"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

The Wonderful Work of the IMB

With the blogs blazing with excellent discussions of the work of the IMB and different doctrinal issues that face our convention it is good to pause and reflect on the good that is taking place around the world through the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.

(1). We could possibly appoint in 2006 the most missionaries in the history of the IMB.

(2). We are experiencing incredible church growth overseas and people are coming to Christ in huge numbers.

(3). The cooperation among evangelicals on the mission field overseas includes our Southern Baptist missionaries in ways that have not occurred in the history of our evangelistic efforts as a convention.

(4). We are positioning ourselves to reach unreached people groups in record numbers. The strategies of our missionary staff and personnel are both visionary and attainable.

(5). The Lottie Moon Mission Offering is extremely healthy and financially we are moving forward after a couple of years of regression since 9/11.

Healthy dialogue is good. The freedom to debate and dissent is the essence of being Baptist. As we continue to forge our path for the future of missions in the IMB, let's continue our discussions while never forgetting the positive future we all have as Southern Baptists.

In His Grace,


Wade

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wade, you say that healthy dialogue is good and freedom to debate and dissent is the essence of being Baptist. As an active IMB missionary, how I wish that were true out here where we serve. Unfortunately, many of the field administrators take just the opposite view. Question any decision (even for clarifacation) and you are labeled a troublemaker. Unfortunately, that label stays with you far longer than the fact that God, working through your efforts, has produced an abundant harvest. I wish it were otherwise.

Wade Burleson said...

Dear Active Missionary,

I have been, and remain, supportive of our IMB staff, field administrators and regional leaders. I have heard your concerns from others as well. I believe I have modeled how a person should be able to dissent, but remain supportive of the work.

If there is a problem in our field work where a missionary feels unable to voice his concerns for fear of being labeled a troublemaker, I want you to know that I expect that to change --- immediately.

A healthy environment is one where authority can be questioned. Healthy authority not only accepts the questioning, but thrives on it.

I believe you will see dynamic changes in the years to come.

Wade

Former M said...

"A healthy environment is one where authority can be questioned. Healthy authority not only accepts the questioning, but thrives on it."

I am sure the missionaries on the field would welcome hearing these words from the IMB administration. At the same time, they would not trust them. The Foreign Mission Board was run under a system open for discussion and critique, but that changed drastically when Keith Parks was dismissed. Incidentally, the same corporate culture has dominated all of SBC life with the oppression of all opinion contrary to that of the leadership. After so many years of sensing that any dissenting opinion is the mark of a troublemaker, how do you expect missionaries to suddenly trust the administration enough to share their concerns?

Trust is easily eroded. It is not easily built or restored. Your own experience of being attacked for raising critique does not lend credibility to the ideal of open discussion within the IMB corporate culture. Immediate change will be a hard hill to climb.

The import of your words essentially point to the fact that the authority structures in SBC life are unhealthy. What medical treatment do you recommend a very sick denomination?

Anonymous said...

Dear Wade,

I am the active missionary above, and I want to believe you, and hope that I will see it happen. Past history is NOT encouraging, but I continue to pray...

T A Blankenship said...

Wade,
I truly appreciate your fairness in this controversy. I believe it will all work out for the glory of the Lord and the good of our convention.
We are all praying for you and the IMB.

Wade Burleson said...

Former Missionary,

When people are patient and stand on principle things eventually change.

I'm asking for patience and letting folks know that in the end the principled person will bring effective change.

Anonymous said...

Wade,

I'm also with the IMB, but would probably re-title your post to; "God is Wonderfully at Work in Spite of all of Us".

Yes, we are seeing a record number of people being appointed, but we also seeing record numbers of turnover.

I've never seen the morale of our IMB personnel on the field so low. We all write emails back home and tell how wonderful the work is going, but in reality if you ever sit down with any of us and let us really open our hearts you will hear a different story.

It used to be the number one reason for people leaving the field was health and family related, but today it's because of conflict with another missionary. Usually because one person feels they know Gods will for the other person better than that other person does.

You say there is incredible church growth overseas, but you have to realize there is tremendous pressure to produce results. I worked closely with another IMB rep that reported over 3,500 baptisms but in reality there were about 100. I praise the Lord for the 100, because before that were almost none. But if we have to sacrifice ethics to show results, where does that leave us?

As for positioning ourselves to reach the unreached with our strategies; missions has become such a big business, the administrative requirements to keep the numbers crunching and cogs moving requires that budgets and strategies be submitted sometimes up to 18 months in advance of it happening. We don't leave much room for God to maneuver and we have very little opportunity to wait on God.

