Thursday, December 03, 2009

Is the International Mission Board a Potemkin Village or a Lean, Efficient Missionary Sending Organization?

After my post this week questioning the wisdom of the IMB in not reimbursing ISC'ers, Journeymen and Masters missionaries for utilities like dryers, air conditioning and phones, I received a flood of emails and phone calls from missionaries on the field who agreed with my assessment. All of the field missionaries expressed loyalty to the IMB, but to a person, there was the belief that morale among missionaries on the front lines is the lowest it has been in decades. One of the missionaries, an intelligent and articulate team leader who has been employed by the IMB for nearly two decades, asked me if I had ever heard of a Potemkin Village. A Potemkin Village, he said, represents an organization with a hollow or false construct, physical or figurative, hiding an undesirable or potentially damaging reality. Potemkin Villages are built to look impressive to friends and strangers from a distance, but the buildings' shells and facades hide the fact there is little or no work actually being done within the village. This field missionary on the front lines, and others, suggested to me that the IMB has much in common with a Potemkin Village. The following represents their reasoning:

(1). Missionaries who are actually on the field planting churches and sharing Christ have little or no resources to do ministry.

According to several field missionaries who emailed me or phoned me, money for Bibles, special mission projects, and materials needed to help witness and evangelize has not been received from the IMB for months. Churches that make their way overseas to participate in prayer walks, street evangelism, or church planting efforts must bring their own money for materials like Bibles, books and other resources for native converts and pastors. IMB field missionaries are often asked by Southern Baptists from the States, "You mean we have to buy the Bibles we use in evangelism? What about Lottie Moon funds going for special projects?"

What's worse, say these field missionaries, is that those on the front lines of the mission field have now been told that money normally given for expense reimbursement is being withheld. This support money, used to reimburse missionaries for gas in making trips to new church plants or Bible studies, or other expenses associated with the ongoing mission of establishing new churches, is being withheld due to the budgetary crises. One field missionary with a wife and kids has over $2,500 in unreimbursed ministry expenses. The question before IMB field missionaries at this time is simply, "Do we continue funding our ministry ourselves, or do we buy our kids Christmas presents?"

Field office budgets are being slashed by 50% for 2010. Field missionaries are discouraged because there is a feeling among many that Lottie Moon funds are being used to support an ever-increasing overhead budget and an ill-timed reorganization causing little or no money to reach the front lines for ministry projects and field missionary support. In short, the IMB presents itself as a large, beautiful, and impressive missions sending agency--but there are no funds to actually work the mission of the organization.

(2). The current reorganization of the International Mission Board, intended to make the organization flat and lean, has in reality made the IMB fat and deep.

Rather than IMB having "regional offices," the IMB is restucturing the organization to have eight Affinity Offices among eight affinity people groups, nine if you include the deaf people of the world. Each people group has an identifiable office in Richmond and an overseas office that works closely with the staff at the Office of Global Strategy, all headed by Dr. Gordon Fort, VP of the IMB in Richmond, Virginia. There are an additional four IMB Support Offices overseas, offices that "support" the eight Affinity Offices. These four overseas Support Offices work closely with the home offices in Richmond that carry the same names. The offices in Richmond and those overseas include the aforementioned Office of Global Strategy, the Office(s) of Global Personnel, the Office(s) of Financial Services, the Office(s) of Global Logistics, and the Office(s) of Personnel Support and Mobilization Support. For example, the "Support Office" for the European Peoples Affinity Group is located in London. Twenty missionary personnel work in that particular office of Financial Services. That's just one of four offices in the London Support Office (one of four "Support Offices" worldwide) that report to both their respective "Affinity Offices" (one of eight worldwide) and then to corresponding offices in Richmond. You will have a hard time finding any of these offices on the official IMB website

Let me simplify it.

A field missionary (either career, ISC, Masters or Journeymen) is one who is on the front lines sharing the gospel and planting churches. These field missionaries report to a team leader who is also a field missionary. Again, all these field missionaries are what we would call the front lines. They are the ones who need the money, the supplies, the support of the Southern Baptist Convention. But these are the missionaries who seem to be receiving the financial cuts. Ironically, if the average Southern Baptist were to call the International Mission Board and ask " Can you tell me the number of SBC field missionaries on the field who are actually responsible for sharing Christ and planting churches?" you would not be given a direct answer. Why? The standard response is "All our personnel are missionaries!" That's true, but when we give to Lottie Moon, we are thinking about the person on the field sharing Christ and planting churches. Sure, we need the support personnel. Nobody is suggesting any differently. But the question is: Does this current reorganization of the IMB make it leaner and more efficient so that more funds, not less, reach the front lines of the mission field?
The field missionaries are telling me "no" in response to this question. They say that their team leaders must now report to supervisory "Cluster Leaders" who are in charge of missionary teams in a handful of countries. These "Cluster Leaders" then report to their respective Affinity Leaders, who then report to the Office of Global Strategy. All the other IMB personnel in the overseas Affinity Offices, overseas Support Offices, Richmond home offices, etc are technically there for the "support" of the field missionaries. Yet, the field missionaries feel like nobody is listening to them for the following reasons:

(1). When "tours" are made of regions, it is the upper echelon IMB management and IMB supervisors who lead the SBC dignitaries (i.e. SBC President, trustees, etc...) on those tours.
(2). When the last two reorganizations occured at the IMB (i.e. New Directions and Affinity People Groups), the instructions for reorganization came from the top down. Field missionaries were not asked for their input. (Edit: David Rogers, former IMB field missionary to Spain points out in the comment section that he received an email about possible impending changes in 2008, asking for input. The field missionaries who have contacted me did not mention the email, just their belief that the changes were being implemented with or without direction from the field missionaries. I do not believe it is accurate to represent that all field missionaries were not asked for their input. Some, including David Rogers, obviously were).
(3). The cuts to ministry, expense accounts, and salaries are being felt by the field missionaries--frustrating them in their efforts to share Christ and plant churches.
(4). There is a feeling that any complaining about the situation will cause someone to be labeled a "malcontent." Rather than feeling empowered to speak up and to offer helpful suggestions, many field missionaries are either quitting, retiring, or contemplating getting out.

If top level management of the IMB wants to prevent a wholesale collapse of missions as Southern Baptists know it, then there should be a long-term hiring freeze and reserves should be tapped to get MORE MONEY ON THE FRONT lines--not less. It would be better for Southern Baptists to do the work we are now doing well, than to continue to build a huge organization to try to reach every people group in the world and do it all very poorly.

(3). The statistics on the Annual Statistical Report cause IMB missionaries on the field to question the wisdom of their superiors.

There has been a healthy amount of skepticism related to the numbers of baptisms and church plants reported by the International Mission Board in 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008. Field missionaries report constant pressure to "get the numbers up." The International Mission Board's Office of Global Strategy reports that field missionaries in the IMB had a direct hand in starting over 50,000 Baptist churches in 2007 and 2008. If you counted every single missionary that is employed by the IMB, including support personnel, every IMB employee would have had to singlehandedly begun 10 churches in the past 24 monhts.

The IMB has reported over 1.1 million baptisms through the work of our missionaries these past two years. The field missionaries believe that organizational management has succombed to the temptation of inflating or fudging numbers to justify the extraordinary expansion and expense of reaching more and more people groups. Unfortunately, when money is spent on public relations and slick presentations--in order to raise more money--all the while using numbers that the field missionaries raise their eyebrows over, we have constructed a Potemkin Village. We build to impress, but we neglect the actual things required to do the real work.

It's time we stopped trying to impress everybody and simply gave our missionaries in the deserts of the Middle East, the islands of the Pacific, the far reaches of China and other remote areas around the world those things they actually need to do the work.

