Friday, June 09, 2006

What's Right With the International Mission Board?

(1). Cooperation

I have missionaries from Youth With a Mission, Wycliffe, Samaritan's Purse, HCJB Radio, and other Great Commission Evangelical Mission organizations who say to me that Southern Baptists are leading the evangelical movement to reach unreached people groups. When you hear about the partnerships with the IMB that are occurring as we lead out in taking the Scriptures through oral translations of Scriptural narratives, or the translation of the Word of God into the languages of people groups who have never heard the gospel, you can't help but marvel at what the International Mission Board is doing. One high level non-Southern Baptist missionary told me last week over lunch that there is a genuine move of God taking place all over the world and Southern Baptists are at the leading edge with other evangelicals. He has been around a long time and said it is a new day of cooperation with Southern Baptists. In the coming weeks I hope to share with you some great stories from the fields to illustrate this cooperation.

(2). Administration

My undergraduate degree is in Business Administration and Corporate Finance. I considered an MBA before going into the ministry. I can assure every Southern Baptist that the administration of the IMB is on top of every aspect of the business end of missions. I have read diligently the public report of the problems at the NAMB, and I can guarantee you that there are not similar problems at the IMB. The work of the IMB is particularly complicated because of the countless countries with which we are involved, but the staff and administration do a tremendous job in their areas of responsibility, and the trustees are very active in demanding accountability.

When one looks at the leadership of Dr. Jerry Rankin the assessement is stunning. Over 5,100 missionaries currently at the IMB. An implementation of a New Direction philosophy that focuses on unreached people groups. I hesitate to put down the numbers of conversions and new churches on the mission field because frankly I am more interested in people being faithful in fulfilling their calling than determining success by numbers. Some fields will not have much harvest because of the conditions, but similar to William Carey's first two decades in India, the seeds planted will reap a harvest in centuries to come. The books are not closed on the Rankin administration, and with a possible ten years more of effective leadership at the IMB, I believe history will point to the last decade of the old millenium and the new decade of the new millenium as a watershed moment in Southern Baptist history.

(3). Giving

It is a new record that’s reaffirming an old commitment. $137,939,677.59 – that’s what Southern Baptists gave to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions in 2005, making it the single most successful year in the offering’s history.

The $137.9 million marks a 3.03 percent increase over 2004’s $133.9 million Lottie Moon offering, not to mention a 1.28 percent gain over the old record set in 2003 – $136.2 million. More than 5,100 International Mission Board missionaries depend on the annual offering, of which every penny is used to support their work sharing the Gospel around the world.

“This historic level of giving will enable us to send an increasing number of God-called missionary candidates moving toward appointment,” said IMB President Jerry Rankin. “It will enable us to push forward in fulfilling the vision of bringing all peoples to saving faith in Jesus Christ. At a time of economic uncertainty, and a year in which massive amounts of funding have been directed toward hurricane relief and recovery, it is gratifying to see God prove His faithfulness through Southern Baptists.”

Clyde Meador, IMB executive vice president, echoed Rankin’s sentiments and acknowledged the critical role of the Woman’s Missionary Union in the offering’s success.

“The IMB wouldn’t be able to do any of this without the faithful support of our state and national Woman’s Missionary Union partners,” Meador said. “Long ago, WMU laid the foundation for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering because they understood the eternal significance of sharing Christ with a lost world.

(4). Vision

The International Mission Board is not short on vision. The administration of the IMB does an outstanding job of casting vision, selling vision, and then implementing vision. Of course, the trustees of the IMB must approve the vision and policies of the IMB, and I have not had heard one trustee say publicly that he is not supportive of the vision cast by administration and Dr. Jerry Rankin.

This is one of the reasons why I believe all business sessions should be in the public view of the Southern Baptist Convention. The International Mission Board is owned by the Southern Baptist Convention. The trustees are elected by the Southern Baptist Convention. We all need to see, hear and affirm the vision established by Dr. Jerry Rankin or allow for the full, free debate against it to be PUBLICLY heard.

