ALBUQUERQUE (BNM) - International Mission Board President Paul Chitwood will speak during the Baptist Convention of New Mexico’s Annual Meeting, Oct. 22, in Clovis.
The Baptist New Mexican spoke with Chitwood in advance of his Annual Meeting visit. During the Sept. 26 phone conversation, Chitwood responded to questions on several topics of interest for New Mexico Baptists, including international missions, local missions, serving refugees and asylum-seekers, and the importance of state missions offerings.
On Sept. 25, the IMB hosted a Sending Celebration to commission several new international missionaries. As IMB president, Chitwood oversaw the celebration. BNM asked Chitwood what steps New Mexico Baptists who feel called to international missions should take. “We work with a lot of people who are just exploring and possibly trying to discern what the Lord has for them. And so, we are very accustomed to having those conversations and … helping them understand the application process,” Chitwood explained. He encourages anyone to visit www.imb.org, explore opportunities and submit their contact information.
“Don’t hesitate, because we do have fully funded positions available, right now, and lots of other pathways to go on to get overseas. Right now, we need more applicants in the process. We’re sending new missionaries,” Chitwood added.
When asked how local churches could develop a culture of sending international missionaries, Chitwood offered three avenues. First, provide an opportunity for church members to respond to the call to missions. Second, incorporate missions education into church programming (for example WMU, Royal Ambassadors and Girls in Action). Third, offer church members some of IMB’s opportunities for short-term mission work.
Since New Mexicans represent a diverse range of nationalities and ethnicities, BNM asked Chitwood to comment on opportunities to serve the nations in New Mexico. He encouraged Christians to practice the Great Commission everywhere, including at home. “Don’t miss the opportunity,” he cautioned. “There is a growing reality across the United States, certainly in your part of the world, where the Lord is bringing the nations to us.”
Regarding local missions, Chitwood encouraged churches to utilize their state convention as well as the IMB. “State convention ministries offer equipping to churches as they are trying to reach immigrants or different ethnic groups in their area,” he said. “At the IMB [we] have a ministry called EthniCity. We offer some equipping, training and resources [through] that.”
Chitwood mentioned that, right now, immigrants offer many opportunities for mission work. “Many of the immigrants or refugees who make it through cities or towns where Southern Baptists [live] are people in need. And, they sometimes have a lot of pain that they are carrying and have been in some very difficult situations,” he noted. “It’s a great opportunity to extend the love of Christ and in many cases, get the opportunity to share the Gospel and see a person saved.”
State Missions Offerings
In a Sept. 4 Baptist Press article, Chitwood emphasized the importance of state convention missions offerings. During his phone conversation with BNM, Chitwood elaborated further. “State convention work, I believe, is vital to the SBC ecosystem,” he said. “It’s also one of the best ways to see a state reached with the Gospel - churches in a state partnering together. The mantra that we always use in Baptist life is, ‘We can do more together than we can on our own.’ And, the state convention is the vehicle through which churches work together to reach their state.”
Chitwood directly addressed giving. “Funding that work is necessary. It doesn’t matter what level of work you are talking about. [Whether] you’re talking about the work of your local church in a city, or an association or a state convention, or overseas,” he explained. “It takes dollars to drive the Gospel forward. That’s why I believe that state convention missions offerings - [giving] to mission work in a state - should be supported by every church who is a part of the convention.”
BCNM Annual Meeting
Chitwood said he is looking forward to speaking at the BCNM Annual Meeting and visiting with New Mexico Baptists. He told the BNM, “I haven’t spent much time in New Mexico, and I’m looking forward to meeting more Baptists from New Mexico. I certainly know your executive director [Joseph Bunce] very well. And, we have one of your New Mexican Baptists on our governing [trustee] board at the IMB. But, the chance to meet more brothers and sisters of Baptist faith and partners in the Gospel in New Mexico is mostly what I’m looking forward to.”
Chitwood will speak five times during the 2019 BCNM Annual Meeting. Four are free: during the Pastors and Men’s Conference, during a joint session of that group and the New Mexico WMU, during the Oct. 22 afternoon Annual Meeting session, and during that evening’s Annual Meeting session. He will also speak during the ticketed IMB Connect Dinner between the Tuesday afternoon and evening Annual Meeting sessions. The dinner requires advance registration and costs $15 per person. For information, visit www.bcnm.com/IMBConnect. All events featuring Chitwood will take place at Central Baptist Church, Clovis.