this was the eve of my announcement, my public announcement as the candidate that the trustees would hear upon recommendation from their search committee. It was the adoption attorney, who said, “We have a court date on December 6th. We will finalize the adoption, and your foster daughter will be your daughter.”
Dr. Chitwood: It was just again a powerful way the Lord confirmed to us. All the details were taken care of. There are several other things I could point to, but that’s just the Lord and His kindness leading us day by day, and we’re grateful to Him.
David: I’m very curious to know what the Bible passages were you didn’t want to open your Bible to.
“Okay, Lord, I hear you. We’re always ready to go and willing to go wherever you call.”
Dr. Chitwood: Yeah. One of those passages is where the Lord tells us that no one is lost, has left mother or father or brother or sister or family or home. And for us the prospect of leaving our beloved Kentucky and what I believe is the best job in the Southern Baptist Convention, and that’s the executive director-treasurer of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, a couple college kids that we’ll leave in Kentucky, we just wanted to hear clearly from the Lord. Obviously, that move pales in comparison to the 114 missionaries I just met with a few moments ago who are leaving their country, their family, their home, everything they’ve known and loved, to go to a foreign land to take the gospel. Those, as Michelle told them in our few moments with them, they’re the heroes. They’re our heroes.
Dr. Chitwood: Yet, the prospect of a total change of life and location and ministry was huge for us, and so the Lord just kept pushing that in front of me in different circumstances. I finally had to say, “Okay, Lord, I hear you. We’re always ready to go and willing to go wherever you call.” That’s the one I would point to.
Clyde: Thank you, Paul. Danny Porter from the Baptist New Mexican says, “Generation Z accounts for maybe as many as 61 million people, and these folks will be coming of age over the next few years, so the question is, how do you foresee engaging and equipping this next generation with an international mission mindset?”
Dr. Chitwood: Yeah. It’s a great question. Thank you for the question. That begins at the local church level, and I thank the Lord for the ministry of pastors all across the Southern Baptist Convention, the ministry of youth ministers and children’s ministers and moms and dads who are discipling their kids in their homes. I thank the Lord for everyone in the local church who’s a part of raising those kids up, raising those kids up to be sure that they know that the Lord has called all of us to the nations, whether as missionaries or mobilizers. For me, that’s the starting point.
Dr. Chitwood: There are ways that the IMB can continue, and I think we’ve seen some huge strides over the course of just the last couple of years and the IMB working with those new and younger generation churches and church plants, making sure that we have various pathways and a perceived relevance to the rising generation. I say that as a rising generation of churches but also the rising generation of individuals. The IMB has worked hard and will continue to work hard to enter the space of the young folk, and we’ll do that via their social media platforms and other avenues that we can utilize to communicate God’s call and the great opportunities that are before us. Obviously, if we have a future as the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, then every generation counts. Every generation counts. We thank God.
Dr. Chitwood: Walked in the board meeting earlier today, and the first hand that I shook before the meeting started was an individual who said, “I’ve been with the IMB for 52 years.” God bless that brother and others like him. I know that all across the United States we have retired missionaries who have lived their lives on mission, and we praise God for those emeritus missionaries and those who have left us and who continue to champion the legacy of Southern Baptist missions and those of us who are still in the middle of generation Z and the builder generation, now the boomer generation, as it’s making its way towards heaven, it lies to us. I didn’t want to offend, Rick.
Clyde: I’m older than him.
Dr. Chitwood: I think the responsibility is ours to make sure there’s a handoff, is there not? And so we have to take that responsibility seriously and be as creative as we can be in making a good handoff, a strong handoff. So the legacy that was left to me is a legacy that I’ll leave to the next generation. Thank you for the question.
Clyde: Thank you, Dr. Chitwood. Shannon Baker from the Baptist Convention of Pennsylvania-New Jersey, says, “Our missionary stories are so vital to our churches. What do you envision your stories to look like, technology or otherwise?”
