LUTZ–In conjunction with the 2023 Florida Baptist State Convention annual meeting, Florida Baptists hosted a Sending Celebration Nov. 14 at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz to celebrate and pray for 49 recently appointed International Mission Board missionaries.
Tommy Green, Florida Baptists’ executive director-treasurer, welcomed attendees, saying, “We are ‘all in’ in Florida for missions.”
He backed up his claim with facts. Currently, 289 Florida Baptists are serving as active missionaries through the IMB, including the McDowells who participated in a Sending Celebration in June and are now serving in Poland as well as three other Florida Baptist couples who participated in a Sending Celebration in September and are now serving in secure locations throughout the world. Florida is home to 797 retired IMB missionaries.
Generous giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering® and the Cooperative Program is the financial channel to send and support IMB missionaries.
Over the past 25 years, Florida Baptist churches have given $143 million to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering®. Since 1925, Florida Baptist churches have given $1,321,056,055 to the Cooperative Program.
IMB President Paul Chitwood expressed appreciation to Idlewild Baptist Church for hosting the Sending Celebration and thanked Florida Baptists for their continued support. Already this year, large donations have gotten the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering® season off to a robust start.
“Our goal this year is $200 million, and I believe we can reach that,” Chitwood said.
The Sending Celebration included stories of how God called His missionaries to serve overseas, a challenge from Chitwood and prayer for the missionaries as they are readying to be sent to the nations.
‘Go and tell’
Referencing, 2 Kings 7, Chitwood shared the account of the four lepers who, after witnessing the deliverance of God said, “We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news. If we are silent and wait until the morning light, punishment will overtake us. Now therefore come; let us go and tell the king’s household.”
Chitwood said, “God expects that we tell others what He has done. Our world is full of people who don’t know the enemy has been defeated.”
As the Israelites faced a grave problem in the lepers’ day, the world faces the greatest problem, lostness, now. Chitwood reminded attendees that believers know the solution – the gospel.
“Like them,” he said, referencing the lepers, “let us determine that we will go and tell the good news.”
He added to the crowd in the sanctuary, “If God is calling any of you to go, the IMB is hiring!”
As the Sending Celebration closed, Jeff Ginn, IMB’s vice president of mobilization, led attendees in prayer. He asked them to “hold the ropes” as William Carey, the father of modern missions, requested of the church in his day. Gathering around the newly commissioned missionaries, friends, family and Florida Baptists prayed for the new missionaries who are going to tell the nations about what God has done.
Partnership with state conventions
The IMB has been conducting Sending Celebrations in conjunction with state convention annual meetings since 2019, including Oklahoma in 2019; Alabama in 2020, cancelled because of COVID; South Carolina in 2021, and Georgia in 2022. Plans to continue to do so are set forth through 2027.
“When IMB joins with state conventions for a Sending Celebration during the annual meetings, it clearly represents God working throughout every element of Southern Baptists’ cooperative efforts to engage missions from local neighborhoods to the most isolated locations on earth. Churches experience the joy of living out the Great Commission by celebrating God’s incredible plan of evangelizing, discipling and equipping individuals to be sent into ministry service through partnership with the IMB,” said Chris Martin, IMB’s director of convention, associations and network partnerships.
With reporting by Myriah Snyder, International Mission Board.