Barber visits Richmond as IMB trustees celebrate good news, strong financial outlook

International Mission Board trustees approved the appointment of 72 full-time, fully funded missionaries during their Sept. 27-28 meeting near Richmond, Virginia. The missionaries participated in a Sending Celebration Wednesday evening, hosted by Swift Creek Baptist Church in Midlothian, Virginia.

Keith Evans from Washington state, who was elected trustee chairman in May, presided over the meeting. Nate Bishop, first vice chair from Kentucky, called the meeting to order and opened the meeting in prayer.

Southern Baptist Convention President Bart Barber visited Richmond to join trustees and attend the Sending Celebration. “I’m glad I have this opportunity to thank you,” Barber told trustees during their plenary session. IMB Photo

Southern Baptist Convention President Bart Barber attended the meeting and addressed the trustees.

“We live in a time when we are more connected with the service of our missionaries than ever before,” Barber said. “But since 1845, the strongest point of connection between the churches and missionaries is you,” he added, referring to the IMB and its history. To the trustees, Barber said: “Thank you. What you do is so important. Keep us connected so, together, we can reach the world for Christ.”

Barber also brought a message at the Sept. 27 Sending Celebration, recognizing missionaries for their obedience and assuring them that he would do his part to ensure that Southern Baptists were always prepared to send and support those who boldly go to the nations.

President’s report

IMB President Paul Chitwood thanked Barber for his leadership and encouragement. He also recognized Dr. Rebekah Naylor, who retires this week with 50 years of service with the IMB. Chitwood said that due largely to Naylor’s efforts, IMB currently has 399 healthcare missionary workers, and that number continues to grow. During the IMB dinner at the SBC annual meeting, Naylor also was recognized for her service.

IMB President Paul Chitwood said that amid constant bad news on the media, he would focus his report on good news and positive gains in the work of Southern Baptists through the IMB. IMB Photo

In his plenary address, Chitwood told trustees his report is dedicated to the good news IMB has to share.

In financial news, Chitwood reported the anticipated total of the 2022-23 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering®. As of Sept. 28, the total given is $194,314,716, which tops the $190 million goal. (As the books close on the fiscal year Sept. 30, the figure might still increase.) Chitwood reported that digital marketing strategies brought in more than $8.2 million of that revenue, with more than 23,000 online gifts coming to the IMB and a 40% increase of first-time donors.

Jenna Cobb from Florida, chair of the newly formed marketing and communications standing committee, reported on advancements in digital engagement with audiences that included 880,000 first-time visitors to IMB’s website. IMB Photo

Chitwood reported IMB’s Ministry Advancement team facilitates relationships with thousands of individual donors. This year, IMB received the second-largest individual gift in IMB history at $3.5 million. The new fiscal year will see that gift pushed into the third position by the close of a gift of property that will yield nearly $5 million. Chitwood also told trustees that IMB is financially positioned to advance the gospel and care for those who have faithfully served.

“In terms of net assets, the IMB is stronger financially today than we’ve been in over 20 years, if not in our entire history,” he said. “Our balance sheet looks good. Our retirement/post-employment obligations are 100% fully funded for the first time in our history. Investment losses we suffered in last year’s bear market have not only been recovered, but this year’s gains also doubled last year’s losses.”

Speaking to the challenges of inflation and economies in flux, Chitwood said the financial picture is strong “through the generosity of churches and givers and through the careful management of every dollar we steward.”

Other good news reflected the work of missionaries and rise in missionary candidates:

  • Southern Baptists funded gospel work this past year in 122 countries.
  • Southern Baptists met needs of more than 3,500 missionaries, 2,700 missionary kids and 400 IMB support staff who serve in the U.S.
  • IMB has 1,285 missionary applicants in the candidate pipeline, four times as many as reported five years ago.
  • 114 Global Missionary Partners currently serve on IMB teams.
  • Comprehensive engagement strategies are in place for 41 global cities, with an additional 35 city leaders in the cohort process developing their comprehensive plans.
  • 88% of Southern Baptist churches have been contacted directly by an IMB missionary.

Though prayer remains impossible to measure, IMB has given out more than 70,000 of its popular “Loving the Lost” prayer booklets, and 30,000 are in production to meet demands this year. Chitwood noted that as Southern Baptists pray for the lost, this is five times more booklets than were in the hands of Southern Baptists last year. IMB also has seen a significant rise in the numbers of short-term volunteers, including NextGen participants and Send Network church planters taking mission trips overseas.

Partnerships with Hispanic and Asian churches and fellowships also are growing. Eight new Asian missionaries who were recognized at the Sending Celebration join more than 200 Asian Southern Baptists already serving with the IMB. Korean and Mandarin-speaking deployment consultants are working with Asian churches and ushering Asians through the missionary candidate process.

As the U.S. recognizes Hispanic Heritage Month, Chitwood reported that he and his wife, Michelle, will be attending an IMB Together for Nations event designed for Haitian-Creole Southern Baptists and another designed for Hispanic Southern Baptists that are being hosted in partnership with the Florida Baptist Convention.

Mobilization efforts grew the past year with IMB representation at more than 250 events, 41 state convention annual meetings and numerous association meetings. Total IMB engagements with Southern Baptists this year have reached 165,000, an increase from 95,000 last year. Chitwood pointed out that these engagement numbers do not include mass mailings or his engagement with thousands at the SBC annual meeting in New Orleans.

“While there is more good news to share, I want to jump ahead to the best news of all,” Chitwood said. “As of today, there are approximately 8,063,000,000 souls on the planet, 173,451 of whom die lost every single day. That’s the bad news of the world’s greatest problem.

“The good news is that we know the solution to that problem, and it is the good news. The IMB is better positioned to share that good news than we’ve been in a long time, but I believe we’re only beginning to see what is possible. We cannot let Southern Baptists keep the good news to ourselves,” he said, closing his report.

New trustees and reports

IMB trustees pause to pray during their plenary session on Sept. 28 near Richmond, Virginia. IMB Photo

The week included orientation for 10 trustees elected in June during the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana. New trustees beginning their terms of service include: Mike Atchley of Arkansas; Michael Benefield of Louisiana; Ikaika Higa of Hawaii; Jason Lee of Georgia; Anne Mero of California; Nathan Rostampour of North Carolina; Duhi Schneider of Georgia; Charmaine Traffanstedt of Texas; Mark Turnage of Missouri; Karen Wright of Kentucky; and Quin Williams of Wyoming.

At Thursday’s plenary session, standing committees provided reports regarding administration, global engagement, human resources, LFTT (logistics, finance, technology, travel), marketing and communications, mobilization and training. The session included the approval of a total balanced budget for 2023-24 of $283,138,000.

Keith Evans closed the meeting in prayer. The next IMB trustee meeting will be Feb. 14-15, 2024, in Phoenix, Arizona.