Posted on : Thursday May 14, 2020

Several weeks ago, Dr. Kevin Smith sat down with President of the IMB Dr. Paul Chitwood. Dr. Chitwood discussed the various challenges faced by the IMB and its missionaries during the global pandemic and the ways that God has continued to be faithful.

Transcript

Dr. Smith:
Thank you for joining us on Peculiar People. Podcast where we think about, what does it mean to be a follower of Jesus Christ in our fallen world? Today, we are so excited to talk with the president of our international mission board, and if you’re not a Southern Baptist, when I say our international mission board, I’m referring to the mission agency of the Southern Baptist Convention, and we’re in the midst of celebrating our 175th anniversary of that mission board.

Dr. Smith:
And we are excited today to speak to the president of the international mission board, Dr. Paul Chitwood. I always like to give any disclaimers I need to give when I am interviewing brothers and sisters in Christ. This is a dear brother from times together where we shared and served in the commonwealth of Kentucky. I love this brother. I love his family.

Dr. Smith:
And so, I always like to give disclaimers, if people say, “That didn’t sound like a generic interview like he was just interviewing a random person.” Well, this is in no way a random person. This is a brother I love dearly, and I’m excited to have him on our podcast today.

Dr. Smith:
I just want to begin by saying hello, my brother. It is a rich joy to be with you, and I certainly want to talk about the international mission board. But you and I are brothers in Christ, we’re followers of Jesus. And I’m just kind of wondering, as a disciple of Jesus, how have you been thinking and how have you been feeling over the last three to four weeks?

Dr. Chitwood:
Thank you for that question, and let me start by saying thank you for the chance to connect today, and to be a part of the cast here. Michelle and I are grateful for your friendship. We love you and Pat, and are thankful for the way the Lord has let us walk together through different seasons of ministry, and different phases of life.

Dr. Chitwood:
And obviously, we’re in a very different season of ministry right now. I don’t think any of us have ever experienced anything like this. And so, in light of your question, for me, spiritually, we’re grateful that we’ve had the opportunity to have worshiped at home with our kids. We had our college kids in with the younger kids a couple weeks ago. Had time with them.

Dr. Chitwood:
And then, we used Zoom to do a worship lesson when the college kids were back in Kentucky and the rest of our family were here. So, technology has certainly helped keep us connected as a family, and in many ways, in worship experiences as well as with brothers like you and others across the convention. Help us stay connected to our brothers in Christ.

Dr. Chitwood:
And so, the Lord has ministered to us in that regard. Spending time praying, and Holy Week devotions has been a blessing, as well. Continuing with the daily Bible readings. That’s been good. So, there’s a lot, obviously, to reflect upon in this time. There’s some passages that have really set themselves in front of me during this time. And one of them is, I think it’s Psalm nine, where the psalmist says that you have rebuked the nations.

Dr. Chitwood:
And I think, in light of the fact that every nation is feeling the rebuke right now with COVID, some more dramatically than others. But we are all feeling it, and we’re praying that this will be a time of global awakening. That many would come to know the Lord as the fear of death creeps close in the midst of a global pandemic.

Dr. Chitwood:
What we know is that the Lord has given an ultimate cure. We’re afraid of death, but the believer doesn’t have to be afraid of death. Death has no sting, and the Lord’s given an ultimate cure and a cross, and just that great multitude we’ll see some day around the throne in Heaven. Revelation 7:9, John give us a view of that through the vision the Lord gave him. Someone from every nation, from all tribes, all peoples, all languages will be there, and we’re praying and trusting that some will be there because of the way God used this pandemic, and the fears that surfaced in people’s hearts, and a new openness to the gospel.

Dr. Smith:
Amen. I was just thinking, from teaching church history at Southern, before the Enlightenment, and then, the Renaissance, these kind of eras. The medieval period. The ancient world. People had a much weightier consideration of death and mortality. Then, as intelligence, and obviously, science and other things began to expand, and rationalism, those kind of things, at some point, humans can confuse intelligence and knowledge with immortality.

Dr. Smith:
And I think it’s a moment where people who perhaps have not considered their own mortality are considering those things. And so, we’re thankful to be able to have some good news in some trying situations.

Dr. Smith:
Our state convention has a partnerships with three Baptist associations in western Kenya. And just interacting with those pastors, and then, of course, thinking at the persecuted church. I had a thought this morning. I was like, even in a pandemic, in economic disruption, how we process and how we think about things, it’d be helpful for perspective and a frame of mind to remember that our downgrade is still an upgrade to much of the world.

Dr. Smith:
So, how we receive something like this and how it’s affecting other people, particularly my partners. Many of them, food and water are day to day type things. Pat and I are locked down with five cases of bottled water. Our ministry partners aren’t locked down like that. And so, that gives perspective, as well, when you have an international interacting with Christians all over the world, and just people all over the world. Helps you process a little bit differently, perhaps, how you engage.

