The lead story on the front page of the Oct. 10 Biblical Recorder exposes the spiritual and emotional struggles some of our International Mission Board (IMB) personnel are dealing with due to Southern Baptists’ shortage of financial support for international missions.
A recent visit to Ukraine afforded me the chance to interview several missionaries in the capital city of Kiev. Some I knew well; others I met for the first time.
Considering IMB president David Platt’s recent explanations of the financial status of the organization, I was not sure what I would hear from our missionaries. But honestly, I was very impressed with the maturity, grace and strong faith of each one who shared their story with me. I should not be surprised. After all, what kind of people has IMB been appointing? These are among our best. They are mature men and women of faith.
While some Baptists jump into the blame game, our missionaries are not playing along. They are seeking God and keeping their focus on the Great Commission.
I have a large number of friends who serve through IMB – some in Richmond, some in other stateside roles and many overseas – “on the field” as they say, meaning, the international mission field. Many have asked me to pray for them, and some have asked for my counsel in their decision.
I have prayed for them. I hope you are doing the same. Some have made their decision; many have not.
Two of those who have peace about God’s direction are Marty and Melissa Childers who just completed 27 years of service with IMB in South America and Latin America, the last five years in Mexico. These native North Carolinians have filled the roles of church planter, team leader for university work, strategy coordinator, personalizer for South America, cluster leader and affinity connection strategist representing the Americas.
Marty shared with me, “From the beginning this was not an easy decision. After the announcement was made and before they gave the parameters of who was going to qualify, we had a feeling that we were going to qualify, so we began asking for the Lord’s direction. This is not something we were looking for or on our radar.
“As difficult as this decision was, we are very supportive of our IMB leadership,” he added.
“We know this was not an easy decision for David Platt to make. We believe he is a godly man. We want to be very emphatic that we are not bitter. We understand that God works in different ways. We are actually looking forward to what the next step might be.”
I encourage all Southern Baptist churches to study the meaning of generous giving and to spend a significant amount of time evaluating the giving level of your church both to Cooperative Program and to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions (LMCO). Ephesians 3:20 reminds us our God is able to exceed our expectations and requests. We simple need to trust Him and ask Him.
Trust God to double the amount your church gives to LMCO this year. We may not believe “our people can do it.” But it is certain that God can, and He will provide. He works through people – Southern Baptists will respond.
Consider another element in the shortfall of missions giving. It is no accident that the decline in giving parallels the decline in the circulation of Baptist state newspapers like the Biblical Recorder.
State papers reach the giving base of Southern Baptists, consistently informing them about the work God is doing through our mission agencies.
There are myriads of mission organizations that are asking our people to support them every day of the year. They have mailing lists, phone numbers and email lists to reach out to their donor base.
Baptist mission agencies like IMB do not have those resources. Historically they have depended on the state papers to communicate their message. The average Southern Baptist is simply not informed about our mission work and many other issues.
Be sure your church members are getting the information they need through the Biblical Recorder. They need to read about the Domke and Midkiff families in Ukraine, and other stories reported through the Recorder.
Finally, I call your attention to Chuck Lawless’ excellent column, “Ways to assist returning IMB missionaries.” Churches have an opportunity to draw on the great wealth of experience in these returning personnel.