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

The Problem Is Too Little Communication, Not Too Much

We are living in an age of instant communication, and a growing ability for secure communication. In this age of information I believe an important challenge we face at the International Mission Board can be summarized in one little phrase --- too little communication.

I do not speak in an official capacity in this post, only as one person with an opinion.

Let me give some examples of too little communication:

(1). In an organization as large as the International Mission Board it would be helpful for every department in Richmond to obtain daily, secure information on major decisions from other departments. The sense of teamwork among the major divisions of the IMB can only be enhanced by MORE communication, not less. This will require an initial investment for design and implementation, but the longterm benefits would seem to me to far outweigh the cost.

(2). Important reports presented during the public sessions of the International Mission Board trustee meetings could be made available immediately to the public at large through either internet pod casts or the posting of the transcript of those reprorts. Waiting three months for the official minutes to be produced allows either misinformation or miscommunication to foster for too long.

For instance, the Chairman's report during our last Plenary Session this past Tuesday, as I heard it, gave two less than favorable opinions on two different matters:

First, the Chairman, according to my understanding and several others who were in the room, seemed to indicate blogs were lowering the morale of missionaries. From the perspective of those I visit with, blogs have only energized, motivated and compelled missionaries and average Southern Baptists to be informed and involved. However, if I and others misunderstood Dr. Floyd, it would be helpful for his report to be made available immediately in order for us to be corrected in our misunderstanding.

Second, the Chairman also seemed to indicate that his major concern with the work of the International Mission Board was the sending out of missionaries into the field without adequate training. This concern of Dr. Floyd, I believe, is without basis or merit, but for Dr. Floyd to convince me and others that this is a truly a legitimate problem, he will need to communicate MORE with evidence that the training of our missionaries is inadequate.

Frankly, there is a report coming to our Board at our next meeting from a subcommittee that has investigated training of missionaries at the ILC and I will be VERY surprised if it says anything other than the IMB is superior in missionary training. Maybe the Chairman is referring to inadequate "seminary" training, but since I don't know for sure, I again reiterate that what is needed is MORE communication.

(3). As a trustee I asked at my first meeting, over a year ago, for anecdotal evidence that the new policies were needed in order to combat charismatic problems on the field, or inappropriate baptisms on the field. I never received an answer to my question. I believe that had there been an attempt to answer my question with straightforward, clear communication when I initially asked the question, then much of what happened last year could have been avoided.

However, my question was only finally answered THIS week, one year after I initially asked it --- and I was told that there is no anecdoctal evidence of IMB staff not dealing appropriately with charismatic problems on the field, or unbiblical baptisms taking place on the field, that would support the need for the new policies. I really appreciated the honesty in answering my question by the Chairman of the Committee that dealt with the policies, and now I know that the policies were pushed not because of any anecdotal evidence of problems on the field not handled properly by the IMB administration, but because of a particular doctrinal mindset within the Board (in other words --- "this is what we believe the Scripture to teach").

Again, if that information had been communicated to me early last year we could have moved on to other issues, but there was too little communication, not too much.

(4). There is a new trustee subcommittee, chaired by Dr. Corbaley, that was appointed this week in order to research our mission work around the world and focus in on any problems we might be facing. It was said during our plenary session that this committee will be interviewing field personnel, administrators, trustees, seminary presidents, missions professors, and others (as listed by Overseas Chairman Chuck McAlister).

My concern at the outset for this committee is one of TOO LITTLE communication, not too much. Do trustees know enough about field conditions to determine if something is actually a problem? Do seminaries know enough about the admistration of the IMB to determine there is actually trouble that needs to be addressed? In other words, I'm not saying this research is a bad idea, but frankly, unless there is a WEALTH of communication between all the people involved, too often preconcieved ideas and alternate agendas can sidetrack the important work of the Board.

In Summary:

I think the real problem we face as a Board is not too much communication with each other, but TOO LITTLE communication.

Lord willing, that will change.

In His Grace,


Wade Burleson

40 comments:

blampp@juno.com said...

I would agree.... and that's not just an application to issues at the IMB, any other agency, or BoT's.... I believe it's applicable to most relationships!

Arkansas Razorbaptist said...

Well said Wade, I hope your fellow trustess read this.

Alan Cross said...

Concerning the comments about bloggers, I can only assume that the desired action be that everyone keep their opinions on the pronouncements on doctrine by the Board of Trustees to themselves.

We have discouraged missionaries? It is unfathomable to me that missionaries are discouraged by concerned Baptists expressing opinions on the doctrinal direction of the IMB and not by attacks by trustees on the missional direction of the IMB. Something doesn't fit. Are we just to support everything and be quiet? Is there no room for discussion?

Wade, I am confused by your statement that the board could have moved on to other matters if there would have been an admittance of no anecdotal evidence and that the changes were because of biblical interpretation. I think you would have opposed the policies just as much and the same result would have occurred. I am not surprised that it was from an interpretaion point of view. But, the BF&M should stand for something, not the narrow interpretation of a few men on the board. Some things are worth standing up for, I think. Keep standing.

Bryan Riley said...

God feels the same way with us.

Worker in the Middle East said...