Dr. Smith:
True pandemic and true economic disruption, but still, we engage those things much differently than much of the world.

Dr. Chitwood:
Absolutely. Just as illustrations of that, think of the health considerations here and the healthcare industry here in the United States, how it’s been impacted. Our concerns. Are there enough respirators? Do we need field hospitals? Let’s remove ourselves from this context. Let’s set ourselves down just for the next few seconds in a state in South Asia, where there are 1.2 million people in this state, and there are 800 hospital beds in the entire state. And 800 hospital beds, how many of those are acute care hospital beds? How many ventilators are there?

Dr. Chitwood:
And so, the impact of this virus in an environment like that. Let’s set ourselves down in a refugee settlement where there’s no running water in the homes. Where you walk a mile, two miles with a bucket to retrieve your water, and you carry it on your shoulder or on your head back to the home. When we think about the need to wash your hands, well, washing your hands isn’t much consideration if you don’t have water to drink, let alone water to wash your hands with.

Dr. Chitwood:
People who leave their home every morning with the intent of somehow, someway, finding one meal to bring home to your family. There’s no food stores. There’s no pantry to raid. No freezer. No refrigerator. You just go out every day with the hopes that you can come home with enough to feed your family. The context of people who raid the trash cans for their meal outside of restaurants. Restaurants are closed. What do you do now?

Dr. Chitwood:
And so, again, thinking in terms of how this impacts the world hopefully softens our heart and brings us to gratitude, even in the midst of social distancing and shelter at home, so much to be grateful for.

Dr. Smith:
Amen. I want to just kind of ask an update type question. Early on, I was very mindful of China, and workers in Asia and Southeast Asia. And then, I became thoughtful about workers in some European countries. Italy, Spain, other type places. But obviously, it didn’t take long before we were kind of thinking about everyone.

Dr. Smith:
Because early on, I wasn’t even really thinking about South America. I mean, there were times when they were like one case in Southeast Africa, and everything. So, I was like, oh, man, this is great. This is going to be kind of limited. And then, all of a sudden, because of people traveling and everything.

Dr. Smith:
So, just kind of a basic question on behalf of Maryland/Delaware Baptist, how are our missionaries on the ground? And I know you don’t have the John Brady version, but just at a broad level, how are our missionaries on the ground?

Dr. Chitwood:
This thing moved, as you said, from China to the globe. As is the case here in the United States, different parts of the world are impacted at a different level. And we know that’s true here in the U.S. If you live in New York City right now, that looks a lot different than if you live in rural Kansas.

Dr. Chitwood:
Likewise with our personnel overseas. Some are literally living under martial law. They are able to open the door to their home or apartment once per week, go out and get what food or supplies they need for their family, and go nowhere except to the shop, go back home, and for the next week, they’re not permitted to open their door again.

Dr. Chitwood:
And so, some of our personnel are living in areas like that. Others are living where the impact is not being felt dramatically. They’re reserved to staying within their communities. Still able to get out and be active. But our missionaries are resilient people, and the level of commitment that they had, just when they go where they go to do what they do is the kind of commitment that carries them through these times.

Dr. Chitwood:
Now, we’re concerned about their health. Some are in areas where the ramifications of the outbreak are grave. Others are in places where there’s some unrest that is beginning to manifest itself, particularly in those impoverished countries where people are told under they’re lockdown. And again, okay, do I stay home and starve, or do I risk getting beat in the street while I’m going to get a meal so I don’t starve to death?

Dr. Chitwood:
And that becomes a powder keg, politically and socially, in communities. And so, we’re having to keep a close watch, but we have a team dedicated to that. And our personnel, again, just high level of commitment, and we’re keeping a close check on them, and making sure, by the generosity of Maryland/Delaware Baptists and Southern Baptists across this land, we have the ability to care for them, to stay in touch with them, to move them, really, we would not have apart from that generosity.

Dr. Smith:
Amen. I’ve been very encouraged. Your staff has been weekly, maybe a couple of times a week, actually, sending us wonderful updates. Stories of baptisms. Stories of evangelism. Stories of sin relief efforts and just Baptist global response. Just so many ways where, because of our work together, we’re able to touch situations around the world. And I’m just so grateful for that.

Dr. Smith:
Another question I have for you is, I know we’re in crisis mode, but as far IMB’s regular functioning with a young man or a young woman who’s feeling called to the nations, and their church has been discipling them. Are the portals of application open and working or is everything on pause? Or, just kind of, what is the functioning status of the IMB, I guess, stateside?

Dr. Chitwood:
Yeah. Great question. Portals are open. Portals are working. We encourage anyone who feels any inkling of the Lord’s called, heart for the nations that’s beating in your chest, come to IMB.org. Click through the application process on the website. We’ll be in touch with you as soon as you get that in and begin to walk with you through the process of discerning God’s call, and what that would look like, and where that would take you.