(5). Future

The best days of the International Mission Board are ahead. I really believe that to be true. This trustee will serve for the next seven years insuring that all Southern Baptists know about what is right with the International Mission Board, and right now, there is a great deal that is good!

This trustee will not stand by while some say things about the IMB that are not true. There have been statements made recently in Baptist Press by a presidential candidate of the SBC that sounds like talking points, words given him without first hand knowledge. As soon as I have been able to speak to him personally, I will blog about it. It is time that misinformation or disinformation from two well known individuals about the IMB stop.

Reports from Greensboro begin late Sunday night.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson


Anonymous said...

Wade- This was a very good blog. If I may, could I ask a questions? If not, simply do not post this. Over the past few months, Ronnie Floyd has taken severe abuse over this CP giving of .27%. RF's people have been denying this all over the blogs. Can you explain to me why the CP giving is so important when your article focus' on all the other monies that are given to all these missionaries?

Tim Sweatman said...

God has given us a wonderful opportunity to partner with Him in an amazing movement of the gospel throughout the world. I thank God for all of the men and women who have left everything to fulfill His calling on their lives, and I thank Him for those of us who support them through our giving, prayers, encouragment, and assistance. Given all of the resources that have gone toward disaster relief here at home over the past 10 months, it is remarkable that we received a record Lottie Moon Offering. God is clearly at work in all of this.

Anonymous said...

From an IMB M,
I appreciate this post! It seems as though people are trying to point out all of the faults of the IMB, while forgetting all of the good things that God is doing through the IMB. I also want to thank all Southern Baptists who give sacrificially to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and pray regularly for us! People often say that Missionaries are heroes, but from my perspective, the heroes are those who allow us to do what God has called us to do!
Serving on Mission with God!

Anonymous said...


Fast Facts
Field Personnel under appointment (5/31/06)
Career/associates/apprentices 4,134
2-yr. ISC/Journeymen/Masters
Field Personnel appointed 2005
Student Volunteers 2005 6,797
Overseas baptisms 2005* 459,725
Overseas churches 2005* 108,713
Overseas church membership 2005* 7.3 million
New churches 2005* 17,676
People groups engaged* 1,193
People groups of the Last Frontier*
Population of the Last Frontier peoples 1.7 billion
World Population 2005 6.4 billion
LMCO receipts for Christmas 2004 $133.9 million
LMCO goal for Christmas 2005
$150 million

LMCO goal for Christmas 2006
$150 million

IMB budget for 2006 $282.5 million
World Hunger/Disaster Relief 2005 receipts $22.5 million

*data from 2005 Annual Statistical Report
**date from Global Status of Evangelical Christianity February 2006

Anonymous said...


Your first point "Cooperation" is relevant given the current context:

1. As Southern Baptists we need to continue to support the Cooperative Program which is one of the key ways (along with the the Lottie Moon offering) that the whole IMB enterprize is funded

2. As you say, the IMB needs to continue to cooperate with other Great Commission groups to spread the Gospel

Hopefully, events in Greensboro will be consistent with the goal of "cooperation" in spreading the Gospel.

Roger Simpson
Oklahoma City

Tim Dahl said...

Is there any way to get the internal audit of the IMB? I remember that they used to send it out to those that asked for it. But, now they only seem to send out a small financial report.


Anonymous said...


(Wade, sorry for using your as a platform). What do you mean it is not working? As in, there are zero churches being planted/ zero salvations? What are you calling effective? I work in middle america. I would have to say that I wish the results of our work were better, but to say that it is not working would be overstated I think, because it is working. No we are not seeing floods and droves of salvations or numberous church plants but, Middle and South America are hard places to work. Don't be discouraged. Pray about it as I am sure you are. It is a hard and frustrating at times. I guess, for one, Wade as a trustee and the rest of us could use some more information to better understand where you are coming from.

Anonymous said...

Wade...I just reread what I wrote (a missionary perspective). In reading, I realized what I tried to say will be misunderstood and only cause harm to our efforts here. Please forgive me for any bitterness displayed in my response. If possible, please remove my comments while I try to rephrase my feelings in a better way. Sometimes frustions of ministry to get the best of me.

