Our largest and most important entity, The International Mission Board, has a five year plan, announced by President Paul Chitwood at the recent IMB trustee meeting.
The plan calls for a number of things but, most importantly, it calls for an additional 500 overseas field personnel. I assume that means a 500 net increase by the end of 2024 which would bring the total field personnel up to 4,119. These would be numbers which haven’t been seen since prior to the IMB’s retirement incentive program implemented by former IMB head David Platt.
Chitwood’s plan is modest. Platt’s approach called for “limitless” numbers, although to his credit he forcefully addressed the IMB’s poor financial practices that had accumulated prior to his tenure. I’m pleased that Chitwood’s plan calls for realistic numbers. Our main mission offering, the historic and mammoth Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, was at $157.3 million for 2018-2019 which is around 59 percent of their total budget of $267.4 million. The Cooperative Program provides around 37% of IMB’s budget. (I acknowledge that the percentages may vary a bit based on non-comparable reporting periods, but I’m in a hurry. There’s no debate about how the most critical revenue stream for IMB is the LMCO).
To get to the additional 500 field personnel, Chitwood says that the LMCO must increase by $10 million per year. The LMCO is to be spent on overseas items, mostly personnel; thus, the call for additional LMCO giving. It is not said but needs saying that no one is calling for expecting any significant increases to the CP. If IMB were to plan any advance funded primarily or even in part by CP increases they would be back into the realm of fantasy. The CP is important but no entity head I know about is calling for or expecting churches to move their CP percentages up to any significant degree. On average, we’re well under five percent per church to CP. I’d bet most SBC leaders would be delighted to get back to five percent.
Chitwood pointedly said in his address to the trustees that the budget was not being balanced by sales of overseas property. Good. But I’d mark Dr. Chitwood down slightly for using the old and completely meaningless statement that the LMCO increase could be met if “every one of the 16 million Southern Baptists increase their Lottie Offering by $0.63 per year,” Er, ah, Paul. Drop the phantom number as a multiplier.
To his great credit he outlined a goal that “75 percent of Southern Baptist churches to pray for and financially support the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering by 2025.” Less than half of SBC churches support the LMCO presently. One wonders if there is any concrete plan in place to try and increase this percentage by half.
Details aside, I’m fully on board with the five year plan and will fully give IMB, our leaders and all personnel there, my full support.
And, pastor. Did your church give anything to the LMCO this year? If not, how about any amount? Your church would do this if you ask. It’s the best investment of mission dollars a church can make.