By Catherine Finch
RICHMOND – As part of its February emphasis on racial diversity in missions, the International Mission Board hosted a panel discussion called “The Future of Missions: Why Biblical Diversity Matters” Feb. 25.
The conversation, which was streamed on Facebook and through the IMB: Advance the Kingdom app, will be ongoing, as it is vital to IMB’s vision, IMB President Paul Chitwood said.
“The diversity discussion at the IMB will continue because the Word of God is clear. We need churches who reflect the people of this world,” Chitwood said. “These are not singular discussions. We are making a long-term commitment to support a more racially diverse missions force around the world.”
The event opened with testimonies from IMB missionaries and IMB student mobilizer, Adeola Adelere, who was born in Nigeria and grew up in South Carolina.
“I want to work for people that want to move forward,” she said. “When children who look like me see pictures [of African American missionaries and me] they can say, ‘Wow. I can do it. I can also be a missionary.’” Adelere served for two years as an IMB journeyman before joining the student team in her full-time role.
Chitwood began the panel discussion by clarifying what the IMB means when it uses the word diversity.
“When we use the word diversity at the IMB, we are using it differently than many in the world around us,” he said.
“As a people who view the world through the lens of the Bible, we can best understand diversity by what we see in Scripture. Nowhere is that picture more fully, more powerfully, more beautifully painted than in Revelation 7:9. That’s what we mean at the IMB when we talk about diversity.”
The panel featured a diverse group of Southern Baptists including missionaries, IMB staff and SBC leaders. Panel members discussed why their role is important in reaching a diverse world and how they go about their task. In addition to addressing racial and ethnic diversity, panel members also discussed the importance of involving women in missions and encouraging Deaf churches to discover their role in reaching the lost.
Jason Thomas, African American Church Mobilization Strategist for IMB, explained why his assignment to reach Black churches is so important.
“Nobody is sidelined when it comes to presenting the church as the Bride of Christ,” Thomas said. “God has given us all a mandate to fulfill the Great Commission.”
During the month of February, the IMB has showcased a series called Heroes of Faith and has shared stories of African American missionaries who have been faithful to say “yes” to God’s call. On Feb. 7, the IMB joined Southern Baptist churches in celebrating the first annual George Liele Church Planting, Evangelism and Missions Day, a day honoring the life and service of the first African American missionary.
Along with celebrating George Liele day, the IMB launched the George Liele Scholarship to support efforts that grow international missions knowledge and experiences among Black Southern Baptist churches.
“This is our vision at the IMB: we need a diverse group of people to engage with a diverse group that will be represented before the throne,” Chitwood said. “Every person has a part to play in fulfilling the Great Commission. Will you join us?” B&R