International Mission Board leaders reaffirmed their commitment to theological education overseas during the recent board of trustees meeting, saying that discipleship and leadership training are essential to fulfilling the international missions task.
International Mission Board leaders reaffirmed their
commitment to theological education overseas during the recent board of
trustees meeting, saying that discipleship and leadership training are
essential to fulfilling the international missions task.
During the meeting, trustees approved an additional
12 missionaries who were appointed Jan. 10 at Staples Mill Road Baptist
Church in Glen Allen, Va. Those new missionaries join 383 long-term
personnel appointed last year, including 175 appointed in the September
and November appointment services in Pensacola, Fla., and Huntsville,
Trustees also received the Annual Statistical Report
showing substantial growth in international missions causes in 2004.
Trustees learned IMB leadership had planned to present the 2005 report
during the board meeting last November but needed additional time to
verify reports from a church-planting movement in South Asia.
Three primary entity types – people groups, urban
centers and Baptist conventions – provide data for the report. In 2004,
individual reports were received on 1,800 unique entities with which
IMB personnel and Baptist partners worked. About 80 percent of these
entities were people groups – a reflection of the board’s strategy.
In the 2004 reporting period, IMB missionary personnel:
• Engaged 137 new people groups – 18 of which were
not engaged by any other evangelical group previously. The total
population of these 137 people groups was more than 120 million
• Engaged 15 unengaged, unreached urban centers for
the first time. According to U.N. reports, about half of the world’s
population live in urban centers. More than 400 cities in the world
have populations greater than 1 million people. More than 25 urban
centers have populations greater than the 7.1 million inhabitants in
• Worked with 108,713 Baptist churches, including 17,676 new churches.
• Planted the first Baptist churches among 14 people groups where no evangelical churches existed previously.
• Reported 21,899 students enrolled in residential
Bible schools and seminaries with whom the board partners and an
additional 128,010 students enrolled in extension training programs and
non-residential theological education.
• Worked among 50,637 total outreach groups, which
includes Bible studies and preaching points where the gospel is
regularly proclaimed and God’s Word is regularly studied with the
intent that these groups one day will become churches.
“Not every Bible study is counted as an outreach
group,” said Scott Holste, IMB associate vice president for research
and strategic services. “(It’s counted) only if missionaries and church
planters working with them have the intent [that the outreach group]
will one day become a church.”
• Started 8,729 new outreach groups, and Holste
added that “not every new outreach group will become a church but it
does give an idea of our growing edge.”
• Reported 459,725 baptisms, but IMB officials said they believe baptisms were under-reported in 2004.
“Some areas reported fewer baptisms than in the
past,” Holste said. “Several people groups in Central Asia, where
beatings and arrests and other forms of persecution are on the
increase, reported fewer baptisms. In some cases the baptisms have not
actually decreased, but the reports of baptisms have decreased.
“As pastors and other church leaders are concerned
about risks to their congregation, they may report less than what’s
actually happening,” he continued. “We are finding that sometimes even
our missionaries are giving the smaller, safer reports.”
The statistical report from the previous year was
adjusted to reflect 461,057 baptisms, a revised figure that resulted
from the reassessment of a church-planting movement in Asia.
• Reported a membership of 7,337,135 in Baptist
churches, with Holste adding, “Again, we feel like we have
under-reports” of church membership.
• Recorded 3,887,001 participants in Bible teaching.
• Counted 477,670 new believers in discipleship, with a total of 970,924 church members in discipleship.
“We are not in this task alone, and part of the task
is equipping, training and leading our national partners to engage the
peoples of the world as well,” Holste said. “Our Baptist partners
reported 3,650 home missionaries and 1,712 international missionaries
engaging people groups in other countries.”
Holste said the 2004 statistics “clearly reveal God
at work around the world. Over 1,000 people groups were engaged by our
missionaries. Over 100 people groups were newly engaged…. God allowed
Southern Baptists and our overseas Baptist partners to participate with
Him with our prayers, our gifts and our service.
“This is cause for celebration – not what we’ve done, but what God is doing through our missionaries.”
Strong Financial Report
In other business, trustees approved reallocation of
$8.25 million to balance various IMB overseas and stateside accounts,
along with an allocation of $1.15 million to be taken from the board’s
reserves to provide a backup generator for electrical power at the
Missionary Learning Center in Rockville, Va., and to reconfigure office
space at the Monument Avenue headquarters building in Richmond, Va.
