ROCKVILLE, Va. (BP)–Tom Elliff, in his first trustee meeting as president of International Mission Board, rolled out the beginning of the vision he believes “God painted on my heart.”
Trustees elected a new vice president during their May 20 meeting at the International Learning Center in Rockville, Va., and were asked to pray for the final results of the 2010 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions.
Trustees also approved 48 new missionaries. On May 22 at Mandarin Baptist Church in Los Angeles, 26 of those missionaries were appointed; the other 22 will be appointed during the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting June 15 in Phoenix.
EMBRACING THE NATIONS
Elliff, in a brief preview of his IMB report to the SBC annual meeting June 15, shared his vision that each of the remaining 3,800 unengaged, unreached people groups would be “embraced” by a Southern Baptist church committed to seeing that people group engaged with the Gospel.
“I pray within 12 months of our Southern Baptist Convention,” Elliff said, “that we will see all 3,800 of those unengaged people groups with some church saying, ‘We’ve taken them on. We are reaching out embracing them. We’re going to learn about them. We’re going to pray over them. We’re going to strategize.’
“Our goal,” Elliff added, “is to one day have boots on the ground [among them] sharing the Gospel, and that’s an exciting prospect.”
Elliff also noted how the IMB needs to be more aggressive in facilitating younger generations of pastors and churches that desire to reach the nations. He affirmed that the mission board has significant value to “bring to the table” to a new generation of pastors that will benefit local churches and create fresh awareness of the SBC.
“God is developing a fresh generation of pastors and churches that really take their faith seriously,” Elliff said. “They are disciplined students of the Bible. They are driven by a remarkable passion to ensure the fulfillment of the Great Commission.
“It would be foolish for us to assume that those pastors and churches are simply going to choose to be Southern Baptist as a default position. It is to this generation of pastors and church members that we must newly introduce ourselves. We must offer them compelling evidence that being a Southern Baptist and doing missions through IMB is scripturally based, it is spiritually empowered and it is fiscally responsible.
“I think this is a legitimate request on their part,” Elliff said, “and it deserves legitimate attention on our part. We will accept that challenge.”
To emphasize the role of sound theology as the basis in all that the IMB does, and to provide teaching that will connect it to these and other churches and pastors, trustees unanimously elected Chuck Lawless as vice president for global theological advance. Since 2008, he has served as a consultant for global theological education for IMB while continuing in his position as vice president and dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. He will now serve full-time with IMB, beginning June 1.
In this role, Lawless will provide theological leadership and guidance to the IMB and its personnel, while helping strengthen its ties with SBC churches, seminaries and other partnering organizations.
“Chuck brings so many things to the table,” Elliff said, “especially in terms of acquainting a whole new generation of young pastors and churches with our story, [IMB] and why we’re here and how we can serve them.”
A CHALLENGE FOR PRAYER
Reporting on the IMB’s 2010 financial statements, David Steverson, vice president for finance, asked trustees to pray as the organization awaits the final results of the 2010 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. The books close May 31.
“I’m asking each of you to pray to the Lord of the Harvest over these next two weeks as we receive the final receipts,” Steverson said. “We need significant funds to come in over these last days to reach what we have in the 2011 operating budget.”
This past year, as a result of reduced funding, the IMB lowered its missionary force from more than 5,600 to just under 5,000. The offering goal is $175 million.
“Please join me in prayer over these next couple of weeks that we would all be amazed at what the Lord has done,” Steverson said.
Despite sobering news on the economic front, trustees rose to their feet in applause when Jerry Johnson, president of Criswell College of Dallas, announced a new scholarship exclusively for incoming students with IMB missionary parents. In the fall of 2011, these students will receive four-year full-tuition scholarships.
“At Criswell College, the Great Commission is more than a slogan to us,” Johnson said. “It’s a part of our DNA. It’s who we are.
“Because we are asking these missionaries to leave what we call the American dream to sell everything they have, to leave grandma and grandpa … we can hold the rope in a better way.”
The gift represents how Criswell College and other Baptist colleges and universities have shown their love and commitment to overseas missions, Elliff said, voicing appreciation for schools “that would step up to the plate and say, ‘We so value the fulfillment of the Great Commission that we’re willing to give a full-tuition scholarship for four years to the students of those missionaries.'”
In other business, trustees:
— reported $2,592,956 of human need-related funds was used to help support more than 100 projects overseas in February and March.
— approved the rewording of a ministry statement to affirm IMB work alongside the North American Mission Board in assisting churches to reach unreached and underserved people groups in the United States and Canada. The change is in response to the Great Commission Resurgence (GCR) report that was approved at last year’s SBC annual meeting. IMB trustees first took action a month later on recommendations from the report. The SBC Executive Committee will review the newly revised statement in June.
— re-elected by acclamation Jimmy Pritchard, pastor of First Baptist Church in Forney, Texas, as board chairman and Tim Locher, a retired pilot from Hendersonville, N.C., as first vice chairman. They elected Rick Byrd, senior pastor of Cornerstone Southern Baptist Church in Summerfield, N.C., as second vice chairman and Jana Brown, a retired school teacher from Fort Oglethorpe, Ga., as recording secretary.
The next trustee meeting will be Sept. 13-14 in Orlando, Fla., with an appointment service Sept. 14 at Orlando’s First Baptist Church.
Alan James is a senior writer for the International Mission Board.