Friday, September 04, 2015

A Platt-Full of Trouble: The IMB's Fiscal Crisis

David Platt, the 36-year-old President of the International Mission Board recently stated that there would be a "15% reduction in IMB personnel." In a town hall meeting joined by Southern Baptist missionaries from around the world, President Platt said, "If we are going to balance our budget, we must reduce approximately 600 to 800 of our staff and field personnel."

In a follow-up press release, an IMB spokesperson said, "The IMB plans to reduce the total number of missionaries and staff by 600-800 people — or approximately 15 percent of its total personnel. Currently, approximately 4,800 personnel serve as missionaries and 450 as staff."

Several people have written me and asked what I thought of President Platt's plan. A few have sent me the criticism of others for the plan, asking me to comment publicly. There seems to be only three possible reactions  Platt's vision for "balancing the budget' of the IMB - (1). praise, (2). anger, or (3). indifference.

Count me as a person in the first category. I praise David Platt for his decision. Here's why.

For years I have known that there has been a fiscal crisis in the International Mission Board. I was appointed a trustee of the International Mission Board in 2005. In essence, the board has spent more money than it has taken in for many, many years.  The fiscal irresponsibility of the IMB can be attributed to a philosophy of a previous IMB President who believed Jesus was returning soon and it mattered not whether or not bills could be paid, and by David Platt's immediate predecessor who, as a friend of mine opined to me yesterday, "ran the IMB into the ground."

In other words, David Platt was handed a Platt-full of fiscal trouble when he became IMB President.

For the past twenty years, the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention has been selling capital assets and using those funds for "operational" expenses, a practice outside the radar of average Southern Baptists. The IMB owned hundreds of millions of dollars of land, office buildings, homes, hospitals, and other hard assets (capital) in foreign countries which the board had accumulated over the decades. Land bought cheap years ago in places like Thailand, South Korea, Hong Kong and other exotic locations were sold in the 2000's and turned a tidy profit for the IMB.

When the philosophy of the IMB turned from its historic and traditional missionary care (e.g. leprosy colonies, hospitals, shelters, food centers, etc...) into solely "church planting," the IMB began to "sell" their hard assets and use the proceeds for operating expenses.

Let me say that again to let it sink in. For years the IMB has been selling hard assets to fund annual operating expenses. There is an important caveat to the preceding statement. For tax and legal reasons, the revenue the IMB gleaned from the sale of hard assets in a foreign country would never show up as "revenue" for annual operational expenses in the United States. What would happen is that the money would be placed in "slush funds," similar to what Congress does with money used for "black operations" or for covert agencies that they wish to keep out of public scrutiny.

For example, revenue from the sale of a multi-million dollar office building in a far eastern country was placed in an overseas designated account. Credit cards expenses, hotel bills, plane fares and entertainment expenses for upper level management of the IMB were paid from the slush fund. The accountants in the Far East responsible for overseeing finances would receive communication from Richmond to "pay for" this plane ticket, or this hotel bill, or this credit card, etc.... Some of the accountants were bothered by the practice, but they were not sure what could be done about it.

One thing is certain. An organization can never operate indefinitely on revenue from the sale of capital assets. At some point, someone in leadership will have to face the cold, hard facts that the money will soon be gone. David Platt was handed the International Mission Board at the tail end of a spending spree that would have made Croesus blush. Not only do I not fault David Platt for getting control of the fiscal budget of the Southern Baptist Convention's missions sending agency, I call upon every Southern Baptist leader, including Frank Page, to stop the their pleas for Southern Baptists to "just give more money to the SBC." It's time SBC leadership became transparent in our financial practices, beginning with what has actually happened to all the revenue from the sale of the IMB's capital assets.

Again, don't blame David Platt for the IMB's fiscal crisis. His predecessors created the problem.


RB Kuter said...

Thank you, Wade, for comments that very accurately portray the situation. You have been in a position to acquire very direct insight into the inner-circle of IMB and what impacts its fiscal status.

As you state, mismanagement of funds has been going on for a long time. IMB has spent money on projects and over-committed on the number of new missionaries appointed that it could not afford.

There are other immediate remedies he could have taken instead. The announcement to implement down-sizing by offering early retirement for our most effective people comes while IMB maintains its plan to APPOINT 600+ NEW missionaries in this next two years! This leads me to wonder if there are not ulterior motives for David Platt taking these initial measures for "addressing the financial crisis".

I attribute this step to reduce the most needed, effective segment of our personnel force to David Platt's lack of insight and experience in living and serving abroad as a long-term missionary. Another disappointment is that he apparently does not acknowledge this lack of experience as being a matter of concern. As a new President he has replaced those IMB executives at the top level of strategic management positions with colleagues from his past. These new executive replacements are equally inept in having insights into what is involved in living and serving in long-term, cross-cultural situations having no such experience themselves. Yet they are filling the positions with the most strategic importance in how IMB will be involved in global missions.

I am certain they all have great hearts for the Lord and as to how to do things in their home American culture but that is only a portion of what is needed when leading an international mission machine.

SBC President Ronnie Floyd posted a comment about this recent Platt announcement in a Baptist Press article. In it he said that Southern Baptists should not worry and should trust the IMB "trustee system" to handle matters. WHY WOULD WE DO THAT?!!

Where has the Board of Trustees been in the past 15 years?? We SBCers HAVE trusted them to hold The Presidents to the line for being fiscally responsible. But obviously IMB Trustees have failed to do that.

All indications are that the Board of Trustees are continuing this practice of "rubber stamping" the new President's proposals and plans without question. There has been no apparent question or resistance by Trustees regarding these changes of filling top IMB executive positions with inexperienced personnel OR beginning austerity measures by cutting the most experienced, productive veteran missionaries.

Nobody's perfect and I'm praying for all but especially for those experienced, veteran missionaries who are being asked to retire early. They are feeling very low at this point

Wade Burleson said...

RRR, you make good points. There are no easy answers; just unpleasant ones no matter which direction you turn for solutions.

Anonymous said...

I don't recall your situation with the IMB being about their handling of revenue.

Anonymous said...

How much is Platts salary?

Bob Cleveland said...

I'll drag out my favorite soap box.