As an IMB worker in the Middle East, I wholeheartedly agree with a "more communication" policy. Communication, both internally and externally, is a huge issue that we are currently tackling as a region.

As for your second point, if Dr. Floyd did indeed imply that blogs were lowering the morale of field workers, I would have to strongly disagree. I have thoroughly enjoyed knowing what is happening while I am overseas, especially in areas that may affect me directly.

Bob Cleveland said...

Good points.

The only observation .. which could be a question too .. relates to the following:

"this is what we believe the Scripture to teach".

Does that mean (well, I guess it does so this is really rhetorical) that the IMB BoT is free to go outside and beyond what the BF&M teaches, in administration of the work? I must say that applying that statement to the baptism requirement is a monumental stretch, and likewise with the "PPL" matter.

My take: they've really trashed the preamble to the BF&M, which seems to set forth the basis for the BF&M in the first place. OR, they really are set on narrowing the parameters for missionary service, and that without cause.

But apparently not without fear.

Interesting.

William said...

Wade, if there is any question about what the chairman said or meant and a prompt release of a transcript would be helpful (a suggestion I would heartily support) then wouldn't it also be helpful if you restrained yourself from immediately and publicly labeling it with your critical impressions based on what might have been said or meant and following yesterday's critical comments with today's offer of possible "misunderstanding"?

Why wouldn't it be helpful to let a comment slide if it is possible that it was misunderstood or if one wasn't certain of its intent?

While I have been critical of you at times, I do commend you for your call of a year of rest while the Trustees complete their assigned task. I would like to be more optimistic that your call will be heard and followed.

You and the board, and all of the mission personnel are in my prayers.

Wade Burleson said...

William,

I am being gracious William.

Communication is in three parts.

(a). What the speaker intended to say.

(b). What the speaker actually said.

(c). What the hearer heard.

I know what I heard and it is consistent with seven months of what I have heard.

Thanks for your input.

Wade Burleson said...

Mr. Anonymous Missionary,

Email me with your post, your station and your name. I will keep the information confidential and only then will I publish your comment.

t. d. webb said...

Wade, most everyone would welcome the prompt publication of the BoT's minutes record. However, lacking the present inclination of the BoT leadership to provide this information in a prompt manner (three months is entirely too long to sit on such records), it is beneficial that those who were there and personally witnessed the proceedings to report what they saw and heard.

Contrary to William's suggestion, it is, in my opinion, incumbent on all of the Trustees to report to their constituency their perspective of what happened at the BoT's plenary sessions. Good on you, Wade, for being faithful to that responsibility.

Wade, your graciousness is superceded only by your patience. While I don't propose throwing rhetorical gasoline on the controversy of IMB BoT actions of the past seven months, neither do I believe we should fail to continually hold the BoT accountable for their actions in addressing the directive from the SBC. . .such as making public the names of those who have been appointed to the special investigative committee concerning these matters. They do have a year to get the report back to the SBC. However tolerant we may be in the deliberative nature of the process, we should be, nevertheless, holding the BoT leadership's feet to the fire in managing the stewardship of time, not wasting precious weeks or months to fully complete the task at hand.

In His Grace and Peace,

Jeff Richard Young said...

Dear Brother Wade,

The increased flow of information around the SBC that has taken place on the Baptist Blogs during the past year has had a wonderful positive influence on the state of affairs in the SBC. There are many more Baptists involved and interested in the work of our mission boards, and there are many more Baptists becoming well informed on important matters of theology that had been badly overlooked in previous decades. I agree that the IMB BOT should embrace this new medium, and use it to the advantage of our mission work, rather than resist the new medium as if it were the source of our problems.

Love in Christ,

Jeff

Kevin Bussey said...

Wade,

I haven't seen anything that would be harmful. We need more information rather than less. Of course when it involves the safety of personnel we should err on the side of less info. But the problem has been for years that we don't know enough. More information keeps you interested in my opinion.

Charles said...

Information is power, Wade.

If I have information and you don't, that makes me more powerful than you.

If I know something you don't know, that makes me more important than you.

If I have information you think you need, that makes you beholden to me.

The more information I control, the more important I am perceived to be. For a club to really be special, its members must know things no one else is worthy to know.

21st century American gnosticism? Just a thought.

OKpreacher said...

Wade,

I agree with you 100%. There needs to be more communication, but until there is a greater sense of trust in our convention I don't think there will be more communication.

I don't understand why every person in a SBC position doesn't have a blog. Southern Baptist are interested in what is going on and blogs are a great resource for finding out information. There is the danger in blogging that we only blog about negative things, but you don't through out the baby with the bath water. Blogs can and are being used for some awesome things.

Keep up the good work!

Okpreacher

GeneMBridges said...

Internet broadcasts are very easy to do. My little church that meets in a hotel does this through a simple laptop every Sunday. Mp3's are easily recorded these days (we do this for all the meetings of my own church), and uploaded. It isn't as if we don't have the technology. If my little church of 50 or 60 folks can do it every Sunday through a laptop, why can't the IMB do it once a quarter?

...I'm just sayin...

art rogers said...

You hit the nail on the head, here, Wade. Openness and honesty marks of God's character. I am not saying that all things from all times must be divulged, but I am saying that we must be about the business of revealing ourselves - just as God does.

