We value your questions and interest in IMB. We hope these questions and answers will help you be informed on these topics:
The gospel is the good news that the only true God, the just and gracious Creator of the universe, has looked upon hopelessly sinful men and women and has sent his Son, God in the flesh, to bear his wrath against sin through his substitutionary death on the cross and to show his power over sin and death through his resurrection from the grave so that everyone who turns from their sin and themselves and trusts in Jesus alone as Savior and Lord will be reconciled to God forever.
Evangelism is the proclamation of the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit with the aim of persuading people to repent and believe in Christ.
Conversion is the divinely enabled personal response of individuals to the gospel in which they turn from their sin and themselves and trust in Jesus as Savior and Lord.
Disciples are followers of Christ. They have turned from their sin, trusted in Jesus as their Savior, have died to themselves and surrendered their lives to him as Lord. Christ lives in them, resulting in six primary marks of a disciple: transformed heart, mind, affections, will, relationships, and purpose.
Disciple Making is the Christ-commanded, Spirit-empowered duty of every disciple of Jesus to evangelize unbelievers, baptize believers, teach them the Word of Christ and train them to obey Christ as members of his church who make disciples on mission to all nations.
- Call to salvation: The gracious act of God by which he draws people to become disciples of Jesus and members of his church;
- Call to mission: Everyone who responds to God’s call as a disciple of Jesus receives Christ’s command to make disciples of Jesus;
- Call to station: Christ calls disciples to specific stations in and through which they exalt him on mission: family, singleness, church membership.
- Call to service: God directs disciples to make disciples in a certain way, at a certain time, among a certain people, in a certain location, or through a certain vocation.
IMB Missionary is a disciple of Jesus set apart by the Holy Spirit, sent out from the church and affirmed by the IMB to cross geographical, cultural and/or linguistic barriers as part of a missionary team focused on making disciples and multiplying churches among unreached peoples and places.
Missionary Team is an identifiable group of disciples who meet together regularly, care for each other selflessly and partner with one another intentionally to make disciples and multiply churches among particular unreached peoples and/or places.
Unreached Peoples and Places are those among whom Christ is largely unknown and the church is relatively insufficient to make Christ known in its broader population without outside help.
A church is an autonomous local congregation of baptized believers, associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the gospel; observing the two ordinances of Christ, governed by his laws, exercising the gifts, rights, and privileges invested in them by his Word, and seeking to extend the gospel to the ends of the earth.
Q: How much does it cost on average to support a career missionary?
· $59,500 a year (global average)
· $4,958 a month
· $1,144 a week
· $163 a day
(Global average is based on the 2017/18 budget approved by Trustees September 2017. Costs for a couple would be double the amounts above. Support includes housing, salary, children’s education, medical expenses, retirement benefits and more.)
Q: How do IMB financials work?
A: When we think about financials, we consider two things: cash flow and reserves. Cash flow is what comes in minus what we spend. Reserves is the money we set aside to weather ups and downs in the economy, emergency circumstances and anticipated future needs. The two main sources of income for the IMB are the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering (LMCO) and the Cooperative Program (CP). These constitute over 95 percent of our budgeted income. We are grateful Southern Baptists have increased their giving to both LMCO and CP over the last four years.
Q: What is the final total of the 2016 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering®?
A: The final total receipts for the 2016 LMCO campaign (June 1, 2016 – May 31, 2017) equal $152,982,560.94 or $153.0 million. Our goal for this campaign was $155 million. We praise God for these consistent provisions that he provides us!
Q: How does the recent announcement of $153 million in Lottie Moon gifts relate to the final 2017 LMCO budget projection of $163.1 million, which was approved by Trustees in November 2016?
A: One is the 2016-17 LMCO campaign total ($153.0 million) and the other is the 2017 LMCO fiscal budget projection ($163.1 million). The LMCO campaign year—which historically has run from June 1 to May 31 each year—does not align with IMB’s fiscal budget year, which runs January 1 to December 31. With receipts from different months being counted for the two numbers, the numbers should not be compared. To help alleviate confusion, IMB finance leaders, in conjunction with the board of trustees, have proposed to align the fiscal year and the LMCO campaign to October 1 through September 30. Messengers will vote on the proposal on Tuesday, June 13th, during the 2017 SBC annual meeting in Phoenix.
Q: 2016-17 LMCO campaign actual receipts were lower than last year’s giving. Will this cause a deficit for the 2017 fiscal budget?
A: In regard to the 2017 fiscal year budget, we are trending below our LMCO projections. As of April, our expenses also are trending below our budget for the year. Our current projections do not anticipate an overall deficit for the fiscal year.
Q: What is the current projection for 2016 calendar year LMCO giving? [From November 2016]
A: We praise God and give thanks that because of the faithful giving of Southern Baptists, the 2015 LMCO campaign, which ended May 31, 2016, totaled $165.8 million. The projected receipts (as of October) for calendar year 2016 are $170.5 million. This represents a 10 percent increase over 2015 and will be the largest amount received in history.