The Great Commission is to make disciples. As in learners, pupils, students. And to teach them. And I figure God will send us money enough to do what He tells us to do. I believe that was the first thing I ever said at the Convention in 2006, as I recall.

God is our source of supply, both of people walking through the doors of our churches, of people entering our baptistries, and of funds. The question I ask .. but no one seems to be answering it .. is how does 33.28% attendance equal discipling of the people that God has sent us? That's what it is, in the 6 biggest population centers in Alabama, among SBC churches.

And we needn't compare ourselves with others, either. Other denominations are at 53.97% And remember, attendance includes infants, children who aren't members, and visitors, so the percentage is inflated.

The question in my mind has become: "Why would God send us more money? Why would God send us more people?

There's a church in Birmingham that started the month before we moved into our Red Brick Building on the Highway, In the years since, we're seeing the same attendance we did then, 15 years ago, and the new church has grown to be the biggest church in Alabama.

They're discipling their people.

Christiane said...

would it be beyond comprehension to sell off a lot of major SBC properties to make up enough to keep more of these seasoned missionaries in the field?

would it be impossible for 'trustees' and 'administration' to now give back portions of their 'salaries' to help out during this crisis?

those missionaries have given of their whole beings to serve . . . I hope folks don't abandon them now out of loss of hope

where there is a will, there's a way

RB Kuter said...

Bob, you make some good points. What if God's strategy is to make we SBC-ers "irrelevant" and shift the main force for winning the world onto the backs of the national Christians? Not because of our sin or lack of faithfulness but merely because it's that "season" in His plan.

Bob Cleveland said...

That's been the strategy of One Mission Society ... originally Oriential Missionary Society, then OMS International .. of Greenwood, IN. Entirely faith based and not affiliated with any church denomination or group. We've been familiar with their work since before we went on our first mission trip to Haiti, 45 years ago.

But it seems logical to conclude God will react to a substantial shortfall in the SBC's carrying out of the Great Commission.

RB Kuter said...

Went to a "Thai"-led church today (in Thailand) with about 130 people present for worship. 75% Thai and 25% from other countries; Russia, Norway, Iran, Pakistan, Colombia, Uganda, Ghana, U.S, Korea, Britain and Cambodia. A little taste of heaven! God is indeed moving in the world!

Rex Ray said...

After World War II, Baptists bought a lot of land in Japan when it was cheap. Much later, they built houses for rent. 1994 was the first and only time I went with a group of volunteers to build a house. It rented for $5,000 a MONTH. (Volunteers were cheaper as a Japanese carpenter was about $300/day.) After that, I went alone 12 more times as they wanted me to finish sheetrock. It didn’t cost me anything. Each trip was about a month. I guess all those houses have been sold.

I think the SBC higher-ups have a campaign appetite with a beer income. I remember when my son was a missionary and the SBC flew many missionary families of a large area to a resort to have a several day conference. The idea was to raise their morale as they had been moved from missionary to employee with the ‘church planting idea’.

How much money would be saved if the SBC and the IMB had their meetings by computer?

RB Kuter said...

Rex Ray,
13 TIMES TO JAPAN!!!???? I wonder if you got "Sky Miles" or something?

Meetings by computer would no doubt be good sometimes but certainly having smaller, local meetings would save tons. There are many areas where fat could be cut including some of the expenditures by upper level management. I am hopeful they will be prudent and will be praying for them.

I think the worst thing to arise from all of this are some of the vicious attacks made on David Platt's personal character and spiritual relationship with The Lord by OTHER BELIEVERS! NO disagreement among us should generate that kind of "trash-mouthing" among fellow-followers. Where in the world is THAT coming from? No wonder the lost world has disdain for "the church".

Lee Enochs said...

Pastor Wade, thank you so much for this insightful article. This is very insightful and hits the issue spot on. I am studying political science and political philosophy in grad school on the east coast and am beginning to see that many of the determining factors that have caused America to have close to a $19 trillion dollar national debt are similar to what has happened in the IMB and SMB. In end end spending money that you do not have is ruinous.

Norman said...

I appreciate David Platt's difficult and brave move. Unfortunately the IMB's dilemma is simply a stark illustration of the erroneous belief that convulsive actions to implement theocratic purity would result in heightened commitment to missions and to giving by church members. This has been proven false time and again; yet the drum continues to beat.

Don Wideman said...

Trustees are responsible for the institution and the fiscal health of it. That is why it is necessary to elect some trustees with knowledge in fiscal affairs. That is not always the strong suit of pastors.

RB Kuter said...

Having "pastors" in charge of management is always a challenge. It does seem that David Platt has enlisted some people who have extensive backgrounds in management in the secular world and that may work to our benefit. Unfortunately, this moves seems to have been made at the expense of having top people with experience in long term service on the international field. A combination of both would be better but it's still early in the game so we'll pray and watch with hope.

Anonymous said...

With respect to national (and by proxy international)- level SBC leadership remember this: They do not care about God, people, or struggling families - only their own personal bank accounts.

Sure, they will make public statements to the contrary, but actions speak louder than words.
Their history of backstabbing in the name of "scriptural" and "biblical" (which has nothing to do with the Bible at all but their Almighty dollar) is well-documented.

No one should be surprised when these people spend CP funds for lobster and filet mignon at high-end hotels for their annual meetings while simultaneously claiming their is no money for missionaries.

Those men have declared through their actions who their god really is, and God's judgment on them will be tragic. Their earthly houses are vast but their spiritual ones have been backrupt for a long time.

The greatest disappointment is the local churches who are/feel too irrelevant to overthrow them and other local churches who choose ignorance.

Thankfully the national SBC was never God's only option for disciple making. They will shrink to irrelevance and the last thing that will ever be cut is their own exorbitant salaries.

ScottShaver said...

When it comes to SBC leadership these days .... trust and obey so there'll be hell to pay.

ScottShaver said...

If they don't cut the cream of the Baptist missionary crop overseas, where will Aikin and Mohler send their career track missionary students?

I'm not convinced Platt is the final shot-caller even after the revelation of gross fiscal irresponsibility.

Perhaps seminary students looking to go into SBC missons might have a better shot if they switched their majors to accounting, capital outlay and hedge-fund management.

