Floyd urges prayer for more laborers as IMB trustees pursue missionary task

ONTARIO, Calif.?International Mission Board chairman John Floyd of Tennessee had a personal question to ask of the 79 trustees who gathered Jan. 29-31 in Ontario, Calif., as they imagined a day when all unreached people groups are engaged with the gospel.

“How long has it been since God called anyone out of your congregation to serve overseas? How long has it been since God called out of your congregation someone to serve in full-time Christian service?” Floyd asked.

While Southern Baptists are giving at record levels to fund missionary support, the IMB is not appointing as many people to serve around the world as anticipated. Even with the latest appointment service at Immanuel Baptist Church in Highland, Calif., where 43 new missionaries were commissioned, when balanced by the retirements and resignations, the number serving has flatlined, Floyd said.

“Most would assume the CFO of a board would be pleased to have over $2.5 million available to be used for other needs in the future,” IMB Vice President David Steverson said prior to the board approving reallocation of year-end surplus funds. “Let me quickly say that rather than coming to you with a surplus, I would much rather come to you and say we need an additional $2.5 million in order to close the books,” he said, referring to earlier years when the budget was overspent due to the appointment of more missionaries than anticipated.

Reiterating IMB President Jerry Rankin’s plea for more short-term workers, Steverson shared that the number of long-term missionaries who had previously served in a shorter-term program had declined from about 40 to 30 percent.

“Short-term personnel function as a farm team, providing long-term missionaries,” Steverson concluded.

Rankin expressed gratitude for the board’s affirmation of IMB staff, adding that they “continue to be appropriately conscientious about examining each candidate” with an impressive pattern of approval for those brought for consideration.”

Convinced that Southern Baptists are capable of meeting the stated goal of sending out 1,000 missionaries each year, Rankin insisted, “We will not accelerate and recover” by “increasing long-term missionaries to 400 or 500 a year unless we radically increase the number of short-term missionaries to 800 to 1,000 a year.”

He called on Southern Baptists to “saturate the world” with the gospel witness of short-term missionaries who provide essential logistical support.

“The field strategies floundering with a lack of needed personnel would be invigorated and the number of career missionaries would increase,” Rankin said.

He also appealed to staff to more aggressively publicize personnel needs and innovatively recruit more candidates.

“We’ve always been passive in enlisting missionaries,” Rankin said, preferring prospective candidates take the initiative in responding.

“I’m not suggesting a loosening of qualifications. We must be sure candidates are doctrinally sound, healthy, adequately equipped. But I’m concerned we must find ways to reverse the current trend by renewed commitment to mobilization and a desire that the IMB be the agency of choice for Southern Baptist missionaries being called ou

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