God is reaching the nations, but don't think for a minute that it is because of our strategies and love for our fellow brother. Most of the time God is reaching the nations in spite of our feeble strategies and lack of love and respect for one another. Never doubt for a moment that it is God at work and not a mission organization.

Regarding dialogue on the field; it's a one way street. I'm sure that RVA would disagree with the statement, but I bet the majority of frontliners would wholeheartly agree. Leadership questions why you question them instead of just towing the party line.

You say you want to see that changed immediately. I'd like to know when and how that will change.

Please don't get me wrong. I'm not someone who disrespects my leaders or feels that they are not godly men and women. All too often on the field I see one godly person become bitter enemies with another godly person. Both people are decent hard working and love the Lord, but somehow they get crossways with each other and its not pretty.

I'm someone who doesn't understand how a mission organization with a distinguished history such as ours can operate the way that it does today. I'm also someone who is amazed that God would choose to work through me with all my faults and shortcommings and that He still works through the IMB in spite of our strategies and efforts.

Yes, there is wonderful work being done, but be careful to attribute that work to an organization.

Wade Burleson said...

Very good points.

To the extent that we establish means whereby missionaries feel they have a voice in making our organization better is the extent that we will see even better things happen in the future.

The trustees are working on ways whereby people with concern among the trustees may be able to be heard.

The same thing may need to be done within the staff and missionary work force. I will be very interested to see this happens.

wade

Former M said...

Count on my prayers for success, but I know many who have resigned over just this issue. The system is sick, but those wielding power don't seem to care. One of my former colleagues reported a sense of peace that God had taken us out of the IMB before the institution was destroyed in judgment. Another stated that he had determined that when politics got in the way of mission, he would resign, and did.
The new system rewarded the most politically ruthless with promotion. That does not breed confidence for those on the front line. They have been told they are pawns who must report numbers at the expense of effective ministry. The road to climb will be steep and slippery.
Preach grace. The system needs a lion's share of it.
meizon de e agape

Anonymous said...

Wade,

As an active missionary (not one of the writers above), I thank you for your courage and openness. What is being written on this and other of your blogs by missionaries is indicative of one of the greatest problems within the IMB, no trust of those in almost every level of administration.

You are providing an avenue for expression, which is good. I wish for a time when we on the field could sign our names without fear of retaliation or retribution.

Jetta said...

Wade,
In one of your posts you quote the phrase "qualified administrator" in relation to the new baptism policy. Can you clarify? I looked at the article on the IMB web site and I didn't see that phrase as a part of the policy.

Thanks for your thoughts. Overall I share your concerns about where all this may be going.

Wade Burleson said...

The IMB will only recognize the baptism done at the hands of a person authorized by a "proper church" to baptize. Thus, the administrator of the baptism must himself be proper.

No Methodist minister, no Presbyterian minister, no AG minister, no Free Will minister is qualifed because he represents a "church" that is not a "true church."

This is a total misunderstanding of baptism. Baptism identifies you with Jesus Christ and the universal body of Christ "the ekklesia" and not a system of doctrine.

Anonymous said...

Wade,
It is very concerning to me to hear the sentiments from the missionaries of our fellowship laboring in the fields of harvest with such fear of reprisal for having a spirit of openness and honesty with those in authority over them.

I truly believe that these recent controversies are like a festering sore. What is seen on the surface is small compared to the infection beneath. I am glad that the sore has started to ooze.

I am naive enough to believe that a wonderful healing can take place to this sore. My fear is that if healing does not take place and the infection deepens, that attrition like we have never seen will take place in the fields of harvest among our missionaries. What a shame that would be indeed.

Bill Scott

Baptist Theologue said...

An interesting web site that relates to this discussion:

http://www.geocities.com/baptist_documents/baptism.valid.invalid.html

Anonymous said...

Wade, you are right on target in saying “Baptism identifies you with Jesus Christ and the universal body of Christ and not a system of doctrine.
One Scripture affirming this would be Mark 9:38-40 “John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw a man using your name to cast out demons, but we told him to stop because he isn’t one of our group.’
‘Don’t stop him,’ Jesus said…’Anyone who is not against us is for us.’”
The IMB rejects those baptized by a person (doing the will of Christ) who is not in their group…that is they’re not Southern Baptist.
The reason the IMB does this is against the warning of Christ in Matthew 15:9 “…teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”
The reason they ignore this warning is because of another warnings:
Mark 12:38 “Beware of the teachers of religion. Luke 20:46 “Beware of these experts in religion.” Matthew 23:2 (Living) “You would think these Jewish leaders and these Pharisees were Moses, the way they keep making up so many laws.”
Rex Ray

Theo said...

