ATLANTA — International Mission Board (IMB) trustees have approved the most extensive strategic changes in a decade to help Southern Baptist missionaries and churches multiply their results in reaching the world's lost peoples.
At their Sept. 8-10 meeting in Atlanta, the trustees revised the mission board's vision, mission and core values statements — and gave the green light to a major reorganization aimed at maximizing missionary effectiveness, simplifying overseas administration and increasing the direct involvement of Southern Baptists and their churches in missions.
"Our world is changing and we must continue to change with it," IMB President Jerry Rankin said. "Ten years ago we began to formulate a vision of mobilization. Now the passion and commitment of churches to be directly involved in the Great Commission is rapidly expanding and we must leverage this massive response for impacting lostness around the world."
The changes, proposed by a joint trustee-staff task force, will unfold over the next year. But the basic outlines are these:
Missionaries' basic task of reaching the lost and engaging unreached people groups with the gospel will not change. Field personnel — who already work in teams, focusing on specific people groups, population segments or urban areas — will continue to be grouped in clusters. Clusters will be the basic field component for guiding and implementing strategies.
The most significant change is organizing clusters into "global affinity groups" that represent a commonality of language, culture and ethnicity. The affinity groups will focus on people groups no matter where they are based geographically outside the United States. Each affinity group will be led by a global strategist with the responsibility of resourcing and training missionary teams and clusters in effective strategy.
The administrative needs of field personnel will be served by geographically based support teams representing financial management, business services, personnel services and mobilization assistance.
The refocused vision statement — "Our vision is a multitude from every language, people, tribe and nation knowing and worshipping our Lord Jesus Christ" — places the desired outcome ahead of the organization's role in reaching it.
Likewise, the revised mission statement — "Our mission is to make disciples of all peoples in fulfillment of the Great Commission — reflects that the Great Commission is the responsibility of the local church and refocuses the efforts of the mission board on assisting churches to fulfill that responsibility.
In the core values, trustees reaffirmed the IMB's commitment to the lordship of Jesus Christ and to God's inerrant word, while shifting the role of the board from a primary focus on sending missionaries to one that serves the churches in their involvement in the Great Commission and the sending of missionaries. Trustees also reinforced a continuing commitment by the board to partner with Baptists and other Christians around the world to bring all peoples to faith in Jesus Christ.