Oh that's right....our seminaries don't teach such things.

Alan said...

Ministries must live within the budget. However, there is now way to trust this process without substantial improvement in accountability. How should the IMB and its leaders have accountability? With greater openness. I was ridiculed over at SBC Voices for asking for clarity regarding the salaries of top IMB officers and for trustees to take a far greater role explaining how things have gotten into the present situation.

Why should I have to drive to Richmond and ask to see the Form 990 to know what top officers are paid? That should be public information posted on the website and available for all Southern Baptists--those who after all give to Lottie Moon and the Cooperative Program.

If they will reveal the salaries of Platt, Traeger and others then perhaps we can begin to understand the overhead better.

Rex Ray said...

The main reason IMB is out of money can be expressed by “You’ve made your bed; now lie in it!”

The devil used the technique of DIVIDE and CONQUER with the “Conservative Resurgence” and their ‘battle for the Bible’! They used the Bible as a smokescreen to gain control. They made a big deal about the word “Inerrancy” which became a ‘code word’ like “Hail Hitler”. I heard a man yell at a SBC “We have our INERRANCY and no one is going to take it from us!”

Keith Parks was replaced as President of the Foreign Mission Board (renamed the IMB).
He believed the glue that held Baptist together was MISSIONS while his replacement said the glue was DOCTRINE, and their doctrine became ‘Our way or the highway’.

The CBF) (Cooperative Baptist Fellowship) split from the SBC and kept their ‘glue’ and started their own mission program to the world.
Parks was their president.
Tells that 1800 churches gave 19.7 million dollars to the CBF.

I asked a guy why he disliked the CBF. His face red with rage said, “Because they’re getting money that should be coming to us!”

Danny Lotz (Billy Graham’s son-in-law) was General Secretary of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) that was started by Southern Baptist more than 100 years ago. [Lotz, 78, died August 19, 2015]

The SBC told the BWA if they accepted the CBF, the SBC would withdraw fellowship from them. The BWA ignored their threat, and were voted out at the next SBC by many ridiculous charges…the last one by Paige Patterson that they were “gay friendly”.

Every time Baptists divide’ the devil laughs.

ScottShaver said...

Don't know how everybody else is reacting but my personal giving options and that of my family are about to be altered.

As Snaggle Puss would say....."designated even"

Anonymous said...

I agree that David Platt inherited an unenviyable task. My assessment of this goes back to the politics of the conservative resurgence (note, not the conservative resurgence but the politics that came with it). Following Dr. Parks exit (was he fired or just got tired of fighting the battle to preserve missions?) the trustees, after selecting a replacement who would listen to them (I am put in mind of RCA Victor's logo of the dog and the grammaphone) several Area directors and assistants were targeted for removal, most notable Europe and the Middle East, but there were others also targeted. As one trustee said "we want more bang for our buck." Replacements for these area administrator positions were not career missionaries but political appointees who thought they had carte blanche. We had New Directions which was called No Directions by those of us on the field. We were encouraged to "think outside of the box" and the further outside the quicker it was approved. We had several years of unfettered spending and now people are asking "What happened?" I think that what happened was No Direction for far too long.

My solution, if anyone really cared would be a total hiring freeze for two or three (or more) years. That way you do not loose those with the knowledge, the cultural alertness and the language.

Gerry Milligan

Reid MacDonald said...

To read so many comments impugning the integrity of IMB leadership really makes me sad. No doubt some decisions made by leadership in the past have been unsuccessful and maybe even unwise but I know many of these leaders personally, including past president Jerry Rankin, and know them to be Godly men who, during their time in leadership, truly lived and worked to see the unreached world reached with the gospel. I have attended two annual meetings held in conjunction with appointment services and neither was at a high-end hotel and there was no filet mignon or lobster in sight (though both meetings were in Florida and lobster was probably not far from sight, but certainly not served at the meetings). The trustees and IMB leadership stayed in the same hotel as the appointees. I have also served on the field and have never seen a "political appointee" in regional leadership. In fact I have never seen a regional leader who was not also a career missionary and I don't believe IMB policy would allow for such.

And to suggest that any of these leaders are only interested in money is absurd. If David Platt were interested in money, I'm sure his time could be much more profitably spent writing books and leading conferences.

Please be careful about throwing around unfounded accusations and making assumptions about the motivations of people, especially those who you don't know. It's quite possible you don't have all the information that you need to draw conclusions.

ScottShaver said...

If we're selling hard assets, would it be possible to sell off NAMB and put that money back over into Foreign Missions?

Christiane said...

why not put less experienced people on unpaid leave until the money crisis is resolved, and keep the more experienced missionaries where they are needed?

something doesn't make sense about 'firing' your best, most experienced people, no

Wade Burleson said...


You make good points. Thanks for your contribution.

My "Croesus blush" comment is meant not so much to impugn the character of anyone as it is to point out that the practice of the IMB spending more than what it receives is a horrible practice - and any attempt to soften the operational fiscal deficit by paying for operational expenses through the sale of capital assets is unwise and border-line reckless. I fault IMB leaders - whomever they may be - for not putting a stop to this practice. It's not a matter of character as much as it is one of wisdom, and previous leadership (to David Platt) didn't seem to get a handle on the problem.

ScottShaver said...

Reid McDonald:

"Please be careful about throwing around unfounded accusations and making assumptions about the motivations of don't have all the information that you need to draw conclusions".

This may be the most piously naive comment I've read yet.

Somebody should have been checking out accusations and motivations 15 years ago...obviously.

We have 210 million reasons "to draw conclusions". Record is clearly one of intentionally kicking the can of excess spending down the road for somebody else to deal with.

You're darn right accusations are going to be leveled and motivations are going to be questioned. As they should be.

Anonymous said...

Reid, if they are men of character, give us the list of leaders and trustees from the past ten years who stood against this and stopped this craziness from happening?

Here's the problem: that list of godly men who stood for fiscal responsibility, if it even exists, is not very long (if it was a long list then fiscal responsibility would have been the norm); furthermore, any person who would take that stand would obviously be in the minority. Being a voice of decent in national SBC matters has its consequences. If anyone wishes to question that statement please read the testimony of the very man whose blog in which we are commenting.

