IMB sends 46 full-time missionaries to reach ‘spiritually lost’

International Mission Board
Fifty members of Coats Baptist Church of Coats, North Carolina, gather for a group photo with their newly appointed missionaries, and fellow members, Bradley and Ember Wilkie. The church rented a bus and drove to Richmond, Virginia, for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Sending Celebration, which took place on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023. |

The Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board recently approved sending 46 full-time missionaries, noting recent increases in support from local congregations.

The IMB held a Sending Celebration last Wednesday in Richmond, Virginia, where they honored 46 full-time missionaries that will be stationed outside the United States.

The celebration for the missionaries had around 450 in-person attendees, which was divided between 350 seated in the auditorium and around 100 in overflow rooms, as well as over 3,600 people watching the gathering via a livestream.

The IMB holds four sending celebrations a year, with the first being in either late January or early February, the second being in June, in conjunction with the SBC’s annual meeting, a third in late September and a fourth later in the fall, in conjunction with a state convention annual meeting.

Scott Ray, IMB’s director of assessment and deployment, noted in a statement emailed to CP that the number of missionaries honored last week was “a similar size group compared to last year’s winter appointment, and larger than the recent previous years.”

The Sending Celebration was part of a two-day meeting of the IMB board of trustees, which concluded on Feb. 2 and featured remarks from IMB President Paul Chitwood, who talked about “the world’s greatest problem,” which is spiritually lost.  

“The world’s great problem, lostness, is a greater problem today than ever before — literally a greater problem today than it was yesterday,” stated Chitwood, as quoted in an IMB report about the meeting.

“As much as it depends on us, we cannot let Southern Baptists remain unaware of the magnitude of this problem nor of the unprecedented opportunities that we have to address this problem with God’s solution, which is the Gospel.”

The IMB meeting also touted growth in support and engagement, as recorded engagements by missionaries and mobilization teams within SBC churches year-to-date come in at more than 43,000, which is more than twice the number during the same period in the previous fiscal year.

Chris Derry, IMB’s director of church and campus engagement, told CP in emailed comments that a significant factor in the sharp increase in engagements came via IMB Church Connections program.

The program was launched in 2020 in response to reports that almost half of the approximately 47,000 SBC member congregations lacked any connection to an IMB missionary.   

“The largest driver for the increase can be contributed to work through IMB’s Church Connections program, an initiative where each missionary unit is assigned a portfolio of Southern Baptist churches to connect and develop relationships, particularly with those churches not currently active in the support and partnership of Southern Baptist missions efforts,” explained Derry.

In September 2021, the IMB announced that it was requiring all missionaries to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and encouraged that their children who are at least 12 also be vaccinated.

IMB’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate, which was eventually dropped last June partly in response to many countries easing vaccination requirements, did not appear to negatively impact the number of missionaries that the SBC board was able to recruit.

Last September, the IMB reported that its pipeline of missionary candidates had passed the 1,100-mark, which, according to them, was the highest it had been in decades.  

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