Changing Faces at the IMB

The International Mission Board has reported that Dr. Jerry Rankin, president of the IMB has announced his retirement that will take place on July 31, 2010. Dr. Rankin made this announcement while in Jacksonville, FL at the IMB Missionary Appointment Service that was held at FBC Jacksonville where 60 new missionaries were appointed. You can read about that service here.

Let me say that I have never met Dr. Rankin personally. I have heard him share mission messages and his heart for the lost at various convention settings. This man has a true heart for mission work and the lost. I am thankful that such a passionate and humble man had led our IMB fo the past 17 years. During his leadership, the missionary force has grown to what it is today. Here is how the IMB looks today. There are over 5500 missionaries, nearly 27000 churches have been planted in total, 101 new people groups have been engaged for a total 1190 different people groups being reached.

I have served on six short-term mission trips through the IMB to Honduras and Nicaragua. I have been impacted and challenged by Dr. Rankin’s vision for the IMB. As I have watched and participated in IMB ministry over the years, the IMB has had some real challenges. One challenge has always been present and will always be there. I am speaking of the challenge to take a message of love and hope to an unloving world. It is a call to take the message of Jesus to the unsafe and dangerous parts of the world. Dr. Rankin has consistently encouraged and challenged the Southern Baptist Convention to trust God above all else and go. We are seeing time and time again individuals and couples willing to put their lives on the line tht othes might hear. Amazing.

Another challenge that has surfaced recently is the decrease in giving to the Cooperative Program. As you may or not know, our missionaries are solely funded by the CP gifts from every SBC church and from the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. As a result of these tough economic times, mission funding has decreased. I have written about that here. Today, the IMB has candidates who willing, capapble, qualified, and approved to go the field, however, the money is not there to send them. Tragic.

I will be praying earnestly for our IMB. I cahllenge you and encourage you to pray as well. How can you pray? Here are a few suggestions.

1. Pray the IMB will seek a president that has a passion for the lost and that will listen to God as how to reach them.

2. Pray for the safety, security, and success of our missionaries already on the field worldwide.

3. Pray the funds will come available through increased CP giving to be able to send those missionaries who are waiting to go.

4. Pray that God will open a door for you to go.

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.