Men of integrity?! Then be transparent and open the books and account for where all the money went (I say that for all SBC entities, btw). If there's integrity then there's no fear.

The trustees are placed to prevent this stuff from happening. How does this situation happen if a trustee board asks tough questions and makes tough decisions instead of being a board of bobble heads? Being a bobble-headed yes man has its perks though. How many of our trustees float from one organization to another after their terms are up?

President Floyd says for us to trust the trustees and their system. Why should I? Based on his word? Based on their performance?

If they're truly not about the money as you claim and truly men of integrity, then here's the true sign: they walk away from the money.
All the trustees who served during this fiasco should resign effective immediately. All officers who signed off on this should resign immediately. Former trustees, leaders, and officers should make public apologizes.
Then (and this is where true integrity would show) they will respectively turn down any and all SBC leadership positions for a very, very long time.

Lets count the resignations. Lets count the apologizes. Lets count the self-imposed exiles.
Again, they say all the right words, but they really do not care. Business as usual.

Anonymous said...


You said..."Please be careful about throwing around unfounded accusations and making assumptions about the motivations of people, especially those who you don't know. It's quite possible you don't have all the information that you need to draw conclusions." Probably no one has ALL of the information, but if you were referring to me, I was on the field when people who had not been on the mission field for years were sent in to relace Area Directors thought to be too loyal to Keith Parks. These were known friends of leaders of the conservative resurgence.

Gerry Milligan

Anonymous said...

I haven't read the blog in a long time but its easy to see why Baptists are dying on the vine. You just can't seem to stop fighting and backbiting and now you're seeing the end result. It happens on the left and the right so don't act pious about the side you are on. There is just as much deceit and corruption in the CBF as in the SBC. I imagine the Lord isn't impressed with much of what is going on in Baptist circles these days.

RB Kuter said...

Someone said; " I imagine the Lord isn't impressed with much of what is going on in Baptist circles these days."

"Baptist" circles?

ScottShaver said...


Your're spot on albeit tongue in cheek :)

I've been in Southern Baptists churches all my life and it's getting harder and harder to find a "baptist" in some of these joints.

Rex Ray said...

Reid, you mentioned IMB president,Jerry Rankin. Did you read his email to all missionaries in 1997?

“This is an awesome moment to stand before you and attempt to articulate the beginning of a NEW PARADIGM in OVERSEAS ADMINISTRATION and STRUCTURE. Such an expectancy has been created regarding these recommendations that it seems the WHOLE WORLD is WAITING with BATED BREATH for what I am going to say…these actions must stimulate a CHANGE of ATTITUDE…GOD is ACCELERATING a MOVEMENT toward fulfilling His purpose of bringing a lost world to redemption. We are in the greatest era of overseas work opportunity in history, and we must be willing to make whatever changes are necessary to KEEP PACE with what GOD is DOING…To realize that potential through the GUIDANCE and ANOINTING of GOD will REQUIRE a SIGNIFICANT SHIFT in ATTITUDES and WAYS of FUNCTIONING…PUT the POLICY MANUAL on the SHELF…the real evidence of change will come when the following characteristics are reflected… A passion to know the Messiah and make Him known with a TOTAL ABANDONMENT that SUPERSEDES CONCERNS of FINANCES, FAMILY and PERSONAL FULFILLMENT…A CONFIDENCE and WILLINGNESS to FOLLOW the WISDOM and GUIDANCE of GOD-APPOINTED LEADERSHIP WHETHER “we” NECESSARILY UNDERSTAND or AGREE.”

I think “we” meant YOU.

Reid, I believe the forced signing of the BF&M 2000 accomplished what Ranking was ASKING missionaries to do in his email. He told my son since he was “grandfathered in”; he would not have to sign since it was for only new missionaries. Then he told him if he did not sign, he would not be fired. Rankin could not keep his word because the President of the Executive Board, Morris Chapman, had the power to push buttons.

ScottShaver said...

Until recent days, the greatest scandal emphasized in Southern Baptist history or missions history classes was the embezzlement of 900,000 dollars by Clinton S. Carnes in 1928.

Even with inflation, that looks like a tempest in the teapot compared to these religious ENRON types.

But then again, Hey, stuff happens...nobody's fault huh?

RB Kuter said...

My tongue in cheek comment "Baptist circles?" is applicable to you assertion in regards to it being a challenge sometimes to find someone in "Baptist" churches who stands on those old, traditional principles that Baptists once held, particularly like "priesthood of the believer".

But actually I was not thinking of that when I made the comment "Baptist circles?".

I was thinking about some anonymous person's comment earlier who said; " I imagine the Lord isn't impressed with much of what is going on in Baptist circles these days."

He seemed to propose that God might be focusing on the fallibility of we "Southern Baptists" in particular as disappointing God given all of the mistakes we make and poor judgment calls and yes, sinful behavior at times.

There certainly are those Southern Baptists who do display behavior that brings embarrassment to our Convention and undermines our witness and testimony. They generally have the spotlight and are in the position of celebrity and popular recognition so get the most attention when failing in some areas of leadership.

At the same time, if God focuses on the behavior of Southern Baptists can you you imagine the pleasure that He gets in viewing the awesome Southern Baptist churches that proclaim the Gospel of His Plan and Grace more accurately and vividly than any other denomination?

Imagine how God must smile upon those thousands of Southern Baptists churches that stand out in this day and time by at least seeking to maintain His written Word as their standard and plumb line in contrast to so many others who distort it and continually seek to undermine its integrity and Truth. Southern Baptists as a group continue to be identified as the denomination that seeks to preach The Word as best as they can without changing it or seeking to change the context. People can go ahead an argue to the contrary but that's my take.

We are indeed guilty of failing in many respects but I'm sure not seeing any other group of Jesus Followers that I would consider joining.

Norman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Norman said...

This is another instance when all of us feel the pain of the castration of the Baptist state newspapers. While few of them were led by actual journalists, enough were that agency heads were kept accountable. Don't forget the Joe Westbury stories in the Christian Index that led to leadership change twice at HMB/NAMB.

ScottShaver said...


After posting I realized the correct context of your statement.