Dr. Chitwood:
And right now, that’s unaffected. We’re continuing to work with candidates. We’re also doing interviews that we would do face to face, in person, but we’re doing those online. The only slowing that’s taking place right now is just what’s been necessitated by limitations of travel, and those are with the people who have already been appointed and need to come to their field personnel orientation. We have a seven-week training referred to in acronymish, is what I call it. The heart language of the IMB. That acronym, FPO.

Dr. Chitwood:
So, we weren’t able to host this most recent group for FPO. They’ve been pushed forward to the next FPO. That seven-week training is going to take place end of July through August, and into early September, and be deployed from there. We also had a group that had just finished FPO, and they were literally ready to go to the field. But because of the travel restrictions, that just couldn’t happen.

Dr. Chitwood:
And so, right now, that’s the only way we’ve been impacted. Our team is working from home, telework, here in the States, but continuing to function. In fact, I saw last week, I heard somebody say a thousand calls have been initiated by our team across the organization. We use a device through Microsoft called Teams, and that’s how we meet online for [inaudible 00:14:01]. And you have, too, probably, at this point, Kevin, but we’re Zooming our life away. Well, we’re Teaming our lives away.

Dr. Smith:
Yes. We are. It’s amazing how you get used to things. I don’t know these people’s names. We aren’t relatives or anything. But there are certain people at BWI Airport I just haven’t seen, and I’m used to seeing them. There are certain Delta people that are always at the desk, and I’m used to seeing them. It’s amazing. Your life gets totally restructured, and we’re feeling that.

Dr. Smith:
Do you think, in the midst of this, I know everyone has to certainly adjust to things that are going on, but do you sense Southern Baptists maintaining a focus and an eye towards the nations?

Dr. Chitwood:
I do. And in fact, as you know, one of the things that we always struggle with and battle against in our cooperative missions, efforts and relationships are those topics that distract us, and turn our focus away, and get us turned inward, and get us squabbling.

Dr. Chitwood:
And really, by God’s grace, one of the positive benefits that we’ve seen of COVID is a lot of those conversations have just died, and other distractions have just naturally been removed. I see greater unity. More loving posture towards one another. And we see a greater concern for our missionaries, and their work, and the work, just as we’ve been talking today, while we all know how this has impacted us here in the United States, because so many of our Southern Baptist leaders, church members, pastors do volunteer mission trips. They’re very involved with missionaries and work overseas. There is an awareness here that if it’s like this here in the riches nation in the world, what does this look like everywhere else? Particularly in those impoverished places, where many of us have gone to serve on volunteer mission trips.

Dr. Chitwood:
And so, our heart goes out. We’ve seen a rising interest and concern for the work among the nations and for the well-being of our missionaries. Many of our missionaries have shared testimony with me that churches that they have relationships with have really been working hard to reach out to them much more intentionally. Just checking on them. Making sure they’re okay.

Dr. Chitwood:
And every conversation that I’ve had, the question that you’ve already asked, Kevin, how are people doing overseas? So, that’s, I think, at the forefront of our thinking and our concern as Southern Baptists these days, and that’s encouraging to me.

Dr. Smith:
Amen. That’s really encouraging to hear. You became president of IMB in the fall of 2018, and I thought there was tremendous enthusiasm, and I thought we were moving and are moving in such a wonderful direction. Towards the end of last year, I saw pastors and churches regularly tweeting and posting on Facebook about their Lottie Moon Christmas offerings, and exceeding goals, and just so many things were going in so many directions. And so, I’m very encouraged to hear you say those kinds of things are maintaining.

Dr. Smith:
Let me just say briefly for our listeners who aren’t steeped in Baptist history, when you think of Baptist as a denomination, as a tradition of people, and certainly, those who cooperate together in specific Baptist denominations, whether that be the Southern Baptist Convention. Historically, American National. Just a variety.

Dr. Smith:
From England, Baptists have cooperated together for the sake of missions. For the sake of sending missionaries. As we go back even to Andrew Fuller and William Carey and saw what people in church history would call the modern missions movement, and began by people who have called themselves and identified as baptists.

Dr. Smith:
And so, I always like to make sure Southern Baptists, and other Baptists, and even other Christ-followers realize how essential missions is to the cohesive identify of Baptists as a denomination or an outset setting, we would say, is a convention of churches.

Dr. Smith:
In 1814, the Triennial Convention was formed, which, the official name was the General Missionary Convention of the Baptist Denomination in the United States of Americans for Foreign Missions. So, all Baptists in America were concerned about the nations. You can go back and read 19th Century literature and you’ll find that to be true among Baptists collectively. And then, even after the 1845 splits, and then, the Civil War and emancipation, still, even among white Baptists or black Baptists, missions is always a strong priority for them.

Dr. Smith:
And so, always want to make sure that, certainly Southern Baptists, but even other Baptists and other Christians understand how essential missions is to Baptists’ corporate identity and cooperative identity.

