IMB President David Platt envisions a day when the IMB will support, train, and partner with 10,000 SBC missionaries. Obviously the organization cannot accomplish this financially, so another avenue must remain.
Realistically, the number of IMB-funded workers internationally will not rise about 4,000 unless donations to SBC missions go counter to current trends. Who will account for the other 6,000 missionaries, and how might churches be involved?
A few suggestions:
Business is international. Men and women cruise the globe at 35,000 feet, going places missionaries cannot. What could you do?
- Transport sensitive Christian materials that cannot be mailed or sent electronically. Firewalls run by local governments block access to training materials, Bible translations, and other forms of support. This could be as simple as meeting someone for supper and passing the information along.
- Allow your temporary housing to serve as a meeting site for Bible study groups and churches.
- Use your locally-registered business to provide legitimate visas for missionaries who cannot acquire them otherwise.
- Learn the language through multiple visits and help teach in areas where the IMB has not placed anyone.
This list only includes the really obvious stuff. IMB has an entire department – Marketplace Advance – that focuses on finding strategic ways for businessmen and women to be involved.
Students have joined the ranks of international travelers. Some of the most restrictive countries in the world allow their youth to leave for educational opportunities and permit American students to enter.
- Partner with local IMB workers to find students willing to attend Bible studies.
- Learn language as a student to prepare for a long-term mission calling.
- Lead student ministry in partnership with missionaries.
Again, there’s an entire IMB Student department willing to help people leverage their student status for missionary efforts.
Major cities around the world usually have a sizable expat population, Americans who have retired in places they feel most welcome. They often know the language and local culture. For those expats who struggle with the lack of churches in their area, a partnership with knowledgable, experienced IMB missionaries would be an amazing experience.
This may tread on the edge of heresy, but if you’ve been called to missions would you be willing to consider just moving and never returning? Could you take your degrees, knowledge, and money to another country and live permanently in pursuit of the glory of God? Marry, live, and die there as newly minted citizens on some level?
Know what Tel Aviv, Lima, Prague, Bangkok, Caracas, and Shanghai all have in common? They all have Chinese, Korean, and Indian restaurants operated by immigrants. Asians seem to the most mobile people, immigrating around the world en masse. They have stores and places of worship and even schools in some areas. Many of them are Christians and run local churches. Why could Americans not follow suit?
These are just a few of the options. Volunteers already stream outward from American churches towards the rest of the world. Churches support SBC missionaries directly in partnership with the IMB. Sports teams travel to far-off countries to play soccer, baseball, and baseball. The mantra that “everyone is a missionary” applies perfectly. Why not share His love where ever you go? Who better to go than church members, and who more perfectly set up to train you than the IMB?
Consider the question from another perspective: if God is calling you towards a life of international ministry without applying for a job at IMB, how could you prepare?
- Are you in business? Intentionally investigate how to start a business internationally. Use your contacts to establish a legitimate presence in Ruritania or where ever the IMB needs someone. Spend a couple of years establishing some sort of partnership that gives you access to the people.
- Are you in high school? Study German. I’ve read that German universities are extremely low-cost. Plan now, while living at home and studying in a public high school, for a life of ministry internationally. Do some research on international universities and how you can get into them, but start that process now. Don’t wait until you have graduated to consider it.
- If you are ready to choose a major, look into what jobs are needed in, say, South Asia or North Africa. Find part of the world that fascinates you. Choose a field that people need, and use that to apply for work in various areas. Don’t be afraid to leave the US if God is calling you. Many current missionaries struggle to move towards bi-vocational models of support because their only training is in ministry. Bi-vocational missions is the future, so plan accordingly.
- Plan your retirement around global church planting, relief, and ministry needs. The IMB can train you in ministry and teach you how to manage your international finances. I’ve found American retirees on three continents enjoying local culture and the low cost of living. Why not join them?
- Review your online presence. Is your Facebook feed filled with politics, strong views on religion, or criticism of various religions and people? Consider deleting that. Governments look at who you are online in determining visas. Take care in what you say in your blogs or online interactions. Delete things from Instagram, no matter how cute, if it might offend the wrong visa official down the road somewhere.
- Develop a public identity that includes a variety of positive interests in addition to your Christianity. Don’t hide from the internet – governments find that suspicious – just be deliberate in creating a legitimate, honest public profile: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, blogs, VLOGS, comments on other sites, etc.
Missions belongs to the church. The IMB stands ready to support and train. They’ve got more ideas than anyone could imagine, but lack the personnel to see them through.
Funding may be limited, but opportunities are not.