RICHMOND, Va. – The thirteenth president of the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, which oversees approximately 3,600 missionaries, began his service as 19 missionaries were sent around the world to 'proclaim the name of Jesus.'
At a ceremony held at Grove Avenue Baptist Church on Wednesday evening, the IMB officially installed Kentucky Baptist Convention Executive Director Paul Chitwood as their newest president, replacing McLean Bible Church pastor David Platt.
In his remarks, Chitwood drew upon 2nd Corinthians 7:2, which reads “Make room for us in your hearts. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have exploited no one.”
“We know you have made room for us in your hearts,” said Chitwood. “We know that our churches have made room for us in your hearts. We know that Southern Baptists have made room for us in your hearts.”
“And we say thank you. Thank you for making room for us in your hearts, thank you for making room for us in your prayers. Keep making room for us in your prayers.”
Chitwood went on to describe those gathered for the installation service as “partners in this great task of sharing Christ with the nations.”
“Thank you for making room for the good work the Lord has given to all of us to do. You’ve made room. And together, we will strive with all the busyness to carry out that work,” continued Chitwood.
Former IMB President Tom Elliff gave the charge to Chitwood, focusing his message on the word “together” and how it applies to mission work.
“Some of our early missionaries, as you know, [packed] their belongings in caskets knowing they would never come back,” said Elliff.
“What a heritage we have. And it was because, from the very outset, there were people who realized we could do better together than we can apart.”
SBC President J. D. Greear spoke at the ceremony, telling those gathered that he believed Chitwood had a “congenial spirit” and was a “great leader.”
Nevertheless, Greear also stressed that “at the end of the day, we know that we come into this moment depending on Jesus to build His church and not Dr. Chitwood and not any of us.”
“That ought to be a comfort to us and a confidence to us,” stated Greear, “because we are able to submit ourselves into a process, a journey that God has already declared the completion of.”
“We are excited about the leadership that God has given us. And as I mentioned, we could not imagine somebody that better represents not only the spirit of what we want to be, but the dreams of what we believe that we are called to be than Dr. Chitwood. But we know that we come with great hope and great confidence in what God is doing.”
Last November, the IMB board of trustees unanimously elected Chitwood to be the new president of their Richmond-based organization.
In addition to his leadership role in the Kentucky Baptist Convention, Chitwood had served as an IMB trustee from 2002-2010, chairing the board from 2008-2010.
“Being a member of this board for eight years changed my ministry and it changed my life, so much so that [my wife] Michelle and I questioned whether God had called us to overseas missions,” stated Chitwood last year in response to being elected, as reported by Baptist Press.
“During that time on the board of wrestling with that call, it became clear that God's call upon our lives was to be mobilizers of the mission and of the missionaries. And what an incredible privilege it is to have that role. To be able to now see the culmination of that role by sharing in the work of the IMB and leading the IMB is overwhelming to us.”
In addition to Chitwood’s installation, Wednesday’s ceremony also included a “Sending Celebration” for 19 missionaries going overseas to places like Italy, Japan, Germany, Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia.
Each missionary gave a brief testimony about their calling on the stage. For security reasons, a few of them gave their testimonies without stage lighting and with pseudonyms to protect their real identity due to their mission work being in dangerous parts of the world.
Following Chitwood’s remarks, the missionaries went to designated places in the sanctuary, where attendees laid their hands on them and prayed over them, with many verbally speaking their prayers.
Jerry Rankin, IMB’s president emeritus, then gave a prayer from the stage for Chitwood and the missionaries who were being sent out.
“As they go, we pray that they would be faithful to lift up and proclaim the name of Jesus, that they would be blessed to see the power of your Spirit working through that Name and the truth of the Gospel, to turn people from darkness to light,” prayed Rankin.