ST. LOUIS (BP)–Trustees of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board adopted a $288.9 million budget for 2007, appointed 67 new missionaries and heard a report of key results from mission work worldwide during their Oct. 30-Nov. 1 meeting in St. Louis.
The 2007 mission budget projects an increase of $6.4 million, or about 2.2 percent, over this year’s total. It anticipates receipts of more than $105 million from Southern Baptist mission giving through the Cooperative Program. More than half of the total budget will rely on giving to this year’s Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, which has a goal of $150 million.
The entire Lottie Moon goal amount has been budgeted, with $141.2 million earmarked for mission operating expenses and the remaining $8.8 million for capital needs overseas. Remaining budget receipts are anticipated from investments, hunger and relief giving (which is spent exclusively for those ministries) and other income.
The majority of next year’s projected overseas budget, more than $206 million, will go to support more than 5,100 missionaries worldwide, who will receive a small salary increase. Missionary medical costs continue to rise, and the dollar remains generally weak against many foreign currencies.
Projected U.S. expenditures, at nearly $44 million, will total about 15.2 percent of the 2007 budget. They will include salary increases for IMB home office staff members.
IMB trustees also appointed 67 new missionaries during their meeting. Trustees, new missionaries, family members and Missouri Baptists gathered for the Oct. 31 appointment service at the Show Me Center in Cape Girardeau. The event was held in conjunction with the Missouri Baptist Convention’s annual meeting. This appointment service brings the total long-term missionary appointments for 2006 to 306. Combined with 470 anticipated new short-term workers, the total count for IMB workers approved in 2006 should reach approximately 780 by year’s end.
Southern Baptist Convention President Frank Page, pastor of First Baptist Church in Taylors, S.C., spoke during the service, challenging the new missionaries to “remember who you are.”
“You’re a Jesus missionary first and foremost,” Page said. “Remember who you belong to, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.”
Despite major advances worldwide, IMB President Jerry Rankin reminded the new workers of the unfinished missions task: “Thousands of unreached groups where there is yet to be a church, where there is yet to be a missionary assigned, where there are yet to be believers worshiping and giving glory to our Lord.”
During their business sessions, trustees got a global update on the true magnitude of that task. They received the IMB’s latest Annual Statistical Report, compiled from statistics reported by more than 2,000 entities –- including mission teams assigned to reach ethnic people groups, cities and other population segments. The report covers the 2005 calendar year.
The board’s 5,100-plus missionaries and their international Baptist partners baptized more than 475,000 new believers last year, started nearly 23,500 churches and engaged 104 people groups for the first time. They also planted churches among 19 people groups where no Baptist churches previously existed -– including 13 with no evangelical churches of any kind.
“For 13 of these people groups, for the first time in their history there is a church representing our Lord and Savior to an unreached people that have never heard the Gospel, don’t have a Bible in their language and have never known what church looks like,” said Gordon Fort, IMB vice president for overseas operations.
Among other significant results for 2005, Southern Baptist missionaries and their partners:
— engaged a total of 1,170 people groups worldwide, three-quarters of whom are classified by mission researchers as unreached (less than 2 percent of the population claiming evangelical Christian faith).
— engaged for the first time 104 people groups, 73 of whom are unreached, with a combined population of nearly 100 million.
— engaged 120 unreached urban centers, including 12 for the first time.
— started 23,486 churches and more than 10,600 “outreach groups” (potential future churches). That brought total partner churches worldwide to 135,252, with a combined membership of 8.8 million, and outreach groups to 55,723.
— baptized 475,072 new believers -– about 1,300 each day or one each minute.
— involved nearly 510,000 new believers in discipleship training, in addition to more than 1.1 million existing church members in discipleship groups.
— trained more than 150,000 Christian leaders in nonresidential settings (extension and correspondence courses, short-term courses and on-the-job training) and more than 20,000 in residential pastoral programs.
— worked with 1,772 international missionaries sent out by overseas Baptist partners to other people groups and 3,400 home missionaries reaching out to people groups within their own countries.