Dr. Chitwood: Yeah. Thank you for that. One of the things that we want to do is to provide every week a missionary story via video, a short platform story that will be available to every church. Some of our churches would want to do a 90-second to 120-second video every week at some point in the worship service to celebrate what their church is doing at the ends of theirs. Others may want to do it monthly or quarterly, but I’d like for us to tell the story.
Dr. Chitwood: One of the great challenges of cooperative missions that we’re all aware of is how do we personalize the work; how do we help the churches understand that this is theirs. There’s not a Southern Baptist church that gives to the Cooperative Program and supports the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering that isn’t a missionary-sending, church-planting Great Commission church. I have championed in my role in Kentucky that every KBC church is a James 1:27 church because you have your orphan care ministry through your state convention and through your children’s home of your state convention. Every KBC church is planting churches in Kentucky, 52 new churches, so by examples like that.
Dr. Chitwood: Here we had the opportunity to set in front of our churches every week one of their missionaries and their stories. Obviously, we’ll have to be creative with that with regards to security concerns, but there are ways to do that, ways for those stories to be told. It’s not hard at all. That’s one of the avenues that we’d want to use.
Clyde: Jane Rodgers from the Southern Baptist Texan has another question. “Does the IMB have any plans to minister in the current migrant crisis along our border?”
Dr. Chitwood: Yeah. Thank you for that. The IMB has been ministering in migrant crises all around the world for a long time. The ministry to refugees that takes place every day all around the world through our missionaries, through our Baptist Global Response, and in partnership with churches who are carrying out ministries, refugee ministry overseas. It’s ongoing.
“The ministry to refugees takes place every day all around the world. … It’s ongoing.”
Dr. Chitwood: The work on our border, as I have given some thought to this, I think is best done by or at least in partnership with North American Mission Board, and North American Mission Board has already been working in that realm. I believe there’ll be more opportunities for NAMB to do that and their leadership of Kevin Ezell and Send Relief through David Melber, but the IMB certainly is ready to partner with them. We have seen — this is more the refugee side of it than the migrant side — but we have seen a great resurgence in Kentucky of our churches involved in refugee ministry in cities in Kentucky, cities like Louisville, Bowling Green, Lexington, Owensboro.
Dr. Chitwood: We’re working with a former IMB missionary — who could be a greater tool and partner in that regard than a former IMB missionary? — but we’re working with a former IMB missionary under contract with us and working with the local associations and other specific churches to ensure that we have a specific strategy to engage the refugees with the gospel. In Kentucky that’s what we’ve been doing. Some of our state conventions are doing that already, and NAMB is involved, just in the last six months has started a couple unique efforts in that regard. I look forward to seeing how that will spread. I do believe that our stateside missionaries can be an incredible resource in that regard, and we would want to utilize them to that end.
David: Can I follow up and go back two questions and ask something about Shannon’s question about storying and telling the stories? I think that’s striking because you’ve really been a champion of Baptist journalism, I mean with the Western Recorder and with Kentucky Today. I don’t even live in Kentucky, and I have lots of information about the Kentucky Baptist Convention every day that I appreciate.
David: Can you talk about in addition to the videos, what other means of journalism you’re going to pursue at the IMB? I know we get vignettes that are really helpful, but I wonder if you’re going to expand news coverage and various media?
Clyde: Can you repeat some of the question?
Dr. Chitwood: Okay. David Roach has asked about expanding the journalism and the news coverage side of the IMB through our communications efforts, sort of appealing to (and thank you for your kind remarks there, David) to what we’ve done in Kentucky. We’ve created a platform. For those of you who aren’t aware of it, I would want you to be aware of it.
Dr. Chitwood: We’ve created a communications platform in Kentucky called Kentucky Today. We have a website. We actually have the Associated Press newsfeed where we have AP, that’s the largest news entity in the world, we have AP stories free of charge up on our website. Those are international stories, national stories, state stories. Then we have our own state staff writing stories. We have a capital correspondent. We have a person covering state sports — UK basketball is big in our part of the world, and people love to read it. It attracts them to our news site.