Dr. Chitwood:
That’s absolutely right. I just want to amend that and say that even you, as a church historian, and with a great awareness of our Southern Baptist groups, it’s fascinating that when Southern Baptists launched out of the Triennial Baptist Convention, split from the Triennial Baptist Convention, regretfully, sinfully, over the issue of slave-holding that, even in that, there was a missions concern, a concern for the nations, because the issue at stake became Triennial Baptist Convention had determined that they would not send slave-holders as missionaries.

Dr. Chitwood:
And the churches in the South determined, “We’re going to send missionaries. If they won’t send them, we’ll send them.” And so, there was a concern for the nation, which is maybe the beautiful side of that. And then, there was the slave-holding side of that, and that’s the tragic, heartbreaking, lamentable side of that for which we have rightfully repented and must continue to do so.

Dr. Chitwood:
But again, even in our history, those first two missionaries that went out from the International Mission Board, or at least what we were called them by the newly formed Southern Baptist Convention, and what it was formed in, were sent out in 1845, or appointed in 1845, two single young men. By the time they got on the ship and headed for China in 1846, they were married. So, we sent our first two couples out in 1846.

Dr. Chitwood:
And so, that missions thread, that glue that holds us together has always been the case when we were at our best, and even when we were at our worst, it’s been the case.

Dr. Chitwood:
And so, by God’s grace, I think that’s true, and to see that that’s still what holds us together today and why, even in a pandemic, we can’t retreat. We can’t pull back from that. And it has been the case that Southern Baptists, since 1845, have not been without a witness among the nations. And you think about what happened historically since 1845. Indeed, the Civil War. World War I. World War II. The depression. On and on it goes. Presidents assassinated. These critical historical moments of panic within our nation, and yet, our missionaries stayed on the field.

Dr. Chitwood:
And in 2020, in a global pandemic as a result of COVID-19, our missionaries are still on the field.

Dr. Smith:
Amen. I often say that the international mission board is the glue that holds Southern Baptists together, and I certainly think that’s more than just rhetoric. There’s general consensus in Southern Baptist life. Yes. 51% of the program goes towards the international mission board and sustaining of our missionaries. Yes. Of the two major significant offerings that we have, one of those is for international missions, to sustain our missionaries on the field.

Dr. Smith:
So, I certainly think that that has been common throughout Baptist history. And I would say that even regardless of the Baptist groups. If you even look at black Baptist history in America, the two most prominent names would be Lott Cary and George Lyle, and those were of early centuries. And their prominence is associated with their missiology.

Dr. Smith:
Lott Cary Missionary Convention still exists today, and the first churches in Jamaica and many places were planted by George Lyle and those who came out from his ministry.

Dr. Smith:
I do have a question. If I’m correct, we were supposed to have a big 175th-anniversary celebration in Orlando. So, with the cancellation of the Southern Baptist Convention, will we do something at some point to celebrate that mark, or is it just a victim of COVID-19?

Dr. Chitwood:
No, we’re looking very carefully, and we’ve continued to move forward with our plans for helping Southern Baptist celebrate what God has done through us, among the nations. And using that look back to look forward. What work yet remains? What does God still have for us?

Dr. Chitwood:
So, we’re evaluating whether we want that to be thematic for us for the 2021 convention. We do have a little bit of leeway there, because the 175th anniversary really is the May 2020 moment in time, when DIB and NAM were formed. So, to move that to June 2021 wouldn’t be too far out. But this really is an intentional effort that we’re going to push forward with. We’ll just have to work on the details of what it looks like.

Dr. Chitwood:
But that intentional effort, again, to look back, to celebrate what God has done. To look forward and acknowledge what yet remains to be done. And to celebrate the beauty of, our conversation just a few moments ago, that a Convention of churches started in such a broken and sinful origin today has thousands of African American churches that are a part, I mean, nothing but the reconciling power of the gospel and God at work himself could have brought that in to be.

Dr. Chitwood:
And so, the privilege of serving with you at the top level leadership in your state convention, and African Americans who have and continue to lead across the SBC to celebrate the beauty of that. And that we are together for the sake of the nations. And along those lines, in 2021, the IMB will begin sponsoring a George Lyle Day across the Southern Baptist Convention. A day to commemorate his life and legacy as a missionary and church planter. And evangelist. That will be a good way for us to, again, capture the history from the beginning and keep us focused on the work today and moving forward.

Dr. Smith:
Amen. I’ve been really thankful for you several times over the last few weeks. We have a multi-year partnership, as I said earlier, with three Baptist associations in Western Kenya. And so, early on, I was kind of up in the air trying to figure some things out. I’m supposed to be at their annual meeting in April, which obviously, I’m not.

Dr. Smith:
But early on, I just want to say, you were very helpful. Your team, I think early on you said, “Let us just figure out what’s going on and we’ll say something on April 15th,” And then, maybe a little bit before April 15th, you said, “Hey, we just would advise you to not send any volunteer mission teams for,” I think it June 30th, at that time.

