At the 2023 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana, International Mission Board leadership and staff used every opportunity to draw attention to the reality that lostness is growing every day. The solution to the problem of lostness is the gospel. Through public reports, personal conversations and the exhibit booth, IMB called Southern Baptists to renew their commitment to reaching every nation.
IMB’s vision statement is Revelation 7:9, where a great multitude from every nation, tribe, people and language worship around the throne of Jesus. “From the Great Commission until the Great Multitude, we must unite in this Great Pursuit: To reach every nation — no matter the cost.” This message scrolled in the exhibit booth and was repeated during IMB events.
Bringing the gospel to the world’s lost through missionary presence has always been a part of the IMB’s 178-year history. A call for renewed commitment, however, includes an urgency to find people groups with no missionary presence and no known gospel access.
“With the support of Southern Baptists, IMB is launching a pioneering initiative called Project 3000, through which we will send out 300 missionary explorers over five years to scout out 10 unengaged, unreached people groups each,” explained John Brady, IMB vice president of global engagement.
Each missionary explorer will find their assigned unengaged, unreached people groups and get to know them. They’ll find out where they live, learn about their culture, discern their literacy, share the gospel, develop ministry strategies, become prayer warriors for these groups and find national partners. In doing so, missionary explorers will be vital to initiating relationships with a people group, the step of “entry” in IMB’s missionary task.
Once a people group has been found and initial research completed, IMB teams, along with their national partners on the ground, will continue in the missionary task to move these people groups from unengaged to engaged and, prayerfully, from unreached to reached. The goal is to see new believers, mature disciples and healthy church plants among them.
The IMB recognizes that other missional Christians and organizations are also making efforts to reach the lost. IMB researchers are including reports of evangelical efforts among people groups when considering them unengaged and unreached.
The IMB hopes to send 100 missionary explorers this year. Four have already completed training and arrived on the field. Two others will go this summer. Those interested in the missionary explorer opportunity can find out more through the IMB.
The call to action at this year’s IMB booth in the annual meeting exhibit hall was to register as a virtual explorer, an opportunity that is also available to those not attending the convention. Virtual explorers will have access to reports from missionary explorers, urgent prayer requests, opportunities to support the work and news about gospel impact among the least reached.
Those who registered on-site in New Orleans received a Bluetooth tracker, helpful for finding items like keys, purses or frequently misplaced items. The emphasis in the gift is finding the lost and remaining aware of the urgency in bringing the gospel to those who have never heard. A Great Pursuit webpage with steps to becoming a virtual explorer is live on IMB’s website.
All efforts to reach the nations are possible through the unity of Southern Baptists giving faithfully to the Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon Christmas Offering®.
At the pastor’s conference preceding the annual meeting, IMB President Paul Chitwood thanked church leaders for their support and encouraged more to consider how they can lead their congregation to reach the lost.
Chitwood said that to see the Revelation 7:9 vision fulfilled, “there must be a great pursuit, a great pursuit of the lost in every nation, all tribes, peoples and languages. It is to this great work that God has called us. So let us recommit ourselves to one another, to the work He has set before us.”
The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering® is a registered trademark of Woman’s Missionary Union.