Dave Miller’s post about the IMB losing 700 missionaries and the subsequent discussion have roused me from my slumber. I have shaken off my lethargy (late night beating the pants off Offspring #1 in chess) and am here to solve everyone’s problems with this particular issue by sharing what the lowest man on the IMB’s totem pole thinks.
A few random thoughts:
How Did 700 Missionaries Go Away?
Dave mentioned that the IMB was previously north of 5,000 missionaries and aiming for 6K at some point, but that now we are down to far less than 5,000. Specifically, he cited a loss of 700 missionaries. I want to clarify something: to the best of my knowledge, no missionary was laid off due to lack of funds. Not one. Instead, the IMB allowed the normal rate of attrition to whittle our numbers down to a reasonable point.
As short-term missionaries finished their term, the positions they previously filled were allowed to end. Retired missionaries were not replaced. Those who resigned to move on to newer challenges left gaps behind them that existing missionaries filled without new workers being appointed. However – no one was fired, laid off, or encouraged to “seek God’s will elsewhere” as a way of reducing numbers to a financially manageable level. I am pretty far down the ranks in the organization, but I think I can confidently hold to this position without embarrassing myself.
What Do Missionaries Seem to Think About the Reduction in Giving?
In all of the emails I’ve seen from within the organization, the comments made by colleagues, the questions that have drifted into my field of vision from friends and leaders on the field, there is a single concept that consistently prevails: thank you so much, SBC churches and members, for what you have so sacrificially given so that we may continue this noble work. I have yet to see, intuit, or deduce a single incident of someone expressing discontent with the pattern of Lottie Moon and Cooperative Program giving.
Said a different way – the IMB missionaries and leaders who stand to feel the brunt of reduced Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon giving happen to be spending, as far as I can tell, zero time complaining about it.
We are indeed going to get less money next year. We won’t see a lot of new personnel. Travel, already reduced greatly, stands to be slashed even more. And yet, I do not believe the average IMB worker spends much time thinking about “them,” those alleged malcontents who are supposedly killing the Cooperative Program. IMB missionaries will work within this new financial reality the same way they’ve worked within all other financial realities: the best they can under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We will continue to be grateful for the gifts and offerings that come our way from SBC churches.
Personally, I feel as though I am in no position to take to task any SBC member who decides to give money outside the Cooperative Program or Lottie Moon Offering. You folks have supported us, and those on whose shoulders we stand, for over 100 years. Who am I to start whining now?
Recently, we’ve received word that our 2013 ministry budgets will be less than we requested, perhaps by as much as 40-50%. As well, our ministry budgets for 2013 will be at least 30% less than we got in 2012. The home office has done some creative cutting in order to make sure that maintaining our presence is as cost-effective as possible so that we can have as much ministry money as possible and so that we can keep missionaries on the field. Field leadership is finding ways to trim bits and pieces from local budgets. Missionaries everywhere will work to spend as efficiently as possible. In other words, in order to remain in places where we need workers, the IMB has been and will continue to manage as well as possible the funds with which we have been entrusted.
What Lessons Do I Believe Can Come From This?
That’s the subject of a different post.
Oh, and thanks again, folks, for the funds that you have been able to send. Seriously – thanks.