Dr. Chitwood: We’ve seen tremendous success. The last numbers in the past year, we’ve had 1.5 million page views. We’ve had over half a million unique users just in the past 12 months on the site from (I think it was) 192 countries, which is just getting near to all of them, but people who have gravitated there. We’ve been able to use that as a platform then to tell the Southern Baptist story and the Kentucky Baptist story and to present a biblical worldview perspective on those daily news articles that are being read.
Dr. Chitwood: That obviously is not the model that needs to be duplicated at the IMB. However, there’s much that can be learned from the success of that model. The IMB has a long legacy of telling the story of Southern Baptist missions and communicating that to Southern Baptists, and I believe that with the creativity of our team, with the hard work of all of us hand in hand, I believe that we can continue to advance those platforms, grow those platforms. It’s not just the video platform that will help us communicate with Southern Baptists. The written word, the stories, finding as with Kentucky Today, although it would be different, finding new and creative ways to access Southern Baptists, to get ourselves in front of them, I think will be highly valuable.
“Most of what Southern Baptists know about Southern Baptists’ life and work they know from two sources. … They know from what their pastor tells them and from what the secular media tells them.”
Dr. Chitwood: Most of what Southern Baptists know about Southern Baptists’ life and work they know from two sources, and track with me on the numbers here. They know from what their pastor tells them and from what the secular media tells them. Because when you just do the math of the combined membership of Southern Baptists churches, what, 16 million or so, we’re told? Not that we think we could find all of them, however, there are millions of Southern Baptists. Then we compare that to okay, from our national platform, our Baptist Press, from our state platforms, whether it’s the Western Recorder or the Baptist Reflector or other papers, the number of subscribers, the access, the hits on the website. What we cannot deny is that there are millions upon millions of Southern Baptists who we’re not able to directly communicate with or we haven’t been through the way we’re using our traditional platforms.
Dr. Chitwood: So what they know is about Cooperative mission work and the IMB is what their pastor tells them or does not tell them or what they read in the secular media. What we know is that the secular media is not always that generous in telling our story, and we’d rather tell our own story. To find ways through the media to gain more access to our people, that was the vision of Kentucky Today, and I’ll be working with our communications team here at the IMB to see whatever the platform looks like, or I envision many platforms, how can we get our story in front of Southern Baptists?
Dr. Chitwood: Because I believe that one of the great struggles in harnessing the resources that the IMB needs to continue its mission to support our missionaries and to grow our mission force is not a matter of those resources being unavailable, that Southern Baptists don’t have enough money to keep the missionaries out there. That’s not the case at all. It’s how they’re using the money. It’s, “Do they even know about the mission and the opportunities? Have we gotten face to face with them to challenge them?” Of course, that bleeds into fund development and other areas, but this is something obviously you can tell that I’m passionate about, and I want us to doggedly pursue. Thank you, David, for your question.
Clyde: Another question, we invite you to ask a question via chat … There’s not another one up there yet, so David, it’s for you.
David: All right. I’ll keep going. When you were the IMB Trustee Chair, what were your main concerns about the future of the IMB? What really kept you up at night? And, do those still hold today, or is a totally new set of challenges?
Clyde: David just asked Dr. Chitwood the question: When you were IMB Chair, what were your major concerns, the things that might’ve kept you up at night? And do those same things still hold today? Or is it an entirely different situation?
Dr. Chitwood: There was one overarching concern that I carried, and the board carried, at that time that penetrated my heart as deeply as anything that penetrated my heart when I was on the board, or really as deeply as anything, almost as deep as anything that penetrated my heart, in my ministry.
Dr. Chitwood: I had to stand before this board, and give the report, after Dr. Rankin gave his report. I communicated to the board, “We see no other option but to begin to reduce our missionary head count, our mission force.”