I agree 100% that I would rather be judged by God for participation in my local baptist church than any other denomination or fellowship on earth.

Thanks Pal, you are correct about the smile of God upon those Southern Baptists who are carrying the water of Christianity in the West and around the world.

Mary Ann said...

I believe the Baptist World Alliance executive was actually Denton Lotz. He was Danny Lotz's brother. Danny Lotz was a dentist in North Carolina. On another note, though, I've been reading Wade's blog for a long time now and have appreciated your contributions in commenting.

Anonymous said...

So, one thing that hasn't been mentioned (or mentioned much) is that the reason the IMB is offering this incentive to veteran workers is that they know that the future is going to be considerably more difficult and this incentive is a reward of sorts to those who have invested so much in the mission field... there is a second phase coming and it isn't going to be as generous.

There is a great deal of mourning missionaries being asked to leave the field, as though that will halt God's work. Look no further than Iran and China as to what He can do without the presence of missionaries. Also, consider that this might be a Gideon's Army experience for us. We became so enamored with numbers that we eventually believed that was all it would take and perhaps forgot that God does the heavy lifting in all ministry.

As one who will be directly affected by today's announcement, I am grateful for God choosing me to go (and for the SBC churches: none of us go to the field without them and their discipleship) and saddened that I have to consider a return to America. The fact is that we don't go to the field on our own terms--we go on His terms. That is also true for our return. I will continue to trust Him and pray that he can use me, despite my faults.

Anonymous said...

Wade, I wrote this elsewhere...what does anyone think?

Something that I have not seen addressed concerns those 600-800 missionaries who are to be retired...When we retired from the IMB we had planned our final furlough so that I would turn 65 early in that furlough. We had a mission house which we had secured two years before our furlough. Now, 600-800 missionaries will have voluntary retirement starting the first of the year. Not much time for planning. Where to live, buying furniture, buying a car, what about income? Very big decisions facing the 600-800 right now, and it looks as if this is only phase 1. Will phase 2 be forced retirement if someone has 5 years on the field and is 50 years old?

I still do not envy David Platt and what must be done, but I really do not envy any missionary who is already 50 with 5 years service.

Rex Ray said...

Mary Ann,
You’re right; it was Denton Lotz.
The BWA was NOT allowed to attend the SBC in its own defense. It was a ‘rigged’ trial in being convicted of wrong doing. Before the vote I passed many of these out:

Soldiers Down
By Ann Rinker and Rex Ray 2-2-04

Please, SBC Leaders, don’t reject BWA
We’ve loved 99 years. Will you now abscond?
47,000,000 Baptist hearts that lift up Jesus.
Will they become wounded soldiers down?

Persecution from enemies, yes,
But from our own astounds!
You said BWA had drifted left.
Innocent soldiers down.

You accused them of downplaying Jesus;
No evidence could be found.
Your untruth against BWA exposed you.
Should you yourselves be down?

You screamed, “Liberal”, but one falsely accused
Yelled in your ear, so bound,
“Repent and turn from your wicked ways!”
One soldier still not down.

Christ warned, “Teaching as doctrines the commands of men.”
Does His concern, so profound,
Expose “BF&M is our doctrinal guideline”,
Demanding unsigned soldiers down?

You claim your interpretation is God.
Your BF&M is renown.
Others must bow to this decree or become
Condemned soldiers down.

Your name “conservatives” is only a camouflage.
Your creed a mandatory crown!
Anyone questioning fundamentalists is labeled
Despised Moderate soldiers down.

Please, Lord, unite our hearts to lift up Jesus.
This prayer should resound.
“Fire unsigned missionaries!” makes Jesus cry,
Betrayed soldiers down.

You’re only content when you dominate.
You say you don’t want to hound.
But when God speaks to some a different way,
More loyal soldiers down.

You agree with Muslims: “No women over men!”
Though their witness has abound.
Christian women who answered God’s call
Became women soldiers down.

Sorry, BWA, our leaders plan to leave.
You see why moderates frown.
Pray for leaders without a paper-god
Or you’ll join soldiers down.

“It’s only politics…Not my concern.”
This fable has been around.
Awake, dear brother, or you’ll become
Another soldier down.

Wade Burleson said...

Anonymous 8:11 ;

You are spot on about the people in a very, very difficult spot. 50 year olds with five years of service.

Thanks, again, for drawing our attention to their predicament and maybe some of us can help.

RB Kuter said...

Maybe we're over-reacting:
David Platt gave an updated statement regarding his intentions. He says; “I want to be crystal clear: we are NOT asking these people to leave the field". (At this time). "If someone is thriving on the field and senses the Lord leading them to stay on the field, then I TRUST THEY WILL STAY ON THE FIELD."

Offering early retirement to people who sense it is in God's timing for them to make a change is "Phase 1" of the IMB plan. There are always some seasoned veterans who have been struggling with aging parents at home with nobody to care for them or grown children who are struggling with life in the U.S. alone. Missionaries often wrestle with whether or not it is God's voice leading them to return to the U.S to live. Or maybe some have been praying fervently about whether or not God is leading them to serve Him by pursuing a passion that has grown in their heart but is not relative to working with IMB. For them this may entire thing may be seen as a blessing and answer to prayer.

"Phase 2" is that they will ask ALL missionaries to pray about whether or not this might be the time God is leading them to pursue a new involvement in serving Him but not given a mandate to leave. There is a stigma to leaving the mission field before you die and perception by some that it is a "failure" in ministry to do so no matter what the reason. This new proposal may give some a sense of being released without that stigma. Some younger folks may be guided into fulfilling a passion that has developed in their heart for serving God in a different way and this is seen as a timely answer to prayer about what they should do.

DP sometimes qualifies his statements by saying "At this time, we're not asking anyone to leave." That doesn't mean that he intends to re-visit those missionaries mentioned in "Phase 1 or 2" at a later date and force them to leave.

He doesn't say in this statement at least, what a "Phase 3" might be. Just because he is not telling some that they don't have to leave now doesn't mean that he won't in the future.

Would you believe there are some missionaries on the field who are not doing anything productive and you would be glad to see your Lottie Moon Offerings stopped from supporting them? It happens. Maybe they better be looking out for a "Phase 3".