I appreciate what you are trying to do and know it is not always easy to pen what you really want to say. Thanks for your sensitivity to all of the issues beign addressed in this blog.

Anonymous said...

Good post. I can only add that the IMB has become a sending agency - concentrating on getting large numbers of missionaries on the field. BUT, these days, little project money is available to do broader sowing. Partnership with GCCs who do broad evangelism projects is essential. It is true that LM is at a record high and all that money goes to missionaries. BUT, it is my understanding that only a small part of CP funds actually get to the IMB. Can you comment on this?

Anonymous said...

Agreeing with "A Missionary's perspective"

Being directed to only use one method of planting churches is impossible and unwise. The problems are compounded when that method is culturally inappropriate and missionaries become discouraged and weary. Many of our co-laborers in South America have already left the field and more will in the future as we struggle to adapt to the new rules and the continually diminishing funds for Bibles and Evangelistic outreaches.
I would encourage our trustees to turn from being concerned about who performed our baptism 20 or 30 years ago to the issues of how the Gospel can be most effectively sown in the various cultures and how to once again create an environment in which missionaries can be trusted to do the ministries to which God has called them. said...

I deleted "A Missionary's Perspective" anonymous post as requested. I appreciate our M's sensitivity and hope the thoughts expressed can be rewritten and reposted. We are here to help!

Anonymous said...


The stuff I am hearing from the front lines in the previous comments on this thread are very disturbing.

Without revealing specific countries or missionaries could you flesh out some of the concerns with examples? For example, in country "A" missionaries are not allowed to persue certain types of ministry methods. What are some of the examples of "not allowed" ministry methods -- Written tracts, radio spots, store-front church buildings, mass meetings in public parks, meeting in caves, bible distribution?

The various approaches should be argued on their merits in an open forum. Guys like me in the pews are paying the bills. I think we
can reasonably expect that to the extent that working conditions are "artificially" constrained this should be identified and fixed.

I used to manage a microcode development group in Silicon Valley. I used to let my guys have all kinds of latitude as long as they met objectives. I didn't tell them what type of code verification techniques they could use -- simulation vs. error injection for example. When particular methods or development paradigms were shown to be effective then we adopted them across various platforms.

Based upon ancidotal reports from the missionaries it seems to me like there is too much micromanagement going on. How can anyone show that the "un-approved" methods are not viable in a particular context without allowing them to either rise or fall on their own merit?

Wade, you mentioned your background with a business degree. My undergrad degree was BSEE but when moving into management I went to business school and got my MBA.

Previously, it seemed to me like the locus of the problem was in the trustee board and/or high level leadership. As serious as that is, it is much more disturbing when these problems spill over to the field such that the effectiveness of front line
operations are being throttled.

Roger Simpson
Oklahoma City OK

Anonymous said...

Dear Wade, this is Rodney Hammer, Regional Leader of Central and Eastern Europe of the IMB.

I have sent the following letter to Baptist Press requesting publication Monday. If it does not come out in Baptist Press Monday and also in Convention news in Greensboro, please publish on your blog. I am requesting the same of Marty Duren. You may quote from it or use it in it's entirety. I approved this with Dr. Rankin first.

Lord willing I'll see you in Greensboro.

Dear Baptist Press,

I respectfully request publication via Baptist Press and in Convention news at the SBC meeting in Greensboro the following letter.

Sincerely in Christ,

Rodney Hammer, Regional Leader
Central and Eastern Europe, IMB-SBC

Dear SBC Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

As our supporters, partners and messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention, I'd like you to consider one field-based IMB Regional Leader's perspective on our field missionaries, the issues at the forefront of this year's convention, and the field impact of the new policies and guidelines of the IMB Trustees.