To hide our motives and character is the nature of the enemy.

Bill Pfister said...

Wade, while on the field we never received any information from Richmond not even an email. It was as if we didn't exist. Information had to be funneled down through the 7 layers of leadership that New Directions created.

While you are checking in to things, please check the new church start numbers and baptism numbers. At least in the country where I worked they were not "real" numbers. For example, we were directed not to work with National Convention churches in starting new works, but at the end of the year when it was time for statistics, our office manager called the National COnvention for their numbers and reported them, even though the IMB missionaries were not responsible for any of the work directly. The logic was that we had started the Convention 100 years earlier so they were IMB numbers.

Anonymous said...

It would be a good idea for the survey to include our Baptist national partners. In the six countries where I have worked with national Baptists they feek disrespected by IMB and usually ignored in planning mission strategy. They are an important part of the Baptist evangelization and ministry.

Matt Snowden said...

Wade,
Blogging is the main reason I am still a Southern Baptist. The "ppl" issue almost pushed me out. The blogging conversation let me know that there were others that think like I do. More conversation creates a broader community. For that, I am grateful.

Anonymous said...

Wade,

I'm currently serving with the IMB in a difficult part of the world where people are regularly beaten for sharing the Gosepl and killed for accepting it.

Does your (or anyone else's) blog lower my morale? No. I am discerning about whose blogs I read, though, but I try to read most of the comments as well. Most of my colleagues are energized by people who do not want to stand for a less-than-Christlike approach to our lives and calling.

Regarding the insight into training that goes on at ILC, I believe that a lot of good goes on in that last eight weeks before someone hits the field. Don't kid yourself, though, into thinking that someone ill-prepared for the mission field can have all their faults fixed in those same eight weeks.

Regarding the training of those coming out to the field, a far greater crisis is what we quietly refer to as "The Southeastern Syndrome." There are quite a few individuals we find on the field who have been taught that the field and home office leadership of the IMB is doctrinally bankrupt and they do not have to submit themselves to such authority. They remain submitted to their seminary professors and look to them for direction and feedback in how they carry out their assignments on the field. To give you an idea, I am currently dealing with four such individuals out of a group of almost 40 units I supervise. It makes the job quite difficult.

I know that gross generalizations are unfair and I apologize to all of those who are wrongly tainted by such a label. You would be amazed at all that share the experience and nod their head knowingly when we discuss the headaches of administration. You don't fix a situation like that at ILC.

Concerns about sending improperly equipped M's to the field need to begin way before the appointment process begins.

Wade, thank you for your contribution to the morale on the field. My colleagues and I are encouraged that we are not alone in wondering where God gets honored in all this that is going on. Keep up the good work.

Blessings,
Your M friend.

Pastor C said...

Wade I agree that we need good communication. When the clergy is filled with pride and do not trust the church member or missionary on the field, we limit the power of the Holy Spirit to work in His church. We become no better than the priests who tried to keep the Bible out of the hands of the laity. Religious pride is a serious problem. We trust no one, not even God. I am deeply troubled by hidden agendas.

Anonymous said...

from a IMB Pac/Rim missionary

I am not the missionary that Wade asked for place of service before posting the comment, in case anyone was wondering.

I agree whole heartedly with the IMB worker from the Middle East and the "your M friend" post about blogging. There needs to be more open, honest and transparent communication between the missionaries, front liners as we are called, and the field leadership, the regional leadership and the IMB administration and BOT. I believe there can never be too much information given or received. Most of the communication we front liners receive is from the top down. I would like to quote a fellow missionary in our region, I received this in a note from this missionary not too long ago.

“We feel that people need the opportunity to talk openly about what they are struggling with. It is unfortunate that our mission organization does not provide appropriate channels for people to express their concerns and their struggles. Everyone is expected to be "on board," even when most of us are not certain what "on board" really means.”

Open communication will never happen on the field if it does not start with the BOT first. How can we expect to have open communication at the front liner level if it does not happen at the top.

Thank you Wade and others who are trying to keep everyone informed. We really appreciate your efforts.

Roger Simpson said...

I wonder if there is any diagnostic that would allow one to assess if a potential missionary candidate has the "Southeastern Syndrome" or is at increased over the general population of developing symptoms?

Would it help if one could develop protocols for early identification and also management of the condition?

Aaron Brindle said...

As an IMB applicant in process, I appreciate your effort to make public all appropriate information. My wife and I and at least one other couple considering service with the IMB have been encouraged by the effort to keep IMB restrictions consistent with the BFM2000. Lower morale, from our vantage point, was the result of the attempt to narrow the parameters beyond the BFM2000.

Tim Sweatman said...

The effects of blogging on our missions work have been overwhelmingly positive, both for missionaries and for us here in the USA. Missionaries on the field can read an open, unfiltered perspective on issues here in the USA, some of which could affect their work overseas. Blogging also allows them to network with other missionaries and with churches and individuals back home. At the same time, those of us here in the US can hear directly from missionaries about what is happening around the world. Through blogging I have learned more about our missions work in the past 8 months than in my previous 20-plus years as a Southern Baptist. Because of this, I now have a greater desire to lead my church to be actively involved in missions. And this is a bad thing?

Instead of complaining about new avenues of communication, the IMB trustees need to use every method available to communicate with each other, IMB administrative staff, missionaries, churches, and individual Southern Baptists. If things were communicated openly and in a timely manner, then we would have fewer misunderstandings and greater trust. With all of the extra attention that is being given to the IMB, there is a great opportunity to get Southern Baptists really excited about our missions work, but to take advantage of this opportunity the trustees and administration have to communicate openly with Southern Baptists.

mixilmash said...

Wade, I appreciate your desire to be positive, but I think that you may be a tad bit "pollyanna-ish" in your perspective.

There is a corporate tap root of sin that runs to the core of who we are as a denomination. SIN is THE problem, not too little communication. Too little communication is an expression of the core problem of SIN.
It's not popular to even mention that, especially among we Baptists, because of our emphasis on forgiveness from the penalty of SIN(justification)...and we should emphasize that, but we should not stop there!

The failure to simultaneously emphasize the Biblical doctrine of sanctification has resulted in a plethora of immature believers who know how to tweak the denominational machinery but don't know how to walk with God....A cursory look at our denominational vital signs indicate the depth of our need...we desperately need a DEEP WORK of GOD among us, a SIN-KILLING work....

HOLINESS is not an option with God but from the ACTIONS and ATTITUDES and the MEAN-SPIRITED ways that Baptists treat each other all indicate to me that there is something seriously lacking among us...that something is the failure to put the POWER of SIN to death by the Spirit, a'la Romans 8.

An objective observer would be forced to conclude that there is a growing discrepancy between our rhetoric and our corporately apprehension of all that CHRIST has done to set us free from SIN! To be free from the PENALTY of SIN IS the beginning of our walk of faith, to be set free from the PRESENCE of SIN WILL be heaven (doctrine of glorification) but we neglect the TRUTH that JESUS ALSO frees from the POWER of SIN in the here an now...it is that neglect that continues to cause us to stumble and stagger spiritually....a corporate blindspot about the potential of the POWER of SIN to operate even in the life of believers is leading us dangerously close to self-disqualification from being Kingdom effective.

ALL of the positive pallatives in the world can't meet the need we have to allow the Holy Spirit to further the work of SANCTIFICATION in us corporately. In the medical world, diagnosis is ultimately important; in the spiritual realm in which we are attempting to operate, it is even more so!

It is my earnest desire to see us enter into that serious work of realizing our spiritual birthright that motivates me to write this, for I truly believe the ONLY way for us to adequately communicate the WONDERFUL GOOD NEWS is for us to fully experience ALL that JESUS desires for us to receive.

The world continues to rightfully ask what difference our faith in JESUS means in the here and now. Our fleshed out answer will be determinative in where they will spend their eternity. We CAN NOT express that which we are not experiencing and if we are not experiencing the difference in our changed lives, it's illogical to expect others to.

Rob Westbrook said...

To the above sermonette by mixilmash, I say "AMEN!" He's put his finger on the problem, not only in our denominational entities, but in all our churches, and frankly, in me. "Repent, for the Kingdom of God is near."

Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous M,

I too, serve in a country where people are regularly beaten for sharing and sometimes killed for believing.

You said, “Regarding the training of those coming out to the field, a far greater crisis is what we quietly refer to as "The Southeastern Syndrome….…You would be amazed at all that share the experience and nod their head knowingly when we discuss the headaches of administration”.

It is not quiet now. You just said it in front of countless SB bloggers, including this Southeastern 2+2 graduate and career M.

You say “They remain submitted to their seminary professors and look to them for direction and feedback in how they carry out their assignments on the field.” Could it be that these students are part of the 2+2/2+3 program that requires them to have constant dialogue with their professors as they work on their 30+ hours of seminary work while serving on the field, after already completing 66 hours of study on the seminary campus? Could it be that they are students who are in the midst of learning mission theories and are dialoging with their professors about the tensions between mission theories and practices? Could it be that you do not have the proper time to mentor these M's why you deal with the supervision of 36 other units on the field?

Southeastern’s 2+2/2+3 program has produced in the last ten years more seminary trained career-appointed IMB M’s than nearly the other five seminaries combined. M’s who have a heart for the nations and seeing the least reached peoples of the earth touched with the gospel, including a couple currently serving on my team who have learned the local language in less than two years and are evangelizing, training and starting new churches. M’s who have risen to leadership and are leading and training other M’s how to more affectively reach their target areas.

Exactly what are you inferring when you say ”Concerns about sending improperly equipped M's to the field need to begin way before the appointment process begins.” Just who are you inferring to? The bulk of your blog refers to Southeastern prepared M’s.

You are correct in saying there have been some concerns from Southeastern graduates concerning MLC and IMB leadership, but you have gone over the line in saying that they are taught that they do not need to submit to their authorities. The structure of the 2+2/2+3 program gives them dual authority that the students are under, much like submitting to your boss, your teacher and your pastor at the same time. If leaderships doing a good job, there shouldn't a problem with M's talking with anyone about the way the IMB works, however they need to be constructive in their criticim.

One Southeastern concern that I’m familiar with is the Methodist gentlemen who used to teach cultural anthropology at MLC. This man advocated that people today are smarter and better educated than Jesus because He didn’t have access to the information age and technology like we do. This same man also joked constantly that Southern Baptist could not produce a qualified person to teach cultural anthropology so they had to look to the Methodist to find someone.

This particular concern as well as other concerns was addressed after several Southeastern students voiced their concerns to the MLC leadership (at that time) but after not feeling they were heard, mentioned it to their professors, who then in turn mentioned it to the president of the seminary who then contacted Richmond to voice concern. IMB leadership did the right thing and made necessary changes in who they invite to teach cultural anthropology.

Southeastern leadership and the IMB leadership may not see eye to eye on every issue, but both are committed to leading SB’s to reach the ends of the earth so that all may hear the good news. Some of Dr. Rankin’s harshest critics have made him a better leader because they hold him accountable, just like bloggers are trying to do with the IMB BOT.

Anonymous M, your comments were unfair and only sow seeds of disunity as you use words like “we, us and them”. I pray that you will go to these four Southeastern graduates and find out what their concerns are and seek better communication and understanding. Ask God to give your team one heart submitted in Christ to one another and to the people He's called you to reach, only then will you see CPM in your areas.

Wade is correct in saying we need more communication, not less.

Signed,
An M from another region.

GeneMBridges said...

It's not popular to even mention that, especially among we Baptists, because of our emphasis on forgiveness from the penalty of SIN(justification)...and we should emphasize that, but we should not stop there!

If I might observe, in agreement with Mixilmash's other content, that this very emphasis on forgiveness is part of the problem. Not that we shouldn't talk about it, but because it is overemphasized. Please allow me to explain, since Wade has touched on this before.

Lots of the doctrine of salvation coming from our pulpits lacks engagement with ye olde doctrine of justification itself. Justification is both positive and negative. We are forgiven of sin, because Christ has propitiated God's wrath, but at the same time, we are also positively declared righteous with His righteousness. This turns on the doctrine of imputation.

Lots of Baptists emphasize the former but not the latter so much that we forget that it is the righteousness of Christ with which are clothed, not our own. We preach such much about forgiveness and our need for, but we seem to preach, relative to that, very little about the ground of justification, the alien righteousness of Christ. Who among us has not heard, if not used the old saying, "Christians aren't perfect, they're just forgiven." I beg to differ, we aren't just forgiven, we are declared righteousness by the merciful God and Father of all who clothes us with the perfect righteousness of Christ in His legal ledger.

We preach the duties of the Christian life but we forget that those duties come to us by virtue of being joined to the righteousness of Christ, so we tell our people how to live but not the ground for why we are to live that way, unlike Paul in Romans. We build them a castle in which to live and neglect part of the foundation. Effectively, we build a castle in the air at worst, on a cracked foundation at best. No wonder the house seems to be sliding off the foundation.

We are living out the declaration of righteousness, having been united by faith to that righteousness, not merely forgiven sinners, but simultaneously saints made righteous, not by our own merits, but by Christ's alone!

A proper understanding of these elements lays the proper ground for discussing sanctification, for discussing the gospel, for evangelism, and for virtually every part of the Christian life, whether how we treat the clerk at the grocery store or how well we communicate with each other in any context.

Yes, the problem is sin, and part of the problem with sin stems from the doctrinal dumbing down of our churches, whether they be SBC, another denomination, or independent; this isn't just a Baptist issue; its a Christian issue. That includes the doctrines of salvation that affect our view of the gospel, our duties for living, and the way we minister to the world around us. Luther was right. The doctrine of justification by faith is the doctrine on which we stand or fall. When I look around, I hear a lot about "forgiveness" and little or worse nothing about "alien righteousness." Worse than that, I know of some who outright deny it.

When I sometimes bring this up, I hear all manner of excuses. Folks agreee but then say things like: "My people just aren't that far along" or "You can't go too deep, or you'll lose the people." Pardon me? We are called to teach the whole counsel of God. No, you don't throw meat to babies, but you do wean babies from milk and onto solid food. That's our duty, whether as pastors, missionaries, deacons, Sunday School teachers, Bible study leaders, and yes, just as rank and file church members who read and study God's Holy Writ. If a first century Christian could get it and have some understanding of it, then what does this say of us today, with 2000 years of history and, at a bare minimum, 450 to 500 odd years of Protestant exegesis and 400 odd years of Baptist exegesis and theological writing on which to draw?

Anonymous said...

Bill Pfister and the anonymous post after him struck a cord with me as in my country we are also told not to have anything to do with our local Baptist partners and then every year we have to (rather sheepishly I feel) go to these same Baptist partners and ask for THEIR statistics so that we can report them as OURS since after all we did start these churches 50 years ago. Recently a trustee was overseas visiting in my home and this issue came up and he was truly surprised - he assured me that trustees were told several years ago that this was not happening. I strongly suspect that the lack of communication be because personnel on the field are and trustees are kept removed from each other lest trustees find out the real situaiton in many places. Of course with those working in persecuted or similar area where there is not a long established church that is not an issue - and therefore as I read the blog responses there seem to be those who are generally supportive - those working in these places and those who are more critical - the ones working where they have to report "other people's" statistics. Again I remain anonymous because the last person who tried to expose this has been subject to extreme scrutiny of his every move - basically harrassment - and I do not need that in my life - I want to focus on the main thing.

tim rogers said...

Brother Wade,

I am not sure how to read this post as you have always been very good at communicating your thoughts. I do enjoy following your blog though I do not agree with you, you have always been very precise in your remarks as they reveal your thoughts. This post throws me a curve for the following reasons.

You say that there needs to be communication for all of the pertinant departments of major decisions. Who makes the determination as to what is a major decision?

I agree that the BoT Chairman's report shoulc be made available when it is presented. If there is security sensitive information it can be noted that it is not in the report when it is made available.

Your third assessment is what throws the curve for me. I do wish you would reconsider your wording or give a better explanation. You sound like you did not get your way on an issue and everything that we have endured at the IMB would not have happened if only you would have gotten your way. Your conclusion says; "Again, if that information had been communicated to me early last year we could have moved on to other issues, but there was too little communication, not too much". If the same information that has been made public about the IMB would have come to you, are you saying that you would have not revealed to the public the internal strife that exists at the IMB? Are you saying that if this information would have been given to you then you would not have began this "crusade" (I use that term not as a negative but only as a decription)of blogging that exists with SBC Pastors?

Brother, in all humility, I do ask that you respond. It does come across at some points as one that did not get what they wanted.

Roger Simpson said...

Wade:

You are right about the need for MORE communication.

I think there have been two areas that the communication on this blog has brought up which properly should be addressed by the BoT:

(1) My attempt at dry humor about the "Southeastern Syndrome" notwithstanding it apprears by reading comments here that this subject is still "in flux" and the BoT should work with management to look at the current state of this situation.

(2) I strongly feel that reporting work done by others is misleading and even unethical and unChristian. Does IMB management actually condone this and does the BoT "rubber stamp" this? Just because the IMB may have partenered with someone many years ago does not mean current operations are influenced by the IMB personnel. An anology in business would be for a company booking revenues for an operation that it spun off many years ago. This is hyping results in the Skilling / Fastow mold. Does the IMB have any independent "auditors" looking at the reports and if so do they actually sign off on this? I know that this is not a function of any financial statements. However, in my mind is a "material misreprentation" of IMBs operations. If the situation is --in fact -- as described it would never pass muster in the corporate world.

Roger Simpson Oklahoma City OK

Anonymous said...

Dear M brother,
This may well have been the wrong forum to bring out such an issue, and if that's the case, I do apologize. I would like to answer your questions, though, as best as I can.

I tried to say that I knew it was unfair to indict every SEBTS graduate with a generalization like that, hoping it would say that I don't think every SEBTS graduate is a pox upon the work, but I guess it didn't come across that way. I still would like to say that honorable, valuable SEBTS graduates far outweigh any caught up in the "syndrome." Let me state it even clearer: If my comments offended the greater body, then I am truly sorry for that, had no intentions or desire to offend the greater body, won't do it again and wish I had found another way to say what I wanted to in the first place, and if there is something else I can do to make it right, I would like to know what that is.

You ask,"Could it be that these students are part of the 2+2/2+3 program that requires them to have constant dialogue with their professors as they work on their 30+ hours of seminary work while serving on the field, after already completing 66 hours of study on the seminary campus?" Yes, it could be and is in two cases. In two other cases, they are graduates.

You ask, "Could it be that they are students who are in the midst of learning mission theories and are dialoging with their professors about the tensions between mission theories and practices?" Yes, again, it could be.

You ask, "Could it be that you do not have the proper time to mentor these M's why you deal with the supervision of 36 other units on the field?" I'm not sure what in my comment led you to the conclusion that these four do not receive proper mentoring, but in the case of these four, they both demand and receive time and resources from both myself and their immediate supervisors in excess of the average personnel in this region, as well as more than other 2+2/2+3 students. I've never heard complaint from any of them that they do not receive adequate supervision. So, to answer your question, it cold be, but I doubt it.

You ask me about my comment that ”Concerns about sending improperly equipped M's to the field need to begin way before the appointment process begins” and state that I'm implying that the cause is a SEBTS thing. Well, I'm dealing with these four cases right now and they are heavily on my mind. It's certainly not an exhaustive list of problems we deal with. Let me say it more clearly: SEBTS graduates are not the only problems there are on the field.
You also said that I "have gone over the line in saying that they are taught that they do not need to submit to their authorities." To be honest, I have never set foot on the SEBTS campus, and all I have to go by on this issue is what these four team members have told me. Each of them have told me that their professor has told them that they need not heed the direction of field leadership, because it is doctrinally bankrupt. As a result of this, we are dealing with financial misappropriation, practices resulting in dependency of local believers, the undermining of national pastors and other such distractions. I don't believe these things are taught at SEBTS, but I believe that the lack of experience on the part of the student coupled with an incomplete picture provided to the professor could result in the outcomes we see.

I was in a co-op program while in college, and while working for my employer, if I had disobeyed instruction because my college professor told me to do it another way, I don't think I would have remained employed very long. If there is disagreement with field leadership, there has got to be a better way of handling it than ignoring it and proceeding anyway. At least I hope there is.

I want to apologize again for casting dispersions on an entire graduate and student body. I didn't invent the term for the syndrome, but as you point out, I did use it in front of a much wider audience. That was wrong of me. I could have made my point and not used the actual name. If it's possible to talk about the issue I'm facing and get past this, then I'd like to do so. If I've ruined any chance of that, then it's my loss as well.

I regularly communicate with these four, seeking to understand their concerns and needs. It seems a bit one-sided at times. We are working toward team unity; in spite of the difficulties, we have decided to invite two of the units back after their apprentice term. Two others are still early in their terms. As far as CPM goes, God will author CPM in His time.

Your M friend

Roger Simpson said...

I really am at more than arms length from whatever the "financial mismanagement" is that is reported as going on with certain missionaries.

I thought long and hard about making any comment but this is just over the top.

I used to manage a microcode development group at a computer outfit in Silicon Valley. I would give my guys all kinds of latitude and not micromanage them.

Making mistakes or being "green" is one thing -- you hold their hand -- at least for a while. The stuff being described -- financial mismanagement -- is more than "being green". It sounds like people in the ranks with a pre-disposition twords insubordination which they justify based upon whatever happend in the halls of acedemia.

People in an organization who have significantly diverging understanding of underlying values (in the case of the IMB leveling the charge of doctrinally bankrupt management fills this criterion) and then go ahead and accept employment from them are not going to be team players -- to put this VERY MILDLY.

I am not aware of whatever doctrinal argument is going on. I am just a layman so I can't argue whatever the doctrinal problem is on its merits.

The missionaries being described should do the honorable thing and either resign or expose the purported doctrinal bankrupcy publicy or privately to IMB senior management and/or BoT.

If they continue to subvert the organization they should quietly be "removed from the business".
This has to be done with sensitivity so as not to make a bad situation worse.

Roger K. Simpson
Oklahoma City Okla
Member: First Southern Baptist Chruch - Del City Oklahoma

Rzrbk said...

In case it is not acceptable to mention the two names in the last paragraph I am resubmitting this without those names.

Wade,
There have been a lot of feelings and emotions revealed in this blog. I want to repeat again that I believe blogging or anything else that increases communication does not hurt the morale of our missionaries but in fact improves morale. I think you have seen from these posts that many IMB personnel are hungry for more communication with their leaders, both staff and trustees. Most communication is top down. They actually want to feel that some one is listening to them. There is very little opportunity to dialogue and many are afraid to express their true feelings to regional or Richmond staff for the rightly or wrongly perceived belief that they will be punished for expressing disagreement with policies or strategies. I guess I still believe we can state our beliefs openly. I admire the regional leader who wrote a letter to the trustees disagreeing with the recent policies. I hope he has not faced repercussions. Many cannot sign their names on the blogs because of legitimate security concerns. I try to always sign my name because I live in an open access country and I have always advocated openness in communicating. One of the good things about the old days when we had mission meetings was the freedom to share with your peers and your supervisors. Traditionally the area director and often the IMB president or VP would be there and have a time of open questions. We could do this without fear. That does not happen as often today. It is difficult to communicate when the only time we get together is highly structured meetings with the entire region. We rarely even know what other missionaries in our region are doing.

My opinions are only mine and are formed because of the experiences I have had in the region where I serve and may be different that those in other regions. I want to respond to several of the posts.

Bill pfiser talked of the levels of leadership hindering communication. He is right. New Directions increased the layers of administrators and supervisors and separated the frontline missionaries from the decision making and the top leadership. This is contrary to the claims made at the time of New Directions. Bureaucracy has increased exponentially under New Directions. We might as well as admit it and start asking why. I would take a different view to his comments on reporting church starts and baptisms. I could tell lots of reasons why these numbers trouble us. I do not have a problem with reporting the numbers from our national conventions. I do have trouble with some of the numbers reported from CPMs other nationals with whom we have had no influence on their church starts or baptisms. I am the person in our country who asks the national convention how many church starts and baptisms they have had in the last year. Some of us still on the field have helped start some of the churches and still have fellowship with the pastors and leaders. At least we can claim without missionary involvement whether it was one year or 100 years ago these churches might not exist. That is not true about many of the CPM reports we hear. We often have had no influence on the beginning or the sustainability of those CPMs. I have not been told to have no contact with national churches but have heard stories about other regions where this may be true. The problem may be the instructions many SCs receive where they are taught about CPM and told to only work with those who are on board and will follow this strategy. What has happened to the good old missiological term indigenous? The break with the BWA has not helped the trust level with our national conventions for the IMB.

I agree with mixilmash that sin is the problem. I think that the main problem in our convention going back to the conservative resurgence was not liberalism but sin, specifically the sin of ego and pride.

For the two anonymous posters discussing the Southeastern Syndrome, I have not experienced this because I do not supervise anyone from SEBTS. I have heard stories of SEBTS students reporting to their seminary leaders on field issues. This does not help the trust level with other missionaries. As far as the Methodist gentlemen, I have heard him teach several times and do not believe he said that we are smarter than Jesus. I would like to hear the context and the exact words. As far as joking about having to get a Methodists to teach cultural anthropology, you Southeasterners need to lighten up and learn to take a joke. I have seen letters and a book written by a former missions professor at SEBTS attacking Jerry Rankin and the training at MLC. Many felt that these were unfair and sowed seeds of disunity. From my personal experience I found his work inaccurate and poorly researched and not worthy of a missions professor at an SBC seminary. If this was an example of the teaching you received at SEBTS, maybe there is a need for better preparation.
Ron West

Anonymous said...

Ron West's words are timely and accurate from my perspective. New Directions has swung the pndulum so to speak in the other direciotn missiologically and there needs to be a balance. There are many of the things that he said that I do not believe trustees have been aware. Much of the conflict between trustees and Richmond staff I believe is because trustees have tried to investigate some of the issues that Ron West brings up as they have been brought to trustee attention by missionaries on the field. Many missionaries in my regions have expressed all of the concerns Ron West articulates and by and large they tend to lay the responsibility on Richmond more than the trustees. For example they know that the trustees have not been aware of the reporting of statistics problems or what are perceived as either at worst deliberate distortions or at best large mistakes in accuracy in the reporting of CPM movements. CPM - while a grand theory - I am afraid has been jumped on too soon and become the cookie cutter model by which all missionaries are measured. For example in my area - your are evaluated at Stateside assignment on the basis of starting house groups - even in countries where this model has not proven successful by and large. Freedom to try any other method that personnel feel might better work in their cultural context is stiffled. A model that reportedly has worked in China and a couple of other places is being held up as something all MUST follow. Already there are increasing reports of movements thought to be CPM actually being distortion or of them fizzling out. I believe that 10-15 years from now when missiologists look at CPM they will wonder what we were thinking. My prediction concering the typical CPM widely publicized today: In 10-15 year half of those churches will be un-findable. 20% will have drifted into doctrinal heresy, 20% will have evolved into a more traditional church form and 10% will be similiar to CPMs reported today. The idea of churchesplanting other reproduceable churches is awesome and that should be the goal of all personnel. However we have basically been given one model to accomplish this - that being the house church. And I live in a country where people culturally do not have people into their homes for any reason. Every CPM I have heard reports about is in or among persecuted or rural or uneducated peoples - which is wonderufl and I rejoice in it. And yet those who work in cities among educated, urban and affluent peoples are never presented with examples of what this is supposed to look like in our situations. I would encourage you and other trustees to look into this and closely examine NEw Direciotns. In my country until recently we have been told we cannot add new personnel and yet the number of "regional support" personnel has grown expodentially in the past few years. There are more support people in our reigonal office than many coutnries of millions of people have misisonaries for. the IMB does not need more bureacracy - it needs less with fewer layers between the missionary and Richmond.

Anonymous said...

A M with new hope

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!! Please listen to what has beeen posted...it is true. We need to be freed to do the work God has called us to do. In my opinion the top 5 problems in the IMB:
1. One size does not fit all
2. One size does not fit most
3. One size does not fit half
4. One size does not fit here
5. We are forced to wear that one size!

Wade, I do believe the trustees need to get to the field before it is too late. When you come, talk to the missionaries and ask the tough questions. I think you will see that the problem is not with the missionaries on the bottom of the food chain...look up.

Thanks.
A M with new hope.

PS. I too am concerned about what is being counted in our region.

greg hicks said...

Chairman Hatley at least implied there were "charismatic issues" that led to the private prayer language policy. In his March 7 "Open Letter" he states, "...we were receiving concerns from the field, from pastors and others returning from mission trips, and from trustees visiting the field. The concerns were varied, but the three greatest doctrinal concerns were the need for a consistent definition of a local church, a poor understanding of the importance of scriptural baptism and charismatic problems that would intrude into some of our mission work." In his position paper on glossolalia he adds, "...Yet, when the practice of something that may or may not be biblical is creating confusion in the ministry then trustees have acted to do what is best for the work."

Now we learn "there is no anecdoctal evidence that supports the need for the new policies."

And the trustees wonder why we don't trust them...

Anonymous said...

Dear M Friend,

Apologies accepted.

An "in-house" forum would have been a much better place to discuss this issue rather than a public blog; however, there are no "in-house" forums for us to have such a dialogue.

Thank you for answering my questions. I hope that it helps you better understand the unusual circumstances that SEBTS students work as they relate both to their IMB supervision and their seminary supervision.

The reasoning behind my questioning your ability to give proper supervision to the 2+2 students was directly in response to your original statement "I am currently dealing with four such individuals out of a group of almost 40 units I supervise."

In your latest response, you said "they both demand and receive time and resources from both myself and their immediate supervisors in excess of the average personnel in this region". Your original post made it sound as if you were trying to supervise 40 units yourself. You never mentioned immediate supervision. I'm glad to hear that your region does not have someone trying to supervise 40 units. It would be difficult if not impossible to give proper mentoring at a ratio of 40:1.

I'll be praying for you, asking God to give you wisdom and ears for better understanding as you interact with those you supervise.


Signed,
Your M brother in another region

Anonymous said...

As a candidate for appointment at this moment who has served 3 years under the ISC program, my wife and I know this is true by experience. We have had repeated frustrations with the appointment process, and the most obvious recurring(!) problem has been a lack of communication; the left hand and the right hand are not communicating.