It's not too late for the IMB to respond. Word has it that a secular company has been hired to implement the new reorganziation of the IMB around the world. I have been unable to confirm whether or not this is true, but I've confirmed enough to make a prophetic statement.

If we Southern Baptists don't stop trying to impress people as to how big we are, and if we don't start taking care of our missionaries on the front lines by meeting their requests for ministry funds, reimbursing their expense needs, and helping them accomplish the tasks to which they were called, we will find our beloved missions organization eventually collapsing like a house of cards.

Our missionaries are great people--both those on the front lines and those in the offices of support. It's not their fault there is no money reaching the front. It's the fault of leadership--both trustees and upper management. We've been so focused on silly tertiery things, so enraptured by telling people "We are the largest missions sending agency in the world!" and so consumed with personal agendas that we have lost sight of our mission to care for those who have gone to the front lines.

It's time to buckle up and get them money. I suggest the IMB tap into the millions of dollars in reserves and pay our missionaries what we promised them. And I would also put a clamp on any consideration of future appointments until the morale of those missionaries already on the field is what it should be.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson


  1. Wade,

    All you have reported is true 110%. I know I have been there and experienced everything you have described and MORE! We are no long with the IMB.

    When we can to our country, the older missionaries told us, "There is life after language study." We did not believe them until we finished language study, and they were right.

    My wife and I now say that there is life after IMB, and there is.

    Thank you Wade for taking a stand for the missionaries. I wish there were more like you to help the folks who are on the front lines.

    I know you will receive a lot of flak because of what you have said in this post and others about the IMB.

    Thank you for your concern and your loving kind spirit.

    Former IMBM

  2. Question is, how do you get 45,000 churches to understand this???

    I grew up in a Missionary Baptist Church. We supported the BMAA, but most of our money was sent to missionaries direct. Is the CP a blessing and a curse? I never hear about missionaries in my church. The WMU is worthless, there is no BMEN (Brotherhood) and children are taught about missions for about 30 minutes a year at VBS. I suspect most of our churches are this way.

    The Great Commission Resurgence is a joke. So are most all other SBC programs. I grew up knowing that when the missionary left our Church Sunday night with an envelope full of money, that they were on a plane (their whole family) straight to the field. No pits stops to pay the piper.

    Finally, God bless the number of missionaries we have, but have hyper-commissioned ourselves? Have we built a large building but forgot to budget electric, gas, and maintenance???

    What a joke.

    I want all 45,000 churches to know this. I want them to know this now. Sadly not enough time to cut all the red tape.

    An open Letter to all IMB Trustees:

    Shame on you!!!


    Kevin M. Crowder

  3. Wade,

    As a young 20 something Southern Baptist, I've been told over and over again that the biggest benefit of being Southern Baptist is the Cooperative Program and the IMB. The Cooperative Program is frustratingly inefficient and now I read this about the IMB. And this comes on top of all the other problems in the convention. I'm already at odds with our seminaries, leadership, chauvinist complementarianism (I'm complementarian but don't approve of how I see it expressed in the SBC), fundamentalist dogmatism, political pandering and becoming increasingly skeptical of the GCR. Why should I stay in the SBC? Why do you stay in the SBC? Where is your hope that the SBC will become a better more Christlike denomination someday?

  4. I think a Wade Burleson type [i.e., encourager/protector] would make a great IMB president.

  5. I agree Benji, but I fear Emmanuel might then hire a female lead pastor.


  6. What can we do?! This is heartbreaking. I have some old friends in Niger, and some friends who used to be missionaries in Portugal.

    The IMB was one thing that impressed me about this denomination, at one time!

  7. As an IMB missionary, I read with interest your post, especially the section...

    Missionaries who are actually on the field planting churches and sharing Christ have little or no resources to do ministry.

    Back in September, I conducted an informal poll of IMB missionaries asking, "How much of your work/ministry budget is supplemented by personal
    money (tithe)?

    The results were:

    - 0%, 25.00%
    - 25%, 30.00%
    - 50%, 35.00%
    - 75%, 10.00%
    - 100%, 0.00%

    75% of those responding to the poll said that anywhere from 25%-75% of their work/ministry budget is being supplemented by personal funds.

    While certainly not representative of the entire world and far from being an accurate survey, it does give a rough idea of what is happening out here on the front lines of missions.

    Could your above statement have anything to do with Stateside churches increasingly spending more and more on our own Jerusalems, and less and less on our Judeas, Samarias, and ends of the earth?

    I was recently shocked to read FBC-Dallas is spending $130M on a building campaign (compare this with this year's $175M Lottie Moon Goal!)

    I don't mean to single out just this one particular church, but as Jerry Rankin recently said, "If Southern Baptists truly want to experience a Great Commission resurgence, they must turn their backs on business as usual and be willing to make radical changes in their missions commitment and approach..."

    The "fat and deep" charge applies more to all of us as S. Baptists, who with all our talk, are only shelling out an average of $8.35 per person, per year to global missions--and that was in the "good economic years." $8 won't even buy a Big Mac combo in most third world nations, yet that is what the average S. Baptist gave last year to international missions!

    What if we gave fewer presents this Christmas to family and friends, and more to Jesus through the Lottie Moon Christmas offering? (hint, hint!)

    I say, lets first examine what WE are personally doing, and then after making the necessary radical changes in our own missions commitment, take a look at what our organizations should be doing.

  8. Wow! I can not fathom how a drop of giving of 8 to 10% is causing all these problems. I expect the dollar depreciation has made this problem really bad.

    Has IMB hedged their dollar holdings? Did they lose really bad in the markets or investments? Or is the top-heavy bureaucracy choking the flow of funds to the front lines?

    What is the GCR task force doing? or they still meeting in private and nobody in the public knows what they are doing?

    If the situation is as dire as this, then they should do attrition and fully fund a smaller core of missionaries. That would be much better than dying by 10,000 small cuts.

  9. Blake,

    There are several things you and I can do to help the situation in the SBC. I do not believe leaving will help anyone.

    (1). Speak the truth with grace and resist the tendency we have as Southern Baptists to ignore reality or bend the truth in order speak glowingly about all matters relating to missions. We need a good dose of honesty and integrity.

    (2). Get directly involved with the front lines. Many missionaries say there greatest connections are with local churches that partner with them. Find someone with whom you can partner that is in the trenches sharing Christ and support them directly through going, giving and serving.

    (3). Get involved yourself by becoming better informed. Follow the blogs. Follow the GCR. Stay up to date with what is happening.

    The SBC needs people like you.

    In His Grace,


  10. IMB posts this on its site under the section: 'What can a missionary do with $1.00? You would be surprised:'

    "Gifts to the offering cannot be designated to individual missionaries, teams or projects."

    "However, your church may want to increase its giving goal based on a missionary need or on multiple units of an item used."

    Is there ANY REASON AT ALL that gifts cannot be directly sent?
    Money isn't getting through, is it?
    Or, shall we say, it is not 'trickling down'?

    Let's see:
    1.'no trickle down'
    2. 'no shared sacrifice' as the missionaries are made to bear the brunt of the short-fall
    3. the 'powers that be' continue spending money on travel and frequent 'meetings' at holiday time

    Hmmmm. the sense of 'entitlement' among the 'trustees' and their appointees is sucking the air out of the room.

    Change the rules: direct giving to the ones who need it on the front lines.

    Direct sending of what is needed works: When the Pentagon didn't armor vehicles and our soldiers were dying from IED's , the families and friends of the soldiers sent materials directly to their sons overseas so that they could armor their vehicles themselves. American ingenuity.
    If one thing doesn't work, try a different way.

    Armor your missionaries.