I know and experience everyday that Southern Baptists have an overseas force of highly committed, biblically and doctrinally solid, conservative, sold-out, gospel-preaching, life-risking, humble but bold, servant and
lion-hearted, Kingdom-advancing missionaries. They are a credit to Southern Baptists and our Lord. Their sacrifice along with their senior, Richmond-based leadership should be lauded. They are Great Commission-focused in all its fullness and relentlessly penetrate lostness while pursuing the last unreached and least evangelized peoples and cities
of our world. They love Christ, the Bible, and the lost more than life comforts, family, and material gain. Your IMB missionaries are the most examined, scrutinized and vetted servants in Southern Baptist life, approved by
post-conservative resurgence trustees.

Despite this, your IMB missionaries are subjected by some in SBC leadership and some members of their own Board
of Trustees to unfounded, unsubstantiated broad-brush aspersions cast on their doctrinal soundness, personal devotional practices, and mission methods.

We have solid, biblical parameters and systems of accountability within the BF&M and IMB policies (excluding the new ones on private prayer language and baptism which are extrabiblical in my opinion) regarding missionary candidacy and doctrine,
cooperating with evangelicals and Great Commission Christians, church planting, and missionary conduct. We have them and we use them.

We certainly are the first to recognize that we have room to grow, to learn and to improve, and can falter as humans, disciples, and missionaries. However, there is no systemic or foundational problem requiring the new policies,
major course correction, or change in senior leadership. We constantly work and train to assure biblical, doctrinal and missiological soundness.

Please know that I am a fellow conservative, Biblical inerrantist, BF&M 2000 signed and supporting field missionary. I have lived and worked in China, Southeast Asia and now eastern Europe. I am privileged to have served in three regions of the IMB for over 15 years, the last six years being blessed to serve with some of the IMB and Southern Baptists finest as Regional
Leader in Central and Eastern Europe. I have witnessed now for six years IMB Board of Trustee meetings personally, and would gladly testify to any SBC inquiry that might come about. Let me also say I greatly respect our Trustees sacrifice and service, and have many friends among our Board of Trustees. I know all equally love our Lord Jesus and His Word and want to see the world reached.

I am not personally affected by the new policies or guidelines but I have deep concerns about them and the overall direction of our Board of Trustees. I also have abided by the new policies. I have followed the biblical admonition in Matthew 18 as well as the action steps outlined to address these concerns and offenses. I have been slow to speak, quick to reflect, and sought clarity, understanding, and counsel from varying viewpoints. From November, 2005 until now, I have
stayed within our IMB Board and protocols to seek to address these.

I wrote the following email on February 11, 2006 after much deliberation, prayer and always in consultation with those in authority over me.

"Dear CEE Regional Trustee Committee and Trustee Officers,

Greetings in Christ Jesus from our Central and Eastern Europe Office in
Prague, Czech Republic.

I have been praying even more so for the entire Board of Trustees during
these recent days and I pledge to continue. I greatly appreciate the
incredible amount of time you all commit to serving our Lord and
Southern Baptists through the International Mission Board, as well as
your love for the world and our Lord, and your support of the mission

Via this letter I want to address to you my concerns regarding the new
policies and guidelines for missionary candidates voted in November,
2005. I especially want you to know of the field impact I've observed
since these new policies were approved.

From my perspective (I've served in three regions and regularly
communicate with other regional leaders), I don't believe we had any
field problems that necessitated these new policies...we had working,
solid parameters and policies that were enforced when necessary to avoid
agreed upon excesses and wrong doctrines. I believe the new policies go
beyond BFM 2000 parameters as well as biblical ones in my view (though I
recognize there is honest disagreement among us) and put the IMB outside
the SBC-consensus BFM 2000 positions and push us toward overly
restrictive prerequisites for service with the IMB.

Below I want to outline for you the field impact and concerns that I


1) We are now having good, biblically conservative missionary
candidates who agree with BFM and previous Board policies, who were
formerly qualified, who are either being disqualified from missionary
candidacy, pulling themselves out of the candidate process, or told to
get rebaptized after their SBC church has already accepted their
baptism/membership. This week I learned of yet another family where one
spouse would not qualify now
by the new policies. They were planning to fill one of our CEE top
priority Strategy Coordinator requests for an Unreached People Group in
one of the least evangelical parts of all Europe, east or west.