Well, my link in the post above didn't work right. I'll copy from the web site regarding the importance of the administrator of baptism historically:
__________________________________

[Editor's note: The following quotes from Spencer's History are given in chronological order. ]

VALID AND INVALID BAPTISM IN KENTUCKY
Spencer's A History Of Kentucky Baptists
Vol. II, 1886
1800 TATES CREEK ASSOC. There was a query: "Is an immersion by a Pedobaptist scriptural?" Answer: "No" [p. 19].

1801 SALEM ASSOC. The question as to whether it is consistent with good order for a minister to hear experiences and baptize within the bounds of a church, without its consent, was posponed, and subsequently answered in the negative [p. 50].

1802 The question of what constitutes valid Baptism was brought before the ELKHORN ASSOC. Query from South Elkhorn: "What constitutes valid baptism?" Answer: "The administrator ought to have been baptized himself by immersion, legally called to preach the gospel [and] ordained as the Scriptures dictate; and the candidate for baptism should make a profession of faith in Jesus Christ, and be baptized in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, by dipping the whole body in water" [p. 16].

1806 STOCKTONS VALLEY ASSOC. One of the queries resolved was: "If a person has been baptized by a minister In disorder, have we any right to received such person, on such baptism?" The answer: "No." [p. 213].

1812 SALEM ASSOC. The following query from Little Union: "Doubts have arisen in our Baptist society, whether persons baptized (immersed) by a Baptist preacher, not ordained, should be rebaptized before they are received into our churches?" Answer: "We believe each church is the most proper tribunal to determine the qualifications of her members, and that baptism is not rightly administered by anyone except a regularly ordained minister" [p. 53].

1817 STOCKTONS VALLEY ASSOC. Query from Caseys Fork church: "What shall be done with persons suing for fellowship with us, upon the baptism of other denominations, and not complying with the order of the Baptists?" Answer: "We advise that such persons should be baptized in an orderly manner, agreeable to the order of the Baptist church" [pp. 214-5].

1818 LITTLE RIVER ASSOC. Query from the Salem church: "What shall be done in the reception of a member, dismissed from a church not in our faith and order, but he having faith in his baptism?" Answer: "We advise the church to receive him on a profession of his faith in Christ, and baptize him agreeably to our order" [p. 207].

1822 NORTH BEND ASSOC. Query from Licking church: "Whether that is gospel baptism which is not administered by an ordained Baptist minister, to a believer, by immersion?" Answer: "We believe that baptism, only, a gospel one, which is received by immersion, on profession of faith, and administered by one who has been baptized, himself, believing that to be the only scriptural mode, and duly authorized to administer that ordinance." [pp. 144-5].

1836 LITTLE RIVER ASSOC. Query from the West Union church: "Shall we receive a member in full membership, who has been immersed by a Pedobaptist?" Answer: "We think not" [p. 272].

1871 RUSSELLS CREEK ASSOC. At its session numbering 32 churches, there was an expression on "alien baptism."
Resolved: "That the Association does not consider any person baptized, unless he has been immersed in water, in the name of the Trinity, by the authority of a regularly organized Baptist church" [p. 203].

1874 A council of five associations was called in 1873, which met at Mount Zion church, Overton County, TN on April 10, 1874 to discuss some of the subjects that had of late agitated the churches. Messengers from STOCKTONS VALLEY, SOUTH CONCORD AND HAIWASSEE ASSOC. responded. The subjects discussed were alien immersion, the spread of the gospel, the support of the ministry, and a uniform system of correspondence. The conclusions of the council, together with the arguments by which they were supported, were embodied in the report of a committee, which is a lengthy paper of very decided ability. It was decided that baptism is valid only when the subject is a believer, the administrator, one authorized by a Scriptural church, the element water, the formula, that given in the Commission, and the action immersion. [p. 218].
__________________________________

http://www.geocities.com/baptist_documents
/baptism.valid.invalid.html

knnuki said...

There is no reason to stop your blog, Wade. You have certainly been gracious and godly through this whole debacle, and if you should choose to cease blogging that is of course your choice. But your voice - your blog - brings an accountability to the trustees that is desperately needed and is being provided nowhere else. Please consider continuing the blog, and with your usual gracious attitude.