David Steverson, IMB vice president of finance,
reported that operating expenditures were slightly more than $1 million
under budget during 2005, and therefore those funds are available for
use in 2006.
Steverson also reported investment income has
consistently outperformed the IMB’s benchmark by almost 5 percentage
points over the past several years. Investments are the IMB’s
third-largest source of income, behind the Cooperative Program and
Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.
Removal of Trustee Sought
During the meeting, board chairman Tom Hatley read
into the minutes that trustees had voted in executive session to
recommend to the Southern Baptist Convention that Wade Burleson be
removed as an IMB trustee (See related story on page seven). Burleson
is senior pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Enid, Okla.
“This difficult measure was not taken without due
deliberation and exploration of other ways to handle an impasse between
Wade Burleson and the board,” Hatley said. “In taking this action,
trustees addressed issues involving broken trust and resistance to
accountability, not Burleson’s opposition to policies recently enacted
by the board.
“The trustees consider this a rare and grievous
action but one that was absolutely necessary for the board to move
forward in its duties as prescribed by the SBC.”
The trustees’ move to ask the SBC to act follows the IMB charter’s process for removing a trustee.
Board Report Clarification
Trustees heard a report concerning the story
released to Baptist Press and placed on the IMB website following the
IMB trustee meeting in Huntsville, Ala., in November. The news story
contained an unofficial vote count on board action. When questions
arose about the figure given for the vote, IMB media staff immediately
removed the specific count reference from the Baptist Press version of
the story while seeking clarification.
In researching the statistic, staff learned
only the vote outcome – not the vote count – is included in official
board minutes. The outcome was that the action had passed.
When asked, Hatley referred to his notes from the
meeting and indicated he had written down the figure 50-15 regarding
the vote. The Baptist Press story was replaced.
Wendy Norvelle, interim vice president for
mobilization, told trustees that “we re-posted a story to (Baptist
Press), but unfortunately, we did not realize the story that was posted
to our Web site was not changed.
“It was an administrative process, and an oversight
on our part, “ she continued. “… But as soon as it was called to our
attention that the story on the IMB website still contained wrong
information, we immediately removed it.”
IMB President Jerry Rankin focused his report to
trustees on concerns the IMB is abandoning theological education on the
mission field. He linked the misperception to an awareness of
indigenization of traditional seminaries on mission fields and the idea
that mission-field seminaries should mirror classical seminary programs
in the United States.
“We certainly are not abandoning theological
education as this would erode our mission objectives of evangelism,
church planting and reaching all peoples,” he said. “It is not an issue
of investing in high-cost, Western-style institutions but finding the
methods and means to deliver the vital training needed, at the time and
place it is needed, to nurture church-planting movements and assure
those who identify themselves as Baptist are well-grounded in sound
Rankin said the IMB appoints a number of new
missionaries every year as seminary professors. Regional leadership has
been encouraged to work with seminaries to place more IMB personnel in
“However, we are not interested in processing those
who simply want to be classroom teachers,” he said. “Those assigned to
seminaries should be, first of all, committed to evangelism and church
planting and model that involvement in a lifestyle commitment among
their students, along with providing classroom instruction.”
Last year, trustees approved IMB goals to increase
both residential and non-residential theological education enrollment
by 10 percent each year.
“The vast majority of [believers overseas]
responding to God’s call as pastors, missionaries and evangelists have
a minimal education,” Rankin added. “They cannot leave the support of
their families and their congregations for several years to attend an
institution in another location.
“We have had to take theological education to them
where they are and at their level,” he continued. “… There is a place
for both (residential and non-residential learners), but the greater
need is theological education at the grassroots level that will train
the masses and serve the churches.”
Gordon Fort, vice president for overseas operations,
told trustees the IMB has a relationship with 63 seminaries, and 113
missionaries teach either full- or part-time in many of those
institutions. Last year, the IMB allocated more than $700,000 to
support seminaries overseas.
He said 43 missionaries work with 252 Bible schools
and institutions around the world, in addition to the 63 seminaries.
Fort said many more missionaries are teaching on a short-term basis.
“Beyond that, every missionary who is involved in
church planting is training people,” he said. “We cannot ensure the
health of our church growth if missionaries are not doing theological
education. It’s the very foundation of everything that we do.” (BP)