2) On the field, we have many distracted, stressed missionaries
wondering where this will lead, if the teaching/doctrine inherent in the
new policies will be required teaching on the field and a parameter
applied for whom they can partner/cooperate with beyond the IMB Trustee
voted and approved strategic
levels of partnering we already adhere to.

3) On the field, some who are "grandfathered", policy-abiding, BFM-signed
personnel understandably feel devalued, unappreciated and "disqualified" in
the eyes of the Board despite their excellent service. Some are
contemplating resignation, not going career after serving short-term with
us, and pulling out of the candidate process (or not entering it) because of
these new policies.

I've been patiently praying, reading the Word, researching the
situation, the new policies and trustee actions, and observed the impact on
the field. Now I think I must express my concerns to you ...not for my sake
or even my own convictions but ultimately for the sake of the field
missionaries, the lost who are not being engaged because some who were
planning to go are now unable, for the sake of "grandfathered" missionaries
who have faithfully followed policy and served with distinction, and the IMB
and SBC which should not follow what I believe to be an overly narrow path.

Therefore, I not only desire to express these concerns but would like to
lovingly and respectfully request the following for the sake of Christ, our
the lost, our missionary force, our public witness, and our integrity
with a concerned Southern Baptist Convention:

A. That the Board of Trustees reconsider and rescind these new
candidate policies and guidelines, restoring the previous policies and
guidelines which have served us well regarding missionary candidates.
B. That the Board of Trustees rescind the allegations against Wade
Burleson, seek and demonstrate public reconciliation with him, and not
seek his removal at the SBC meeting in Greensboro this June for the sake of
the IMB and the greater good.
C. In good faith with the SBC, that the Board of Trustees pledge to
not go beyond the boundaries and SBC consensus parameters of the BFM
2000 for candidate consideration or overseas missionary policy or
D. That any and all missionary candidates who have opted out of the
candidate process or been disqualified from candidacy, or missionaries
who have resigned, considered resigning, or not sought
appointment, reappointment or career appointment subsequent to short term
service with the IMB, be notified of Trustee action to rescind the new
policies and guidelines for candidates and urged to reapply or rejoin
the IMB or continue service without penalty or public disclosure of the
reason why.

I have been patient, searched my motives and heart, sought discernment
from the Lord and feel the ultimate needs of the field, the missionaries
I am charged to lead and represent, and the good of the IMB supersedes
all other concerns. I feel that the larger issue is the good of the
field, the IMB, the lost and the Great Commission.

I believe I should weigh in as a Regional Leader with what I believe to be
legitimate field and mission agency concerns. Not that those concerns
haven't been expressed by others, but I feel I would be remiss, unable to
lead with integrity or discharge my duty on behalf of the
field if I said nothing to you.

Thank you for your kind consideration of these concerns and
recommendations. I recognize you may not agree with any or all of them
and I respect that as well. I do not question your heart or your integrity
if you are in favor of the new policies. I offer them in a spirit of
brokenness and love in Christ and I am praying for you and our entire
Board. I welcome any feedback you might give and I prayerfully await
your response.


Rodney Hammer"

I wanted to share these concerns and field perspective for your prayerful consideration as you deliberate over the issues in Greensboro as well. Lord willing, I'll see you there.

I pray that God will allow us to find a Christ-honoring, biblically faithful way forward without continuing to overly narrow parameters for service among fellow Southern Baptist Bible-believing conservatives.

Thank you for your support of the IMB. Thank you for your record Lottie Moon offering! We're grateful and on-task. Please help us stay focused, faithful, and empowered for Kingdom advance and Great Commission, evangelical cooperation to the glory of God and the salvation of all peoples.

With you for the nations and the glory of God,

Dr. Rodney L. Hammer, Regional Leader
Central and Eastern Europe, IMB-SBC

Anonymous said...

