Since its beginning, IMB has had one goal: bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to the lost peoples of the world. At the first Southern Baptist Convention in 1845, the Foreign Mission Board (FMB) was founded as part of “one sacred effort, for the propagation of the gospel.” Southern Baptist churches believed that by working cooperatively, they could accomplish more for God’s kingdom. That belief still stands strong today.
China was FMB’s first foreign mission field. In its early decades, the denomination’s missionary efforts grew slowly throughout China and into Africa. The Civil War and the South’s economy made support difficult, and FMB was hampered by debt between 1861 and 1943. Significant growth in overseas work did not occur until after World War II.
“. . . I believe in this institution sustaining a movement of local churches planting churches around the world.” David Platt
Empowered by an enlarged worldview and the support of the Cooperative Program, which was founded in 1925, Southern Baptists responded with 1,000 missionaries serving in 1955. In the 1960s, FMB initiated new opportunities for people to participate in foreign missions through programs such as Missionary Associates and Journeyman.
IMB has shifted focus from geographic countries to people groups, with a concerted effort to start church planting movements among unreached peoples. Technological advances have provided unprecedented opportunities for missionaries to spread the gospel, and Southern Baptists have reached into areas previously considered forbidden by political barriers.
In just one year’s time, field personnel shared the message of Jesus with 1.7 million people and started 6,200 churches.* Each year, the number of unreached people groups who have been given access to the gospel through IMB’s efforts increases.
IMB’s history continues, and its strategies to reach the world change as the world changes. What has not changed is the strong commitment of Southern Baptists to join the author of history in his redemptive movement to advance his gospel among all peoples.
*Taken from the 2012 Annual Statistical Report