    They are filled with the Spirit and have dedicated themselves to their mission.
    Support them.
    AND give to Lottie Moon, with whatever you have left over, that can 'trickle down' to support the trustees and the executives. :)
    At least then, the trustees and the executives will begin to understand the deprivation they have caused for those who truly serve the Lord.
    The trustees need a 'reality check', not a donation check.

  11. Guy Muse,

    Great comment. I wholeheartedly agree.

    Our church sold some land that we considered relocating to when we discovered to build the size of bulding we needed would cost $25 to $30 million. We decided to have as many multiple and varied services as possible and when we run out of room start new works. We also spent well over $500,000 last year on missions.

    However, over half of what we spent went to direct mission work of our church. We have direct links to India and Africa with IMB units from our church in Russia, Japan, South America and the Far East. It's difficult to think about giving more mission money without being ensured that the money will not wind up on the front lines.

    I just received an email from a missionary stateside that has not been given enough money to cover expenses for learning the new language where they will be reassigned when they return to a Security III zone.

    We will do what we can to help this missionary because it is true front line work. So, our churches DO need to give more ---

    But the IMB needs to step up and show us that they are getting the money to the front lines.

    Guy, I consider you a true frontliner.

    Keep up the good work.

    IN His Grace,


  12. Our missionaries are great people--both those on the front lines and those in the offices of support. It's not their fault there is no money reaching the front. It's the fault of leadership--both trustees and upper management. We've been so focused on silly tertiery things, so enraptured by telling people "We are the largest missions sending agency in the world!" and so consumed with personal agendas that we have lost sight of our mission to care for those who have gone to the front lines.

    I agree! Good statement!

  13. Christiane,

    You ask, "Is there ANY REASON AT ALL that gifts cannot be directly sent?"

    That's a great question. The answer would be similar to what our administrator at Emmanuel would tell someone who wanted to designate money to the youth budget.

    "We strategize, plan and approve a general budget, which encompasses our youth ministry. We would encourage you to give to the general budget."

    If, however, there came a time we neglected our youth ministry because we were paying too much money elsewhere, and people called us on it--while at the same time were significantly under budget--then people would be CLAMORING to give directly to the youth budget.

    An ironclad rule that you can't do this prevents people from trying.

    In His Grace,


  14. Blake: I agree with Wade and hope you and others who feel as you do stay. It's the only way changes can take place. I don't want to go anywhere else and I think the SBC can be changed, does listen eventually, and is closest to what I see the Bible teaching.

  15. Thy Peace,

    Great questions. I think the IMB should be completely forthright and open about their investment holdings, foundation funds, and other designated gifts. I'm not sure how much money they have in reserve (I once knew), but it is a good question and every Southern Baptist should know the answer to it.

    It's our missions organization.


  16. Wade,
    You wrote, “The question before IMB field missionaries at this time is simply, “Do we continue funding our ministry ourselves, or do we buy our kids Christmas presents?"

    That reminds me when money was short and the Foreign Mission Board told my uncle to close the Baptist Book Store in China.

    He kept it open with his own money even though his wife was pleading their four children’s shoes were worn out.

    His ‘hard hearted’ decision was made when a man asked him to come and help organize a Christian church for 18 people in a town far away.

    My uncle asked how he became a Christian. The man replied he had bought a Bible in the store – read it and told others.

    Years later, when the Communist ran him out, he left wearing shoes that had parts of car tires tied to the bottoms.

    I believe the major problem of low money is ‘Too many Chiefs per Indian.’

    If there was a proper ratio, the Chiefs wouldn’t have enough time to think up new Pharisee rules in controlling how missionaries breathe.

  17. Wade

    Thank you for your committment to the Gospel and integrity on this issue. I have been saying these things for years and was told that I was a malcontent and knew absolutely nothing about the reality of the situation.

    The CAT is OUR of the bag now. Will we as SBCers demand accountability for this issue?

    I have said for years that the IMB was waaay to top heavy and that there was too much bureacracy, politics, and nepotism.

    I have a feeling once this gets out (and believe me it is out now!) that things might actually change. At least somewhat.

    Again, the CAT is OUT, will we be faithful to God? or will we wind up on the ash heap?

    This post is the opening salvo of what I personally hope is a true examination of the SBC which is not saturated with sugar, whipped cream and cherries, and atta boy Amens.


    Romans 5:1

  18. Wade,

    Juicy blog!

    Of course, we don't want to undermine folks giving through the Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon Christmas Offerings because that is where so much of our basic funding comes from that maintains our SBC missionary presence on the field.

    However, once you have given through those channels until it hurts, there are definitely other ways that you can give the additional milk money you have in the sugar jar for designated projects and missionaries.

    1. You can fund projects directly by giving designated contributions to mission projects on the "Lottie Moon Challenge Fund" List!

    There are about a zillion projects that have been put on this list by field missionaries. Each year field missionaries submit budget requests for the next year’s ministry projects. Typically we are told that there are only enough funds available to support a fraction of the approved projects.

    BUT we can still place the “unfunded” ministry projects on the LMCF List in case some church or individual is interested in supporting it. Through the providence and grace of God, sometimes a church or individual happens upon these projects and is led to contribute directly to them.

    You can view the LMCF list by going to the IMB website and looking under "Giving", then following that to "Other Options" and then downloading the “Lottie Moon Challenge Fund" list, which is a huge file because there are so many projects not funded but which have been approved.

    At this time, the designated offerings given for these LMCF projects are also protected from being made inaccessible to the missionary. Sometimes if regular budgeted funds are not used at year's end they can be withdrawn for use in other places. But its considered unethical to use designated LMCF funds for other purposes without the donor's permission.

    2. You can also give designated support to the ministries of missionaries of your choosing at any time. This is a simple thing to do by making out checks payable to IMB and writing on the check that they are for: "ministry of name of specific missionary serving in Asia, or Africa, or some place". This goes through IMB channels but does get to the missionary in its entirety and I believe it is still tax deductible.

    The down-side of sending to us directly for ministries not on the LMCF list might be that there is no assurance that your offering will indeed be used for a ministry project approved as strategic by leadership. But if you have enough confidence in that missionary I suppose it’s up to you.

  19. "Field office budgets are being slashed by 50% for 2010. Field missionaries are discouraged because there is a feeling among many that Lottie Moon funds are being used to support an ever-increasing overhead budget and an ill-timed reorganization causing little or no money to reach the front lines for ministry projects and field missionary support."

    Wade, am I hearing you correctly? Are you saying that the money we give to Lottie Moon is not actually being used on the mission field, but is being used to fund the bureaucracy in Richmond?

  20. "Gifts to the offering cannot be designated to individual missionaries, teams or projects."

    Just as an FYI, according to the accounting rules governing contributions to tax exempt entities, if a person donates an asset (cash in this case) with a restriction (it has to go to missionary John Doe in Kasnia) the entity has two options:

    A) Accept the contribution and comply with the donor restrictions.
    B) Refuse the donation.

    I would guess the IMB is choosing (B). Perhaps it's too much of an accounting headache for them. The church I go to supports missionaries directly. I think that's a better ay to do it, but that's just my opinion.

  21. One more thought;

    Maybe many concerns mentioned could be addressed if the GCR Committee does recommend next year that we go to one Board.

    Perhaps if we were under one new Board all missionaries (international and domestic) would be working under the same support formula that was recently announced that will be applied to the new IMB missionaries who will be working in the "Masters" categories:

    "new Master’s personnel will provide their own salary, field parity supplement, and medical insurance. Other support, such as transportation, training, housing, etc., will continue to be provided by the company."

    In a situation where only a portion of the support came from the one Mission Board, Kevin’s church would indeed need to provide direct support as he mentioned was done in the past in order to keep missionaries on the field!

