Editor’s note: This is the first item in a 10-part series that highlights information found in IMB’s Annual Statistical Report. The report is based on 2020 research data. A full copy of the report is available at imb.org/asr.
RICHMOND, Va. (BP) – From 1700 to 2000 A.D., 15.9 billion people have lived on the earth. However, IMB estimates that more than 24.9 billion will live between 2000 and 2100 AD. This means that 9 billion more people will be alive in the next 100 years than were alive during the previous 300. In this century, the need to sow the Gospel abundantly, make obedient disciples and plant healthy, multiplying churches is unparalleled.
Nearly 80 million people are forcibly displaced worldwide. This number includes refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced peoples who are one part of the estimated 1 billion migrants on the move today. Unfortunately, the number of forcibly displaced people is expected to increase in the coming decade due to global economic and political realities.
While only 8 percent of the total people on the move worldwide, the forcibly displaced represent the majority of the remaining Unengaged Unreached People Group (UUPG) population. Forcibly displaced peoples tend to resettle in countries more accessible to missionaries, potentially opening the door for these UUPGs to have access to the Gospel for the first time.
Forcibly displaced peoples often move through unsafe informal corridors and require unique ministry approaches. Sixty percent of refugees and 80 percent of internally displaced peoples settle in urban areas. Mission strategies are adjusting to bring the Gospel these groups where they have settled and to mobilize any existing believers within the groups to engage their own people.
While the plight of many displaced people was dire, the Lord moved in extraordinary ways in 2020. Last year, 144,322 people committed their lives to Christ, and 86,587 were baptized. Growth also came in the form of leadership development – 127,155 people received leadership training. These men and women are furthering the Gospel and growing their communities of faith. Through IMB missionaries, 769,494 people heard the Gospel message. The IMB asks Southern Baptists to join in praying for those who heard but have not chosen to follow Christ.
The IMB’s core missionary task, derived from Scripture, has six basic components: entry, evangelism, disciple making, healthy church formation, leadership development and strategically planned exit to partnership. All mission effort – whether exerted by missionaries or partnering churches – should focus along these lines, IMB believes.
In a year marked by a worldwide pandemic, nationwide lockdowns and political and social strife, IMB’s numbers increased rather than decreased. 2019 saw 12,368 new churches planted, while 18,380 new churches were planted in 2020.
The spread of the Gospel was not stopped in 2020, and IMB would like to thank Southern Baptists for continuing to give to the Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon Christmas Offering to support the work of more than 3,600 missionaries around the world.