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IMB trustees update global goals for church starts & baptisms

ROCKVILLE, Va. (BP)–International Mission Board trustees updated the board’s strategic goals and objectives during their July 18-20 meeting at the Missionary Learning Center in Rockville, Va.

The new strategy plan reflects major commitments the board has made to fulfill the primary ministry assignments entrusted to it by the Southern Baptist Convention.

“God’s at work in the world, and this is what it will take to keep up with what He is doing,” IMB President Jerry Rankin said. “These are God-sized goals, and we’re challenging Southern Baptists to be on mission with Him.”

Key goals discussed and adopted by trustees include:

— Engage all unreached people groups (i.e., begin reaching them with the Gospel directly or through mission partners) with a population of more than 100,000 by the end of 2008.

— Provide access to the Gospel among all people groups by the end of 2010.

— Increase the number of overseas baptisms — and the number of new believers and church members being discipled — by 20 percent annually.

— Increase by 20 percent annually the number of new churches started, nurturing church-planting movements.

— Send and support at least 1,000 new missionaries annually in anticipation of adequate giving by Southern Baptists.

— Facilitate a growing involvement of 10,000 Southern Baptist churches in the global missions task by the end of 2008.

— Challenge Southern Baptists to increase financial support to the International Mission Board through the Cooperative Program by 5 percent annually and meet the goal of the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering each year.


The revised goals and objectives, which were jointly developed by IMB staff leadership, trustee officers and committee chairmen, will guide the board and its missionaries for the next five years.

“I’m very excited that we’ve been given ownership of this document,” said board chairman Tom Hatley, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Rogers, Ark. “Every goal begins with a verb. These are not just words or nice prayer requests. This is going to take work.”

Meeting the goals — particularly the sending of 1,000 new missionaries annually after budget strains forced a temporary freeze on new appointments a few years ago — depends upon Southern Baptists, Rankin emphasized.

“The missionary candidates are there, the need around the world is there, the opportunities around the world are there,” he said. “It’s all contingent on adequate giving of Southern Baptists.”


The board’s missionary regional leaders, who were present during the strategy discussions, told trustees the task of completing the global mission task remains huge — but possible.

Jon Sapp, regional leader for Central, Eastern and Southern Africa, noted 208 people groups in his area remain unreached.

“We can see the end in sight,” Sapp said. The challenge, he added, will be mobilizing “the sleeping giant of the church in Africa” to take the lead in completing evangelization of the continent.

In Central and Eastern Europe, where 234 people groups and cities remain unreached, “We’re engaging 60 people groups and hoping to engage 60 more in the next two years,” reported regional leader Rodney Hammer.

“God is breaking down the walls,” Hammer said. “These goals are God-sized, but we’re accountable and they are doable.”

Southern Baptist workers in northern Africa and the Middle East endured one of their most difficult years in 2004, as four of their own were killed and local believers faced many pressures and threats. Despite all that, they still saw a 14 percent increase in new churches in the area.

“God starts churches,” said regional leader John Brady. “But He’s doing it in some of the most incredible places.”

Brady told of one local church planter in a particularly difficult place who has three aspirations: to plant churches among his people group, to see the New Testament translated into his people’s heart language, and to experience the privilege of dying for Christ as he completes the first two goals.

Working with believers like that, Brady said, “we’re just trying to keep up.”

Gordon Fort, IMB vice president for overseas operations, shared a dream with trustees:

“May you and I live to see the day when our research department will step up and say that to the best of our knowledge, every tribe and language and nation has access to the Gospel.”


In his report to trustees, Rankin addressed recent charges from critics that some Southern Baptist missionaries working in the Muslim world believe the Allah of Islam and the God of Christianity are one and the same.

“I can assure you that no missionary believes the concept of God as known, taught and worshiped by Muslims is similar to the Jehovah God as revealed in the Bible,” Rankin said. “I regret this distorted impression based simply on the use of the name Allah for God.

“Every language has its word for God, which is used in translation of Scripture and witnessing within each particular culture and language. The fact is that ‘Allah’ is simply the Arabic word for ‘God,’ just as ‘Dios’ is the word for God in Spanish. It is the word that has been used for centuries in most translations of the Bible in many Muslim cultures, including Bengali, Indonesian and Malay,” Rankin said.

“It is practically impossible to witness to a Muslim in many native languages and not use the word ‘Allah’ for God without introducing a foreign word and concept. We must not confuse cultural and linguistic bridges of communication with theological concepts.”

    About the Author

  • Erich Bridges