    I could see where having the re-organization Wade so clearly defined (not identified according to regions of the world as in the past) that happened this year could also position us well in the event of such a merger.

    Having the top positions of both current Boards vacant, as is now the case, would also be a very convenient situation that could make such a move easier.

  22. RRR,

    Good thoughts. I agree.

    The Peoples Group of the World reorganization has positive potential. I also like the idea of getting churches more directly involved.

    That's why it is extremely important to keep our Convention a cooperating group of diverse and different people and churches and stop the narrowing that seems to have consumed us.


  23. Louis,

    "Wade, am I hearing you correctly? Are you saying that the money we give to Lottie Moon is not actually being used on the mission field, but is being used to fund the bureaucracy in Richmond?"

    It's not me saying this, but some frontline missionaries who are being asked the same question and can't give an answer.

    I do have an opinion, however. I have heard the same question asked on numerous occasions during trustee meetings by trustees, and the answers given were vague. I don't fault the respondents. The blame lies with the system.

    For example. The IMB has a budget of over $300 million dollars. It is not divided into a Lottie Moon budget and a CP budget. It is a unified budget. The CP (Cooperative Program) gives $150 million to the IMB and Lottie Moon over $150 million. For the first time in history, two years ago, the IMB received more from LM than CP.

    It's hard for me to see how LM is NOT used for personnel, staffing and overhead, particularly in budget shortfall years. I know most folks hear that LM money goes directly to fund ministry overseas, but with the testimony from frontline missionaries that ministry funds are at historic lows, and from the lengthy list on the IMB website of UNFUNDED LM projects, it seems to me that LM money is winding up being used to fund an ever increasing personnel, support and overhead budget for the organization.

    It's time for everyone to ask some really hard questions about whether we expanded far to fast, and if so, why?

  24. Many of us Texans have remained attached to the SBC only because of our missionaries. If all you have wrfitten is true, and I'm sure it is, then some of us will likely take a different view of our attachment to the SBC. If we are no longer really "doing" missions, then why keep up this farce?

  25. Ken,

    I understand the sentiment, BUT...

    SBC missions through the IMB IS being done.

    Just not on the scale we have been led to believe.

    The best metaphor would be that of an infant with the head of a grown man. He may think big, talk loud, and look large when looking at the head, but behind closed doors there are weak and wobbly steps being taken.

    I am suggesting we stop worrying about stats and start getting missionaries on the front lines the money they need to do ministry.


  26. Off topic, but please pray for pastor Matt Chandler. He had a seizure last week, and a mass was found on his right frontal lobe, and is having surgery today.

    Read his last blog post prior to surgery here:

  27. Wade,
    Correct me if I’m wrong, but one of the main reasons missionaries had their ‘furloughs’ taken away and changed to ‘State-side Assignment’ was to raise money by appointed speaking events; appointed churches, and any churches that invited them.

    Missionaries were to show the good being done with their Lottie Moon offering and to receive ‘love gifts’. It was hoped those ‘gifts’ were enough to pay travel expenses.

    Also, just like income reported to the IRS, money received was to be reported that affected their salaries. (I’m not real sure about this last one.)

    I’ve heard many ‘worn-out’ missionaries say they had to get back to the field in order to rest.

    ‘Furloughs’ were once looked upon better than Santa Clause, but ‘State-side Assignment’ – Ugg. Just one more reason for low morale.

    Why can’t Christians treat their EMPLOYEES as well as the US Army treats their soldiers?

    I believe it all goes back to ‘power and control’ of Jeroboam’s “I’ll whip you with scorpions.”

  28. Due to my current status (recently resigned from the IMB, after 14 years of overseas service), I think I am qualified to speak a bit to some of these questions, without fear of some type of retribution. Also, you'll just have to take my word on this one: but I don't really have any axe to grind, either.

    1. It is true there is always room for more efficiency and transparency in any organization. But, I am not personally aware of any egregious problems on the part of the IMB in these areas. However, I will admit, I don't have quite so much first-hand knowledge of the situation on the field in the past 2 years as those who are on the field now.

    2. During the 14 years when I was with the board, there were always ebbs and flows of availability of ministry funds, according, many times, to budgeting priorities, rises or drops in Stateside giving, the exchange rate of the dollar, etc. I can remember several times when we were told there would be very little (if any) money for ministry expenses, but then, at the end of the year, expenses were always reimbursed one way or another. Maybe this year will be different. I am not sure.

    3. There are always certain missionaries who are more extravagant in their use and request of ministry funds, and those who are more frugal. There is a system in place to try to oversee this, and avoid misuse and abuse. But, like any other system, there is always room for error. All in all, though, my experience has been that those in the IMB in charge of making these kinds of decisions do a remarkably good job, considering the circumstances.

    4. The ethos within the IMB family, especially since New Directions, has been toward avoiding strategies that are resource-intensive. A big part of the philosophy behind the push toward CPMs is that they should not depend on foreign funding. Strategies that are truly reproducible should not depend on large amounts of foreign funding.

    5. Personal living expenses of field workers is another question. A certain amount of funding is necessary for missionaries to live at a decent standard of living. However, there is a tension between what might be considered a modest standard of living for ministers in the States, and the standard of living of missionaries from other agencies, and, especially, of national workers. All in all, IMB workers, though not, by any means, living extravagantly, when compared to colleagues in the States, do fairly well when compared to others on the field.

    6. This point is a bit sensitive, and I hope I don't wound any sensibilities here. But, IMHO, the IMB did a bit of an overkill back 5 to 10 years ago in pushing to bring over so many Journeyman, ISC, and Masters folks so quickly, in comparison to the corresponding ratio of career folks. In order to really be effective on the field, it helps immensely to learn the language and culture like only someone who has been on the field for a longer amount of time is able to do. This is not to say that God cannot, or has not, used J'men, ISCers, and Masters folks for the advance of His Kingdom in significant ways. But, when we are talking about stewardship of limited resources, I think, personally, it is wiser to invest the bulk of our resources in long-term personnel. I don't know for sure, but I have a hunch that some of the recent budgeting decisions you have mentioned here are a reflection of an increasing awareness of this reality by IMB staff and trustees.

    *This is part 1. See continuation in Part 2.

  29. Part 2 (continued from Part 1)

    7. None of this means that everyone--even J'men, ISCers, and Masters folks--does not need a bare minimum in order to get by. If you are only there for a couple of years, and don't have kids on the field with you, though, it is a bit easier to get by with less, than if you are long-term with kids.

    Our first term in Spain (before our 14 years with the IMB) was with a so-called "faith mission." Our support level was quite a bit lower than what career IMB people get, something similar to what ISCers get. While we ate out a lot less, and counted our pennies a lot more, we were able to get by. And, it did not necessarily affect our ministry adversely.

    Having said all this, we are immensely grateful for the support package we received through IMB, and think that, all things told, it is a very good thing.

    8. There have always been several levels of personnel supervision on the field. The percent of resources put into support ministries is not extravagant, IMHO. Also, many supervisors and/or support people also have front line responsibilities, as well.

    The question of travel expenditures on the part of supervisors and support folks is something I don't know enough about to speak to intelligently, though. You may (or may not) have a point there.

    9. In the latest reorganization, field workers WERE asked for input. There was an in-house blog in which ideas and suggestions were actively solicited for several months, while the trustees and staff meditated over these decisions.

    Were everyone's suggestions taken into account? Inasmuch as they were not all compatible with each other, of course not. But I do think the folks who ultimately made the decisions did do a very good job of trying to hear from the folks on the field, before moving ahead with their decisions.