Dr. Chitwood: That was a turning point that was incredibly painful. There was weeping that day, I recall in that board meeting, because we had been in a growth pattern, we’d set a goal of 8,000 missionaries, that had come to a 5,600-5,700 number, the highest number ever in history of the IMB. And, we were pressing toward that, and we saw a full pipeline of maybe a couple of thousand of candidates who were called, equipped, and proving themselves ready to go, and, we were reaching for it, and we could see it happening, even though that was a God-sized vision that had been set in front of us.
“I don’t think it’s a matter of us not having the resources, I think it’s how we’re using our resources.”
Dr. Chitwood: And then, suddenly the reality of the economics began to set in. The impact of 9/11, the recession of 2008, and we just realized, hey it’s not matter of how are we going to fund a growing force, we’re not going to be able to fund our existing force. And my heart was broken, and it’s never healed, because we’ve not yet turned the tide. In fact, we’ve had to, again and again, find ways to reduce the mission force. That should break the heart of every Southern Baptist. Again, I don’t think it’s a matter of us not having the resources, I think it’s how we’re using our resources, it’s how we’re appealing to Southern Baptists.
Dr. Chitwood: And so, I carry that today, and it brings me into this role. I want to see that we do everything we can to maximize every penny entrusted to us by Southern Baptists — but also to challenge, and encourage Southern Baptists to maximize every penny entrusted to them, and to prioritize getting the gospel to the nations.
Dr. Chitwood: Other things — David, that’s the big one for me, still is — but obviously in an organization this size there are always projects and things we’re working on. One of the things that began back then, and really has made its way into significant prominence today, are the pathways that we could provide for churches to send missionaries. So, we began a pilot program back when I was on the board, and I left before that really was able be evaluated, and taken to the next level. But, thank God, faithful trustees, and a faithful staff, and faithful presidents since that time, have continued to push that forward, and found ways to get some of that done.
Roles of women
David: Can you also talk about, amid the #MeToo movement, what you’re going to do specifically about including more women on the staff, and the mission force? I heard you reference it couple of times today, but I wonder if you could elaborate a little bit?
Dr. Chitwood: I think there are two sides of that for me, and the first side is just a zero tolerance when it comes to any inappropriate conduct with regard to women, children, men, to anyone. There’s a standard of holiness that the Lord has called all of us to, and a respect, and of care and love, particularly for those who may be vulnerable, or could be easily be victimized. And certainly that applies to me, it applies to our staff, it applies to our missionaries. And I think the only way that we can, with integrity, stand before Southern Baptists, is just with a zero-tolerance approach.
Dr. Chitwood: On the inclusion part, we have obviously some very gifted ladies who are serving around the world. We have some very gifted ladies who are serving on our staff here in Richmond. We have some very gifted ladies who are on our board. I just got aquatinted with some of those in the last couple of days. Some of them I’ve known from Kentucky, and other places that we’ve crossed paths.
Dr. Chitwood: But, while we’re Southern Baptists, and we’re people of the Book, and Scripture gives us guidance and direction and parameters when it comes to spiritual leadership, there are so many roles at the IMB — and the local church for that matter — where a complementarian view places, and a Biblical complementarian view, places no limits whatsoever on ladies. Sometimes it’s just been our awareness of their presence, of their gifts, their abilities, our intentionality, in elevating them.
Dr. Chitwood: And that’s something with regard to work in Kentucky, where you’re talking about African Americans, people of ethnic backgrounds, or females, if you’re just intentional, and looking outside of your circle and our go-to places for leadership, what I’ve seen is the Lord has people there who can help us look more like the churches we serve.
Dr. Chitwood: And with regard to our ladies, again that’s for me, make no apology, I’m a Biblical complementarian, but there is so much that we do, there should be no limits. There are no limits biblically on so many of the roles. In fact, there are very few, on very few of the roles when it comes to scripture. So, let’s be intentional.
