RICHMOND, Va. (BP) – International Mission Board missionaries saw 18,380 churches planted, 144,322 new believers and 86,587 baptisms in 2020. This could not have happened without the prayers and financial support of Southern Baptist churches.
To continue to make the Revelation 7:9 vision a reality, the IMB needs the partnership of Southern Baptist churches through prayer and giving.
One of the IMB’s 2025 targets is “mobilize 75 percent of Southern Baptist churches to prayerfully and financially support the IMB.”
Chris Derry, director of church and network relations for IMB, explained the significance of the target.
“This target supports our ultimate aim of growing our missionary force overseas by 500,” Derry said. “Yet, our leadership is committed to healthy and sustainable growth over the next five years so that Southern Baptists’ sent ones can focus on the task before them and be fruitful in the advancement of the Gospel among unreached peoples.
“With just over half of our denomination’s churches giving to IMB to support the lives and work of more than 3,600 missionaries and their families, imagine how many more missionaries could be sent and how many more people groups could be reached through the faithful generosity and cooperation of 75 percent!”
To support this target, the IMB has taken steps to intentionally connect with churches.
For decades, Southern Baptists have prayed for, served alongside and given financially to support the work of IMB missionaries. IMB President Paul Chitwood said there is both an opportunity and responsibility for missionaries to pray for, share with and serve these churches.
IMB introduced Church Connections to prioritize relationships between churches and missionaries. The goal of this initiative is to see every Southern Baptist church connected with at least one IMB missionary.
Church Connections efforts began in 2020 with a pilot involving 10 percent of IMB’s missionaries. April 5 was the official launch of Church Connections, and 900 missionaries have since been assigned 22,000 churches to contact. IMB couples and singles have been or will be given the names of 20 Southern Baptist churches.
Connections between IMB missionaries and Southern Baptist churches are currently forming and growing. One missionary family who serves in London connected with a church in Alabama. While stateside, the missionary family was able to visit the church, serve in the church and build relationships within the church. This connection provided opportunities for the church and the missionary family to encourage one another.
Along with the Church Connections initiative, state conventions and associational leaders are needed to strengthen relationships between the IMB and Southern Baptist churches.
Mobilization through state conventions
Terry Sharp, manager of convention and network relations for IMB, explained how state convention and associational leaders are pivotal in mobilizing the local church.
“Our state convention and associational leaders are among our organization’s greatest champions and our missionaries’ most vocal advocates,” Sharp said. “They provide invaluable support in communication, giving, mobilization and training. We are very grateful for our partnership and truly believe we can do so much more together than if we were chasing this vision alone.
“State conventions and associations are valued partners in mobilization and advocacy, and it will take all of us working together to complete the Revelation 7:9 vision.”
One example is the Illinois Baptist State Association, which has committed to mobilizing its members by creating a page on its website dedicated to IMB’s nine larger people groups. On this page, Illinois Baptists can find resources on how to pray for the specific people groups found worldwide and around their state. The association’s goal is to mobilize Illinois Baptist churches to impact these people groups in the coming years.
Supporting through giving and prayer
- Ray Davis, manager of church mobilization at IMB, highlighted the biblical instruction to pray and give.
“Churches addressing the Great Commission are obedient to send missionaries,” Davis said. “However, like the Macedonians in 2 Corinthians 8, if believers first abandon themselves to the Lord, they are also giving generously and sacrificially. Additionally, Scripture instructs us to pray for the spread of the Gospel. Healthy churches recognize the need to pray and give and to go themselves and send their best sons and daughters.”
When Southern Baptist churches give to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, every cent is used to support missionaries on the field. Because of these gifts, missionaries can focus on sharing the Gospel and not worry about financial support. These financial partnerships allow missionaries to provide physical help as they show God’s love to those around them.
“The prayerful and financial support of Southern Baptists provides for the physical and ministerial needs of their sent ones to advance the kingdom,” Derry said. “The beauty of cooperation is that churches of all sizes can pray and give as they are able to be a part of this great work together.”
Supporting IMB missionaries in prayer is vital in fulfilling the Revelation 7:9 vision. Southern Baptists can find prayer guides, daily prayer requests and resources on IMB’s website. By signing up for regular prayer updates or downloading the IMB prayer app, Southern Baptists can continually support IMB missionaries in prayer.
Victor Hou, the IMB’s associate vice president for global advance, encourages U.S. churches not to underestimate the power of prayer, and to be persistent in praying for the Lord to tear down the barriers that keep people from hearing the Gospel.
Hou asks that churches pray the Lord would call more workers to the harvest and that the Lord will call people from their congregations to serve with the IMB.
“In addition to providing for the future support of an increased missionary force, I would imagine that seeing an additional 15,000 churches working together in support of Southern Baptist mission efforts would result in some of the greatest days of evangelism, discipleship and church planting among the nations in our history,” Derry said.
“A real movement could ignite within our churches that helps us reach the last of the unreached.”
To learn more about how individuals and churches can prayerfully and financially support the IMB, visit www.imb.org.
Churches interested in connecting with an IMB missionary should email [email protected].