The ERLC always has critics that are loud, dedicated, tireless, and often senseless. Witness the recent Executive Committee ERLC Task Force report, generally characterized as a throwaway item, as in ‘no action needed,’ ‘no action taken.’
NAMB is a big, red bullseye target. Church planters may feel more valued than ever before in the SBC and church planting may have crossed over from a temp job sought by pastors of limited skills to a cool job that has become increasingly popular among highly motivated, skilled, and bearded young SBC pastors but critics we have with us always. NAMB is slammed by many but the NAMB event at SBC meetings continues to be the most popular of all the big entity annual meeting shindigs.
But never mind all that, the IMB is moving along and doing well.
- Their finances are healthy.
- Leadership is solid. A special shout out to IMB CEO Paul Chitwood for his recent degree attainment, a master’s degree in nonprofit administration from the Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame. Imagine that, we have complex entities, mostly led by preachers unqualified to hold CEO positions in such organizations and here is one who believes an professional degree in nonprofit admin would be beneficial. Go thou and do likewise.
- Offerings are at near record levels, even in a year of such turmoil with the virus. As a side note, IMB is changing their Lottie Moon year from June 1- May 31 to Oct 1 to Sep 30. No announcement at this year’s annual meeting of the LMCO total but it looks like it’s doing well.
But what about the numbers of overseas personnel? It was five years ago that David Platt led the IMB in a “reset” that saw the staggering total of 1,132 missionaries and staff take the voluntary retirement incentive or the inaptly named “hand raising opportunity.” IMB had been ill served by previous leadership to get in such a dire position where there were far more personnel on the payroll (4,695 at the end of November 2015) than could be handled. Platt fixed that and then moved on.
We now have 3,604 field personnel as of January 31, 2021 and the goal is to add a net increase of 500 by the end of 2025. Looks like a modest goal but I’m speculating that the virus turmoil which saw hundreds and hundreds of overseas personnel leave their country of service and return home will make it more challenging as some personnel resign and do not return to their fields. We will see.
The SBC Executive Committee projects the total Cooperative Program to drop to $452 million this year. Goals call for a return to a $500 million CP total. IMB projects a decreasing proportion of their total revenues to come from the CP. CP covers about 37% of IMB’s budget now but is projected to drop to around 35% for 2022.
IMB’s share of a Cooperative Program dollar is about $0.20, twenty cents. If Vision 2025 goals for the CP are met, the IMB’s share would be less than $10 million in 2025, less than that in years 2021-2024. With a total income last year of a little more than $262 million, an additional few million per year, while not insignificant, is not a huge infusion.
Lottie Moon is the route to an additional 500 field personnel, not the venerable Cooperative Program. There’s no SBC law against leading one’s church to increase both but increases to Lottie Moon would yield far more towards reaching the unsaved billions of the world. Pastors who view and understand numbers reach that inevitable conclusion.
I’ve only seen a few random shots taken at IMB by critics. One hopes that all SBCers are on board with our most important work.
It’s one of the strangest things one might have lived through in the SBC but the year where we saw the astounding and painful loss of over eleven hundred missions personnel was also the record year for Lottie Moon. Never higher than that year when the focus of the SBC was on international missions, although because of the negative outcome of years of overspending. Perhaps Southern Baptists would again have a laser focus on overseas missions and such would result in staggering increases in the LMCO. We cannot do a thousand things well. We clearly do not do all of our ministry tasks well. The route to SBC health is to manage the less critical tasks but put the most energy into the most critical tasks. The Cooperative Program, as important as it has been and is, is designed with inherent inefficiencies. Direct giving to the mission boards is the key to our future success. We’ve always had a dual system, societal and cooperative. Societal giving has been more healthy over the past decades than cooperative giving. Churches and pastors can understand why.