Dr. Smith:
And so, we were just leaving on June 27th. So, that gave me the leeway to just kind of immediately cancel that trip, and we will focus, Lord willing, down in the fall. But I am wondering, part of supporting the IMB and supporting missionaries is the experience and the expertise that they have and that they develop over time.

Dr. Smith:
So, I’m just wondering, kind of across the scale since you’ve been president, do you find that our 46,000-plus churches are open to the guidance and the council of our experts if you’ll let me use that word, of the International Mission Board? Because you and I both know, sometimes Baptists can be kind of an independent openminded bunch. But if the International Mission Board says, “Hey, I wouldn’t send any mission teams before June 30th,” Is that generally well-received in Baptist life?

Dr. Chitwood:
Absolutely. And even before this, as your question led in, as a rule, yes. Churches are very respectful of and appreciate our missionaries, the council that they would give. The expertise they would have. The awareness of, okay, what’s the landscape look like here in the country where you’re going? We live here every day. So, the [inaudible 00:26:19] understand that, respect that, as a rule. There’s exceptions to every rule. There’s always some who have other ideas in mind, and that’s okay. We love all of our brothers and sisters across the Convention.

Dr. Chitwood:
I will say, as well, that in our own mission statement that we’ve just newly written and adopted, we’re positioning ourselves very intentionally with this language that the IMB exists to serve Southern Baptist churches. And so, that posture of humility and of a servant, where we recognize the IMB is only here because some Baptists put as here, and we are here to help the church reach the world for Christ. It’s not the job the IMB, or a missionary, or an organization. That’s the church’s job, and we’re here to serve the church to that end.

Dr. Chitwood:
I mean, the sending organization for the missionaries, and they can support their missionaries through us. And then, partner with us and work on the field in specific places as churches have ability to adopt and reach people groups. Or, work in close partnership with a missionary. Or, represent. Be the missionary presence among some unengaged and unreached peoples.

Dr. Chitwood:
And so, us having the posture of servants and that humility as we walk with churches certainly helps. If we come in beating our chest and lording over the church or the church mission, saying, “This is how you’re going to do it. This is why you’re going to do it. This is where you’re going to do it.” That is never helpful.

Dr. Chitwood:
We come in with an attitude of, we’re here to serve you, pastor. We’re here to serve your church and help you fulfill God’s call. That gives us a much better platform, relationally, to speak truth, to share some hard news that we may have to share about plans. And we want to model that.

Dr. Smith:
Amen. We have 40 state conventions, and they’re different sizes, and some have international partnerships and some don’t. We have 46,000-plus churches. They are different sizes. Some partner with IMB on specific target cities and things like that.

Dr. Smith:
But here in Maryland/Delaware, like many place, the average church, let’s say a brother is pastoring 100 people, and he says, “I have a burden for the nations.” What are some ways you would tell that pastor, “Hey, if you can’t adopt a whole people group or a whole city, here are some ways you might engage in our mission together?”

Dr. Chitwood:
Yeah. Several avenues that I would encourage that brother to pursue. One, I would encourage that brother to work with his state convention. State convention is there to help churches do together what they can’t do on their own.

Dr. Chitwood:
So, while that church may not be able to adopt an unreached people group, they might be able to come alongside the work of churches through the state convention and make the trip to Kenya, or contribute to that trip. Be a part of the impact that the churches, collectively, are trying to make.

Dr. Chitwood:
Also, at the association level, and I know association life looks different across the different regions of the Southern Baptist Convention and different state conventions. But still, in many places, the association is a place where you can join with other churches to be a part of an effort that your church can’t accomplish on its own, whether it’s locally, nationally, or internationally. And so, we work with association mission strategists or the DOM. That’s really what we’re trying to help association mission strategists facilitate.

Dr. Chitwood:
So, we’ve got megachurches, and we understand, we appreciate them. We’ve got our mid-sized churches and churches of 10 or 15. But the average, when you take them collectively, the average church has that 70 or 80 show up on Sunday. And so, there are great limitations in that when you talk about working overseas or around the world.

Dr. Chitwood:
And yet, you pull together, in an association, 10 or 15 of those churches, now you suddenly have the resources and the ability across, instead of just 80 people, if you’ve got 10 of those churches, you’ve got 800 people. Now you have the opportunity to make an impact globally. And that’s the beauty of cooperative missions.

Dr. Chitwood:
And, beyond that, Kevin, I would say connect directly with the IMB. Go to IMB.org. You can see all sorts of opportunities to connect there. Dial the number that’s on the website and you’ll get connected to what we call our church success center. Our church success center is our call center where we will help any church of any size find out, as our mission is to serve Southern Baptist churches, we hope you find out what fits for you as you seek to fulfill the great commission to be an Acts 1:8 witness to the ends of the Earth. That’s the obligation. It’s placed on every church of every size by scripture. So, every church has to deal seriously with this.

