Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Testimonies, Tributes and Training

In an alliterated outline worthy of Sunday morning I will give you a brief report of today's events.


The day began with my wife attending a breakfast hosted by Mrs. Rankin for trustee spouses in honor of emeritus missionaries. She enjoyed visiting with several of the retired missionaries around the table and made several new friends.

When I picked her up from the breakfast I met one of the missionaries with whom she had been visiting. He had served as a missionary in Rome, Italy for many years, and about ten years ago, home on furlough, his wife had just finished giving a report in one of our SBC churches when she sat down in the pew and suffered a fatal heart attack. This man's soft heart, desire to return to the field, and dedication to his call to missions was really an inspiration to me.

Joni, from the Florida Baptist Witness, was the only state reporter at the IMB meeting today. She and I talked about how beneficial it would be if every Southern Baptist could experience a day at the International Learning Center meeting the missionaries in training and visiting with the retired missionaries who are periodically on the campus for various events. It would only increase giving and participation in the mission endeavors of the SBC.

During the Plenary Session this afternoon we heard several testimonies from administration and staff. Two of the most vivid were those from the Richmond Associates in Africa and South America as they shared some wonderful stories of how God used our missionaries to bring people to faith in Christ in unique ways. In addition, we received an update on our Disaster and Hunger Relief Funds. Southern Baptists gave 16.8 million dollars to help the nations that suffered through last year's tsunami. I continue to be amazed at all that the IMB has been able to accomplish through the generosity of our Southern Baptist people.

We also heard from David Steverson, the IMB's chief financial officer that we are surpassing last year's pace in Cooperative Program receipts, and of course, we received a record amount in the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions.

In short, the testimonies today hit a home run.


Two ladies with the International Mission Board received very appropriate tributes from the Board of Trustees.

First, Nellie Walters is retiring from the President's office of the IMB this summer. She has served the President of the IMB for several decades, and she is the person who is most responsible for putting together our six trustee meetings a year.

Nellie has always had a smile on her face and a very sweet spirit. We all are going to miss her, and tonight we had a banquet in her honor and gave her a couple of special gifts to enjoy.

The second lady honored today, in more of an unofficial manner, was Wendy Norvelle, the acting interim Vice-President for Mobilization. Ken Winter has been hired as the Vice-President for Mobilization, and Wendy will relinquish those duties to Ken, but I think it can be safely said Wendy has done a phenominal job. She is one of the most gifted ladies in the Southern Baptist Convention, and we are fortunate to have her on staff at the IMB. She will continue in her role with Public Relations for the IMB. One of these days I will tell a story regarding Wendy that will give evidence of her tremendous Christian character, genuine humility, and desire to honor God in everything she does.


Tom Elliff reported that the missionaries he has been training these last two days are a wonderful group of men and women that will soon be on the field. The goal of the IMB is to reach every people group, tribe and language in the world, and the Lord keeps sending the IMB some wonderful people who represent us on the front lines.

Seventeen new trustees have joined the IMB. Thirteen are present this week going through the orientation training. I met several of them and they seem to be a great group of men and women.


Dr. Frank Page, President of the Southern Baptist Convention will be speaking to the IMB staff and all the trustees at Richmond headquarters at 8:30 a.m. in the morning. There is no additional trustee business that needs to take place tomorrow, but there will be a commissioning service tomorrow afternoon at the ILC. I need to be back in Enid, Oklahoma by tomorrow night, so I will be unable to stay for the service.


Overall the trustee meeting this week was one of the better ones I've attended. The spirit was good, and the focus was on missions. We did not seem to get sidetracked on peripheral issues. There are a few items of interest.

(1). The panel being appointed by Chairman Floyd to investigate the concerns referred to the IMB by the Southern Baptist Convention will be made known to the trustees via mail, unless the Chairman chooses to reveal the names of the members of the committee tomorrow.

Comment -- I am very glad this panel will not take up time at Board meetings. They will function outside our regular meetings.

(2). Blogging was again mentioned in the Chairman's report, with a statement being made to the effect (summarizing) that blogging lowered the morale of missionaries on the field.

Comment --- The Chairman must talk to different missionaries than I do.

(3). A subcommittee, chaired by Jerry Corbaley, comprised of trustees from the Overseas Committee, was approved to research our missions operations overseas operations through the gathering of information from field personnel, seminary presidents, theologians, administrators , and others to establish a system whereby trustees can be continually updated with the progress and success, and in some instances problems associated with, our missionary work around the world.