Wade Burleson said...

Good word RRR.

Anonymous said...

"David Platt gave an updated statement regarding his intentions. He says; “I want to be crystal clear: we are NOT asking these people to leave the field". (At this time). "If someone is thriving on the field and senses the Lord leading them to stay on the field, then I TRUST THEY WILL STAY ON THE FIELD."'

Perhaps we need to read the fine print. According to an anonymous missionary the problem is if they don't take the deal, it will be much worse for them later on. (Are the new missionaries hearing this?) What would you choose if you were over 50? Think of the implications of what Platt is really saying. If you don't go, we won't treat you well. In corp speak this is: we will make the rest of your career unbearable. I realize you don't believe Christian men would do that but if that is the case, you have not been paying attention to the people they share stages with who have made peoples lives miserable.

Why not give Mohler the same deal and see how that would go over? Of course, with his name brand and years of a high salary, he would land ok, wouldn't he?

If this is how Jesus operates, I doubt many will want to be a part of it. Of course, this is not how he operates. The ones with the power and position ought to be the ones making the biggest sacrifice to save those in the field. Instead, we tend to worship them instead of Christ.

RB Kuter said...

"According to an anonymous missionary the problem is if they don't take the deal, it will be much worse for them later on".

David Platt has not said this. Where's your source of information? Another "anonymous". Mmmm-hmmmm.

It is speculation and conjecture. So far there is no basis to this. I have talked to a lot of missionaries since this announcement came out. They were concerned and unsettled about the unknowns and wondered whether more aggressive measures might be forthcoming but that was only fear creating concern and not based upon anything that had been stated.

As information has been given subsequent to the original announcement it is becoming apparent that fear about the more seasoned missionaries being pressured to leave is unfounded.

It would be interesting to know "where" and from "whom" the aforementioned anonymous missionary received the word that "it will be worse for them later on". Those I talked to "thought" that might be the case but they were speculating based on the announcement that personnel would be reduced by 600-800.

I don't believe that statements like; "Think of the implications of what Platt is really saying. If you don't go, we won't treat you well. In corp speak this is: we will make the rest of your career unbearable." have any credibility, are totally speculative, are biased toward David Platt in a manner which has no justification and he doesn't deserve. In other words, not the type of conversation I would "expect Christian people" to make about other Christian people.

Sounds more like angry rhetoric coming from an opponent rather than a friend of Southern Baptists. Heaven only knows where THAT'S coming from.

Unknown said...

Although not an appointed IMB missionary we served as media strategy consultants in Asia for some time (we applied, but the pesky private prayer language clause got in the way.) I am somewhat surprised that 50-year-olds were eligible for this retirement incentive. (I would have thought the 60-64 year olds would be the ones.) Looking at all those who are over 50 in leadership. Just started counting how many quality personnel and strategy leaders who are 50+ and, of course, are offered the incentive. On the other hand, there are those who were moved from being frontliners to beef up the growing support and logistics staff. As I read what many others are saying, many referred to themselves as employees or hired and not appointed. There is no doubt in my mind that the IMB has been overspending as people write about. A little transparency would be helpful on what it is spent on. One of my friends is with AoG Missions, and he says they are sending more missionaries they ever before. Maybe, just maybe, the reason SBC churches are not contributing is that 1) they want to send their own, 2) they do not value the pooling of resources for missions, 3) they think that para-church organizations like Pioneers, Trans World Radio, etc. are more effective as these missionaries are their "own"?

Maybe the IMB needs to be revamped? As I recall, the Foursquare Missions started was was then called a Associate Program where people could raise funds through the organization and partner with Foursquare missionaries on the field. Maybe the IMB needs an Associate program?

BUT. I wonder what those with fluent language and culture will do when they retire? There are so many ethnic churches in the USA that need Bible teachers.

Rex Ray said...

You said, “Would you believe there are some missionaries on the field who are not doing anything productive…”

Back in the 1920’s, my uncle ran a lumberyard before being called to be a missionary. He was assigned to work at a Baptist hospital. He asked the ‘head’ missionary who they hired to check hospital records.

“We don’t waste money on unnecessary book keeping; we’re missionaries!”

My uncle hired a Pinkerton detective that found a warehouse full of hospital equipment. Through the years, the missionary would order two items…one for the hospital and one for his warehouse. He was retiring that year and planned to start his own hospital in America.

The Foreign Mission Board did not charge him but let him retire to avoid embarrassment. They did recover the equipment.

RB Kuter said...

Dan, good to hear from you. Hope you're doing well.
I think that IMB will soon be revamping the way things are done and personnel are supported. Perhaps a combination of direct support from churches and some cooperative form too for smaller churches. Be interesting to see what happens. I also think the 2 Mission Boards will surely be merging soon.

That's tragic about the pilfering of God's money. Talk about stealing from God!

Unknown said...

Rick, saw yr profile. Wonder how many Thai speakers there are in Cumming?

Chris and I are teaching at a Historically Black college in Jacksonville, FL. (talk about culture shock!) We are working part time in media missions producing THE HOPE video in 6 Indian languages and Bahasa Indonesian.

Guess we will see what the next step but there are alot of productive frontliners and leaders over 50. I wonder what the demographics are of career IMB missionaries?

Anonymous said...

"David Platt has not said this. Where's your source of information? Another "anonymous". Mmmm-hmmmm"

It seems obvious to me that the people who where right in the middle of the overspending are now being trusted for the solution and the fact the trustees did not vote. There is a huge problem with transparency.

And there are many mixed messages coming out. Get rid of older ones and hiring young ones? That is the message if you start looking at the pattern of communications over the last year. Why were people given language of greatness earlier than a bomb was dropped?

I don't understand this hero worship business at all. Platt is not the one being given a Sophies choice.. People have to speculate because there is such a lack of transparency. Is Platt being paid for speaking gigs outside the IMB? You do understand that the Dubai Hilton is not a dangerous place, right? Yet, perhaps you fell for that one, too?

Why are those who sat on this horrendous problem for several years now the ones in charge of fixing it? Is that wise?

You can spout all day how we cannot do this or that, but the only thing I am hearing is "don't think", it is a sin. I don't buy into that either.