The sheer number of lost people with little or no access to the Gospel, however, continues to weigh on the minds of IMB missionaries and strategists. The gap between current reality and a self-sustaining church movement in every people group remains huge.
The world’s population is 6.5 billion and counting. Of the world’s 11,000-plus people groups, more than 6,000 –- encompassing more than 1.65 billion people -– remain unreached with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Most of these peoples have seen no churches planted in their cultures within the last two years. At the end of 2005 more than 650 of those peoples, with a combined population exceeding 550 million, remained unengaged by any evangelical group.
SOUTHERN BAPTISTS’ FUTURE
Fort said he wonders how Southern Baptists will respond to the ongoing global missions challenge as they contend with a growth crisis at home. The only global region with worse church-growth statistics than postmodern, secularized Western Europe, he reminded trustees, is the United States.
“Eighty percent of our churches in the [Southern Baptist] convention are reported as plateaued,” which is another word for dying, Fort said. “We are losing ground. You know why that’s a burden to me? Because as our [Southern Baptist] churches go, so goes the International Mission Board. As our convention goes, so goes our ability to engage a lost world with the Gospel.
“We’re at a hinge in history when we have an opportunity to advance the Gospel into the final strongholds of the enemy. Satan is a fierce opponent. He is opposed to everything we stand for. He knows that his days are numbered. But if we’re going to complete this task in this generation, we need a new work of God in our convention.”
SBC President Page echoed Fort’s concerns in his remarks to trustees, urging Southern Baptist churches to seek repentance, confession, transformation and, most of all, revival.
“Across this nation I try to awaken our people to the fact that if we do not realize where the fight is and how it is to be fought, we’re going to lose the battle and lose the war,” Page said. “For 30 years we’ve been trying to raise baptism rates among non-revived people in non-revived churches. I’m asking across our convention that God’s people will beg God to send revival to our land…. That’s what we need.”
Trustees paused for an extended time of prayer for personal and convention-wide revival.
In his president’s report, Rankin highlighted his recent travel to South Korea, where he met with pastors and Korean evangelical mission leaders and spoke to several thousand Baptist seminary students.
“It was absolutely one of the most powerful experiences I have ever had,” Rankin reflected. “The worship, the passion, the focus, literally hundreds of students making commitments to missionary service…. When they come down the aisle and make a commitment, they’re fully expecting you to put a passport and airline ticket in their hand, and they’re out of there. They’re putting it all on the shelf to follow the Lord to the mission field.”
In his interaction with Korean mission organizations, which report sending out more than 13,000 missionaries, Rankin found an eagerness to learn about church-planting movements and finish the task of reaching the unreached.
“I don’t know what all God is doing through that, but I came home with the impression that if Southern Baptists don’t step up to the task … He is moving to fulfill his mission” with or without U.S. Christians.
IMB chairman John Floyd of Tennessee reported on his recent journey to four nations of West Africa where he saw missionary families, older individuals in the IMB’s Masters Program, young missionary journeymen, African pastors and their wives applying persistence, creativity and love in their ministries.
“I’ve heard of the difficulty of West Africa for some time -– the living conditions, the heat and the political turmoil,” Floyd said. “These perceptions were quite real, but it was a joy to see these places through the eyes of the missionaries who love those people and love those places.”
In other business, trustees:
— responded to a motion referred by from the SBC annual meeting last summer to both the International and North American Mission Boards, requesting the appointment of a study committee to examine ways both boards “may work in greater partnership and harmony.” IMB trustees agreed with a recent response from NAMB trustees that a study committee is not needed. They pointed out that the Inter-Missions Council, which consists of primary leadership of both boards, already meets regularly to determine and carry out ways of working in partnership and harmony in effective and efficient ways.
— challenged each other to meet a $100,000 joint goal for gifts by all 88 trustees to the 2006 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.
— affirmed the name change of the board’s Office of Mobilization to Church and Partner Services to more accurately reflect its work with Southern Baptist churches, associations, state conventions, entities, colleges and seminaries.
The trustees’ next meeting will be Jan. 29-31 at Immanuel Baptist Church in Highlands, Calif.