Clyde: Thank you, Paul. Back to Danny Porter, from Baptist New Mexican. Danny asks, he says, “It’s well documented that Dr. J.D. Greear is passionate about sending Southern Baptists to plant international churches. Can you speak to the impact his presidency will have on IMB, and how you will work together to increase IMB support throughout the SBC during the remainder of his term?”
Dr. Chitwood: Thank you. That’s a great question, and you’re right, J.D., and his church live out that passion. As I understand it, probably more missionaries out of Summit Church, and more through the IMB, than maybe any other SBC church. So, it’s one among many full-on, all-out, committed churches. He’s one among many full-on, all-out, committed pastors across the SBC.
Dr. Chitwood: With regard to J.D. specifically, J.D. is a member of the International Mission Board, by right of being [SBC] president. And so, as a board member, he had an opportunity to, along with the other board members, first get my name as the candidate, and J.D. immediately, in fact, on that very day, reached out to me, and we had a conversation. He wanted to know what I was thinking if I were elected as president, about some specific issues — the Foundations document, pathways, working with lead churches — and we had a really good conversation.
“It blesses all of us to have a leader who models a heart for the nations.”
Dr. Chitwood: J.D. committed to supporting me, and doing anything he can, and the resources of Summit Church he had, at our disposal and partnership. And that certainly blessed me, because he’s Southern Baptist Convention president. That blesses me all the more, it blesses all of us to have a leader who models a heart for the nations, and a sacrificial generosity of not just their money, but their people who they want to see sent out, and they support. I think it’s great to be able to elevate leaders like that who are living it out, who we can point to as models. And, I am grateful he has reached out to me as well.
Dr. Chitwood: Since then — he had hoped to be here this morning, but was unable to be because of State Convention speaking commitments that he’s had all week — but wanted to reassure me again of his prayers, and his support for which I am grateful. So, to have SBC presidents who are beating the drum with us, and shining the light, that’s a special blessing to us. And, we certainly have had to add Steve Gaines … who is our most recent SBC president. J.D. is a great leader and I’m grateful to be in partnership with him. When I committed to him, and I specifically mentioned, as SBC president, but also as pastor of Summit Church, is that I look forward to serving him, and his church, and serving with him Southern Baptists.
David: It seems like some talk that has the tone of: Well even though Paul Chitwood hasn’t been an international missionary, he’ll be really good. But, I kind of want to talk about the other side of that. What about being a pastor and state exec. really bring something unique to this role? How did that equip you? And especially a state exec. because it’s been a long time since we’ve had a state exec. as an IMB president.
Dr. Chitwood: Yeah, thank you, David. David asked, what about my background, and experience as a pastor as well as a state exec. that has help prepared me for this role. I appreciate that question very much.
Dr. Chitwood: As a local church pastor, this is worth the mention of churches, and that’s certainly the case of Southern Baptists Convention. We own that as Kentucky Baptist Convention. I came into my role with 18 years of experience as a pastor, and so we set the mission statement of the KBC, and really pointed it back to the local church. Kentucky Baptist Convention, created by churches, for churches to help churches reach Kentucky in world for Christ.
“Was not the International Mission Board create by churches, for churches, to help churches reach the world for Christ?”
Dr. Chitwood: I believe that’s as applicable to the Southern Baptist Convention, and the International Mission Board, as it is to the Kentucky Baptist Convention. Was not the International Mission Board create by churches, for churches, to help churches reach the world for Christ? And so, my passion is one who was called to serve the local church, who loves the local church, who seeks to honor the local church. You know, local church is not a temporary tool, the local church is the bride and the body of Christ. It is eternal, and it is that for which Christ is returning, and He is coming to claim her. And so, as a local church pastor, who has been an under-shepherd of the Lord Jesus, serving His church, I think that focus for me is significant preparation for this role where we work together with churches to get the gospel to the nations.
Dr. Chitwood: As far as the state exec., I was a state missionary and so that role, although much different than an overseas missionary, it has the missions aspect to it. The unique role as state exec. is working with partners at every level, and understanding that I am here to advocate for Southern Baptists Convention entities. I am here to advocate for our local associations, and local churches.