Dr. Chitwood:
And we’ll help you, as a church, find what works for you, connect you with our missionaries overseas. We can bring consultants to your door. Probably the wake of social distancing [crosstalk 00:31:08] a little bit before we knock on your door, because you wouldn’t let us in at this point. But we’re here to serve.

Dr. Chitwood:
I’ve got a call coming up here in a few days with megachurch missions pastors. So, we want to serve every Southern Baptist church well, and we have a team that is designed to do that. Who comes from and has a lot of experience working with churches of all sizes.

Dr. Smith:
Amen. When I talk to friends from other denominations, you know, all of us are imperfect, but they still find it amazing that if a young person is from a church of 80 people, or 800, or 8,000, and they feel a call to ministry, there are six seminaries at which they can prepare for ministry and pursue training. And then, they can apply and be sent as a missionary around the world.

Dr. Smith:
And that’s amazing, because that can happen, no matter the size of your church, no matter the budget of your church. And I think that cooperative element right there, in so many ways, makes us distinct.

Dr. Smith:
Obviously, here in Maryland/Delaware, we have a partnership in Kenya. Anyone who has any kind of missions awareness usually hears about the 1040 window and Southeast Asia. But, as president of the IMB, and you see all of our regions, and you see the globe out there, what are some missions opportunities, or maybe a people, or a region of burden and of prayer that maybe sometimes people overlook, or is not regularly often spoken of?

Dr. Chitwood:
That’s a great question. One of the areas that we’ve really been focusing in on over the last decade and are continuing to up our focus is the deaf community. What we have seen is that a deaf person in Southeast Asia has more in common with a deaf person in Sub-Saharan Africa than they do the people who they live around right there in Southeast Asia.

Dr. Chitwood:
Sharing that common experience of living in a world where you cannot hear what is taking place around you just connects people. And so, we have the world divided in our work into nine affinities. And those affinities used to be more geographical. A region of the world. But because there’s such movement around the globe, we’ve focused in instead on affinity groups of people.

Dr. Chitwood:
For example, we have the East Asian affinity people saying, “We work with East Asians and share the gospel with East Asians readily in Sub-Saharan Africa and South America.” And so, there’s the Sub-Saharan African peoples. There’s the European peoples. There’s the peoples of the Americas. So, nine affinities.

Dr. Chitwood:
One of those nine affinities is the deaf affinity. So, we have a specific focus on the deaf around the world. Scripture translation is huge. Many deaf don’t know how to read, and they can’t hear the scripture read. And so, using signs and sign language. They can read, many of them, in sign. But finding the universal connections of sign languages around the world to translate scripture in such a way that it can be read and understand.

Dr. Chitwood:
So, that’s a unique thing that we do, and a group that often would be overlooked. Beyond that, there’s still a tremendous need in the Muslim world for the gospel. And particularly as you look at that 1040 window that you referenced. Billions of people that are in that window are lost. Many of them, so many of them are under the grip, the darkness of Islam. And whether you point to a specific country, it’s really not all that important. Just simply to the Muslim peoples that they would hear and know the truth. We have a lot of focus on that around the world.

Dr. Smith:
When you mentioned the 1040 window, in your time as president, have you had young, single men coming through the process? I’m asking because, this is anecdotal, but when I was pastor at High View Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, I regularly sent single women into unnamed countries that we couldn’t name. And I used to pray to be able to send a brother and never had that opportunity. So, I’m just wondering.

Dr. Smith:
In some circles, we’ve talked about this for years. Young men versus young women kind of sensing and heeding that call. What have you seen over the last 18 months, or since you’ve been there in leadership?

Dr. Chitwood:
We have sent young, single men, but disproportionate to the number of young, single women that we’ve seen go out. And so, there’s still a lot more young ladies answering the call than there are young men answering the call. So, the need to balance that out. We encourage and admonish our young men to hear and answer the call. And that’s a part of the ministry of calling out the call, falls upon the pastor and his preaching and teaching, and falls upon all of us, and we really are placing more and more emphasis on that as we’re encouraging pastors and their ministry of missions is calling out the call.

Dr. Chitwood:
We need more missionaries. Both genders and all ages, and we’re hiring, and there’s opportunities to go. But to see young, single men do the Journeyman program, in particular, that’s where 40% of our career missionaries come through the Journeyman program at some point in their life, and that Journeyman program is a two to three-year commitment. Generally, a two-year commitment to go serve overseas.

Dr. Chitwood:
Most of the people who come through that are young. Just finishing up college or thereabouts. And they’ll go get their feet wet and have a life-changing experience working alongside of our missionaries, and our missionary teams around the world, and for a shorter term of commitment of a couple of years. But then, the Lord uses that to really stir their hearts towards a life lived among the nations. And to see more of our young men entering into that Journeyman program would be incredibly encouraging for the future of missions.

