The great majority of these are full time, career overseas personnel, mostly couples but some singles. We all know that IMB counts spouses as missionaries; thus, a couple is two. Not rocket science for most SBCers but the counting policy should be understood. Some of the 3,681 (the number reported on IMB’s site) are not career but mid-term people, a few years commitment and some are IMB team members overseas who are filling jobs for the mission but not funded by IMB.
Paul Chitwood, IMB CEO, in his recent address to trustees said there were currently 3,700 overseas personnel (I’m assuming a rounded number here) and that he wanted to increase to 4,200 which would be, he said, ” the minimum number of missionaries we need to make the maximum impact.” While I’m not sure how he arrives at the minimum number/maximum impact figure, I fully support the increase. It was noted that there aren’t enough people “in the pipeline” to achieve this goal. As informed Southern Baptists know, it sometimes takes years to get to the place where missionary candidates are ready to be appointed.
Readers may be excused for a bit of an irony about this, remembering that the Great IMB Catastrophe of 2015-2016 saw over a thousand departures and now we want to jump back up by 500. There was not much of a choice then since the Board had been selling hard assets to pay salaries that could not be paid through regular revenues. One appreciates that it appears we have more circumspect and realistic leadership these days. We should have the number of missionaries we can afford, no more and no less, in my view.
There’s no better sending organization than our International Mission Board. Forget the colorful shoeboxes. Put your money and your life where it can have maximum impact.