An Unforseen Casualty of the Current Economic Downturn

Most of what is written and reported about toda’y economy is negative. We hear a great deal about how bad things are and how many Americans are not spending money like they once did. This is also true when it comes to the giving as it relates to the church.

I recently read an article that deppressed and concerned me greatly. The trustees of the International Mission Board met recently at their scheduled trustees meeting in Denver on May 19-20. The highlight of this article was the fact that 101 new career missionaries were appointed.  Now the bad news. The IMB is suspending new appointments to its career, apprentice, and associate programs. The appointments that do occur will be more selective and focused upon more strategic assignments. This suspension is to begin immediately and remain in effect until trustess review the suspension again early in 2010.

IMB fundng has been hit by a downturn in Cooperative Program giving and harder than normal economic times. The overall work, support, and logistics of IMB missionaries comes from Cooperative Program giving and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. When the average church members across the SBC don’t give as they once were able to, that in turn leads to fewer missionary appointments to the field and decreased church planting efforts around the world. It is a tragedy to hear there are men and women who are willing, ready, and qualified for appointment, but the funds are limited to send and support them.

As we look at the fields, we pray as Jesus asked us to. He told us pray that the Lord of the harvest would sent workers into the field. God has answered our prayers for workers. However, Paul Chitwood, IMB Trustee Chairman shares what I feel is a sad and painful statement I thought we as Southern Baptists would never hear. He says, “Today, we have more candidates knocking on our door and downloading our applications than ever before. Yet, on this day when God has answered our prayers for workers for His harvest, lack of funding has forced us to temporarily suspend categories for service.” May we as Southern Baptists always remember to “Seek first the kingdom of God” that we might be able to fulfill the Great Commission that has been given to us.

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