The big problem now is how to trick more pew sitters, who make an average wage, out of their hard earned money so the leaders can make six figures. I am sure they will find a way.

RB Kuter said...

That is Edward Waters, is that right?

"The Hope" has really taken off since your original Thai production. I still believe its the best video Gospel presentation tool especially for Buddhists, Hindu, Chinese ancestor worshipers who have no background at all with a Creator God account. But maybe it will be equally effective with the Muslim background folks given their Old Testament emphasis and that being a key of "The Hope".

Have not seen any official demographic numbers but I'm guessing half of the general Career force would be 45 and above in age. 98% white I guess and guessing that 75% of leaders at Cluster-Level and above are 50 and over. If you ever get any good numbers let me know how I did!

RB Kuter said...

You bring up some good points but I for one don't have the answers I'm just not sure how to address the psyche of the entire Trustee Board institution to implement needed change. The Executive Leadership should always be held accountable and I would guess that The Trustees should fill that role but most often seem to be more of a rubber stamp. I think Wade attempted the role of challenging some of the areas that need change when he was a Trustee but experienced a full body blow and was down and out!

Christiane said...


you wrote, this:
"I haven't read the blog in a long time but its easy to see why Baptists are dying on the vine. You just can't seem to stop fighting and backbiting and now you're seeing the end result."

there is truth in what you say, I think; but if we want to speak about Baptists 'dying on the vine', we have to remember that during the original 'Takeover' by the fundamentalists,
the BF&M was changed to eliminate Our Lord as 'the lens' through which sacred Scripture should be read and understood.

So, I think that was the beginning of 'dying on The Vine' . . . when the cut was made and Our Lord was set aside, and the leadership waged a campaign against any form of 'Red Letter' Christianity and cut themselves off from 'The Vine' which allowed them to then be their own interpreters of sacred Scripture in accordance with their own agendas.

'dying on the vine' or 'dying on The Vine' ? severing dependence on Our Lord in the matter of sacred Scripture was like putting the Holy Spirit's light out . . . hence, the darkness, the lack of peace, the quarrels . . . very sad, this, but there it is

Anonymous staff member said...

There has been little or no mention of those who are on the home office staff and the effects of the current situation on us. As one who has helped to "hold the ropes" for more than 30 years we too are saddened, frustrated and disappointed at our current financial situation. The 600-800 reduction in staff includes us too and given the eligibility of 50 years old with 5 years of service, that will take in close to half of the home office staff. The programs that our new leaders are working to put into place cannot happen without the "worker bees" at the home office! While most people in their 50s may not be able to take this offer they will certainly have to consider it given the facts that Phase 2 (voluntary "hand raising") will be coming in Jan 2016 and that offer will not be as generous--this has been clearly stated to us by David Platt. Also, in Jan. the current retirement policy will be replaced by a new one that isn't as good as the current one. Even with all of these facts before us, we will be seriously praying about the decision that each of us must make. Our missionaries who are eligible are faced with an even more daunting decision since those who feel led to take this offer will need to move and basically start over. The home office staff has been through similar situations, but nowhere near this bad, in 1993 and 2003 when we had layoffs and in 2010 when a VRI was offered to staff. In addition to the tough decisions the effect this stressful situation has on all involved is hard to describe. We are a family--both home office and field. Please pray that we will all seek God's will in this situation and keep in mind that many of us were "called" to support our missionaries. Just as He led us to our current positions we wait upon Him to let us know when our work is done.

RB Kuter said...

It does break my heart to consider what the Home Office Staff is going thought, AGAIN!

You guys have been undeservedly abused time and time again by insensitive leadership decisions in the past. I certainly could be wrong and only time will tell but I am more hopeful that it will turn out that this new leadership team will at least have more astute managerial understanding than we have had in the past.

Those occasions you mention regarding the past 1993, 2003 and 2010 eruptions were totally horrible in the manner in which our faithful Richmond Staff was treated. It was sinful in the leadership's total disrespect and lack of concern for the well fare of those who perceived themselves as much a part of what God was doing through the IMB as were we missionaries on the field. We "were" indeed a bonded Team and depended totally on each other.

The restructuring in 2010 blew this concept of our being a Team away. We on the field lost touch with our Staff support in Richmond and vice versa. It was tragic.

The earlier lay-offs were the ugliest and most embarrassing episode in IMB history as leadership treated veteran Staff personnel like criminals and had them spontaneously escorted out of the building with guards with no opportunity to be acknowledged and appreciation shown for their faithful service, sometimes being 20 years! That REALLY broke my heart.

We certainly are praying for you but thank you for bringing it to our attention. I know that most Home Staff see their work as a ministry and indeed it is. Seldom do you find Staff personnel who function as though it is purely "a job" for the purpose of earning an income.

I'm praying that this new leadership Team will at least handle things in a more professional and perhaps "Godly" manner than did our past leadership. I know there are many unknowns but I'm thinking that perhaps the Home Staff will be relied upon more than ever in the new scheme of things and included as part of the overall Strategy. We'll pray.

Anonymous said...

Retired missionary,
I knew that if I came to this bog I would find some "fair and balanced," dialogue. I believe Wade to be transparent and conscientious about what he does and what he writes. My wife, children and I spent almost 29 years as IMB missionaries and were able to retire not to long ago. We have very fond memories about our years as SBC representatives but also many scars as we saw from the inside how things are done.

So many have simply been riding the "ask for more money from the churches," pony that the real reasons for what is being lived presently has been relegated to a lower level, forgotten by many or never been heard about by others. In the discussions on this blog we are getting a little of everything.

Again I am grateful that through the SBC and the IMB we were able to answer our personal calling to serve Him, not the organizations in different foreign countries. Our children got good educations on the field and a lot of support when they came here to go to college. We always had a good house and car in our area of the world. I always felt like being a missionary was like being in the Army, according to an old little song, "you never get rich, you never get poor, you're in the Army now, (missionary). That was my own personal take on it and we accepted it because we were called by God to go and He took care of us.

I say all that so that I will not be seen as ungrateful or bitter about our years as missionaries which God richly blessed in every possible way, BUT.....

