IMB trustees approve slight budget increase, begin reorganization of mission board

HOUSTON–Trustees of the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board, meeting in Houston Nov. 10-11, approved a 2009 budget of $319.8 million–a 1.05 percent increase–while moving further along in the reorganization of the board’s missionary work, approving the reassignment of some IMB leaders with new titles and responsibilities.

The meeting preceded the appointment Nov. 11 of 105 new IMB missionaries–the third-largest group since at least 1980–during a commissioning service that closed the annual meeting of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention at Houston’s First Baptist Church.

Trustee chairman Paul Chitwood of Kentucky told the board, “We have more people coming to us than ever before, and yet our 2009 budget allows no room to send and support more missionaries than we have on the field.”

Stating his hope that the IMB would not be set back in its work because of a faltering economy, “I think it is urgent for us to sound the alarm,” Chitwood said, “before it is too late.”

He challenged fellow trustees to “dig deep in your pockets as the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering approaches,” and encourage the churches to give generously.

“I pray our generosity would match that of the Macedonian churches who gave as much as they were able, as [the apostle] Paul says, gave even beyond their ability to do so.”

The Lottie Moon goal for 2008 is $170 million, which accounts for 53.16 percent of the IMB budget. Southern Baptists gave $150.4 million through the Lottie Moon Offering in 2007.

David Steverson, IMB treasurer and vice president for finance, told trustees the stateside administrative costs would be reduced by 1 percent in 2009.

“The long-term run rate of the administrative part of the work of the Lord will be reduced,” Steverson explained in talking about the budgetary effect of the reorganization. “The efficiency is something that will be quite marvelous” and “well pleasing to the Lord.”

Despite a dismal stock market, Steverson said the IMB’s losses on investments were less than other organizations because of a diversified portfolio.

Steverson said despite the turbulence, “over the last few years our balance sheet shows a substantial increase in net assets. I believe the Lord has prepared us for this time.

“We have this budget just so those missionaries can tell people about Jesus Christ?. Let’s be faithful in remembering who we place our trust in. It’s not Wall Street.”

Steverson said he often goes to bed late at night so he can see the first reports from the opening of the Asian stock markets. “But when I go to sleep, I sleep like a baby because I know who my confidence is in and that is not going to change.”

IMB President Jerry Rankin told trustees the current group of missionaries in training at the Missionary Learning Center in Richmond, Va., is the largest ever.

Rankin said the reshaping of the board’s work is a “formidable task that must be bathed in prayer.” It is the most significant change in the board’s strategy since 1998.

“Continue to pray with us and for us as we collaborate to find those most qualified and led of God” to assume leadership at the IMB in the future.

Rankin said the current economy requires “radical stewardship” and a focus on “one overarching purpose of reaching a lost world.”

Rankin said a term popular at the IMB is “wigtake,” meaning “Whatever it’s going to take” to complete the mission.

Rankin said he personally has accepted that challenge, and has asked each IMB vice president to “do whatever it takes to fulfill our Great Commission task.”

That commitment was signified by the signing by the signing by IMB staff leaders and trustees of a globe Rankin brought to the meeting.

If the reorganization goes as planned, the IMB’s mission of reaching every people group worldwide with the gospel will be aided by a new, streamlined strategy that reshapes the Southern Baptist agency’s work more by religious and cultural affinity than by geography, and maximizes frontline personnel for gospel proclamation.

IMB staff and trustees approved the ambitious reorganization in September and moved further along in the process Nov. 11 by reassigning some IMB leaders with new titles and responsibilities and appointing affinity group strategists.

A task force of trustees and IMB leaders who studied the issue for more than a year recommended the changes, citing changing global conditions and greater stewardship.

“Let’s not forget as we end this [reorganization] that the focus is on effectiveness,” Chitwood, the trustee chairman, said, “Our focus is on results, and we don’t apologize for that. We want to see more souls saved. We want to see more souls saved. We want to see more churches planted. We want to see more believers disciple. We want to see the gospel taken to the nations.

“We want to be more faithful and see greater results …that’s what we’re after in this process—nothing more, nothing less.”

As part of the reorganization, trustees approved the appointment of Randy Pegues as vice president in the new office of global logistical support and Tom Williams as vice president of the office of global personnel. Both will serve in their positions as regional leaders until spring 2009.

The trustees also approved affinity group strategists to work among the eight major religious and cultural groups by which the board will divide its work. These affinity group strategists will work. These affinity group strategists will work. These affinity group strategists will work within the Northern African and Middle Eastern Peoples, Central Asian Peoples, European Peoples, East Asian Peoples, South Asian Peoples, America’s Peoples, and Sub-Saharan African Peoples.

A significant streamlining of administrative duties will be accomplished through four “continental administrative centers” placed strategically around the world, allowing missionaries and their supervisors to focus more on frontline missions, reorganization task force chairman Chuck McAlister said.

The board also received its annual statistic report, showing that IMB missionaries implemented church planting strategies among 1,194 people groups in 2007, including 909 are that considered unreached, meaning that fewer than 2 percent of the population are Christians.

The 27,000 new churches IMB missionaries planted raises the level of IMB-initiated congregations to 182,000—a record number. Baptisms in these churches exceeded 565,900.

The IMB’s next meeting is scheduled for Jan. 26-28 in Richmond, Va.

TEXAN Correspondent
Jerry Pierce
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