During a global season that crippled businesses, closed borders and devastated families, God was powerfully moving, IMB President Paul Chitwood reported to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting on June 15, 2021, in Nashville, Tennessee.
Even as missionaries and other nations continue to face devastating circumstances, God’s plans are not foiled, Chitwood said.
“To the contrary, God’s kingdom has expanded during the pandemic and, because of Southern Baptists’ commitment to cooperation, your missionaries have remained on mission.”
For 176 years, Southern Baptists have had a witness among the nations.
“How is that possible?” Chitwood asked. “Because we do what we do together. Together, we press toward the vision of that great multitude from every nation, all tribes, peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.”
Chitwood reported that since the beginning of the pandemic, IMB has sent 500 missionaries to the nations. He also shared the following statistics from 2020:
- 247 new people groups and places engaged
- 769,494 people heard a gospel witness (compared to just over 500,000 in 2019)
- 144,322 new believers
- 86,587 people baptized
- 18,380 churches planted
More than 100,000 of the new believers and 17,000 of those new churches are in South Asia, Chitwood reported. Using statistics from South Asia to give perspective to the global work that remains, Chitwood shared:
“South Asia is the most densely populated region on the planet, with a total population of 1,833,000,000. The numbers of new believers and new churches we have reported from there in 2020 in proportion to the population would be the equivalent of four new churches and 25 new believers in Kansas City.
“While we rejoice over every soul saved and every church planted, our celebration is tempered by the 1,810,000,000 South Asians who remain lost and nearly 35,000 South Asians who will die lost today and every day. So much work remains to be done.
“Thankfully, we are seeing our efforts multiplied by others. To that end, we were a part of training more than 127,000 church leaders overseas last year.”
Ninety-one percent of IMB missionary teams work among the unreached peoples of the world, where the population is less than 2% evangelical Christian.
Chitwood then shared how prayer’s power is evident in the lives of missionaries. He told of a recent visit that he and his wife, Michelle, had with George and Geraldine Smith, longtime missionaries to Uganda. George contracted COVID in January and was very near death. As God’s people prayed, He chose to restore George’s health. The Smiths are currently in the U.S. where George will continue his recovery.
Chitwood thanked churches for their continued partnership in fulfilling the Revelation 7:9 vision. He also had special thanks for Woman’s Missionary Union and their commitment to the support of missions through their emphasis on prayer and giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering®. On March 31, 2021, the LMCO surpassed $5 billion total cumulative gifts since collections to send missionaries to China began in 1888.
Embracing the mission together is more important than ever because “the need for the gospel is more urgent than ever,” Chitwood said. He shared the reality of the world’s lost: 4.5 billion unreached people; 7,283 unreached people groups; 155,473 people dying daily without Christ.
“Every one of those dying without hope deserves our unrelenting devotion to the cause of Christ,” Chitwood said.
In order to reach every unreached people group, Chitwood shared that IMB missionaries and leaders have identified five 2025 Targets. The targets include: send an additional 500 missionaries; mobilize 500 global missionary partners on IMB teams; engage 75 global cities with comprehensive strategies; increase giving to the IMB by 6% annually; mobilize 75% of Southern Baptist churches to prayerfully and financially support the IMB.
A new initiative to mobilize churches to greater missions involvement is Church Connections.
“Through this initiative we desire to build relationships between every Southern Baptist church and at least one IMB missionary,” Chitwood explained.
“We want to see every missionary connecting, every church participating, and all of us stewarding well the Revelation 7:9 vision. These five strategic targets are what it will take to reach the unreached people and places remaining. Your partnership, your cooperation, is essential.”
Chitwood closed the annual report with an emphasis on unity around shared vision and mission.
“Let us be united for the sake of this cause,” Chitwood urged the crowd. “When the Great Commission is not the lead topic of our conversation, brothers and sisters, the other topics divide us. We have other things to talk about, other things we must talk about, but if the Great Commission is not our chief concern, our cooperative mission enterprise will fail.”
The mission to reach the lost with the gospel brought Southern Baptists together, Chitwood said.
“And I still believe it can keep us together.”
Related article: IMB panel emphasizes Southern Baptists’ involvement in past, present and future of missions