Baptist association leaders commit to gospel advance

“I wouldn’t be standing here today were it not for a director of missions,” the president of the International Mission Board shared during the Associational Mission Strategists retreat hosted by the IMB near Richmond, Virginia, on Aug. 15-17. The retreat was held for new strategists in the associations.

Paul Chitwood said when he was a young pastor in a rural area of Kentucky, a director of missions (also called Associational Mission Strategist) told him about an international missions conference he wanted to host.

IMB President Paul Chitwood speaks with Associational Mission Strategist and president and CEO of the Southern Baptist Conference of Associational Leaders Ray Gentry, who serves in Georgia. At the new Associational Mission Strategist Retreat near Richmond, Virginia, ASMs were given information on how to plug into the shared vision of the IMB and were given opportunities to connect with key IMB leaders and share their hearts and needs. IMB Photo

Chitwood enthusiastically agreed. During those meetings he sat down and shared meals with “real-life” missionaries. God used this experience to light a fire in him for missions. This fire was facilitated by George Stack, an associational mission strategist.

“This experience changed my life and my ministry,” Chitwood told those in attendance.

“Thank you for what you’re doing. We’re in it with you, we’re grateful for you, and we want to help you turn the attention of your pastors and your churches to an Acts 1:8 strategy — a Great Commission call that goes beyond the yard of the church, goes beyond the town, the county, the city, the state,” he said. “It goes beyond the boundaries of our nation and takes us literally to the very ends of the earth.”

New Associational Mission Strategists and some of their wives joined IMB leadership for a retreat near Richmond, Virginia, on Aug. 15-17. IMB Photo

Global gospel transformation starts in a local church

Jerry Conner has been serving at the Kansas City Kansas Baptist Association for the last 18 months. Even though he’s relatively new in his role, he values and prioritizes a partnership between the local association he leads and the IMB.

Stan Albright, an associational mission strategist in Alabama, prays over IMB President Paul Chitwood at the new Associational Mission Strategist Retreat near Richmond, Virginia. Partnership between state associations and the IMB is critical to getting local churches more involved in the shared mission of reaching the nations, together. IMB Photo

“I think a partnership with the IMB is important because I see my role as helping our local churches and our pastors operate on all the cylinders that God has given them,” Conner said. “Being able to help them connect with resources and opportunities at the IMB is an important step in that whole process.”

He’s leading the way in partnership with the IMB for his churches by providing the resources and education necessary to connect to the heart of the IMB.

Matthew Spann has been serving at the Cherokee Strip Baptist Association in northern Oklahoma for 8 years.

Spann knows the responsibility of leading a local church to be on mission doesn’t fall on the shoulders of the IMB. It’s the local church’s mission.

But, he said, “the people who are sent through the board are people from our local churches. It’s a relationship where both are dependent on the other.

“The IMB helps our local churches and associations see the big picture,” he explained. “Once we have our people who are sent out from our churches to the field, they’re supported and trained by the IMB, but they help teams from our churches that are going there to do the work, to partner with them on the field.

“We partner with them in sending, but also working side-by-side in the work to be done.”

Kelly Davis, director of mobilization support for the IMB, speaks with Dennis and Vicki Love from North Carolina, during the new Associational Mission Strategists retreat near Richmond, Virginia, on Aug. 15-17. Personal relationships with IMB leadership were fostered during the meeting. IMB Photo

‘You can do it. We can help.’

Fellowship, discussion and Q&A sessions with IMB leadership were at the heart of the retreat. Also paramount was equipping strategists with ways to connect their churches to the Revelation 7:9 vision of the IMB.

“Together, we can do more to see that the next 10 years of Southern Baptist missions efforts are among the most fruitful in our history,” Chris Derry, the IMB’s director of church and network mobilization for the IMB, told the group.

Chris Derry, the IMB’s director of church and network mobilization for the IMB, Paul Chitwood, IMB president, and Charles Clark, the IMB’s vice president of mobilization, form a panel hosted by Terry Sharp, the IMB’s convention and Network Relations Leader (left to right). The key IMB leaders took time to answer questions pressing on the hearts of the new Associational Mission Strategists during their retreat near Richmond, Virginia. IMB Photo

Terry Sharp, the IMB’s convention and network relations leader, emphasized IMB’s purpose. “We believe the greatest problem in the world is lostness. The only solution to this problem is the gospel. Together, Southern Baptists send IMB missionaries to be steadfastly present among people and places where Jesus is not named or known.”

Sharp continued, “Associational mission strategists play a key role in helping churches be on mission locally and globally. We at the IMB value these Great Commission partners and are thankful to partner together and host this retreat.”

Derry also expressed thankfulness for the office that an associational mission strategist fills to help mobilize pastors and their churches.

“Outside of the pastor, there is not another more strategically positioned role in denominational life to make an impact on local gospel advance and see every follower of Christ play their part in the Great Commission,” Derry said. The IMB knows the importance of serving local strategists, he added.

As an AMS fulfils his mission and duty, “We want to stand in the gap and help you do that,” Derry said.

“You can do it. We can help,” Derry emphasized.

Ways the IMB is ready to equip associations connect their churches to the Revelation 7:9 mission of the IMB include:

  • Connection to IMB missionary teams
  • Casting vision to reach the nations with the gospel
  • Coaching on mission strategies and topics
  • Creating missionary development hubs with local churches
  • Championing ways to pray, give, go and send
  • Calling out the called

The IMB is ready to answer your questions. Contact Sharon Pumpelly, the IMB’s WMU, alumni and parents networks associate at, Bill Langley, an associational missions network associate for church in the West at, Jamie Work an associational missions network associate for churches in the East at, or Terry Sharp at for more information on how your association can partner with the IMB to solve the world’s greatest problem — lostness — together.

IMB President Paul Chitwood poses for a selfie with Jerry Conner, an associational mission strategist from Kansas. A time of personal connection and fellowship was a key to the Associational Mission Strategists retreat near Richmond, Virginia, on Aug. 15-17. IMB Photo