SBC Life Articles

Global Missions Update

NAMB Missionaries Commissioned
by James Dotson

A group of fifty-seven North American Mission Board missionaries was commissioned at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Atlanta May 4, symbolizing the prayer and financial support of both the local church and Southern Baptists across the country.

The missionaries serve in partnership with state conventions and local associations to plant churches, coordinate associational missions efforts, minister amid inner-city poverty, and otherwise work to see individuals come to faith in Christ.

Two missionaries interviewed by Bryant Wright, pastor of the north Atlanta congregation, illustrated the diversity of the group.

Britton Elliott is a missions ministry consultant with the Spartanburg (S.C.) County Baptist Network, working to mobilize churches and volunteers for joint missions efforts.

"I speak at our different churches and plan exciting avenues for people to experience the blessings of God through missions," she said. "Churches are eager to do that, but not really sure what to do. So my job is to empower them and equip them to go out and serve God."

Lloyd Byers Jr., meanwhile, serves as director of missions for Guam Baptist Association — the farthest outpost of NAMB's work, located just east of the Philippines.

His job is much the same as that of directors of missions in many pioneer areas, serving as a resource for local churches in recruiting pastors, starting churches, and otherwise presenting a Christian witness to the community.

"It's very interesting, because there are so many nationalities," he said. "Our role is to support the pastors and Disaster Relief forces."

NAMB President Robert E. "Bob" Reccord, speaking during the third service of the morning in the packed sanctuary, challenged the congregation to respond to God's call on their own lives. Addressing the theme that has come to symbolize NAMB's work, he called on all believers to "answer His call, tell His story, and change your world."

"Every Christian is called by God to be on mission for Him," Reccord said. "You're either going to be a missionary right where you are, or you're going to be a mission field in need of a missionary."

The interesting thing, he said, is that if an individual is faithful to answer His call and tell His story, "you inevitably will change your world."

There are currently more than 5,200 North American Mission Board missionaries serving throughout the United States, Canada, and U.S. territories. The next commissioning service for newly appointed missionaries is scheduled for Aug. 24 at the Century II Convention Center in Wichita, Kan.



IMB Must Restrict Appointments
by Shawn Hendricks

While record numbers of Southern Baptists continue to obey God's call to overseas missions service, trustees for the International Mission Board have approved restricting the number of appointments until the board's budget can support the growth.

During a meeting May 6-8 in Framingham, Mass., the IMB budget topped a trustee agenda that also included the appointment of forty-seven new missionaries.

The trustees praised the record levels of giving by Southern Baptists through the Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon Christmas Offering but noted that giving increases have not kept up with the phenomenal growth in the number of new missionaries being sent to the field.

"It's tragic that we must defer missionary candidates ready to go to the field at a time when God is accelerating the harvest and opening doors of opportunity to bring all the peoples of the world to saving faith in Jesus Christ," IMB president Jerry Rankin said.

Because of an expected shortfall in 2003 budget receipts, two of the next three conferences for people interested in the International Service Corps, Journeyman, and Masters programs have been cancelled. The number of new short-term personnel will be limited to 400 this year and 300 in 2004, and the number of new long-term personnel will be kept at 350 this year. A total of 412 were appointed last year.

During each of the past two years, the IMB has sent out more than 1,000 new missionaries. In that time, the IMB has always been able to make up the difference by appropriating reserve funds, Rankin said.

"Now not only has the performance of the stock market reduced those reserves, but it is uncertain how much of the budgeted investment income of $23 million the board will have available this year," he said. "Since 70 percent of the IMB budget is for the support of missionary personnel, any shortfall would impact this primary budget item."

Rankin said he hopes the deficit will encourage Southern Baptists to continue to give sacrificially. Gifts to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering are expected to reach more than $115 million, a 1 percent increase over last year and a new record.

"We continue to be grateful for God's faithfulness through Southern Baptists in giving record amounts through the Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon Christmas Offering," he said. "And due to unprecedented opportunities and missionaries being called out, we had budgeted the entire goal of $125 million, but unfortunately, now we must deal responsibly with the shortfall."

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