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Formidable barrier to global missions about to fall, IMB trustees told

SPRINGDALE, Ark. (BP)–One of the most formidable barriers to the rapid growth of God’s kingdom around the world is about to fall, International Mission Board trustees were told during a Sept. 5-8 meeting in Springdale, Ark.

The trustees also appointed 50 new missionaries, approved the purchase of warehouse space, allocated money to close the books on building renovations, processed missionary personnel changes and took up an impromptu offering for a missions project in a Last Frontier country.

The gospel faces enormous obstacles in a world where the majority of people cannot read, said Avery Willis, the board’s senior vice president for overseas operations. While the “Jesus” film and Chronological Bible Storying have taken the good news to hundreds of millions of non-readers, missionaries have had no tools to train them to multiply God’s kingdom themselves.

Willis handed trustees a set of CDs, the first module in a six-part series called “Following Jesus: Making Disciples of Primary Oral Learners,” which will show missionaries how to use storying methods to disciple new believers and train church leaders in cultures where people learn by hearing and repeating, rather than through written material.

The material is being developed by a 10-member team in partnership with Progressive Vision, a publisher of electronic resources for missions advancement in Laguna Hills, Calif. Other Great Commission organizations interested in the project include Campus Crusade for Christ, the Jesus Film Project, Wycliffe Bible Translators, Far East Broadcasting and Trans World Radio.

“The gospel hasn’t gotten to more than half the people in the world because our methods of teaching and training are based on literacy,” Willis said. “It has been limited because so many people don’t think and process information and understand the same way we do and because many people live in places that restrict printed Christian material.

“When we put discipleship and leadership training into stories, however, we will see an explosion, as people keep passing the old, old story from one person to another and from one village to the next,” Willis said. “I believe we are sitting on the next wave of gospel advance. I believe God has poised us to go to the 70 percent of the world that can’t read.”

IMB trustees approved 50 new overseas workers who were appointed Sept. 8 before an overflow crowd of more than 3,400 at First Baptist Church in Springdale.

Preaching from 1 Corinthians 2, IMB President Jerry Rankin told the group that new missionaries entering a strange culture often are overwhelmed with fear and a sense of their own weakness — and that’s exactly what God wants. While education, skills and experience are important, they aren’t going to get the job done on the mission field.

“It is only when you lift up Jesus Christ in a bold, positive witness that people will be saved,” he said. “Maybe not all of them, but it is the nature of the gospel message, indwelt of God’s Holy Spirit, that draws people to Jesus.”

Many people follow cultural religious beliefs or self-serving humanism because no one has ever told them the good news of God’s love and salvation in Jesus Christ, Rankin said.

“Every second, someone is dying without Christ, entering a Christ-less eternity,” Rankin said, “not because they rejected Jesus Christ, not because they have no spiritual need in their own life …, but because no one has ever told them of God’s redemptive plan that all the people may know him.”

In business sessions, trustees approved funds to purchase a 52,000-square-foot warehouse facility. The $2 million move will relieve the board of more than $100,000 in annual costs for rented space and bring its warehouse facility much closer to the main building, said David Steverson, the board’s vice president for finance. In addition, leasing out 20,000 square feet in the building will generate $97,000 a year in income.

The board allocated $427,554 to close the books on completed renovations of the board’s Richmond, Va., headquarters, bringing the final cost of the project to $15.7 million. The renovation was designed to make work space more flexible as the entity adapts to serve the rapidly growing numbers of Southern Baptist missionaries and help more churches find ways to fulfill their Great Commission missions mandate. The final allocation covered construction costs that exceeded the original appropriations.

Trustees also processed the transfer of one missionary to another field of service, resignations of 10 units (17 people) and one medical disability. They approved five sales and transfers of property and endorsed longevity salary increases for two International Service Corps missionary units. They also received a report of $117,093 disbursed for seven hunger, relief and development projects in five of the board’s 15 regions.

Two of the missionary units resigning (four people) cited a Jan. 31 request to affirm the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message as a factor in their decision to resign, said Avery Willis, the board’s senior vice president of overseas operations. Eleven other units (22 people) had previously resigned over the request. A total of 5,437 missionaries currently are serving through the IMB.

In their August meeting at Ridgecrest, trustees had heard about a project in a Last Frontier country to produce fans with “visual tracts” printed on each side. The tracts convey the gospel story in pictures for people in the country who cannot read and have virtually no access to the good news of God’s love.

Because the country is very hot and humid, the fans should be very popular and will take the gospel with them everywhere they are carried, a missionary told the trustees.

As their September meeting opened, trustee chairman Bob Claytor challenged the trustees to give a freewill offering to cover the cost of producing 10,000 of the fans at a cost of 16 cents each. The impromptu collection yielded $1,670.

IMB trustees will hold their next meeting Nov. Oct. 31 – Nov. 2 in Plano, Texas, in the Dallas area. A missionary appointment service is set for Sunday, Nov. 3, at Prestonwood Baptist Church there.
— More on training Christians who don’t read: http://www.imb.org/learn/news/story.asp?id=826.
— Progressive Vision: http://www.progressivevision.org/home.htm
— The International Mission Board (http://www.imb.org) is a Southern Baptist Convention entity supported by the Cooperative Program (http://www.cpmissions.net) and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering (http://ime.imb.org).

    About the Author

  • Mark Kelly