    Personally, I am not a big fan of the Affinity Group structure. I think it feeds into a mindset of unbiblical division of the Body of Christ, along social and ethnic lines, in accordance with the Homogeneous Unit Principle of McGavran.

    But, to say that field workers were not consulted, or taken into account, on this decision, is a bit over the top.

    10. As far as reporting of church start and baptism statistics is concerned, I believe that the IMB has been pretty much above-board in stating that these figures reflect, not just the personal ministry efforts of IMB personnel, but also of our ministry partners overseas.

    It is very difficult to divide neatly between exactly who is reponsible for this baptism, or that church plant. Missionary work is a team sport. And, our team members are not just other IMB personnel.

    As a matter of fact, if we were to put the emphasis on the people actually baptized by IMB m's, and churches started first-hand by IMB m's, the overall work would suffer a good deal, as a result. We are most effective when we do the work of behind the scenes catalysts for evangelism and church planting. Our effectiveness at being good catalysts is hard to quantify. But, in interest of good stewardship, we do try to measure, some way or another, how our efforts might ultimately be contributing to the advance of the work, though it is often more indirectly than directly.

    I can understand how some may misread the way the statistics are presented. But, when you go to the actual sources, and read carefully, I don't think there is any actual dishonesty or lack of transparency on the part of the IMB.

    11. I would personally urge all Southern Baptists to not back off of their LMCO and CP giving, but to do everything they can to increase it. God's work overseas is too important. And, though not perfect, we really do have a good thing going through the IMB.

  30. David,

    As usual, a measured, well-articulated, cogent comment.

    I affirm particularly #11.

    It's healthy, in my opinion, that people like you and me (and others) can point out problems errors while still supporting the IMB. I also realize there will be some disagreements over what the problems actually are (with some claiming there are none), and even more disagreements over what the solutions are -- but maybe we have finally gotten to the place where friends discuss the real issues.

  31. To all:

    I have received a couple of emails from field missionaries who say that they were consulted about the reorganization--affirming what David is saying. One said that the consultations on this reorganization were initiated by Richmond to field personnel, unlike New Directions.

    This differs with what other field missionaries have said to me, an example of differences of opinion within the IMB itself. I don't think anyone is misleading anyone else intentionally. I think everyone is speaking from their perspective, and it definitely is true that some missionaries on the field felt they had input into the reorganization.


  32. David,

    One last word.

    You write: It is very difficult to divide neatly between exactly who is reponsible for this baptism, or that church plant.

    I agree.

    Why don't we stop the counting?

    It is unfair to the missionaries minstering in different areas of the world where the culture, population and receptivity to the gospel (i.e. Japan vs. China).

    Let's hold our missionaries accountable to faithfulness to their tasks - let's not reward them based upon numbers of "conversions," "baptisms," and "church plants" - particularly when it is "very difficult" (your words) to neatly account for those numbers.

  33. Rex,

    I'm not sure how furloughs work now compared to years ago, but someone else may be able to chime in.


  34. WOW! If indeed the IMB is purposely enlarging numbers on baptisms and church starts, etc., what does that say about the IMB top brass? I am appalled to think that might be true. I have been a Southern Baptist since I was saved, and a Pastor and staff member for 30 years. This hurts me deeply -- I don't want to believe what I hear. I would like to ask the IMB leaders to reply to this, and tell us what is going on. I know Wade knows what he is talking about, as he has spent time on the IMB board. So, we need to hear the truth.

    Hoenstly, are we supposed to believe every IMB person started 10 churches on their own? Come on now. To me, this sounds a lot like the "Valley Gate Scandal" that the Texas BGCT is going thru now related to false chruch starts in the South Texas Rio Grande area. Is it the same in some ways?

    Let's hear from the top!!

  35. Interesting post Wade. As a missionary with the board I can assure you that some of your opinions are shared by front line missionaries.

    In terms of the organization getting deeper and fatter rather than flatter and are spot on. The number of emails we are now receiving from different areas within the organization is dumbfounding. And you are also correct that strategy budgets have been cut. For the affinity group to which I belong 50% of our strategy budget for next year has been cut.

    In terms of raising support while on Stateside is not accurate to say that we are tasked with raising our support while in the States. We are asked to give some of our time to speaking engagements and as a part of these engagements it's understood that we talk about the way we are funded (through Lottie Moon). But I've never been told by anyone in the IMB that I have to shill for my own support.

    I wrote a short article about these same topics just a few weeks ago, but took a slightly different perspective on the issue.

    You can read it here:

  36. Pastor Bobby T,

    The argument will be that "Our missionaries started a Bible study that grew into a church. That church planted a church, and the church they planted also planted a church. So, with one Bible study, five churches were planted!"

    David Rogers' represents that philosophy in his comment above. My point is that we have become so consumed with counting numbers that we've lost sight of the glory of simply being faithful.

    By the way, the stats in my post come from the IMB website.

    It's their official numbers, not mine.


  37. Wade,

    I think there may be some merit to your suggestion of just not counting baptisms and church plants anymore.

    However, I still think there is some value in attempting, as well as we possibly can, in the name of good stewardship, to gauge the effectiveness of our strategies, and our faithfulness in carrying them out. There is a question of accountability involved here.

    What is the best alternative? I am not sure. But, I don't think the intention, on the part of IMB leadership, is to deceive, with regard to this matter.

  38. Wade,
    Sure resources are tight, but the burden is shared across the organization. It sounds really great to say "the money should go to the front lines," but, as you wrote, there wouldn't be any front lines without a support system.

    "Frontliners" should make strategic decisions about their work. But without someone to hold on to the "big picture," we end up with overlap, redundancy, and competition among field personnel. Workers on the front don't always appreciate big-picture strategic decisions, but they're necessary.

    The organization is not trying to mislead anyone with statistics reports. Should we look for other ways to measure our obedience and evidence our progress? I think so. But communication is vital to the ongoing support of the organization. Many are asking, "Why should we continue to support IMB?" It is the responsibility of the communications team to say, "Here's why," highlighting the need, the opportunity, and the areas where we're seeing God work.

    Resources- resources are tight. But giving is down, the economy is tight, and denominational loyalty is a thing of the past. Budget cuts aren't just made at the front lines, they're shouldered across the entire organization.

    Even though lots of missionaries would deem their requests "strategic" or "effective," there isn't enough money for every fully supported missionary to open a book store, cafe, art gallery, or sports complex. We strive for good stewardship, reproducibility, obedience, and sustainability. It's a difficult juggling act, but one that faithful people are working at. IMB leadership is also exploring alternatives to funding and supporting the work as the organization changes to adapt to it's coming realities.

    The conversation is a good one. Let's try discussion before we fall into divisive accusations. As you've already seen in the case of the claims that missionaries weren't consulted in the recent reorganization- there are usually many different perspectives.

    Caleb Crider

  39. The church I go to supports missionaries directly. I think that's a better ay to do it, but that's just my opinion.

    Fri Dec 04, 10:54:00 AM 2009

    I agree, Joe.

    No matter what David Rogers says, one would have to be blind not to see that the IMB is top heavy and spends money that is unnessecary such as so many trustee meetings at resorts, etc. We should also look at Exec pay. Ministry is not a wealth builder. If you want an exec salary in the top 10% bracket
    work in the private sector or for government in an exec capacity.

    Heartcry is a great organization that supports indigenous missionaries and is very effective with donor funds. .

    I think a day of reckoning is going to come if it is ever found out enmasse that LM funds do not go directly to the field. Most folks believe that they do because they have been told that for years.

  40. Agreed, Caleb.

    I hope the discussion continues.

  41. Wade,

    I am glad you are reporting on the SBC again, especially the IMB and the GCR. Someone needs to be speaking about this.

