IMB dinner focuses on faces of lostness

More than 2,000 people gathered for the International Mission Board dinner, June 10, at the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in Indianapolis. IMB leaders and missionaries brought to life the faces of the spiritually lost around the world.  

Amanda Davis, IMB director of globalization, prays for unengaged, unreached people groups who have no strategy for sharing the gospel with them. IMB Photo

They told stories about a young mother living in gang-controlled slums in a crowded city; Sudanese refugees who fled their homes with nothing and found a safe place in Uganda; Chuck, a third-generation Korean Japanese man living in Japan who was initially resistant to the gospel. 

Each story showed the world’s greatest problem—lostness—and highlighted those who are leading the effort in addressing it with the only solution—the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul Chitwood, IMB president, told the attendees that this Great Pursuit is why the IMB exists. 

“What is the Great Pursuit? It is our combined effort to find those who have yet to hear and believe the gospel, and upon finding them, share the good news with them,” Chitwood said. “In short, it is our obedience to the Great Commission…the biblical model of getting the gospel to those who have yet to hear through the presence of a missionary.” 

Greg Mann, leader for missionaries who serve among Asian and Pacific Rim peoples, shared how missionaries impact lives amidst the rapid pace of urbanization where millions migrate each year. Over 55% of the world’s population live in urban centers, most seeking better living conditions due to environmental and political factors. He said by living, working and engaging in urban communities, missionaries become a tangible representation of Christ’s love and message. 

“This presence not only opens doors to build relationships and foster trust, but it ultimately creates pathways along which the gospel travels consistently and steadfastly back into areas where it’s impossible for missionaries to live, whether local or foreign,” Mann said. “I can’t overestimate the importance of this.” 

The task of this Great Pursuit is enormous, but Southern Baptists have had missionary presence among the lost for 179 years. The commitment to send missionaries remains.  

Victor Hou, associate vice president of global advance, told a story of visiting a missionary explorer with IMB’s Project 3000 in West Africa. The young missionary’s job was to find and research 10 of the 3,072 unengaged, unreached people groups with no ministry strategy.  

After 11 days of trekking in physically hard-to-reach places, the missionary met village chiefs and local villagers. He shared the gospel with people groups who heard the gospel for the very first time in the history of their tribe. 

“This is our task for our generation—to pursue the lost so they too can join us around the throne of God,” Hou said. “This is the Revelation 7:9 vision that God will fulfill through us as we labor together in this Great Pursuit.” 

Ministry in an urban or rural setting can have its highs and lows as Kevin Singerman, missionary serving in Uganda, attested. He has met hundreds of refugees over the last few years, celebrating with them and hearing their greatest pains.  

Missionary presence combined with food packages, provided through Send Relief, has provided touch points to share the good news and see some not only come to faith, but see discipleship groups formed. 

“God has been doing his work in drawing people to himself,” Singerman said. “We must do all we can to maximize on this opportunity.” 

“You are a valuable partner in the Great Pursuit. We are thankful for you. I am thankful for you,” IMB President Paul Chitwood tells the 2,000 participants at the IMB dinner on June 10, in conjunction with the SBC annual meeting in Indianapolis. IMB Photo

With each story and face shared, IMB staff and missionaries led the crowd in prayer and urged them to use the resource, Loving the Lost, a free IMB prayer guide. Chitwood thanked the crowd for their valuable partnership and urged them to see how God wants them to be involved. 

“This mission we are on—this Great Pursuit of the lost—is the most important work in the universe,” Chitwood said. “We need your help to push this effort forward, to finish the task.”