RICHMOND, Virginia (KT)— The International Mission Board’s trustees unanimously elected Kentuckian Paul Chitwood as the organization’s new president.
Chitwood, who has served the past seven years as executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, will transition immediately into the new role.
"It's by God's grace that I am here," he said after taking the podium for the first time as IMB president. "I am grateful."
A former chairman of IMB’s board of trustees, Chitwood, 48, has served as pastor in Kentucky for 18 years before being elected KBC executive director in 2011. The churches he has served have averaged giving 18.5 percent through the Cooperative Program to fund the missionaries who are taking the gospel to the nations.
He served as an IMB trustee from 2002 through 2010 and was chairman from 2008 through 2010. His overseas short-term mission involvement includes work in Brazil, Peru, India, China, South Africa, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Kenya, England, Spain, Germany and Haiti.
Kentucky Baptist Convention President Tim Searcy, pastor of Allen Baptist Church near Prestonsburg, congratulated Chitwood on his appointment.
"It is our belief that he is God’s man to lead this great agency in the effort to carry the Gospel to the world," Searcy said. "His work with Kentucky Baptists has been invaluable to the Kingdom and much appreciated."
Chuck Pourciau, pastor of Broadmoor Baptist Church in Shreveport, Louisiana, and chair of IMB’s Presidential Search Committee, presented Chitwood and his family to IMB trustees.
“We experienced a God moment,” Pourciau said. “We knew it when it happened, and God removed all doubt. I am pleased that all 15 members of the Presidential Search Committee voted to nominate Dr. Chitwood and that in a secret ballot all IMB trustees voted unanimously to affirm Dr. Chitwood as the next president of the IMB.”
Pourciau said that when seeking the man God had already chosen, the search committee found itself in a dilemma: “In essence, this search was about two sides of the ocean,” he said. “The leader of the IMB of the SBC must excel in two completely different environments, one filled with Southern Baptist overseas missionaries and the other filled with Southern Baptist brothers and sisters in the states. This raised many questions. Can any leader excel in both venues? Is one side of the ocean more important than the other?
“We did finally come to unanimous agreement that we had found the man who would minister effectively and excellently on both sides of the ocean. That man is Dr. Paul Chitwood. Why Dr. Chitwood? First and foremost, God led us to Dr. Chitwood. Second, we believe he will, through dedication and team building, bring the IMB great success on both sides of the ocean.”
In his address to the trustees, Chitwood said he will not bring a new vision to the IMB.
“The IMB’s vision is not ours to fashion,” he said. “God has given it to His church. That vision of Revelation 7:9, of ‘a multitude from every language, people, tribe and nation’ is His vision and, therefore, it is our vision. And we will seek to help Southern Baptists be an even greater part of fulfilling that vision,” Chitwood said.
As a former chair of IMB’s trustees, Chitwood also looks forward to working under the authority and in partnership with IMB’s current trustees.
“A relationship of mutual respect, submission, and partnership between the board and the president is the foundation upon which a successful organization is built and it is vital to the flourishing of Southern Baptist missions,” Chitwood said. “I will enthusiastically support and implement the policies adopted by the board and will count on the support of the board.”
Chitwood also promised he and his wife, Michelle, would “wash the feet of our missionaries, even as we lead and serve our staff."
“I will strive to be humble before our churches, accessible to Southern Baptists, and ever bowing before the Lord with his words ringing in my ears, ‘And you, also, having done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘I am an unworthy servant. I have only done my duty.’”
Chitwood called on Southern Baptists to continue in their work and to increase their commitment to the work through the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.
“I believe it is the desire of every Southern Baptist to once again see our career mission force growing in number,” he said. “And I believe that can happen. It will require, however, a greater generosity and a greater willingness to sacrifice. Southern Baptists are a generous people and while there are many wonderful causes and organizations out there that we help fund, I want to call on Southern Baptists to make funding the work of getting the gospel to the nations through our own Southern Baptist missionaries our first priority in giving. The Great Commission is our first commission. As we work together to fund the Great commission, I will work to create an organization that is strong and stable. We don’t need another reorganization of the IMB in my estimation, but we do need to reestablish a missionary pipeline of God’s choice servants ready to take the gospel to the nations. And I believe that we also need to establish a leadership pipeline where our existing personnel are equipped and empowered to use their God-given gifts to their fullest potential at every level of the organization and where they are always being readied to accept more leadership responsibilities in the organization.”
Chitwood said he intends to guard the IMB’s partnerships with Southern Baptist churches and SBC entities, state conventions and local associations.
"God has blessed Southern Baptists with an amazing structure and unrivaled strategy for mobilizing churches for getting the gospel to the nations through cooperative missions,” he said. "But I believe the Southern Baptist system requires from all of us at every level genuine respect, deep humility, unbroken trust, and mutual loyalty.”
Chitwood’s nomination had received a number of endorsements from Southern Baptists across the convention and overseas.
Al Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville Ky., wrote after the Nov. 6, announcement of Chitwood’s candidacy: “I am so thankful for this announcement. I have known Paul Chitwood for many years. He is one of the most faithful and effective ministry leaders I know. He has the heart, mind and soul to lead the International Mission Board with skill, devotion, energy, and vision. He loves Christ and is passionate to get the gospel to the ends of the earth. This is a great day for the Southern Baptist Convention.”
Dr. Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board, agreed, saying “I am incredibly excited about this announcement. Paul and I were fellow pastors and friends for years in Kentucky, and we have had a great partnership with the Kentucky Baptist Convention under his leadership. I am looking forward to partnering with him and IMB for years to come. I know God will use him greatly in this new role.”
Sandra Wisdom-Martin, Executive Director/Treasurer of Woman’s Missionary Union, said she is “confident Dr. Chitwood will inspire and motivate all Southern Baptists to enthusiastically embrace the Great Commission as a personal mandate.”