I will mention only one thing that several of you have touched on. Missionary travel and perks. I believe that if a 6 month moratorium was declared on all missionary travel around the world except for emergencies and needed face to face meetings, millions would be saved. Yes millions. Higher echelon staff in Richmond and all across the regions travel indiscriminately and get all those miles for their personal use instead of being turned over to the IMB for future needed travel. Personal agendas are reconciled with IMB travel to see family or be at other family functions that the regular missionary does not get.
People are flown by the hundreds for annual meetings to "increase morale," but seeing mothers struggling on the plane with infants does nothing to increase morale. Baby sitting is provided during the daily sessions but at night parents have to the whole family in one or two rooms. I have seen families flown from Latin America to Europe for an annual meeting. Other meetings are held half way around the world for leaders that could be done by internet. This has gone on for so long and has been accepted and even expected.

There are many things that need to be changed but let us not cast stones or put salt in the wound. We need to pray for the leadership to have God's wisdom, Samson's wisdom and the courage of David to fight and conquer this Goliath. May our Christian character shine in all this so the world may hear and God get the Glory.

Bob Cleveland said...

Christiane: The 1963 Baptist Faith & Message stated "The criterion by which the Bible is to be interpreted is Jesus Christ". That was not changed until 2000, long after the "Conservative Resurgence" had run its course. (The CBF was founded in 1991).

Anonymous staff member said...

Anonymous retired missionary: Thank you and your family so very much for your dedication to the task for nearly 3 decades! I agree wholeheartedly with what you have said about comparing missionary service to military service--we at the home office have noted the similarities many, many times. Also you are absolutely correct about the excessive overseas travel by "higher echelon staff" who take trips for meetings and manage to work in visits to family members and also build up frequent flyer miles that they can have for personal use! It has baffled so many of us worker bees at the home office who do not travel at all how this has continued for so very long. These trips are often referred to as "boondoggles" by those of us who watch all of this activity from the sidelines. Our hope was that the new leaders would address this problem right away. There have been efforts made to reduce these trips by using web conferencing so that is a step in the right direction.
There are other cost cutting measures that would certainly help but obviously the problem has reached such a level now that these huge cuts need to take place. My hope and prayer is that when it is all said and done, there will be enough people left to carry out all of the new programs that the new leadership is trying to roll out. I do believe that this will be a challenge!

Anonymous said...

The following quote from your post is a significantly serious charge to make for it strikes hard at the organizational transparency and integrity of the IMB if valid:

"For tax and legal reasons, the revenue the IMB gleaned from the sale of hard assets in a foreign country would never show up as "revenue" for annual operational expenses in the United States. What would happen is that the money would be placed in "slush funds," similar to what Congress does with money used for "black operations" or for covert agencies that they wish to keep out of public scrutiny.

For example, revenue from the sale of a multi-million dollar office building in a far eastern country was placed in an overseas designated account. Credit cards expenses, hotel bills, plane fares and entertainment expenses for upper level management of the IMB were paid from the slush fund. The accountants in the Far East responsible for overseeing finances would receive communication from Richmond to "pay for" this plane ticket, or this hotel bill, or this credit card, etc.... Some of the accountants were bothered by the practice, but they were not sure what could be done about it."

Are you at liberty to disclose proof for these comments in a subsequent post?

Unknown said...

There are so many Anonymous' it is hard to respond specifically. I am just commenting on the one immediately above this post who is responding to a previous Anonymous (I presume they are different folk - maybe they could start differenciating themselves by #1, #2 or like the staffer Anonymous Staff Member!)

In any case, look at which details the law related for non-profits and that they must disclose how money is spent and what the salaries are for the top 5 employees. If you do not wish to ask for the 990 forms as you wish to remain Anonymous you can join

As a CEO of a small non-profit we must disclose a "controlling interest" of more than $10,000 in acounts overseas. So, the question is if those sale funds were disclosed to the IRS? I imagine so.

RB Kuter said...

Is IMB even obligated to pay taxes on the sales of overseas properties? Is IMB even obligated to pay taxes? Some of these statements seem to be a stretch to me.

Knowing personally the one man serving as CFO for decades who would have to know about all of this leads me to believe that claims of intentional misappropriation of funds is totally bogus.

RB Kuter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BParsons said...

The one thing that has disturbed me is that, for at least the last ten years, Baptists have given a record amount to the Lottie Moon Offering, and each time, have been told, "Thanks, but it is still not enough."

If Bro. Platt is going to address this issue, I will be 100% behind him. Every year our family saves sacrificially to give to the LMCO, and we direct our church to give more and more to missions. But it gets harder to encourage them when every year, we are told, "Sorry, still not enough."

The problem is not support back home; it is uncontrolled spending. The problem is not missionary salaries; it is uncontrolled spending. The problem is not worldwide inflation; it is uncontrolled spending.

Tango Whiskey said...

The question of economics and all that this entails is a valid issue, but I submit there is an underlying cause of the financial crisis facing the IMB and SBC. That is, can the Lord be expected to continue to bless a denomination whose leaders continue to coddle pedophiles and their enablers? At the 2013 SBC national convention in Houston a resolution was passed which stated in part:

“RESOLVED, That we encourage all denominational leaders and employees of the Southern Baptist Convention to utilize the highest sense of discernment in affiliating with groups and or individuals that possess questionable policies and practices in protecting our children from criminal abuse;”

David Platt, Albert Mohler, Mark Dever and Thabiti Anyabwile will be sharing the conference stage at the next T4G Conference in April of 2016 with C.J. Mahaney. The evidence is overwhelming that Mahaney conspired to cover-up sexual abuse of children while he headed his denomination. These men are well aware of this, yet instead of making a principled stance supporting the victims of sexual abuse they choose to ignore this in their quest for fame, fortune and fan adulation.

Unknown said...

Does anyone know what the real demographics are of the IMB both in the USA and overseas. Somewhere I saw a post that 1500 received the VRI email. Maybe it was on Rodney Hammer's post Who knows how many are staff and how many overseas folk.

Anonymous said...

I have been with the company for 11 years. From a field perspective, I do not see a change in the spending habits on this side of the ocean. That tells me that we will do this again in 5-8 years.

Anonymous said...

What is the latest with this issue? Any updates 2 years later???