RICHMOND, Va. (BP) – What would happen if the more than 47,000 churches in the Southern Baptist Convention were directly connected to International Mission Board missionaries and actively engaged in fulfilling the Great Commission?
IMB leadership estimates that almost 50 percent of Southern Baptist churches have no known connection to an IMB missionary. Church Connections was recently introduced to remedy this gap in relationships and directly connect IMB missionaries to Southern Baptist 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.
“To live out our mission statement that the IMB ‘exists to serve Southern Baptists in carrying out the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations,’ we must prioritize our relationships with SBC churches,” Chitwood said. “The Church Connections initiative allows us to do just that by building sustained, ongoing relationships so that every Southern Baptist church is connected with at least one IMB missionary.”
Church Connections began in 2020 with a pilot program involving 10 percent of IMB’s missionaries. April 5 was the official launch, and 22,000 churches were given to 900 missionaries to make a contact.
“We want to see every missionary connecting, every church participating, and all of us stewarding well the Revelation 7:9 vision of every nation, all tribes, peoples and languages being represented before God’s throne,” Chitwood said.
Andy Pettigrew, an IMB affinity stateside associate, estimates by the middle of 2022, every Southern Baptist church will receive a personal contact from a missionary.
Pettigrew said the impetus for Church Connections came from a desire to better serve Southern Baptists while partnering to fulfill the Great Commission by making disciples of all nations.
“[What] unites us is our shared conviction and our shared mission in proclaiming the Gospel among the nations, and I believe that God has ordained the local church to carry out His divine mission,” Pettigrew said. “As we serve churches to that end, we as an organization have a responsibility and a great stewardship to connect back to those churches.”
Pettigrew and the eight couples serving as affinity stateside associates are equipping missionaries as they make connections with churches. Pettigrew serves personnel serving in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Missionaries are writing notes, making phone calls and sending emails as a first step in connecting with churches. As missionaries connect with church leaders, their conversations center around the questions, “How can we serve you? How can we come alongside you? How can we encourage you?”
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Source: Baptist Press