by Karen Faulkner, Worthy News Correspondent
(Worthy News) – While wracked by controversy over race relations and sexual abuse at home, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has nevertheless been able to report a substantial increase in new believers through its international missions, Christianity Today (CT) reports.
The SBC’s International Mission Board (IMB) recorded 144,000 new believers in 2020, compared to 89,000 in 2019.
The IMB stated in its 2020 Annual Statistical Report that, with 3,552 missionaries posted around the world, the Convention saw a 62% increase in new Christians from 2019 to 2020, CT said. Baptisms rose 81 percent from 47,929 in 2019 to 86,587 in 2020.
The increase was recorded despite the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic: the number of people who heard the Gospel through SBC international missionaries increased from 535,325 in 2019 to 769,494 in 2020, the IMB report said.
According to the report, the pandemic actually offered opportunities to witness through the delivery of food during lockdowns. “When the COVID-19 lockdown started, many Muslims in our area were out of work and in need of food,” the South Asia section of the 2020 Statistical Report said. “Southern Baptists generously provided food for those in need. Local evangelists then had the joy of going house-to-house in Muslim communities providing food and sharing the gospel.”
John Brady, IMB vice president of global engagement told Christianity Today that he was not surprised by the increase despite the pandemic because missionaries had “found innovative, often virtual, ways to present the gospel.”Brady also attributes the good harvest to an IMB discipleship plan that takes new believers through 35 Bible passages “which teach the necessity and power of transformation that comes from God.”
The new Christians then share those passages with their neighbors “and repeat the process,” Brady told CT. After that, they “go on to other studies such as a biblical plan to teach key doctrines and leadership development,” Brady said.