SHREVEPORT, La. (BP)–Trustees of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board, meeting March 8-10 in Shreveport, La., elected a new vice president for finance and received word of another vice president’s plans to retire.
They also heard a challenge for Southern Baptists to focus more resources directly on the masses of people worldwide who are lost without Christ; set aside $4.5 million to advance the agency’s global computer network; and appointed 63 new missionaries for overseas service.
The 63 missionaries were appointed in a March 10 service at Broadmoor Baptist Church in Shreveport. An overflow crowd of more than 1,700 people listened as 27 couples and nine singles told how God called them to invest their lives in sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.
While God is moving powerfully among certain people groups, vast multitudes “have yet to hear the gospel because no one has said, ‘I’ll be the one to go,'” IMB President Jerry Rankin said during the service.
“These appointments tonight will bring us right to the edge of 5,000 missionaries worldwide,” Rankin said. “Yet they represent only .03 percent of all Southern Baptists. Are these the only ones God is calling?”
Trustees elected David Steverson as vice president for finance and treasurer. A former missionary to Thailand, Steverson was the associate vice president who had served as interim vice president since the retirement of Carl Johnson in January.
Steverson, an Oklahoma native, worked as a certified public accountant before he and his wife, Judy, were appointed missionaries in 1986. He joined the IMB finance office in 1992.
He is the first chief financial officer in the board’s 156-year history to come from the ranks of the missionary force.
“It’s an honor and an awesome responsibility to do everything in my power to represent our missionary colleagues well,” Steverson said. “I pledge to do my very best to see all the peoples of the world come to see who Jesus is and have a personal relationship with him — and to pay the bills as we go along.”
Don Kammerdiener, the board’s executive vice president, informed trustees he plans to retire Sept. 30. Kammerdiener has served through the International Mission Board for almost 40 years as a missionary and administrator.
“It’s a wonderful moment in life when you can draw a line and look back and say, ‘I have absolutely no regrets about the way I’ve spent my life and my ministry,'” Kammerdiener said. “I announce this intention with nothing other than unreserved gratitude for the generous and unbroken support which I have received from this board and our president.
“My commitment is now and will remain unreservedly for this board and for the worldwide cause of missions. I will be forever grateful for the support I have felt from all of you.”
The $4.5 million trustees set aside to advance the agency’s global computer network will complete nine projects that are part of the board’s long-range plan for computer systems.
Among other things, those projects will:
— improve the board’s ability to receive and publish prayer needs submitted by missionaries anywhere in the world.
— create computerized databases of the agency’s extensive photographic, video, audio and graphics archives.
— provide evaluation of the board’s computer system by experts who can recommend ways to improve security.
— standardize overseas accounting systems and simplify bookkeeping where multiple countries and currencies are involved.
A review of the Bold Mission Thrust goals Southern Baptists set 25 years ago reveals God has been at work around the world, said Avery Willis, IMB senior vice president for overseas operations.
Bold Mission Thrust challenged Southern Baptists to give everyone in the world an opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel by 2000. The emphasis called for almost doubling the number of missionaries to 5,000 and multiplying other statistical categories tenfold.
“Bold Mission Thrust was not a plan but a vision,” Willis said. “We knew God had to do it because we couldn’t.”
Trustees received a breakdown of progress on seven categories of Bold Mission Thrust overseas goals:
— Missionaries: 1975 level: 2,667; goal: 5,000; actual final total: 4,946; increase: 85.5 percent.
— Countries: 1975 level: 82; goal: 125; actual: 153; increase: 86.6 percent.
— Volunteers (annual): 1975 level: 1,200; goal: 10,000; actual: 30,362; increase: 2430.2 percent.
— Churches: 1975 level: 7,584; goal: 75,840; actual: 60,988; increase: 704.2 percent.
— churches/chapels combined: 1975 level: 18,489; goal: 184,890; actual: 99,282; increase: 437 percent.
— Church membership: 1975 level: 896,063; goal: 8,960,630; actual: 5,624,018; increase: 527.6 percent.
— Baptisms: 1975 level: 80,747; goal: 807,470; actual: 451,301; increase: 458.9 percent.
Southern Baptists should rejoice that last year their missionaries overseas reported a 24.1 percent increase in baptisms and a 37.4 percent increase in new churches, said David Garrison, IMB associate vice president for strategy coordination and mobilization. But they must not lose sight of the fact that billions of people are lost without hope in Christ.
Garrison briefed trustees on his Global Analysis Project (GAP), which contrasts the vision of taking the gospel to all the world’s people groups with the stark reality that the great majority of people are lost — whether in the unreached “Last Frontier” or the so-called “Christian world.”
In a world where 90 percent of the population — perhaps 5.4 billion people — are lost without Christ, evangelical believers face an enormous challenge, Garrison said. The challenge is heightened by the fact that evangelicals aren’t putting their missionary resources where the needs are greatest.
Half the world’s lost people, Garrison noted, live in two of 14 regions identified by the International Mission Board: Central/Southern Asia and East Asia. Southern Baptists, however, haven’t deployed half their missionaries in those regions. And while Southern Baptist congregations are taking in more than $7 billion a year, they invest only 2 percent of that total in world missions through the International Mission Board.
The GAP study identified about 45 global trends, obstacles, patterns and issues. IMB workers can use them to develop strategies for “closing the gap” between the reality of massive lostness and the vision of bringing all the world’s people groups to Christ, Garrison said.
According to a survey of IMB missionaries and leaders, “the greatest single positive contribution toward closing the gap and fulfilling the Great Commission is increased prayer,” Garrison noted. At the same time, workers said insufficient prayer is the greatest obstacle to getting the good news of salvation to every soul.
The gap will never be closed until evangelical Christians start asking themselves the right question, said Phil Templin, leader of IMB work in Middle America.
Templin quoted Philip Johnson, a first-term missionary in Honduras: “People can’t ask the question, ‘What’s it going to take?’ if they’re busy asking, ‘What’s it going to cost me?’
“We’re not asking, ‘What’s it going to cost me?'” Templin said. “The question is, ‘What is God demanding of me to get this job done?’
“We need the humility that says, ‘I’ve got to do whatever he calls me to do.’ We’ve got to have the passion that says, ‘I’ll go wherever it goes.’ And we have to have the willingness to respond to wherever the lostness is.”
David Steverson is the son of Arol and Jeanne Steverson of Granite, Okla., where they are members of First Baptist Church. Arol Steverson is a retired prison chaplain. David and Judy Steverson have two grown children, Matthew and Jennifer, both of Richmond, Va. (BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: CLOSE THE GAP, DAVID STEVERSON and DON KAMMERDIENER.