This past week, I had the privilege of spending a few days in Richmond, Va., at the International Mission Board. The initial reason for my trip was to preach in chapel, but while there I spent a number of hours walking the IMB’s halls, fellowshipping with their leadership team, and visiting extensively with President Tom Elliff.
In chapel, I preached on the subject, “Better Together: MBTS, the IMB & the Great Commission,” and encouraged a deeper partnership between our two entities. In so many ways, I left Richmond deeply encouraged and deeply impressed with my Great Commission colleagues.
In hindsight, I wish I could teleport every Southern Baptist to Richmond. I am convinced it would revolutionize our churches; reprioritize our lives, our giving, and our prayers; and instill a renewed sense of confidence and unity in our convention. That is why I decided to bring a touch of Richmond to our churches via “Dispatches from the International Mission Board.”
Southern Baptists are a Great Commission People
Entering the doors of the IMB reminds one that Southern Baptists are a Great Commission people. Since the SBC’s inception in 1845, controversies, personalities, and programs have come and gone, but collaborative missions remains our most animating—and uniting—effort. Our churches are young and old, traditional and contemporary, rural and urban, and represent various theological strains, but all of us rejoice in the baptism of new believers.
In fact, the Great Commission is instilled into our denomination’s DNA. It is who we are, and who we ever must be. I am convinced the moment we forsake the Great Commission, God will forsake us. I pray my generation of Southern Baptists will be found as zealous for the Great Commission as prior ones.
Southern Baptists are a Generous People
Through the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, Southern Baptists channel some $300 million per year to the IMB—supporting nearly 5,000 missionaries and several hundred support staff. Even with the decline of Cooperative Program giving in recent decades, this is still an enormous act of generosity and an unparalleled commitment to international missions. Simply put, there is no other confederation of churches on the planet with such generous and intentional giving to advance the gospel.
While we typically think of the IMB as a sending organization—and it is—it is also on the cutting edge of missiological research. In fact, many of the other leading evangelical missionary organizations look to the IMB for data on unreached people groups, national demographics, and geopolitical nuances, among other things. The IMB is crucial not only for what they do but also for what they know. They are at the forefront of research, and I am grateful for the information they provide our churches, our seminaries, and our broader gospel partners.
The presidency of the IMB may well be the most important position in the SBC. From a ministry standpoint, it channels the entirety of the denomination’s international missions. In practical terms, it stewards the lion’s share of SBC resources. Indeed, the IMB is our most unifying entity, and it galvanizes our denomination’s collaboration. Generally speaking, everything else Southern Baptists undertake plays second fiddle to the IMB.
A failure of leadership at the IMB would not only be a Great Commission tragedy, but it would also undermine our collective gospel work as a denomination. The leader of the IMB must have an unbridled passion for the Great Commission, a keen mind to formulate strategies and to administer a massive organization, and, perhaps most of all, must have the trust and respect of the vast majority of Southern Baptists. I’m grateful God has so gifted Tom Elliff, and I am all the more resolved to pray for him.
Calling forth a new Generation
One does not have to spend much time in Richmond to realize the IMB is a veteran organization. In large part, this is of necessity. The experience needed for the posts almost necessitates length of tenure. At the same time, like every other aspect of SBC life, we are in the midst of a generational transition. Just as God is calling forth a new generation of missionaries who are studying at Midwestern Seminary and our sister seminaries, so I pray a new generation of Southern Baptists will feel the burden to support them financially and will be prepared to serve at the IMB.
I love Kansas City, but a portion of my affection will always be in Richmond, as well it should. This is not because of what takes place in Richmond, but because of what emanates from there: Southern Baptist missionaries reaching the world for Christ.
I wish I could teleport every Southern Baptist to Richmond. I can’t do that, but I can give a glimpse into the IMB and ask you to join me in praying for them. In fact, daily I pray for one of the six continents on which our missionaries serve and on the seventh day, I pray for Richmond and the IMB leadership team. Will you join me in this effort?topicsChurch & Ministry, Southern Baptist Convention