Q: What are the projected figures in the 2017 budget for Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon Christmas Offering receipts? [From November 2016]
A: The total projected receipts in the 2017 budget equal $270 million. This is comprised of: Cooperative Program giving projected at $97,500,000; LMCO giving projected at $163,100,000; $5,300,000 from investment income; and $4,100,000 from other income. Income from property sales is not included in the projected receipts.
Q: In the past, the IMB budget has been based on projected gains to CP and LMCO giving. How is the current IMB leadership budgeting for growth in Southern Baptist missions?
A: The budgeting process for 2017 was built on a goal of short-term financial responsibility and long-term organizational stability. Through the budgeting process, leadership decided on a balanced budget based on a conservative receipts projection of $270 million. Rodney Freeman, IMB treasurer, has stated budgeting based on conservative projections is not a lack of faith in giving; rather, it is considered to be a wise approach to stewarding the gifts from Southern Baptists for international missions.
Q: What constitutes a “conservative receipts projection”?
A: One example is the approach to budgeting for 2017 LMCO receipts: The projected LMCO receipts (as of October) for calendar year 2016 were $170.5 million (representing a 10 percent increase over the amount received in 2015), but only $163.1 million was budgeted for 2017 receipts. The 2017 budget was set at 96 percent of the total projected 2016 receipts. Note: LMCO represents 60 percent of the total receipts.
Q: What is the level of contingency reserves for 2017??
A: IMB leadership is pleased to report that contingency reserves are 5.5 months of operational expenses in 2017. The figure falls within SBC Executive Committee guidelines, which allow for a maximum of six months of operational expenses in contingency reserves.
Q: IMB projects sending 451 new personnel in 2017, which represents a 3 percent net increase in total field personnel. How is that calculated?
A: The budget provides for a projected 451 total new field personnel in 2017. All 451 would be field personnel. We project that those who retire or complete their assignment (273) and we project those who depart through attrition (78) would equal 351. In addition to “replacing” those 351 departed missionaries, we will be able to appoint 100 more, for a net gain (from Dec. 2016 to Dec. 2017) of 100 field missionaries, which is approximately 3 percent.
Q: What percent of the IMB budget goes for overseas purposes?
A: Approximately 83%.
Q: If there is a surplus of funds at the end of the fiscal year, how will the surplus be used?
A: Any surplus funds will be used in future years for operational needs and sending additional missionaries.
Q: Will property sales be used to help balance future budgets?
A: No. Property sales will not be needed to balance future budgets.
Q: Are monetary gifts from individuals and churches sent directly to the IMB that are not specifically labeled “Lottie Moon offering” still counted as part of the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering?
A: Direct gifts received are credited as the donor intended. Where there is no designation from the donor, those gifts are counted as Lottie Moon Christmas Offering contributions.
Q: Has there been a change in how direct gifts to the IMB are counted as part of the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering revenues for the 2015 campaign vs. the 2014 campaign?
A: No. There have not been any changes to how direct gifts are being recorded for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.
Q: Why doesn’t IMB share the salaries of its executives?
A: Like other Southern Baptist entities, IMB does not release salaries or other personal information concerning individual employees.
Q: What is IMB’s plan moving forward?
A: The future IMB strategy revolves around
- Enabling limitless men and women to participate in global mission through a multiplicity of pathways and opportunities. This involves continuing to support full-time, fully supported personnel as the essential, critical core of our missionary force around the world and surrounding these personnel with students, professionals, and retirees who are leveraging their studies, vocations, and relocations for the spread of the gospel.
- Serving and mobilizing local churches as the primary agent God has promised to bless for the spread of the gospel in the world.
- Training and equipping Christians and church leaders, pastors and missionaries to make disciples and multiply churches across cultures.
- Engaging and reaching unreached peoples and places through missionary teams who are maximizing opportunities for evangelism, discipleship, church formation and leadership training from the most populated cities to the most extreme places in the world.
- Supporting and strengthening an ever-multiplying mission force through practical services that include everything from logistical help to health care to tax assistance.
Q: Is IMB moving toward a societal giving platform in allowing churches to send however they want? How can going to “limitless” pathways not undermine cooperative giving?
A: IMB is absolutely committed to the Cooperative Program and the structure of giving through which Southern Baptist churches are together sending missionaries around the world. This involves missionaries going through a variety of different pathways with varying levels of support. For years, Southern Baptist churches have sent IMB missionaries through such pathways, and IMB requires Southern Baptist churches to commit to maintain (or even increase) their current CP and LMCO giving levels as they send people in different ways.
Q: What is the role of an IMB trustee?
A: IMB trustee policies identify 11 core functions of a trustee:
- