Today marks my 10th International Mission Board trustee meeting since my election to the board in June of 2005. The IMB has six full board meetings a year and at the July meeting in Richmond this summer I will complete two years of service. The plenary session tonight was filled with typical, yet important business of the IMB. The staff and administration work in the day to day operations of the world-wide work of the missionaries of the Southern Baptist Convention, and we trustees provide oversight, accountability, and ultimately authority to appoint the missionaries who eventually go to the field. The reports were very good tonight, including excellent committee reports, outstanding remarks from our President, and various other matters that required full board attention, but nothing earth shattering. The Mission Personnel Committee, chaired by Paul Chitwood, announced that they would present the report of the Ad Hoc Committees reexamining the new policies on private prayer language and baptism at the next IMB trustee meeting this May in Kansas City.
I thought I might use this post to reflect just a little on the past ten IMB meetings and some of the things I have learned about the SBC and the way we do missions and cooperate with each other.
(1). First, I am amazed at the level of interest and knowledge of the inner workings of the Southern Baptist Convention by the average Southern Baptist pastor and layman. I think that blogs operated by Southern Baptists should be given a great deal of credit for the rising awareness of what is taking place within our convention. I myself have learned a great deal from reading what others have said, and are saying, about the SBC. And, unlike some who may believe oppenness and transparency are not healthy, I am of the opinion that kingdom work is always better when everything possible is done in the light of day.
(2). Second, even though there has been a measure of conflict over the new policies at the International Mission Board, I know without a doubt that everyone on our board, and I am sure this is true of other boards as well, really do have the best interest of the SBC at heart. We may have various opinions of what is best for the SBC, but there is no doubt that the men and women with whom I serve do believe they would only do those things that would help the SBC in the end. Obviously, my view is that we work best as a convention when we let the churches be the ultimate authority, and we choose to cooperate with each other for the sake of missions. Some seem to desire uniform doctrinal interpretation on all tertiary doctrines, while others of us are desiring a focus on the essentials and missions, with freedom of interpretation in those non-essential areas of faith and practice. The future of the SBC will be determined in large measure by which group ultimately convinces the majority of the SBC that their view is more essential for future success in missions and world evangelism.
(3). Third, I believe it would be wise for every agency to examine how we do trustee meetings. In my opinion there is no reason for us to have SIX meetings a year at the IMB. We could get by easily with four, and our President has recommended that we move to four in the future. I for one would support this move. There are a handful of trustees who have gone on the record opposing this recommendation, but I wonder if it's not just because some enjoy the travel, hotels and meals and would hate to give that up. Frankly, I enjoy the travel too, but I personally think staff and administration could lead us to be more cost efficient and time effective moving to quarterly meetings and hope that it will happen in the near future.
(4). Fourth, I can see how easy it would be for someone to obtain a denominational post and seek to orchestrate the trustee system to benefit his or her personal longevity and/or financial gain. I am not by any means saying that this has happened in any particular agency, but when an SBC entity deals with millions and millions of dollars it is essential that those responsible for oversight (i.e. 'the trustees') be completely independent from administrative and executive staff. The IMB is a very large organization, but I believe trustees and administration do a very good job of financial accountability. That's not to say there are not, nor have been problems, but I can honestly say, at least at the IMB, the oversight is conscientious and sincere. Dr. Rankin made mention of the tight controls on expenditures of CP money during the plenary session (every CP dollar expenditure at the IMB is reported).
(5). Finally, even though there have been some tough times and rough days these last few months, I can honestly say there are no regrets. The thousands of people that I have met, the genuinely wonderful missionaries that I have come to know in the Pacific Rim, Africa, Central Asia, East Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Central America and other regions of the world make me realize that Southern Baptists truly are on mission.
In His Grace,