CHARLOTTE, N.C. (BP) — He stood at the podium, almost too emotional to speak.
Drew Carson*, an IMB strategist, shared the story of missionaries willing to pay the ultimate price — their own lives — for the Gospel in a report to IMB trustees during their Nov. 7-8 meeting in Charlotte, N.C.
A few weeks ago, Carson visited a group of missionaries who serve in “a place where it is not a theory that you can die for serving the Lord and proclaiming the Gospel.”
As they talked about that reality, the missionaries challenged Carson.
“They said, ‘[Drew], we know we may go out and take our whole family out, and we may not come back,'” Carson recounted through tears. “‘But please, please, please promise me that you will not say that we were anything but ordinary Christians, and please promise me that if we do lose our lives, [IMB] will not back away from sending people after us to reach these people.'”
God has called Southern Baptists to take up “marching orders” to share the Gospel with those who have never heard, Carson said, “… not if it fits our plan, but if it fits His plan.”
Carson presented some of the “brutal facts” about spiritual lostness in the world today: of the 7.1 billion people on earth, 4.2 billion are unreached (living in populaces that are less than 2 percent evangelical Christian) and of those, 244 million also are unengaged (populaces with no church planting strategy among them).
But in these areas of great lostness, IMB missionaries “have heard God’s call to place themselves there,” Carson said. “We are there and we are engaging.”
In 2012, International Mission Board teams engaged 141 new people groups, and “our primary place of being deployed is among the unreached,” he said.
“May we not let the cross fall to the ground from our hands in this generation,” Carson said. “May we be known as those kind of people who took up those orders and marched to the edge, to the heart of darkness that all might be saved.”
In a “Thanksgiving report” to trustees, IMB President Tom Elliff expressed gratitude to God for Southern Baptists’ support of IMB through the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. Elliff also expressed thanksgiving for the untiring work and interest of IMB trustees, the dedication of IMB personnel in the U.S. and especially for the faithfulness of IMB’s 4,875 overseas personnel.
“All of [your missionaries] believe that they are there with your support, with your prayers, and the support and prayers of Southern Baptists for one purpose: and that is to chase darkness, to take the light of the Gospel into the darkest corners of this world,” Elliff said.
Trustees approved a budget of $299 million for 2014. The budget relies on every dollar of this year’s Lottie Moon Christmas Offering goal of $175 million being given.
David Steverson, vice president for finance, expressed gratitude to Southern Baptists for the generous way they have supported missions through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.
“However, we fully anticipate that churches and individuals are going to step up and give even more sacrificially than ever before,” so that the goal is met or exceeded, Steverson said, noting that the IMB is “totally dependent on the Lord and on how He leads Southern Baptists” to provide support for their missionaries.
Also during the meeting, trustees unanimously approved a new way that IMB can partner with Southern Baptist churches, titled “Great Commission Global Connect” (GC2). GC2 stems from a church’s passion and commitment to reach those who do not know Christ by sending out missionaries to share the Good News.
Through GC2, IMB will partner with a Southern Baptist church that is focused on engaging a people group or population segment in an indigenous church planting strategy and, as a part of that strategy, sends and supports missionaries from its own fellowship for two to three years.
IMB will walk alongside the church, providing field strategy development, personnel selection criteria and process, training, administrative support and supervision of the church-sent missionary as a part of an IMB-directed team.
GC2 was launched at IMB’s trustee meeting in November 2011 as a pilot project, with a stipulation that results would be reviewed periodically and a determination made by the end of 2013 whether to permanently adopt the program.
“This [has proven to be] a marvelous avenue to get more people out on the field sharing the Good News of the Lord Jesus Christ,” said Jay Wolf, chairman of the trustees’ church and partner services committee and senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala.
Trustees also approved the appointment of 68 new missionaries, who were recognized at an appointment service Nov. 10 at Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte.
The next IMB trustee meeting will be Feb. 25-26 in Austin, Texas. An appointment service will be held at Great Hills Baptist Church in Austin on Feb. 26.
*Name changed. Laura Fielding is a writer for IMB. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).