    I worked for the IMB and saw some of this as well. I respect David and his opinion,but I did see the padding of numbers. Three cases stand out to me: One was a comment made by a regional leader during a meeting. He asked if we ever went to lunch with national believers. When we said "yes", he asked if we ever spoke about the Bible with them. When we again said "yes", he asked if Jesus wasn't with us, and if that then didn't constitute a church, since where two or more are gathered in my name... In other words, "count it".

    The second was a missionary friend who was visiting a new believer once a month for encouragement. This too was considered a plant even though he wasn't congregating with any of the local churches.

    The third was how our country came up with the numbers. We were told not to work with the national churches since they didn't agree with house churches, but when it came time for IMB statistics, we called the national office and turned in their numbers for baptisms and church starts since it was reasoned we started their convention 100 years earlier!

    I think we need more integrity on numbers. I also think we need fewer chiefs and many more foot-soldier evangelists.

    And I agree that we do need to support Lottie Moon.

    Thank you for keeping these issues at the forefront of SBC life and discussion.


  42. Lydia,

    I would like for someone to officially answer whether or not Lottie Moon funds go support salaries, support offices and other overhead expenses.

    I am saying it is difficult to see how LM funds DON'T go to into a general revenue account to help meet budget, but I'm open for correction.

  43. Bill,

    Your story about the regional leader is pretty amazing. If that really happened just like you say, I have a real problem with that. It would help some, in my mind, to add a bit of credibility to your story, if we knew your whole name, and the name of the regional leader. But, if not, we'll just have to take it at face value.

    Same goes for your missionary friend and the once-a-month visits. I'm not saying it didn't happen. But, until I have a few more specifics, I'm not assuming that it did. And especially not that that was common fare throughout the IMB.

    As far as your third point is concerned, when I was in Spain, we did indeed turn in the baptism numbers of the Spanish Baptist Union. And, there was a bit of a mentality encouraged on the part of some leadership, at one time, of not working directly with them. But, this was only on the part of some leadership. And, since then, the impression I get is that m's are encouraged more than before to try to work with national Baptist pastors and churches. Hopefully, the pendulum has turned back toward the middle on this one.

    I will agree, though, that if there is a vulnerable point in all of this, you have pinpointed it there.

  44. Thank you David for clarifying those things from "IMB" perspective. Your comment has helped calm my agitation with these folks commenting :-)

    Been on the field for 15 years. The only thing that changed for me when it went form furlough to stateside assignment was the name. I still do the same things on stateside assignment I did on furlough. Stateside Assignment was basically a name change to reflect to our constituents that we actually come back to the states and work and not vacation...

  45. This comment has been removed by the author.

  46. "Resources- resources are tight. But giving is down, the economy is tight, and denominational loyalty is a thing of the past."

    These things are true, no doubt, but lets be honest and put the blame where it belongs. The so-called "conservative resurgence" actually, fundamentalist takeover of the SBC has been disastrous for SBC as a whole and damaging to the IMB in particular.

    Even tho our church, FBC Decatur, continued give to the Cooperative Program despite disagreeing with the adoption of the Baptist Faith & Message 2000, conservative leaders continued to harass our church until disfellowshiping us from the Georgia Baptist Convention this year.

    The point is: our church didn't walk away from the SBC. We were literally pushed away by it's leadership, although I think the term "leadership" is a bit too generous to describe such people and their attitudes and actions.

    It would be interesting if we could actually count up the number of churches and individuals who have left the SBC because of the holier-than-thou attitude of the CR and its leaders. Here in Atlanta, it never fails that at some party or office function, when I get around to mentioning that I am a Baptist, I meet men and women, young and old, who tell me how they used to be Baptist but are now Methodist or Presbyterian, or some other form of Protestantism or evangelicalism, and the story is always the same: They've left the SBC because because they disagreed with attacking and divisive spirit fostered by the CR.

    The CR and how it undid the SBC is the elephant in the room. Let's always keep that front and center and be honest about it when having the discussion about why people in the SBC are demoralized and giving is down.

  47. 100% of Lottie Moon funds go directly overseas. 100%!!!

    None is kept to run anything in Richmond.

    That has been what I've understood for 15 years.

  48. Giving is down. Denominational loyalty is a thing of the past...

    FBC Decatur
    Broadway Baptist in Ft Worth

    2 large prominent SBC churches disfellowshipped by the convention. Now, if they weren't, money from them would be going to the CP and Lottie Moon.

    And then there's less prominent SBC churches disfellowshipped by the convention. Others have either decided to leave entirely, or just stay somewhat connected to the convention, with most of their support going elsewhere. Not to mention the individuals who have felt disfellowshipped by the SBC...

  49. This shortage in the mission's funding of the SBC is a joke, right. Apparently another arm feels no shortages. See how other expenditures take place in the SBC, including

    "Here" the President of the SBC indulges himself (and his wife who says:
    "....Of course, we were booked in the Presidential Suite at the hotel. After all, could the President possibly stay in anything less? Yes! He can, but his wife can't!")

    Or the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force indulge themselves in transporting and accommodating, these 23 members as well as others as they "gather" at the different events. schedule

    And then the backdrop of some of the members who got on the "task force" who's churches give far less in percentage to the SBC such as the CP giving of only 1.3% from Bellevue Baptist (scroll down to Donna Gaines), as apparently they have their own programs

    As Steve Gaines colludes with Ken Whitten to get Donna Gaines
    on the committee, or is it a "Task Force"

    Harry Lewis says:

    "Let’s get it right. Let’s do it together. A lost world does not have time for us to halt between two opinions."

    Ronnie Floyd says:
    "We are no longer just gathering the needed information, but we are now making critical decisions."

    Maybe someone should tell this guy


  50. This makes me so sad to read, but I know it's true, a missionary friend of mine on the field in South America recently had a really bad roof leak with lots of damage to the inside of the house, he wasn't sure he was going to get the money to make repairs due to budget cuts. In the end, he was given money but he shouldn't have had to worry about that at all. Their work is so hard, how can the IMB make their lives even harder with stress about money? Shameful and very un Christlike..

  51. First I would like to thank David for saying almost everything I wanted to say. I agree with his words from an M point of view.

    Second I would like to say that as an IMB M, I feel and most of my colleagues would agree, that we are the best supported M's in the world. This does not mean we don't have difficult times. In the last few years with the economic difficulties and the decline in the dollar's value our budgets have been tight. But that is true of M's from every organization around the world. We realize that there are many supporters who are in difficult financial times in the states also.

    It appears to me that there are two issues here. One is the economic problems and the other is the reorganization that is happening in the middle of it. I think we should be careful mixing the two and thinking that one is the cause of the other.

    During the reorg we have been asked for our opinions and have had open access all the way to the top man himself. While I don't necessarily agree with all that has been done, I think that those in charge feel it is the best way -- and most efficient way to use our IMB dollars. Most of the leadership are former front line M's. They want the money from the LM offering and the CP money to be used for the advance of the kingdom around the world. Will this method of doing things help? We will see, but it is being done through much thought and prayer.

    As we approach the time for the annual Lottie Moon offering, I am truly grateful for the way my family is faithfully provided for as we seek to make God known in a part of the world that is filled with spiritual darkness. I know God has called us here and that he will continue to provide ways for us to continue to work in this place that others might come to know him.

    With much thanks,
    Africa M

  52. I agree totally with things I hear David saying. Having been an M with another org. , I have seen the same complaints in those org's. Actually the one I was with was worse. So while I am all for seeking to be more efficient, I also know we will always deal with such things.

    I guess what I would challenge all the churches here with is "What are you doing to engage the work directly?"

