The International Mission Board (or IMB, formerly the Foreign Mission Board) is a missionary sending agency affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) which operates in virtually every nation except the United States and Canada (these nations are serviced by the SBC's North American Mission Board). The IMB receives most of its funding through the SBC's Cooperative Program and the annual Lottie Moon Christmas Offering taken up in Southern Baptist congregations.
Thousands of small Southern Baptist churches dotted the landscape throughout the United States in the mid-19th century. Recognizing that many churches working together in missions could accomplish more than any one, the Board of Foreign Missions was established on May 10, 1845 (the same date the Southern Baptist Convention was formed) and headquartered in Richmond, Virginia, USA. Created as a sending organization funded through the cooperative efforts of SBC churches, they chose China as their first mission field and on September 1, 1845 the board appointed their first missionary, Samuel C. Clopton.
In January 1849 the board began The Commission magazine to keep constituents informed of the mission work being carried out. Monthly circulation of the periodical reached 7,000 by April 1850 and is currently an online magazine, although there is an occasional print issue. Their first publication, Southern Baptist Missionary Journal is defunct.
On July 7, 1873 the board appointed its most famous missionary, Charlotte D. “Lottie” Moon, to China. Lottie served many years among the Chinese and after giving her life to foreign missions, she became the namesake for the annual fund-raising effort, The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering sponsored by the Woman's Missionary Union, another SBC institution. By December 1950 the Board had appointed a record-breaking 111 missionaries in that year alone.
In July 1964 the Board began a new effort to send single missionaries called the Journeyman Program. Today the Journeyman Program sends out hundreds of college-educated singles and married couples under 27 years of age each year for two-year terms throughout the world. In February 1989 the International Service Corps program was introduced to facilitate short-term missions for projects lasting from 4 to 24 months with a possible 12-month extension.
The Foreign Mission Board celebrated its 150th year anniversary in 1995 and in 2001 exceeded 5,000 missionaries on the field for the first time. In 1997 the Foreign Mission Board voted to change its name to the International Mission Board which it is known by today.
In 2005 Tony Cupit of the Baptist World Alliance accused IMB of conveying “a very false picture” by manipulating baptism statistics, such as by claiming all as the work of their missionaries without acknowledging local preachers and non-visited churches as adding to the total number.
In June 2006, Enid, Oklahoma pastor and IMB trustee Wade Burleson voiced concerns about IMB, including: "The suppression of dissent by trustees in the minority through various means by those in the majority.” He voiced his concerns after the board recommended he be removed after posting criticism on his blog about the board’s new policies on baptism and speaking in tongues. The decision was later rescinded internally after Burleson agreed to a new set of guidelines stating trustees may only speak in "positive and supportive terms."