IMB values partnerships, Chitwood tells advocates

RICHMOND, Va. (BP) -- More than 155,000 people die daily without Christ. This is a harsh and unacceptable reality facing Southern Baptists, IMB President Paul Chitwood told a recent gathering of advocates near Richmond, Va. The lost -- those living apart from a relationship with Christ -- need people who will advocate on their behalf by praying, giving, going and sending.

Paul and Michelle Chitwood share the importance of advocating on behalf of a lost world with more than 250 people during a recent gathering of IMB advocates near Richmond, Va.
Photo by by Nick Seitz/IMB
The gathering, which included Baptist state executives, associational and WMU leaders, former missionaries, student leaders and representatives from other Baptist entities and churches across the United States, encouraged partnerships and networking for the sake of advocating for the lost around the world. IMB leaders shared the vision from Revelation 7:9 of "a great multitude that no one could number from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb."

The vision is "not one we crafted, but one placed in front of us through the revelation to John," Chitwood told the more than 250 gathered advocates.

"If we are to ever see the Great Commission completed toward the vision of a multitude from every tribe before the throne, then we must amplify our voices together," Chitwood said. "Using our voices, God can move professionals, students and retirees from the comfortably padded pews of U.S. churches into the presence of unreached people. Advocacy is how we unleash the body of Christ."

Michelle Chitwood, who shared the platform with her husband Paul during the opening session, compared advocacy for the lost to her role as a foster parent.

"When we were going through training to be a foster parent, our trainer told us a lot of people won't foster because it is hard," Michelle said. "The kids are traumatized, and they come with a whole lot of baggage. But being an advocate is when you stand in the gap, when you carry their hurt, when you carry the load they can't carry. You fight for them in court, and you fight for them in school."

Advocacy in missions is very similar, Michelle said. "Being an advocate for a missionary is one of the highest callings. It is living well."

Frances Potter, a member of Willowbrook Baptist Church in Huntsville, Ala., speaks during open discussion time at a recent gathering of IMB advocates near Richmond, Va.
Photo by by Nick Seitz/IMB
"When we stand in the gap for our missionaries, we stand in the gap for a lost world," Paul Chitwood agreed. "[Understanding my role as an advocate] changed my approach to everything. It changed my approach as an IMB trustee. It changed my approach to pastoring. It changed my approach to teaching seminary classes ... and it changed how I approached leading 2,400 churches" as executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.

During the conference, IMB leaders presented different ways God has led IMB missionaries to engage the lost around the world and how believers in countries like the Philippines and South Korea are now sending their own missionaries.

Chitwood and other IMB leaders also emphasized the need for partnering churches to come alongside IMB personnel to engage the unreached. IMB leaders encouraged church leaders and advocates to "lean on" the 175 years of field experience IMB offers as they seek to develop healthy partnerships around the world.

Daryl Cornett, pastor of First Baptist Church in Aberdeen, N.C., tweeted during the gathering, "I'm encouraged greatly for the advance of the gospel through the IMB in the days ahead! A great heritage and an exciting future!"

"You have been given a voice, one designed to amplify the voice of Christ among the nations," Chitwood told the group. "God has chosen to use you as His mouthpiece, calling others to participate in fulfilling the vision of Revelation 7:9. God has equipped you to join Him in your praying, through your giving, your sending and your going. You have a part to play in this task ... alongside everyone at your home church.

"Together we can do so much more than we could possibly do alone," he said.

To learn more about becoming an IMB advocate, email info@imb.org.

Ann Lovell is editorial/design manager for the International Mission Board.
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