    Like Wade, we engage several UPG's in the 10/40. We do CP, LM, and send money to the IMB directly designated to our M's to help supply what they need to carry on their work.

    As I see it, just because we have the IMB does not mean that the task of reaching UPG's is that of the IMB alone. They are a partner with churches in seeking to do the GC. The task still belongs to the church and we are the ones who need to be deeply engaged in that work. What I found in SB life is that we turn the task over to the IMB and then sit back and do little to engage the work ourselves.

    So while I agree that we can always do better in being more frugal, my bigger concern is that we in the church have sat back and failed to come alonside the IMB and engage the UPG's of the world ourselves.

  53. David,

    I have a general rule that if I comment on a blog I use my full name and location so there will be transparency and so I will be held accountable for what I say. Maybe I am wrong in this case, but since we are talking about the IMB and people who still work there, I have chosen not to use my name or theirs. I also have family members who served with Wade as IMB trustees and I just didn't want to cause problems for anyone.

    David, if you would post your email address I would be happy to discuss particulars with you.

    I had a great experience as a missionary but came to the point that I could no longer serve with the Board. I do support LM in the church I pastor and just received word that we were in the top 1.8% of LM giving last year.

    Grace to you,

  54. "It appears to me that there are two issues here. One is the economic problems and the other is the reorganization that is happening in the middle of it. I think we should be careful mixing the two and thinking that one is the cause of the other. "

    There is another issue that is even more pressing: The top heavy, highly paid execs and unnecessary spending of funds for meetings, etc.

    It shows a lack of discernment and seriousness about missions.

  55. Bill,

    I look forward to hearing from you.

  56. Many IMB folks have responded that we were asked for input before the new changes. Interestingly, the changes had already been decided upon by management and approved by a group of trustees before input from the field was sought. Slowing or changing the decision wasn't possible because it was being tied to a change in the accounting system that had already been purchased. In many ways it has been liking invading Iraq. It was going to be done but there was a recognition that our buy-in was necessary, at least to some degree, and the cost of the changes were not estimated but it was assumed that we could find a way to pay for it.

    The current estimate is that we can support about 5,000 workers. There has been some significant streamlining and cost reduction to try and provide for more workers, but the reality is we have sent more than we are supporting. Watching over this is ultimately the trustees responsibility. When the stock market was crashing in Sept/Oct 08 they were planning the reorg and failed to either recognize the situation or chose to put their agenda first.

    We are behaving like the Octomom who had 8 children on principle even though she wasn't able to pay for her current children without government support. Management has been thinking that the money would follow the people, so sending more was an active step of faith and challenge. They failed to come up with a plan to increase giving to fit their plan. Does this mean that God isn't faithful or is this a failure of leadership?

    The Salvation Army is claiming an increase in giving at the kettle, so it seems like even though these are hard times there is more that could be given. Once the GCR chooses their structure and their man for the IMB, the mega churches will likely increase their giving from the current 1-2% to 4-5%. This boost in giving should help significantly, so even though 2010 will be a drought year financially, 2011 should be much better.

  57. Rob,

    You say:

    "Many IMB folks have responded that we were asked for input before the new changes. Interestingly, the changes had already been decided upon by management and approved by a group of trustees before input from the field was sought. Slowing or changing the decision wasn't possible because it was being tied to a change in the accounting system that had already been purchased."

    That is a pretty serious allegation. It seems to me that if you know such to be the case, there is a better way to confront this than to air it semi-anonymously and publicly on a blog.

    Are you currently an IMB M?

    Have you confronted anyone in IMB leadership with this allegation?

    If your situation is the same as Bill above, you are free to write me at my e-mail, and give me the answers to these questions.

  58. Hey David,

    I am not making an allegation. I am just explaining the way the blog worked out. The blog was begun after the decision was made to reorganize and as information rolled out the prior planning became evident. Since this is an open forum, someone else may want to jump in with the way they remember it. I could be wrong now...but I don't think so. :)

    A reorg like this takes a lot of planning and because of the accounting change I guess they really didn't have time go through a thorough process plus the economic problems have made the changes even more difficult. It has been heavy-handed, but it hasn't been as bad as New Directions. They were just trying to get done what they wanted done, which, in our system, is their privilege.

    Actually, it was a huge step for RVA to try a blog like that. In the beginning it was just a suggestion box, but it turned into a method for explaining their decisions. They eventually shut it down because...well, I guess because they could. Were you still with the company then?

    I did specifically ask on the blog for the trustees not to enact the changes so soon. The response was that the trustees were not allowed access to the blog. When the reorg was taken to the full board the president said that only negative people were against their reorg. I thought that that was a step too far, and I said so publicly.

    But the challenge really is before us...not behind us. To keep the metaphor going, we need to win the war in Iraq and fighting with RVA isn't going to help. The reorg has been messy and frustrating, but if we stay the course and look to 2011 we will be ok.

    I hope this longer explanation helps you to understand the situation a little better.

    blessings and Hook'em Horns!

  59. "That is a pretty serious allegation. It seems to me that if you know such to be the case, there is a better way to confront this than to air it semi-anonymously and publicly on a blog."

    Hasn't that been the problem for 30 years? Too many secret meetings and backroom deals?

    Why not ask questions publicly? Why not make experiences public? This is 'ministry' not a private corporation.

    As to using full names, that is a great way to make sure nothing is ever said. Witness Wade's treatment by the IMB. Not to mention the scores of bleeding and wounded of the last 30 years by SBC big shots.

  60. Rob,

    *From the e-mail correspondence I have saved on my g-mail account, on April 24, 2008, a letter was sent by Gordon Fort to all IMB personnel, mentioning the possibility of upcoming changes, and asking for input and suggestions via e-mail.

    *On May 12, 2008, those in the Western Europe region received an additional e-mail letter from Tom Williams, our Regional Leader, mentioning the possibility of significant changes, and adding the following:

    "You have been invited to be a part of the on-going discussion about this process of change. Gordon Fort has asked for your input. I strongly encourage you to write him at [e-mail address] and share your thoughts, ideas, and dreams with him. I assure you NO decisions have been made at this time. We will follow a deliberate, careful, thoughtful process of gathering input. Our leadership will seek to communicate and keep field personnel informed each step through the process."

    *On June 24, 2008, a memo was sent from Dr. Rankin to all field personnel informing them of the in-house blog, and inviting them to post comments and suggestions.

    *In a June 26, 2008 letter from Gordon Fort all IMB personnel were informed that at the trustee meeting in the week before the writing of the letter a "task group" was appointed "to study our organization and strategy in the coming months."

    *The blog was shut down at the end of April, 2009, well after decisions regarding the restructuring had been officially approved on Sept. 10, 2008 at the trustee meeting.

    Perhaps you have access to information which I do not have access to. But, what you are saying does not seem to me to be consistent with the timeline I present here.

    Maybe there is a way to resolve these discrepancies. Or, maybe I am not understanding you correctly. If so, it would be helpful to hear some further explanation.

  61. Hey David,

    That sounds about right. They decided to make the changes at the beginning of the year and took a final vote on their changes in September. The suggestion box was open for a couple of months, but after that the blog was used to announce their plans. (BTW, good job keeping your emails.)

    I was trying to say that the blog was a good idea, it just didn't seem to have an impact on the basic foundational changes. Planning together is a whole different process that is more intentional and takes a lot longer. Sorry if it wasn't clear.

    Also, to Wade's point that career and staff salaries need to be targeted for reduction. There was a proposed reduction in the FPS formula that would have made a 5-10% cut for field personnel, but it has been postponed due to technical problems. If the current offering is below expectations, maybe they will apply it later in 2010. I'm praying that the offering is going to be better than expected. :)

    The 50% reduction in annuity contributions for everyone is supposed to begin in January. Since these are across the board cuts, on a percentage basis they will impact career field personnel and staff more than others. When it comes to cutting expenses, no stone is being left unturned.

