IMB report turns messengers’ attention to Great Pursuit

INDIANAPOLIS (BP) — In the International Mission Board (IMB)report to Southern Baptist messengers and guests at the 2024 Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting June 12, IMB President Paul Chitwood wasted no time getting to the heart of Southern Baptist missions.

“From the Great Commission to the Great Multitude, we unite in a Great Pursuit of those who have yet to hear the good news of the gospel,” Chitwood said, after brief greetings. “We work together to address lostness as the world’s greatest problem, to make disciples in every nation, all tribes and peoples and languages.”

Chitwood referenced positive Annual Church Profile (ACP) numbers indicating growth in baptisms, new church members and worship attendance, before inviting all churches represented to also celebrate what God is doing through Southern Baptists among the nations.

“At the same time the ACP numbers were being released by Lifeway, the IMB’s Annual Statistical Report (ASR) was being prepared for our IMB trustees,” Chitwood said. “The ASR represents reporting from every IMB overseas missionary team on what God is doing through their work and the work of their Baptist partners on the ground. The ASR affords IMB an incredible opportunity to communicate to every cooperating Southern Baptist church the global reach of your ministry.”

Chitwood encouraged messengers to recognize that “your Southern Baptist church and my Southern Baptist church did gospel work in 155 countries.” In addition, he reported, as verified by the ASR:

  • More than 451,000 people heard a complete gospel presentation;
  • 141,000 professed faith in Jesus Christ;
  • 800,000 people heard the gospel online through video content watched to at least 95%;
  • 116,992 new believers were baptized through the work of IMB missionaries.

The Annual Statistical Report is available for public download on IMB’s website at IMB.org/ASR.

“Whether it’s a rural church of 15 in Kansas that reported zero baptisms or a megachurch of 10,000 in Texas that reported several hundred baptisms, what a blessing for every Southern Baptist congregation to be able to rejoice in another 116,992 souls buried with Christ and raised to new life,” Chitwood said. “With an ACP in one hand and the ASR in the other, every church can celebrate in how God is using you.”

Continuing his focus on the cooperative work of Southern Baptists, Chitwood reported the following:

  • More than 129,000 Bibles and another 157,000 Scripture portions were distributed;
  • More than 400,000 people were impacted overseas by human needs projects;
  • 60,000 people were trained in evangelism;
  • 266 fully funded missionaries were appointed, including 83 who participated in the June 11 Sending Celebration.

Chitwood said the good reports should be tempered by the reality of growing lostness.

“Among a global population of 8.1 billion people, growing at a rate of 200,000 every single day, the number of people who die lost each day is also growing. This year, that average number reached 174,202 souls who will enter a Christless eternity each day and spend forever in hell. If we are not sufficiently motivated in the work of missions because of the joy of more going to heaven, might we be motivated by the sorrow of more going to hell,” he said.

“May we never forget,” Chitwood continued, “this mission we are on — this Great Pursuit of the lost — is the most important work in the universe. Wherever the lost can be found, we want to get the gospel to them. When you pray, when you give, when you send and when you go, eternities are changed.”

Chitwood expressed IMB’s gratefulness for the generous financial gifts of nearly $97 million through the Cooperative Program (CP) and nearly $196 million through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering last year. The past two Lottie Moon offerings were the largest in IMB history, and Chitwood reported that giving for 2023-24 was trending ahead of the $205 million goal. Final receipts will not be calculated until the close of the fiscal year on Sept. 30.

IMB’s Church Connections initiative remains central to the entity’s efforts to have direct contact with churches, Chitwood reported. “Through IMB Church Connections, IMB missionaries have reached out to 93% of the churches in our convention.” He told churches that had not been directly connected with a missionary to stop by the IMB booth. Churches can also email [email protected] to establish a personal connection with a missionary.

“We don’t want you to miss this opportunity to know how you are a part of God’s work among the nations,” Chitwood said.

At last year’s annual meeting, the IMB launched Project 3000 to find and explore the remaining 3,072 unengaged, unreached people groups. Chitwood challenged the crowd, “By 2026, we are asking Southern Baptists to send 300 of their young men and women to be missionary explorers. Their job is to research unengaged people groups, to find them, to try to share the gospel with them and to bring back data so that they may be fully engaged with church-planting strategies.”

To date, 19 explorers have been appointed and nearly 70 are in the application pipeline.

“In this Great Pursuit of the lost, we remain fully committed at the IMB in our mission to serve you, our fellow Southern Baptists, in carrying out the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations,” he said.

“One day, having obeyed the Great Commission and completed our work in the Great Pursuit, we will arrive with a Great Multitude that no one can number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb,” Chitwood concluded.

“But not today. Today, many of those nations are still waiting to hear. We still have much to do, together.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Leslie Peacock Caldwell is managing editor at the IMB.)

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