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IMB ministry assignment revision approved for SBC vote next June

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–A proposed revision of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board’s ministry assignment was approved by the SBC Executive Committee during its Sept. 17 session in Nashville, Tenn., for recommendation to the June 2003 SBC annual meeting in Phoenix.

IMB President Jerry Rankin, in a written report to the Executive Committee, noted, “We are not requesting a substantive change in ministry assignments but are proposing a restatement and updated wording that more accurately reflects the focus and work of the International Mission Board and provides a more balanced template for reporting and accountability to the Southern Baptist Convention.”

The proposed IMB ministry assignment revision states that the board’s four primary purposes will be to:

1) “Assist churches by evangelizing persons, planting churches and nurturing church planting movements among all people groups outside the United States and Canada.”

2) “Assist churches in sending and supporting Southern Baptist missionaries and volunteers by enlisting, equipping, and enabling them to fulfill their calling.”

3) “Assist churches and partners to mobilize Southern Baptists to be involved in international missions through praying, giving and going.”

4) “Assist churches in fulfilling their international missions task by developing global strategies, including human needs based ministries, and providing leadership, administrative support and financial accountability for implementation of these strategies.”

The current fourfold IMB ministry statement notes that the board will:

1) “Assist churches by appointing and supporting international missions personnel.”

2) “Assist churches by evangelizing persons and planting churches in other nations, except Canada.”

3) “Assist churches by meeting human needs and establishing need-based ministries in other nations, except Canada.”

4) “Assist churches by enlisting mission volunteers and coordinating the work of mission volunteers in other nations, except Canada.”

Rankin, in his report, recounted that the IMB’s current ministry assignment, as stated in 1997 as part of an SBC-wide restructuring, was based on consultations in 1995 and 1996 “when the board itself was in a time of visioning and refocusing on organizational changes and overseas strategies.”

In 1997, Rankin noted, the IMB adopted “a radical restructuring and revitalization of overseas organization and leadership. Initially identified as ‘New Directions,’ it has come to be referred to as Strategic Directions for the 21st Century or SD21. It is an effort to bring our mission, our work and our strategic planning in alignment with our vision statement: ‘We will lead Southern Baptists to be on mission with God to bring all the peoples of the world to saving faith in Jesus Christ.'”

Rankin also wrote, “If an organization is to stay relevant and effective in a changing world, it must constantly be evaluating and updating its defining documents that guide its work. To remain locked in to what was relevant in the past places one in bondage to the status quo and enhances the potential of inertia in continuing the good work of an assigned task, but failing to move in the direction that will accomplish the vision.”

Among other points stated by Rankin:

— “Since the [SBC] ministry assignments are now being used as the basis for budget requests and accountability to the convention, they should reflect a parallel balance in priorities, resources and components of the entity’s mission.”

— In the first part of the proposed ministry assignment revision, “It is felt that ‘assisting churches to evangelize the world’ should be the first assigned ministry as it reflects the priority and purpose of our missions task.” The concept of “church planting movements” is added because such large-scale, church-based advances are “the primary, if not only, way of making the gospel potentially accessible to all people.”

— The fourth part of the proposed ministry assignment revision is framed “in terms of giving [churches] ownership and a sense of responsibility as ‘their international missions task’ … .”

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