Wade- I appreciate so much your desire to be an advocate for the IMB. As an M in Eastern Europe, my family had the honor of hosting Jerry Rankin for several days this year. He said that three days was the longest he can remember being in one place with his colleagues. It really gave us a sense of the life that he lives on the road. He has committed himself to engaging the world with the gospel. I really have a great respect for this man. His work is not easy but he and Ms. Bobbye are such an encouragement to the M's. They pray for us and know so many of us by name. We are blessed to have Jerry Rankin as a leader because he knows Christ is our Ultimate Leader.

Bob Cleveland said...


Hypothetically speaking:

Let's say an SBC/IMB Missionary planted a new church in another country, which grew immediately to a reasonable size. If the Holy Spirit immediately fell on the Body there, and folks began speaking in unknown tongues .. meeting all the biblical qualifications set forth in 1 Corinthians ... would the SBC/IMB withdraw support for that church? Would the missionaries be forced to leave?

I've been in SBC-affiliated churches in other countries where such was the case. One in particular was quite spectacular. Baptisms there were pretty exciting, and would be exceptionally unconventional in the USA.

Just wondering.

Anonymous said...

Wade- I have sinned against you. At first, when you were battling the IMB over private prayer language and baptism, I thought you were purposely bringing attention to yourself. I just couldn't understand why Southern Baptist's would disagree over this. My sin was speaking against you to my brother's in Christ. The Lord has changed my heart. I now see what the SBC is all about. I have no right to ask, but please forgive me. I, like many other's could not see. This was a great post. Very moving! How could a pastor, only giving .27% to CP giving have the nerve to want to lead the SBC unless he was heartless for missions? I'm not anonymous to you. Still waiting patiently for you to come to Northwest Arkansas. said...

Mr. Anonymous,

Thanks for the apology.

Don't hold your breath on the other. said...

Former M,

Could not post your comments. I could not verify your facts, and until I can it won't go up. Typically I have allowed any statement to be made for the sake of free debate, but at our last trustee meeting, I was told that I was being held accountable for comments, so I am taking a little more time working through comments. said...


An unbelievable letter.

What courage.

If BP does not put it up Monday, I will.



Tim Dahl said...

Mr. Simpson,

With the current rules by which Dr. Burleson has to play, I don't think that he can answer you questions. It is my understanding that that would violate the rule that says a Trustee can't voice any thing negative about the current IMB policies. I believe that his advesaries might construe that as such.

Believe me, it would be nice to know what was really going on.

Also, Wade - will the internal audit ever be made available again to churches?


Anonymous said...

God bless you Wade! I pray our Lord will continue to give you wisdom and grace while dealing with untruths and half truths at the convention. I was disheartened by the bias of the Dallas Morning News article. I had to look up your blog to find out the real truth. I'm disapointed in what I've been led to believe by the Baptist Press as to your positions on baptism and private prayer language. I told my wife, "Something is not right. We're not being told the whole story."

Is it true that you are still not able to participate in board meetings? My last reading of the Southern Baptist Texan, June 5, 2006, indicated that that was still the case.

You are in my Prayers!

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

To Mr. Anonymous,
Sorry to disagree with you, but not really. Was the whip of Jesus conflict? God loves conflict when the devil sticks his head up; we are to hit him between the eyes. To smooth over evil is to be a party to it.

By the way, does anyone know the number of career missionaries?

Anonymous said...

IMB Missionaries
Career 3112
Associate 436
Apprentice 586

(In order to serve as a career missionary, an apprentice term is now required first.)

Anonymous said...


I am an IMB missionary serving in a difficult spot in South America. I have heard it said that we have traded a passion for the lost into a business of saving souls. I suppose, we all have to examine our motives, but thanks so much for your post what is the IMB doing right. I appreciate your commitment to the freedoms that we have in Christ and your affirmation and support as our leader.

I appreciate your comments that you are more concerned with our faithfulness than the amount of Baptisms in a year.

Thanks for serving us as a leader.

My work as a missionary is the most challenging work that I have ever done. It is also the most rewarding work that I have ever done and I wouldn't trade it for all the T-bone steaks and hot sausage in the US!

In His grace,