Comment --- I think our IMB staff and administration has a very good handle on what is needed on the field, and the problems we face, and have displayed an uncanny ability to change tactics, adapt methodology, and alter focus as needed. This subcommittee should rely heavily on our administration as it conducts its work. We must be careful that we know the boundaries of our work as trustees. I'm not sure we are the best people to determine the indigenous success or failure of our missionary personnel on the field. We hire professional missiologists to do that work, and I think we can trust their assessments. Maybe that is exactly what this committee will determine in its report to the Board.

Overall, the IMB is on the right track. It's a good start on a new year.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson


Anonymous said...

A comment on your comment regarding the statement that "blogging lowered the morale of missionaries on the field" ...

Not only must they talk to other missionaries, but they must not talk to many. The number of missionaries who *are already* bloggers is large, and growing rapidly. Each new group of candidates who come through the process will be more adept at blogging than the present generation on the field, and I daresay that the folks at FPO right now, getting ready to hit the field, already have a 'blog either started, or will get one going after they arrive. I know, because I helped teach a crop of Ms who went through last year how to use 'blogs as a personalization and mobilization tool (not to mention the journaling uses). the majority of folks I talked to then were already blogging ...

The Chairman (with all due respect to him and his office) needs to wake up and smell the macchiato.

Blessings on your house!

Rex Ray said...


Wade, do you know when you have been slapped in the face?

No, that’s not right—you have been hit on the nose!

Where’s the proof? Did missionaries have a secrete ballot vote?

I thought nothing could upset me more that what has been said about the BGCT on your post, but this takes the cake.

The investigating committee might as well been told to forget their job.

Instead of catching a plane Monday, I was with my wife, Belle in the hospital. I’m afraid she is getting Alzheimer’s. Please pray for her.


Anonymous said...


You certainly don't hesitate to give your open, honest opinion. While many of us out here find that refreshing, some of the old guard seem to feel threatened by open honesty. It doesn't leave any room for plausible denial or hedging on the details...it's all right there in the open from the beginning.

A lot of folks have never learned to be transparent. They are so worried about what other people think of them that it seems to them to be a sin to admit a mistake. So they'll do anything to keep from looking like they are wrong about something. This fear of having no wiggle room is what these folks find so offensive when confronted by someone like you who is not afraid to report what they see and hear frankly (to include your own gaffs). I don't think you have said anything in this blog to undermine anyone else---they don't need your help to do that, they seem to do a good job of spoiling their reputations all by themselves by responding in the spirit they have.

Fear and uncertainty will make any person defensive and hurtful, causing them to do things they know are wrong, and to back indefensible positions to the bitter end.

Fear is a spiritual force that we can combat...with the Spirit of Christ. Perfect love casts out all fear. These folks need our love and prayers, not our animosity. We're on the same side. Let fear, divisiveness, contention and strife be our enemies...not our own flesh and blood.

Let's pray without ceasing.


Marty Duren said...

Good post, Wade. Thanks for the update. And, I agree with you on the missionary attitudes; I've received numerous encouraging comments just since yesterday.

Anonymous said...

I want to echo what you said about the ILC. My family and I spent a few weeks there getting ready for an International Service Corps stint in a 10/40 area 13 years ago. We had a different program from the fulltimers but we got to fellowship with them and all our kids played together. It is a wonderful facility and a great retreat to prepare for a change in culture. All the staff was wonderful, knowledgeable and approachable. Plus, training alongside others who were committed to the same Gospel was stimulating and encouraging. Even today, we read about some of the peole we met and say, "We were at MLC [that's the old name] with them. They were the ones that always wore flip-flops and blue tee-shirts to breakfast. Weren't they headed for ... " or something like that. I've even re-met some of them on short term trips.

Back then, we thought, "If other Southern Baptists knew what happened at this place, it would be so motivating and encouraging to them." It is indeed a great training facility.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the update. It is encouraging to hear what actually goes on with the IMB. I think that may SBC members feel disconnected with missions in general because they are not able to see what takes place through the IMB. Thank you for helping bring some of this to light.

For His Glory

Anonymous said...


What is that stuff that the Chairman should wake up and smell?

I only see two entries in my dictionary starting with "macc . . "

Maccabees -- Jewish guys who revolted against Roman rule ca. 160BC.

maccaboy -- A variety of snuff.

Tim Patterson said...

I have my suspicions about the true purpose of the subcommittee appointed to investigate overseas operations. I hope I am wrong. Time will tell. Until then, we will look at it in a positive light.

Anonymous said...