Dr. Smith:
You mentioned people groups earlier rather than specific geography. Let me ask you a people group question. If a pastor here in the Maryland/Delaware was noticing that there were hundreds of Ethiopians in his area, and he said, “Man, I would to be able to start an Ethiopian Bible study or something,” Are there resources at IMB to help churches understand ministering to people groups from other places that here in the U.S. but still maintaining certain language and cultural interactions among themselves? So, still kind of functioning as a people group here.

Dr. Chitwood:
Yes. There are resources. And in fact, we’ve been trying more and more to cast that vision for our Southern Baptist churches, because, as you know, many of the nations have come to our nation, and there is a tremendous opportunity. It’s right in front of us. You don’t have to go around the world to reach Ethiopians. You don’t have to go around the world to reach European peoples, South Asian peoples.

Dr. Chitwood:
To ignore them when they’re right here, and many of them are more open here to the gospel than they would be in their former home country because of many of the social pressures that exist, particularly in those countries that are closed countries, that are dominated by one religion, and especially if that religious practices religious persecution.

Dr. Chitwood:
And so, you pull them out of that familiar context, and those social pressures and constraints, many of them are much more open to hear and respond to the good news. And so, we have not only resources that you can find on our website, but we have consultants, members of our mobilization team, who will come out and walk alongside of you as a local church pastor, or an association, or a state conversation.

Dr. Chitwood:
Terry Sharp, who you know, Kevin, who helps us stay connected to our state executives, executive directors, also helps lead that ministry in Southern Baptists focusing on the nations here in our nation.

Dr. Smith:
Wonderful. Brother, I have certainly appreciated your time and you’ve been so generous. I always tell Maryland/Delaware we have a particular kind of blessing because IMB is about 90 miles down the road. And so, we can interact with IMB resources and people in a way that my friends in the Baptist Convention in California cannot.

Dr. Smith:
And so, we are thankful to have you right down the road, and I appreciate your time so much. I would like to close just kind of asking you if you might speak a word to Maryland/Delaware Baptists regarding your desires. Lord willing, we will get beyond COVID-19, and you’ve not had a one year vision. You’ve laid out a five-year vision. You’ve spoken of 500 additional missionaries by 2025. And I just wondered if you might close with a word to Maryland/Delaware Baptists.

Dr. Smith:
When I came here, we were at about 43% on our pass through, and we immediately jumped to 48%, and we’re pushing to 50/50. We’re pushing to increase our goals for across the program. We’re certainly pushing to increase our goals for Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. But at a people level, and certainly, even at a support level, if you might just close and just share a word with us about what that looks like for the next five years, and what you’re encouraging Southern Baptists nationally, but certainly, Maryland/Delaware Baptists as part of that to do over the next five years.

Dr. Chitwood:
Yeah. I’d be thrilled to have that opportunity. Let me do two things, and the first is to say thank you. Thank you, Maryland/Delaware Baptist. Thank you, pastors, for leading your churches to give, to pray, to send, to go. Thank you, Kevin, for your leadership, and among those churches, serving the churches. Encouraging the churches to keep their eyes fixed on the nations. Encouraging them to stay together.

Dr. Chitwood:
Let’s cooperate. We can do much more together than we ever do apart, and you’ve modeled that. And I thank the Lord for your leadership, this calling in life that has you there in a strategic role.

Dr. Chitwood:
In addition to saying thank you for all that you’re already doing, pastors and churches, getting through the [inaudible 00:41:09] program and Lottie Moon Christmas offering. Let me then settle in on where we hope to go.

Dr. Chitwood:
As Kevin has mentioned, we have goals. In fact, there are five of those goals, and I’ll delineate those very quickly. As he said, 500 more missionaries. That number is not just a random number. We’ve asked the field. Our field leaders from those nine affinities I was talking about. We’ve asked them, “How many more personnel do you need in your part of the world to make the greatest impact with the fewest missionaries, given the opportunity this Lord has set in front of you?” We added their responses together and came to that number at 500.

Dr. Chitwood:
So, that’s what we’re asking God for, and that’s what we’re asking Southern Baptists to help sacrificially support. That’s going to necessitate a greater connection of our churches. Only about half of Southern Baptist churches give through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. The Lottie Moon Christmas offering is our primary source of funding. We get over half of our revenue and support for missionaries through Lottie.

Dr. Chitwood:
We get, then, about a third of it through the cooperative program. So, both of those are vital for us. But we want to see at least 75% of Southern Baptist churches giving through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. So, if your church isn’t giving through that offering, if you’d consider, just one Sunday, passing the plate twice. Or, if you have fellow pastors who aren’t giving through that offering, tell them about the opportunity. Every penny of that is used for work among the nations. And none of that goes to the support team here in the States. It all goes to the work among the nations. 100%.

Dr. Chitwood:
So, we want to see 500 more missionaries. We want to see 75% of churches giving through CP. We want to see 75 global cities engaged with the gospel. That’s a very specific strategy. Over half the world’s population now lives in the city. By the end of this century, over 80% of the world’s population, we’re told, will be in the cities.

