If you want to read Part One, click here.
“I’ve given money,” said Applicant Joe, “scads of it. I’ve taken mission trips. I host IMB workers in my home and in my church. Why won’t the IMB honor my call? If they aren’t going to honor my call, then why is so much emphasis placed on calling?”
I hear your cry.
It is a fundamental philosophy that the IMB honors the calling of their missionaries. However, that is only a part of the overall picture. I want to paint that picture, as much of it as I can here, and conclude with the implications for calling.
The SBC, of course, is the grand umbrella under which seminaries, NAMB, and the IMB fit. The SBC approves trustees, votes on certain money matters, and lays down basic rules and expectations for the IMB and its trustees, leaders, workers, etc. The SBC gives to the IMB certain duties and responsibilities. One such duty is financial stewardship. Another is sound planning. A third is wise strategic thinking. There are more, of course, but we can stop here and have a good enough view of things.
Moving downward into some of the finer details of our painting, we have…
IMB presidents, vice-presidents, directors, strategists and accountants work to make sure that the organization fulfills the SBC’s expectation as well as their own collective expectations. Leaders have to balance funds in order to make sure they can support all their missionaries. They have to examine strategies so that workers do not simply run to and fro without any sort of planning. Leaders establish basic requirements for employment and work to maintain sound working conditions for nearly 5,000 people scattered across dozens of countries.
This brings us down to the personal level, that of…
I don’t really know how many people turn in applications to the IMB annually, but there are a good few. Each applicant fills out documents addressing physical health, mental/emotional health, spiritual journey, family history, and calling. Their qualifications are laid out for all to see. Their references are checked, and double-checked. They meet with candidate consultants and deployment specialists and doctors.
So where does all of this leave us?
Quite simply, the SBC has entrusted a great and serious responsibility to the IMB: send the right workers to the right places for the right reasons, using sound strategies that make the best use of limited funds. The IMB takes these things into account when dealing with Applicant Joe. Joe must accept the realities that these factors exist within.
So…Applicant Joe? He feels called to work with Bolivian snail farmers. He is adamant about it. He knows, through and through, that this is where God wants him. Joe calls the IMB, works his way through the application process, and hears those dreaded words: “We’re not sending anyone to work with Bolivian snail farmers. Are you sure you are called there, to those people, and nowhere else?”
Joe replies, “Yes, a thousand times over.”
If the IMB, lacking surplus funds and knowing it to be strategically unsound, appoints Applicant Joe to work in Bolivia, IMB leaders have abdicated their duties. They would have willfully failed. Remember: they have X amount of money to spend wisely on people and projects that are fundamentally sound; sound, that is, by the standards that the IMB and the SBC have jointly developed. Putting Joe in Bolivia when the Bolivians are doing fine, but the Paraguayans are not is simply unacceptable. What’s more, SBC members should not want the IMB to do that sort of thing.
And Joe’s call? The IMB affirms it.
“Well, Joe, we’re sorry we can’t send you to work with Bolivian snail farmers. We just can’t send you there, and no matter how qualified we think you are to work in Romania or Nigeria or India, you’ve consistently said you are called to Bolivia. Go, brother, and answer that call; we can’t make it happen for you, but if God has called HE will make it happen.”
If God calls you to a place (Bolivia, Hong Kong, etc), go there however you can. Obey that call. If the IMB will take you, as a Southern Baptist – that’s great! If the IMB can’t send you there, then find another way. However, if God calls you to missions with the IMB, then accept that you will have to bow to the authority of those under whom He has placed you, no matter how uncomfortable that makes you.