I just returned from a meeting of over 300 personnel from the area that I work in. It was a good meeting and a good opportunity to fellowship with my colleagues. Several times dring the meeting the issue of blogging and its impact was alluded to - but never in a specific way - more often in humorous comments from the podium. This is the first time I have been with a large number of my colleagues sine I began peridoically reading several blogs. I think there is an element of truth in what both sides are saying. First I would say that by and large most of those I talked to (and I talked to many) are pretty much clueless to blogging or only know of it thought press reports. I would say at least 30-40% live in areas where regular access or extensive access to the internet is limited. Three of four that I talked to felt that blogging was a good and effective way for people to express their opinion (and these are probably those who write in support of blogging). Several felt that bloggers are rather pompous and are taking more credit than they deserve for the election of Frank Page - they feel it was more about the cooperative program support than it was about blogging yet they feel that many bloggers are trying to take too much credit for it. Finally there were those whose morale has been damaged by bloogers - and I know for a fact one of these is a friend ofDr. floyd - and therefore I am certain he has not hesitated to express his opinion to Dr. Floyd on the matter. This one spoke to me for at least 30 minutes and is really quite angry with bloggers and made it clear in no uncertain terms. Others were not as volca but were discouraged by blogger who they felt open their forum and it becomes a vehicle for constant negativity. At least 4 couples I talked to are considering resigning, returning to the US and raising their own support (probably from SBC churches - who will then probably reduce their CP giving) and then returning to their call. In my conversations with them - none mentioned the trustees as a reason for their possible resignation. None mentioned a single reason - usually they mentioned several. All of them mentioned the administrative leadership of the board - and one of them mentioned bloogers - in their list of 5-6 factors that had impacted them. So there is probably an element of truth in both the positive and negative impact of blogging.

foxofbama said...

Wade: Don't want to take you off message, but is there any discussion there in the corridors of the IMB about the volcanic news today at www.ethicsdaily.com/article_detail.cfm?AID=7638 that Frank Page's 1980 doctoral dissertation at SWBTS endorsed Women in the Senior Pastoratge????

Anonymous said...

From the Italian 'marked'. An espresso beverage served with a dash (or dollop, if you go by the Starbucks recipe) of foamed milk or cream. The milk adds a marbling effect to the dark espresso, hence the name.

More on topic than macchiato: Having an opinion and having a venue to express it gives some people the idea that they can say anything they want to, never mind the consequences. However, their attitudes often reflect more ignorance than informed opinion. You can interpret the statement above to mean "not all 'blogs are good". That being said, IMHO, the SBs or trustees who express a negative opinion on all 'blogs in general tend to be the ones who have only 'heard' of them, not actually visited or researched the concept for themselves. A lot of what we would call second hand news is not news as much as it is gossip. They need to get educated.

A second thought. As early as the late nineteenth century there was a recognized theory on sociology identified by Gabriel Tarde. His premise was that change was engendered by small psychological interactions among individuals. This concept has made it's way into the business world with regards to new or emerging technology (or products). There are five main groups that can be initially plotted on a bell curve. The first group is be identified as innovators, those who actually create new ways of doing things. They are also prone to the most risk. The second group are the early adopters. This group is made of those who are often keen to try new things (such as a Web log, or the Internet in general) and are also generally people of education and socially respected (they are, therefore, the primary influencers of the later groups). Earlyh adopters are followed by the early majority, then the late majority, and then the laggards. If I were a Trustee (I think you asked a similar question regarding "if I were the SBC president"?) I would make sure that I was at least educated on the emerging trends and technologies, and not so much of a laggard as to call it 'a morale-reducer' (paraphrased).

So thank you, Wade. You may not be the earliest adopter of the Web log, but you are certainly the first Trustee that I know who has used the tool to educate your constituency and SBC alike.

Anonymous said...

I tried to post this yesterday but evidently it didn't make it.

I would like to reply to anonymous who has met with a large group of personnel from his region. There is never a meeting with a large number like that where you do not hear some planning to return to the states for various reasons. You will hear some unhappy with the administrative leadership of the board, some for relationship problems on the field, and some for family reasons. I would hate to think someone is returning to the states because bloggers hurt their morale. I would wonder about their call and reasons for being on the field. I counsel those I talk to remember their call is from God and not the bloggers, trustees or administrators. If it is impossible for them to fulfill their call while working for the IMB, then I can understand their desire to return. If administrative leadership of the board is their reason for leaving then they need to remember that the trustees put the administrative leadership in place and endorsed the policies and strategies being implemented. Therefore, ultimately trustees are their reason for leaving.

I still doubt blogging has had an impact on the morale of many personnel. The friend of John Floyd you mentioned probably had his morale hurt because he disagrees with many of the bloggers and is afraid the status quo will change if there is more accountability because of the communication of information by the bloggers. Some are more comfortable with the political activity that has been so prominent in recent years than with accountability to peers that we had in the past.

Ron West