Dr. Chitwood:
And so, particularly those mega-cities in the world, we have to have a strategy in those, and over the next five years, we want to set a strategy specifically for 75 cities.

Dr. Chitwood:
Fourth, we want to see the Lottie Moon offering grow every year. Not just the number of churches giving, but the amount that’s given, by about 6%. And that’s what it would take to take care of these additional 500 missionaries. How much money is 6%? Well, that’s about, just over 50 million. Closer to 60 million dollars. Oh my gosh. That’s a lot of money.

Dr. Chitwood:
Well, when you divide that among 46, 47,000 churches, it’s just about 200 bucks per church extra that’s given each year through the Lottie. You said, well, only half the churches are giving. Okay. If the half that are giving give. 400 more dollars a year, we can support those additional 500 missionaries.

Dr. Chitwood:
So, it is doable, when you break it down that way. When you break it down among our 60 million Southern Baptists, it’s like a buck 25 a piece that we have to give extra every year through Lottie. And so, another goal that we have is seeing the growth in that offering.

Dr. Chitwood:
Then, the last goal really concerns the globalization of the missionary task. You’ll be encouraged, Maryland/Delaware Baptist, to know that there are 140 Baptist conventions and unions around the world, outside of the United States, that are a result of 175 years of mission work that Southern Baptists have been doing. Those 140 Baptists conventions and unions around the world, some are sending their own missionaries to the nations. Some are not. We want to help them. We want to leverage them.

Dr. Chitwood:
And in fact, we want to see 500 global partner missionaries serve on IMB teams. So, we’re really trying to spread this out. We know that Revelations 7:9 vision, what we accomplished by Southern Baptists in and of ourselves. And so, how we partner with others to see the mission force exponentially grow is the goal to that.

Dr. Chitwood:
And those are those five goals. Pray with us that the Lord would provide. He would challenge us to challenge ourselves. And we really feel like, even in light of COVID-19, and maybe, in some ways, especially in light of COVID-19, we feel like there are more opportunities around the world today than every before. We have the privilege of living in the most populous century in the history of the world. More people today in the world that God has allowed us to be stewarding the great commission work of this century in the most populous time.

Dr. Chitwood:
So, God must have a lot of confidence in us, and he’s given us a great opportunity, with harvest fields, and by working together, I believe we can see great things accomplished for the kingdom.

Dr. Smith:
Amen. I told you that was the last question, but something you said made me want to squeeze one more in.

Dr. Chitwood:
I’m all ears.

Dr. Smith:
I don’t know all the IMB nomenclature and the acronyms, but we have some outstanding universities here in our state convention. University of Maryland College Park. John Hopkins University. And for educational opportunities and for work opportunities, at different points, Maryland/Delaware Baptists go all around the world.

Dr. Smith:
What is that program or approach where, if a Southern Baptist is going somewhere globally for his or her work or education, they can affiliate or cooperate with our team there on the ground while they’re there for education or while they’re there for their work? So, they’re not a paid missionary, but they are going to work in conjunction of be a part of that team. What is that? Could you briefly share about that?

Dr. Chitwood:
Yes. That’s a team associate. And a team associate is a Southern Baptist, just as you said, who is going to be overseas and they have their own support for that. They’re there for education or career, but they want to serve the great commission cause while they’re there, which we would encourage every Southern Baptist living overseas to do.

Dr. Chitwood:
You can literally do that in a couple of levels. One, you can just connect with your IMB missionaries. Be of encouragement to them. Try to help them out. Or, you can come through the appointment process and be a formal team member. And we call those team associates. As a team associate, you would be a part of the missionary team there in the city or community where you’re living and be very engaged in the strategic work alongside our missionaries, and as a missionary.

Dr. Chitwood:
So, great opportunities for people to be involved, and I’m glad you asked the question, because, particularly as your pastors, by interacting with church members overseas, they can inform them and share with them about this opportunity to be on mission while they’re doing the work or getting their education.

Dr. Smith:
Amen. Well, bless the Lord. Brother, I thank you so much for your time. You are a fellow Tennesseean like my dear wife. She, from Chattanooga. You from Jellico. And again, we served so many years together in the commonwealth of Kentucky, and ultimately, what you serve in there is the executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.

Dr. Smith:
But I’ll never forget when you were president of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, you reached out to a pastor, you said, “Hey brother. Why don’t you let me put you on the committee on committees?” And since that point, there’s been a lot more meetings in my life had that point not happened.

Dr. Chitwood:
But think of all you’ve been able to be a part of, by God’s grace.

Dr. Smith:
Amen. So, brother, we thank the Lord for you, and Michelle, and the kids, and we pray that you would have a wonderful afternoon. And again, thank you so much for your time.

Dr. Chitwood:
Thank you, Kevin. Love you brother.

Dr. Smith:
Love you brother. God bless you.

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