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IMB trustees pray about Iraqi crisis; church planting breakthroughs reported

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Prayer about the crisis over Iraq and exciting reports of the gospel multiplying around the world highlighted a March 13-15 meeting of International Mission Board trustees in Knoxville, Tenn.

The trustees also appointed 98 new missionaries — the second-largest group in board history — during a service at First Baptist Concord in Knoxville.


The resolution on prayer for Iraq called on Southern Baptists “to join in fervent prayer” that the peoples of Iraq “might experience God’s mercy and love.” It also challenged Baptists to concerted prayer for their missionaries, President George Bush and the country’s military personnel during “this time of heightened international tension.”

The resolution affirmed God’s love for people of all nations and noted that followers of Jesus are commanded to love both neighbors and enemies and to pray for those in authority over them.

“I hope we make this a matter of fervent prayer,” said trustee chairman Bob Claytor of Fair Play, S.C. “If you’ve talked with any of our personnel, especially those who are going to be directly affected if war breaks out, you know how important it is for us to pray.

“We have seen an increase in martyrdom. That never is going to be easy … but we can pray to the Father that he do his greatest work during a time of unrest. We believe that, as with Afghanistan, this will be true in Iraq, if we pray, if we call the Father to action.”


Pat Stewart, pastor of First Baptist Church in St. Charles, Ill., voiced a prayer for the Iraq crisis.

“Our great God and heavenly Father, we know that you have a heart for the nations,” Stewart prayed. “We know that we are to honor you and glorify you and that part of the way we do that is for us to have a heart for the nations also.

“Our Father, we come before you with the people of Iraq. We come before you bearing the name of Saddam Hussein,” he said. “We know that as we consider those who are entrapped in a religious context that has them blinded to your person, your power, your mercy and your grace, they are really no different than how each of us was….

“As we think of the people of Iraq, and even their leadership, our first cry would be for an outpouring of your grace and your mercy concerning salvation.”

Stewart asked God to give the people of Iraq an opportunity to hear the good news of his love and forgiveness.

“If there is a war, Father, we pray that it will end quickly. We pray that freedom will be the cry,” he said. “We pray that the doors of a country that has been closed to the gospel will be opened and that you will use us … as instruments in your hands to bear the gospel to those people, and that we would see a multitude trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

“And we ask most of all that you would be glorified in all of it.”


Southern Baptists’ overseas missions endeavor is driven by a vision of “all God’s people multiplying churches among all peoples,” Avery Willis, senior vice president for overseas operations, told the trustees during a strategy briefing.

When missionaries take the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ to people groups and urban centers that have never heard it, the result can be a “church planting movement” — a spontaneous explosion of the gospel that results in rapid multiplication of believers and churches, Willis said.

He cited two examples from Asia:

In one country, excitement over hearing the good news for the first time resulted in 28 churches multiplying into 4,300 churches with more than 240,000 believers in just 11 years.

In another country, a Southern Baptist team reported last year that 1,700 churches had been started and 41,000 people baptized in just 14 months. That team now reports the number of baptisms has jumped to more than 150,000.

Simply put, a church planting movement is “the Book of Acts all over again,” Willis said. They happen “when God’s spirit begins moving exponentially among a people group.”

Such gospel movements explode when ordinary Christians begin to see themselves as God’s instruments to plant churches and train others to plant churches, Willis said.

He quoted a saying that leaders of one church planting movement use to express their vision for each believer: “It is great to win someone to Christ. It is better to start a church. It is the best to train a church planter.”


Trustees also appointed 98 new long-term workers, the second-largest group in Southern Baptist history. The largest group — 124 — was appointed in November 2001, just weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C.

The decision to obey God’s call to overseas service is not made on the basis of comfort and security, IMB President Jerry Rankin told the new missionaries during a March 15 service at First Baptist Concord in Knoxville.

“God has placed your people in your heart. Jesus died for them and they will never know unless someone goes to tell them,” Rankin said. “You are the one.

“You did not simply decide being a missionary would be a fascinating career, an opportunity to travel and see the world,” he said. “You weren’t motivated by prospects for financial gain and an affluent lifestyle.

“What is it that compels you to go? It is a deep conviction that God has called you. You have the privilege of being the one to carry the gospel to those who need it so desperately.”


Business transactions were few in this meeting because trustees have consolidated such matters into four of their six meetings a year so they can give more attention to strategic matters in the other two meetings.

Among the limited business conducted in Knoxville, trustees:

— adopted a resolution of appreciation for Bill Hyde, the missionary killed in a March 4 bombing at the airport in Davao City, Philippines: “Whereas William B. Hyde, missionary to the Philippines 1978-2003, devoted his life and service for the gospel of Christ; and whereas he gave himself in loving witness and ministry to the people of the Philippines; therefore be it resolved that the International Mission Board, on behalf of the Southern Baptist Convention and all Southern Baptists, herein expresses deepest gratitude for his faithful service to God through this board and pledges special prayer support for the family during the days ahead. We pledge to continue the effort to express the love of God and the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ to the people of the Philippines he loved so much.”

— voted to extend the Mobilization Assistance Program as far as July 2005 to give more Southern Baptists an opportunity to take advantage of the program. MAP provides financial assistance for Southern Baptist pastors who want to participate in an overseas missions project for the first time. The program draws on $3 million set aside in 1998. It was due to expire this June, but all the funds have not been spent.

— allocated $4 million from a global capital fund to provide housing and vehicles for missionaries in virtually all of the board’s 15 regions of work. The money is replenished as other property is sold and the proceeds are channeled back into the fund.

— approved emeritus status for one missionary unit retiring from service in France.
For details on the Mobilization Assistance Program, contact the IMB’s Church Services Team by calling toll-free (877)462-4721 or e-mailing [email protected].
WHEREAS we believe that God loves people of all nations and desires that they repent and come to the knowledge of His truth, and
WHEREAS our Lord Jesus commands us to love all people, including both our neighbors and our enemies, and to pray for them, and
WHEREAS Scripture also commands us to pray for those in authority,
THEREFORE, be it resolved that the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention calls on all Southern Baptists to join in fervent prayer for the peoples of Iraq, that they might experience God’s mercy and love, and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we call on Southern Baptists to pray for our missionaries around the globe in this time of heightened international tension, and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we call on Southern Baptists to pray for our President and others as they lead our nation, and
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED that we call on Southern Baptists to undergird our military personnel with prayer through their time of crisis.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: 2 OF THE 98.

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  • Mark Kelly