by Julie McGowan
RICHMOND, Va. — International Mission Board trustees approved the appointment of 27 new missionaries, welcomed 11 new board members, and announced a vice president of mobilization during their board meeting Aug. 23-24 near Richmond, Va.
Trustees also welcomed a visit from Steve Gaines, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, who serves as an ex-officio member of the board in his SBC role. Gaines is pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn.
IMB President David Platt addressed trustees during the entity’s Aug. 24 plenary session.
“Two years ago at this trustee meeting, by God’s grace alone, this body elected me to lead this IMB family,” he said. “Now, two years later, I find myself standing here at the end of a deeply encouraging two days with trustees during which we have discussed where the IMB is now, and we have dreamed about where God is leading the IMB in the days ahead.
“Standing on the shoulders of faithful brothers and sisters who’ve gone before us, we find ourselves looking to the future where we have a unique opportunity to mobilize multitudes more faithful brothers and sisters to go to the nations with us in the days to come,” Platt continued, drawing from Hebrews 12:1-2.
Platt said IMB leaders are hard at work considering, “How do we mobilize this entire Southern Baptist ecosystem of tens of thousands of churches, local associations, state conventions, seminaries and other entities for the spread of the Gospel to billions of people who’ve never heard it?” Leaders are meeting with state and national entities and local churches of all sizes to explore how IMB can best serve them and send multitudes more missionaries with them. IMB also is launching a new website this fall, and the board is collaborating with the North American Mission Board to organize 2017 SEND conferences in Southern California (Feb. 3-4), Dallas (May 19-20) and Orlando (July 25-26) to cast a vision for multitudes more men and women taking the Gospel from North America to the nations.
“All of this is aimed at connecting more closely with this entire coalition of churches and entities across the IMB, maximizing the cooperative praying, giving, going and sending potential of Southern Baptists for the spread of the Gospel in missions,” Platt said.
“Keep in mind, though, that the goal is not merely more missionaries,” he noted. “The goal is not even multitudes more missionaries. The goal is more men and women in their sin hearing the news of the King who has conquered sin, believing this good news and giving glory to our God. We’re not mobilizing for the sake of numbers; we’re mobilizing for the sake of our God’s glory among the nations. This is the bottom line of what we do, why we do it, and it’s worth giving our lives for it.”
Edgar Aponte, who currently serves as director of Hispanic leadership development and instructor of theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., was affirmed by trustees as vice president of mobilization. He and his wife Sara are members of Christ Covenant Church in Raleigh, N.C.
“Over the course of prayerful conversations with Edgar, we believe that he is the right person to serve IMB as vice president of mobilization,” Platt told trustees, noting Aponte’s desire to mobilize the church in the U.S. for the spread of the Gospel to the nations.
The vice president of mobilization leads in three significant ways:
— He works with other executive leaders in the overall strategy of the IMB with particular emphasis on the board’s mobilization efforts.
— He leads teams and networks to mobilize churches in sending limitless missionary teams who are making disciples and multiplying churches among unreached people and places for the glory of God.
— He leads at the denominational level in developing relationships and communicating who IMB is to Southern Baptists, while at the same time representing those diverse audiences back to IMB. This involves leading IMB to serve alongside state conventions, associations, SBC entities and other stateside partners.
“Edgar Aponte is an incredibly gifted man of God,” said Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. “The Lord has blessed him with a wide range of abilities and talents. He excels at whatever he does. This is a sad day for Southeastern and me personally. However, it is a great day for the IMB and the advancement of the Kingdom of King Jesus among the nations. He goes to our very close sister entity with my blessing and prayers. This is a great thing for Southern Baptists.”
Prior to his work at SEBTS, Aponte served at the ministry of foreign affairs in Washington, D.C., on behalf of his home nation, the Dominican Republic. His role of minister counselor in the political section involved coordinating the political relations between the embassy and the State Department, Department of Labor, U.S. Congress and Department of Defense; advising the ambassador and authorities on a broad range of policy issues from the bilateral agenda; and engaging in meetings with other embassies and interest groups about specific regional issues such as human trafficking and drug trafficking. Prior to that, he worked in banking for five years.
Aponte earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration; a graduate degree in corporate finance; and a master’s degree in business administration (management). He also earned a master’s degree in Christian ministry from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., and is expected to complete a doctorate in theological studies with a concentration in systematic theology from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary this fall.
In a recent visit with IMB mobilization team leaders, Aponte expressed that he sees the team leading IMB in engaging in strategic partnerships with Southern Baptist churches.
“We are Southern Baptists because of missions,” he said. “That is why the SBC started in 1845. Missions is the heart of who we are as a denomination, … taking the Gospel to where Christ has not been preached. Working together, we can do more than working by ourselves.
“As IMB we have to emphasize the centrality of the CP [Cooperative Program, Southern Baptist’s channel for supporting missions and ministry] in our work of cooperation; the CP has shaped Southern Baptist life for almost 100 years, and God has used it as a means to bless our churches and the nations.”
In other business:
— Rodney Freeman, vice president of support services and IMB treasurer, gave a brief update of the board’s 2015 audited financials.
“I am happy to announce that once again we, the IMB, received an unmodified opinion from our external auditors, RSM, which is the highest level of assurance available,” Freeman said.
In addition to requesting an audit annually by an external auditing firm, IMB applies annually for accreditation from the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability. ECFA provides accreditation to Christian nonprofit organizations that faithfully demonstrate compliance with established standards for financial accountability, transparency, fundraising and board governance. Freeman reported IMB recently received accreditation for the 2015 financial year.
— Trustees viewed the documentary film “The Insanity of God,” which will be shown in select theatres nationwide Aug. 30. The film dramatically conveys stories IMB missionary, Nik Ripken* and his wife Ruth,* gleaned through visiting 72 countries to interview more than 600 believers who had suffered persecution for their faith in Jesus. The film is based on Ripken’s best-selling book, “The Insanity of God” (B&H Publishing Group, 2013).
The Aug. 30 showing will feature a question-and-answer time with the Ripkens and Platt, as well as an exclusive performance of the movie soundtrack feature “Dimitri’s Song” by recording artist Todd Smith. More information is available at www.insanityofgodmovie.com.
— Twenty-seven new missionaries were appointed by the IMB during a special “Sending Celebration,” which recognized both the new personnel and the churches partnering with them to take the Gospel to the nations. The celebration featured testimonies from each of the appointees and a Scriptural charge from Platt. The service highlighted the integral role local churches play in assessing and sending Southern Baptist missionaries.
Julie McGowan is public relations leader for IMB.
Reprinted from Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.