    The hard part to figure out is why we have added around 200 people since the stock market crash of Oct 08. This adds about $10 million in annual expenses while we are also trying to make cuts. It feels like we are bailing the water out of our boat while someone else is drilling new holes. :)

    Good thing the Lord has a plan.

  62. So, as far as I am able to tell, these two statements have been demonstrated to not be true:


    "When the last two reorganizations occured at the IMB (i.e. New Directions and Affinity People Groups), the instructions for reorganization came from the top down. Field missionaries were not asked for their input."


    "Many IMB folks have responded that we were asked for input before the new changes. Interestingly, the changes had already been decided upon by management and approved by a group of trustees before input from the field was sought."

    And, in case anyone is wondering, I have not yet received an e-mail from "Bill" to corroborate the information he gave in his comment. I will be sure to comment and let everyone know when and if I do.

  63. Thanks David.

    I would encourage you Bill to contact David. I believe both of you have valid points, and I don't want yours, Bill, to be dismissed because David does not know who you are. I trust David's integrity to keep your identity secret for the sake of your family members still with the SBC and the IMB.


  64. Rob,

    To be fair to Bill, it would help if either David or I, or all who read this blog know who you are as well.


  65. Friends,
    I have written David and he will soon post again to the blog. By the way, there are two different people posting by the name of Bill.
    I hope all of you have a great Lord's Day.
    One of the Bill's

  66. I have indeed heard from Bill, and am currently engaged in an e-mail exchange in order to help me to clarify some of the details of his stories.

    At this point, I am convinced Bill indeed is a former IMB missionary, and is not just making up the things that he said happened.

    I am a little less convinced as to what degree these isolated episodes really are representative of IMB philosophy and actions in general. They may well be extreme examples which should not be used to make judgments regarding the organization as a whole.

    If I hear anything else that might help to clear some of these doubts up further, I will post it here (maintaining Bill's anonymity, which I respect).

  67. Okay. I have pretty much heard from Bill now what I was hoping to hear.
    Here is my read on what he has to say:

    Bill has been open, gracious, and above-board in his communication with me. I really appreciate that.

    It does indeed appear that in his time with the IMB he was privy to several different situations in which there was some encouragement on the part of some leaders at a regional level to define church starts in such a way as to effectively "pad" statistics.

    He has also expressed his concerns regarding this on several different occasions to IMB leadership at various levels.

    The following is my personal impression:

    During the years immediately following the implementation of New Directions, there was indeed some over-zealousness on the part of some in leadership positions to make the CPM model work.

    One big problem has been with taking models that were appropriate for one particular setting or area of the world and trying to force them on other settings or areas of the world which required a different strategy model.

    A lot of people at various levels of leadership in the IMB got overly enamoured with the CPM model as a one-size-fits-all approach to missions. This led, in some cases, to some approaches, which didn't neatly fit the mold, being discouraged, and, at times, the supposed success of those who followed the prescribed model being exaggerated.

    I do not think there was intention on the part of the vast amount of people involved in what I have just described to be deceptive in any way.

    If anything, the excesses and errors can be chalked up primarily to over-zealousness, and hopes pinned on the effectiveness of one particular model, to the exclusion of other approaches to missionary work.

    I also think that, with time, some of the excesses and mistakes that came along with trying to promote this new strategy approach have corrected themselves, and that IMB leadership, at present, is taking a more balanced view regarding these concerns.

    And, most importantly of all, while I agree with Bill about the validity of pointing out some of these problems, and holding people accountable, I do not think any of this is sufficient reason for anyone giving a vote of "no confidence" to the IMB, and, as a result, decreasing or ceasing missions giving.

    In my e-mail exchange with Bill, he has assured me that he feels the same way, and would encourage all who might be tempted to decrease or cease their missions giving in support of the IMB not to do so.

  68. One more observation:

    The dynamic Bill described has very likely been more problematic in one or two areas of the world (such as the one in which Bill served) than it has in the rest of the world.

  69. Good observation, David.




  70. Wade,

    I would like to comment on a few things mentioned in this post. My comments are mine only and may not be the same for every situation with the IMB. I am still employed by the IMB and anything I say here I have already said to our leadership. I am thankful that our leaders have been willing to listen to my compliments and complaints and I have not been fired for disagreeing with them.

    I want to second David Roger’s statement that we need to continue and increase CP and LMCO giving. This is one of the most critical years in history. Any decrease in giving will most hurt the front line missionaries, not the trustees or others that you may blame for the troubles we have.

    I would agree with you that the trustees themselves could make changes in the way they operate that would save money. I know this won’t happen but I think the number of trustees could be decreased by one-third and it would probably increase the efficiency of the trustee board and save money. They should eliminate one or two meetings a year. Jerry Rankin suggested this several years ago but was ignored. I don’t know where they meet but I assume they are frugal with their choice of meeting places and lodging.

    David and Bill have had much to say about ASRs and reporting of statistics. I have voiced complaints about this to some of those in leadership many time since new directions came about. David, I have not heard of the extreme situation Bill described with his regional leader but I am aware of similar situations and would not be surprised if it were true. I have been responsible for reporting church starts and baptisms from national denominations and church networks we have been involved in starting and with which we are actively involved and I have no problem with that. I have also experienced the situation David described when we were discouraged from working with our longtime national churches and I am also glad to know we have returned to our senses and are trying to correct the mistakes made in New Directions in this regard. I do not believe our leadership is trying to deceive or be dishonest in their reporting of statistics but I believe our standards changed drastically and there was a lack of transparency. I believe we inherited this as part of the CSI mentality and believe it is being corrected. I know of situations where churches were reported that we had no involvement in starting and were making no contribution to their future growth. Most of the problems occurred because of the direction set at regional leadership level so this may not be true for every region.

    You are right to mention the travel situation. For the last ten years there has been too much unneeded travel. Regional leadership teams and SCs were making too many trips in the region and across the ocean. Half the trips could have been eliminated no one would have noticed. Many leaders became addicted to frequent flyer miles. I am glad we have implemented a new policy asking travel to be approved by your supervisor’s supervisor. Hopefully this will bring about more accountability.
    (continued on next post)

  71. Your discussion on how much we were consulted is the most difficult to understand. Many of us heard the change was coming long before the emails came out or the blog was opened. Yes we were consulted but no one would believe that Jerry Rankin just thought we needed to make some changes and opened it up to suggestions without an idea of where it was going. I am sure the main ideas were decided by Jerry and others without any help or suggestions from front line missionaries. That is why they are where they are. What I would like to see is the blog opened back up to let our leaders hear how the changes are being perceived by our missionaries. The idea of affinity groups is excellent. The logistic and financial offices being located in four centers around the world is not as excellent. You said the four support centers report to their respective affinity groups and to their Richmond office. That is not true. They may report to their Richmond VP office but the affinity groups actually report to the support centers. We have a situation now where logistics drives strategy and not the reverse as it should be. I believe taking the logistical and financial support away from the strategy decision making is a mistake. When New Directions came along we found out the local missionaries were better at choosing their leaders and developing strategy than regional leaders or those in RVA. I am afraid that this change will teach that local missionaries are more accountable and better at making most logistical and financial decisions than those in a center several time zones away. We have far more bureaucracy today than we did before New Directions.

    No matter what complaints some of us may have, we still need to support our missionaries. They are just as dedicated and committed now as they have been throughout our history.
    Ron West


Please discuss principle and do not denigrate people. Vulgar comments or those which violate the simple request above will be deleted.