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Missions advance, personnel trends, budget cuts top IMB trustee agenda

RIDGECREST, N.C. (BP)–Despite opposition on many fronts, God is moving in dramatic ways to draw lost souls to himself, International Mission Board trustees were told during an Aug. 1-3 meeting at Ridgecrest, a LifeWay Conference Center in North Carolina.

The trustees also appointed 79 new missionaries, received reports on missionary deployment and budget cuts and processed missionary personnel changes.


For the first time in history, the people of Bosnia have a New Testament in their own language, reported Rodney Hammer, who leads IMB work in Central and Eastern Europe.

“In the last three months, your missionaries in Bosnia, along with volunteers, distributed 6,000 copies of that New Testament to Bosnian families, even amidst threats that they must cease and desist,” Hammer said. “And the amazing thing is that, because of prayers and the mighty moving of God, they are seeing 85 percent of the families accepting it and placing it in their homes. We praise God for that.”

God also is at work among Colombians who have fled the civil war that is ravaging their country, said Dickie Nelson, leader of IMB work in the Caribbean Basin.

“These people have no hope in their lives,” Nelson said, “but in the past two years, teams of missionaries have trained 65 new church leaders to start congregations. One of those leaders, a man named Gabriel, in turn trained others, and 110 new churches have been started in a seven- or eight-state area since May 2001.”

In Brazil, Southern Baptist missionaries have been discipling their church-planting teams with a vision for multiplying congregations throughout the country, said Robin Hadaway, leader of IMB work in Eastern South America.

In the past year, using these techniques, “more than 300 home Bible studies have been started in Fortaleza, Brazil, each one with a view of becoming a church,” Hadaway said. “This is the method by which we believe a church-planting movement will emerge in this coastal city in northeast Brazil.”

Even in Japan, where people are slow to respond to the gospel, missionaries are seeing exciting signs that God is moving in a new way, said Tom Williams, leader of IMB work in the Western Pacific.

New missions strategies developed in 1997 helped missionaries and their Japanese Baptist co-workers develop eight congregations in a 10-year period — a marked improvement, Williams said. However, 20 churches have been planted in the past two years alone.

“For Japan, that’s tremendous,” Williams said. “We praise the Lord for what he’s doing in Japan!”


The trustees appointed 79 new missionaries before a capacity crowd of 2,200 at Ridgecrest. The appointment service capped six days of seminars, workshops, missionary testimonies and inspirational messages.

Almost 600 emeritus missionaries were guests of honor for the week, attending their own track of conferences designed to help them with the challenges of missionary retirement and update them on what God is doing around the world through the IMB.

IMB President Jerry Rankin told the new workers that a passion for God is the only thing that will enable them to cope with the difficulties and discouragement they will face.

“It’s not sufficient just to respond to the needs of a world that’s lost,” Rankin said. “It’s not sufficient for you to be going out of a sense of obligation that Christ said go and make disciples of all the nations.

“There’s only one thing that will fulfill your call and allow God to empower you and use you, only one thing that will keep you there to persevere through the trials and discouragement, and that’s the passion God places in your heart.

“I pray that a passion for a lost world, a passion to be obedient to the call of Christ, a passion for God and the world that will know him will be what takes you to the mission field.”


The annual study of changes in missionary deployment showed long-term personnel numbers continued a pattern of strong growth while losses by attrition remained within the range typical of the past decade, trustees were told.

A steady increase in the total number of missionaries continued in 2001 with a year-end total of 5,057 (a net gain of 152), the report said. A net increase of 108 among long-term personnel (career, associate, apprentice) represented a one-year growth rate of 2.9 percent, the largest percentage increase in the category in a decade. A net increase of 44 among short-term personnel (ISC, journeyman, LifeWay, masters) represented a one-year growth rate of 3.6 percent, the lowest percentage increase in the category in a decade.

The 10-year average annual growth rate for the combined categories was 2.6 percent.

In 2001, the board lost 270 missionaries by attrition, a rate of 5.1 percent, the report noted. Since 1990, attrition rates have fluctuated between 3.6 percent and 5.3 percent. The average rate for the period is 4.4 percent. The three most common factors related to resignation were calling (18.5 percent), spousal employment issues (17 percent), and stateside job opportunities (16.3 percent).


With the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering falling $6.3 million short of its 2001 goal, the board must reduce spending and manage its finances prudently, Rankin told the trustees.

The shortfall will be made up by canceling $3 million designated for overseas capital needs and cutting the remainder from the board’s operating budget, Rankin said. Those cuts will not affect missionary support or strategic needs overseas.

He offered trustees a word of encouragement, however.

“Yes, the stock market is in decline. Yes, charitable giving is diminishing. But last year Southern Baptists took $8.9 billion into their offering plates,” he said. “Less than 2.5 percent of that found its way to international missions.

“God has blessed Southern Baptists, and the resources are there. But our churches must realign their priorities, create a passion for reaching a lost world and join God on mission.

“As we pray that the Lord of the harvest would continue to thrust out laborers into the harvest, let us also pray that the financial support will follow. We must not be distracted, but keep our eyes on him and be obedient to our calling.”


Trustees processed transfers of six missionary units (11 people) from one field of service to another, resignations of 28 units (53 people), one termination and two medical disabilities. They approved 23 sales and transfers of property and endorsed three longevity salary increases for International Service Corps missionary units. They also received a report of $1.04 million disbursed for 36 hunger, relief and development projects in 12 of the board’s 15 regions.

Six of the missionary units resigning (12 people) cited a Jan. 31 request to affirm the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message as a factor in their decision to resign, said Avery Willis, the board’s senior vice president of overseas operations. Five other units (10 people) had previously resigned over the request. A total of 5,364 missionaries currently are serving overseas through the IMB.


IMB trustees will hold their next meeting Sept. 5-7 in Springdale, Ark. A missionary appointment service is set for 6 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 8, at Springdale’s First Baptist Church, located at 1709 Johnson Road.

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  • Mark Kelly