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IMB leaders weighing options with projected budget shortfall

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–International Mission Board leaders are outlining options to help avoid deficit spending if the 2002 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering does not reach its $125 million goal when the books close May 31.

Projections indicate the offering will set a new record — for the 10th consecutive year — but the offering and other sources of income are expected to fall millions short of funding the entity’s challenging $290.1 million budget for 2003.

IMB President Jerry Rankin praised God that Southern Baptists continue to give to missions at record levels, but he challenged churches to move from generous support to sacrificial giving for their Great Commission cause.

“This budget challenge is not due to diminished giving on the part of Southern Baptists,” Rankin said. “Missions is who we are, and churches are giving at record levels to the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, in spite of the soft economy.

“The challenge is that we allowed our missionary force to grow at a faster rate than giving was increasing. Incremental increases in giving cannot keep up with the amazing growth of the missionary force.”


Two years of 1,000-plus missionary appointments and lower resignation rates forced the IMB to overspend budgeted amounts for missionary support in 2002. In addition, investments did not generate their usual income for the board’s budget because of the downturn in the stock market.

The board budgeted for a net personnel increase of 200 in 2002 but actually posted 319. The 2003 budget allows only for a net increase of 150, when the number actually could be much higher.

“We trust God to provide the resources to support the people He is calling to overseas missions,” Rankin said. “But until more churches begin to give with the same passion these new missionaries have for a lost world, budget realities require us to keep spending within the limits of income.”

While the final offering total will not be known until May 31, projections in mid-April indicated a 1 percent increase in receipts over last year’s offering. That would fall about $10 million short of the $125 million planned into the 2003 budget.

While most churches collect their 2002 Lottie Moon offerings in December, the International Mission Board continues to receive donations for that offering through May.

Cancellation of some events, restrictions in staff travel and delaying production of some materials are among the initial steps IMB leaders are suggesting to help offset whatever shortfall may occur. Trustees and staff will discuss options to deal with the situation during a May 6-8 meeting in Boston.


Unless giving increases dramatically, the board also may have to take steps to restrict the flow of new missionaries to the field, Rankin said.

“Southern Baptists gave us the assignment of sending their missionaries, and new workers are obeying God’s call in record numbers,” Rankin said. “We will make whatever sacrifices and cutbacks are necessary to fulfill our mission.”

God’s passion for His lost children is what compels missionaries to go, Rankin said. When Southern Baptist churches — like their missionaries — are overwhelmed with God’s love for the lost, they will give with the same passion.

“How sad it would be — with the unprecedented opportunities and accelerating harvest — for us to have to tell God-called missionaries that the money just isn’t there to send them,” he said.

“How tragic it would be if we have to decide which people groups will not hear about salvation in Jesus Christ because we have not provided the resources to send the missionaries God has called.”
— The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering: http://resources.imb.org/index.cfm/fa/prod/ProdID/256.htm.
— More about the International Mission Board: http://www.imb.org/core/aboutus.asp.
— The International Mission Board (http://www.imb.org) is a Southern Baptist Convention entity supported by the Cooperative Program (http://www.cpmissions.net) and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering (http://ime.imb.org).

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  • Mark Kelly