A recent article in the Baptist Presss reported the trustees of the International Mission Board meeting in Shreveport, LA this past week adopted the 2010 operating budget. During this adoption process, the trustees learned that it would be necessary to move 7.5 million dolars from a contingency reserve fund in order to balance the budget. This action was necessary because revenue is expected to be lower than expenses in 2010. When you couple this with the fact that the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering came in under the national goal, it paints a sobering picture.
As a result, the IMB will be cutting back or restructuring two programs and possibly losing up to 600 positions. One of the programs being restructured is the Masters Program. The Masters Program is a program that offers the opportunity to those 50 years or over to serve overseas for a term of two or three years. Part of the restructure will call for those in the Masters Program to produce part of their own support, while the IMB provides logistical support. About the reduction in staff, the BP article goes on to say, “the drawdown in the missionary force during 2010 will be accomplished through natural attrition, completion of service, retirements and limiting appointments , not by recalling any personnel, the trustees were told” (emphasis mine). It appears that missionaries will not be coming off the field, but there may be a delay of new missionaries getting to the field.
I want to make a few observations here:
1. In regards to the Masters Program. I don’t feel that those who are appointed to this program (or any other IMB missionary service program) should have to provide their own support. I believe it is distracting to and detracts from their work on the field. I would not be in favor of them, or any other IMB missionary having to leave the field in order to come home,drum up financial support then return to the field. It is counterproductive.
2. Gordon Fort, IMB VP for Global Strategy said further in this article, “Because economic realities are forcing IMB to retrench its efforts, the organization must delibrately plan to have fewer missionaries — with implications for a lost world that should distress Southern Baptist church members.” There seems to be a mentality creeping into mission boards that is already in our corporate world today. That thought: do more with less. There is no way that you can reach more people, in more countries, in more languages, through more cultural barriers, with less personnel. I just can’t believe that. How can the IMB and the SBC justify one one hand our current population growth and on the other, as Fort says, “the organization must delibrately plan to have fewer missionaries”?
3. I believe somewhere along the line from the church to the state convention to the IMB there needs to be an adjustment to the Cooperative Program percentages. Fort went on to say, “When Southern Baptists collected $11.1 billion in offering plates in 2008, accoring to denomination’s Annual Church Profile, and 2.7% “finally arrive to support the vision of reaching a lost world, and when [Southern Baptists] are structuring ourselves in a way that guarantees we will fail in our mission, it just shouldn’t be.” I tend to agree. In my opinion, we have a structure problem. Southern Baptist churches decide what percentage of their undesignated offerings will be given to the CP through the state convention. The state convention then decides what percentage of those gifts will remain in the state and what percentage will be forwarded to the SBC mission boards and other entities. In tomorrow’s post, I will show how much actually makes it to the IMB from the church level.
I find articles and stories like these tragic. In a day where the population is growing and anvenues are opening up for the gospel to be shared, the worst thing we can see is a lack of personnel to meet the growing need. What can we do? We can pray. We can pray the financial barrier will be removed and our missionaries who are waiting can hit the ground running.