Dr. Chitwood: It is a highly relational role. So, seven-and-a-half years of being in a highly relational role, I believe well-prepares me for a highly relational role. So, this is a highly relational role in that I want to — and need to — relate to our missionaries. I want to — and need to — relate to our staff. I want to — and need to — relate to pastors of every size church, to associational mission strategists, to state execs., and state convention staff, to our other entities. That says we work in partnership, and in tandem for the Great Commission cause. And my experience and background in that highly relational role, I believe, has well prepared me to the championing of the Cooperative Program. I’ve called the state exec. job the role of the CP fundraiser, and chief.
Dr. Chitwood: To be able to bring that to that role, to own that, accept that responsibility, I got out of bed every day, laced up my shoes, and went out to see, “Hey, how can we push forward cooperative missions in Kentucky and for the cause for Christ among the nations?” I believe that’s a big deal.
Dr. Chitwood: The opportunity to work with our staff, and to lead an organization, I do believe that that experience, not only leading a local church, but leading a missions organization … certainly not the size and magnitude of the IMB, but there are some things I’ve learned along the way. My degree programs, and the opportunities to deal with HR issues, and legal issues, because of my role as state exec., I’ve been a board member on several other entities. And so, the governing side of an organization, and an understanding of that side, equips me and better prepares me to work with the governing board, and the authority of a governing board, and partnership with a governing board. I think that also is important.
Dr. Chitwood: I could actually track for a while here, as you’re seeing, David, but I look back to the experiences that God has given me. From my first paycheck job, at 13 years of age, cleaning toilets and sweeping floors as a janitor, to bagging groceries and painting houses, and doing a lot of manual labor as a young man for anybody who’d pay a dollar, or 50 cents, to get manual labor done. And then, having the privilege of pastoring a small country church, a county seat church, a large suburban church, a time in the classroom, time on the board as a trustee, time in my seat as state exec., I just look at all and say, “Lord, in your kindness, I may not be up for this job, so give me a lot to bring at least.”
Dr. Chitwood: And so, being not up for the job, I know I need a team, and we need all Southern Baptists, but I do have something to start with and I’m thankful.
Small church connections
David: That made me think of one other thing. How are you going to stay personally in touch with small church pastors in this role? I assume it’s more different as the IMB president, but not too long ago I talked with a pastor who shared his story, and he said, “How did you know to call me?” And I told him, “Well, Paul Chitwood told me to call you.” And he was really encouraged and amazed that his state exec. knew about him, and knew his story. How are you going to continue that kind of ministry?
Clyde: David just asked, essentially, how will you connect with small church pastors? How will your continue that? And we have about half a minute left, Paul.
Dr. Chitwood: Okay, very good. Let me speak quickly. For me, that has been both through personal relationships through my availability. I kind of speak as a first-come, first-serve basis. I want to be in our churches. I recognize that we’re a convention of small churches by-and-large. We thank God for the mega-churches, and all that they resource for cooperative missions. But, by-and-large, we’re a convention of small churches that average … SBC churches are running under 100 on Sunday, and we need to love, and stay connected to those.
Dr. Chitwood: I do that through personal relationships with pastors. I’ve had a host of them, from churches running 50 to 75 text me today, “Proud of you Paul. So thankful for you.” … But also, I used the network of our staff, and we have the same thing in place, and we’ll work to shore that up here at the IMB, whether it’s the Terry Sharps, or Edgar Apontes, others who are out in SBC land, all the time who can help share those stories with me, help me stay connected, and I think that will be vital for me being successful in this role of leading churches from this seat, as IMB president, that never forgetting that I’m leading a by-and-large commitment to small churches and, at the same time, eternally grateful for those larger churches the Lord has raised up, and the unique relationship we’ll have with them.
Clyde: Thank you, Paul, and thank all of you who participated in this press conference.
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