IMB trustees call on Executive Committee to propose “substantive changes” to facilitate recruiting, funding and supporting future missionaries

ROGERS, Ark.—International Mission Board President Tom Elliff succeeded in rallying the enthusiastic support of trustees to send a resolution to the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, desiring an “aggressive, proactive and prompt” response to the challenges of missionary mobilization and support. The call for “substantive changes” asks for an EC-developed plan to be presented at the 2014 annual meeting of the SBC in Baltimore enabling the SBC to “operate at maximum effectiveness in taking the gospel to the ends of the earth.”

Texas trustees present at the meeting May 14-15 supported Elliff’s call to pray for revival that will produce laborers and sacrificial giving necessary to support them, as he pled for all Southern Baptists “to give of both our tithes and our offerings, faithfully, sacrificially, regularly, and intelligently.”

While giving is supposed to be done with joy, Elliff said, “Your treasurer and heart generally are found in the same place” and encouraged Southern Baptists to “ensure our giving has maximum Great Commission impact here” as well as “sufficient strength to carry the gospel to the ends of the earth.”

Elliff stuck with the same theme he offered when elected at a board meeting in Grapevine two years ago—finding a means of “going to the ends of the earth now.” Weaving an exposition of his text from Acts 20:25-27 with the background of God’s challenge to the prophet Ezekiel, Elliff said he seeks to be “innocent of the blood of all men.”

“In both instances it is clear that the Lord does hold us personally accountable for our individual response and corporate responsibility to the Great Commission,” he said, reminding that believers will be asked what they did with all with which they were entrusted.

Living at a time of the greatest lostness when fewer than half of the world’s residents will have only the slightest connection with evangelical Christianity, when access to others has never been easier, when the pool of available candidates has grown, and when giving to the offering plates of Southern Baptist churches exceeds $12.2 billion, demonstrating the availability of resources, Elliff said Southern Baptists may not be prepared to fulfill “our part in the Great Commission equation.”

Decreasing support of the Cooperative Program has resulted in fewer missionary personnel—the number now is at about 4,850, signaling impending retrenchment, a condition Elliff said he found unacceptable.

While Oklahoma trustee Cheryl Wright sought to delay consideration of the resolution, finding the support of three other board members, her effort was refused and the original statement offered by Elliff passed without opposition.

Wright expressed her frustration when proposals introduced one day are voted on the next day, preferring a longer time for consideration of the ramifications. “Let’s pray more and let’s give more, but I believe there’s much more to this than just those two cheerleading things,” she said.

Elliff assured her a longer time for consideration would always occur regarding structural changes, but he said he regarded the resolution as “sending a message” asking the Executive Committee to join with the IMB in solving the challenge. His appeal asked for substantive changes to:

—“continue to effectively demolish every racial, ethnic, and generational barrier that constrains us;”

—“make both mission giving and giving more personal by fostering fresh, innovative and effective channels for sending and support, while operating “within the proven and effective cooperative framework” of the SBC;

—“honor, support and utilize the essential nature of the education, training and the advocacy provided” by all SBC entities;

—“open the door to greater sacrifice, building trust through proven transparency at every level” of SBC life;

—“leave to the next generation a Southern Baptist Convention that is doctrinally, structurally, spiritually and passionately prepared to finish the task of global evangelization” should the Lord delay his return, with reference to 2 Corinthians 8:7-11.

Texas trustee Jimmy Pritchard, a former board chairman and pastor of First Baptist Church of Forney, urged passage, stating, “I think this resolution speaks to the very heart of our existence and if the time is now, let’s defeat the amendment [to delay] and take it as far and as fast as we can.”

Trustee Nathan Lorick of Fort Worth called for a vote, ending discussion on the effort to delay.

Trustee Mike Gonzales of Irving told the TEXAN he supported the motion because “This resolution will enable the IMB and the Executive Committee of the SBC to get together and dialogue about future funding for international missions and implementing new strategies in reaching lostness in the world.”

Gonzales was honored for having completed two terms of service on the board.

The resolution does not ask the Executive Committee to do anything they aren’t already assigned, Elliff said. “That’s their job,” he insisted, noting that the EC’s ministry and finance plan determines the structure of the IMB. “We need fresh innovative thinking here,” he added.

Concerned that Southern Baptists often respond to such appeals with “window dressing,” Elliff said, “I’m not talking about something that’s decorative . . . that is trying to placate certain interest groups.” In response to another trustee’s question as to the changes required, Elliff said he did not know the answer, but was simply asking the Executive Committee to start the process of review of “structural changes that could be made in our ministry plan that would enable us to more rapidly carry the gospel to the ends of the earth.”

Elliff added, “It may be funding, it may be recruiting, when and how we speak to issues. The goal is for the Executive Committee to put their thinking caps on, look at some documents designed years ago and think about how we position ourselves for coming years.”

Calling the Cooperative Program a funding mechanism that “does and will continue to serve us well,” Elliff said it was developed when “people were separated by many miles and rarely saw each other. We rarely, if ever, saw missionaries and didn’t know what happened around the world. We don’t live in that world anymore.”

He expressed hope that any suggestions would “vastly improve our ability to recruit, send and support—as I said very carefully—within the framework of our cooperative structure of the Southern Baptist Convention.”

Speaking in favor of the motion, trustee Gene Williams of Georgia said, “I’m not saying this resolution is complete, but I can’t find one thing in it I can’t agree with so I’m going to vote for it.”

IMB Chairman David Uth of Florida confirmed that a trustee task force had been working on solving some of the issues related to budget restraints. “This will help us move forward,” he said.

In addition to business, 58 missionaries, including 14 Texans, were approved for appointment in a commissioning service that was to be held the evening of May 15 at Cross Church of Pinnacle Hills.

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