With over 2.8 billion people in the world who still lack access to the gospel, Southern Baptists cannot settle for anything less than intentional calls for all the members of our churches to pray passionately, give sacrificially, and go intentionally for the glory of Christ among all peoples.
For far too long, many followers of Christ have seen global mission as a compartmentalized program in the church for a select few people who are called to this purpose. Yet when one looks from cover to cover through Scripture, one realizes that global mission is the purpose for which every one of us has been created. We have all been created, called, and commissioned to be a part of making disciples of all nations. This call to mission most assuredly means making disciples right where we live, among neighbors, co-workers, and acquaintances in our communities and cities. At the same time, Christians work on mission wherever we live with a continual openness to go on mission wherever God leads.
This is the kind of mindset that marked the Moravians in mission history. It was said of the Moravians centuries ago that 1 out of every 92 of them were crossing cultures for the spread of the gospel. Looking out across over 15 million Southern Baptists today, just imagine if that ratio was present among us. Instead of 4,000–5,000 missionaries, we would have well over 100,000 missionaries spreading the gospel around the world.
The key for these Moravians, though, was not a commitment to a sophisticated, well-financed mission board. Instead, they were consumed by a mission mindset. They looked at their lives through the lens of mission, and they were leveraging the opportunities God had given them for work around the world to live in other countries for the spread of the gospel.
If the Moravians were doing this centuries ago, how much more are such opportunities available to Southern Baptists in view of the globalization of today’s marketplace? Opportunities abound today for Southern Baptists not only to leave their jobs to serve as missionaries in other countries, but also to leverage their jobs to serve as missionaries among unreached peoples.
So what might happen if this mission mindset marked not just a few extraordinary people, but everyday, ordinary members across Southern Baptist churches? Envision such members passionate about praying for the nations. Imagine them joining with what God is doing in Central Asia, North Africa, and Eastern Europe in personal time with the Lord on a daily basis, and then through corporate time with the church on a weekly basis. What might happen if our churches were marked by Acts 13, Antioch-like pictures of concentrated prayer and fasting for the glory of God among the nations?
Moreover, what might happen if God’s heart for the nations was reflected in sacrificial giving among our churches? God has given Southern Baptists unprecedented wealth in the history of the world for a reason: he wants his praise known among all peoples. God gives his people wealth in the world for the sake of his worship throughout the world. May we not, then, waste our wealth on the pleasures, pursuits, and possessions of this world, but instead give sacrificially to the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for international missions, along with the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American missions. These are unique tools used by God to fuel the spread of the gospel around the world.
Finally, what might happen if more people were going to the nations? When I look at the history of the IMB, I praise God for 25,000 missionaries who have served over these last 170 years. However, we need 25,000 now. Such a number necessitates that Southern Baptists think through creative ways for as many God-called missionaries as possible to go the nations, optimizing all the opportunities God has afforded us. Imagine a limitless missionary force comprised of full-time vocational missionaries, students studying overseas, professionals working overseas, and retirees moving overseas, all doing so intentionally for the spread of the gospel among unreached peoples.
Keep in mind, also, that as Christians are mobilized from Southern Baptist churches to go to the nations through the IMB, the work they do overseas will be deliberately focused on mobilizing more Christians. The work of the missionary involves proclaiming the gospel, making disciples, gathering those disciples together into churches, and then raising up leaders who will shepherd those churches on mission in the world. The missionary task is not fully complete until new churches planted are now joining in the mission. When we look at the world, then, we must not only view unreached people as a harvest field, but also as a potential harvest force. For when unreached people are reached, they become an entirely new force now filled with the Spirit and focused on the spread of the gospel to more unreached people.
In the days to come, the IMB is committed to leading the way in mobilizing Christians here and around the world to see the countless doors God has opened wide for the spread of the gospel to the nations through our cooperative praying, giving, and going. Indeed, may God bless our coalition of Southern Baptist churches in such a way that we might be part of a Moravian-type missions movement in our day that sees tens of thousands of God-exalting, Christ-following, Spirit-led, biblically-faithful, people-loving, high-quality missionaries running to the nations for the sake of God’s fame.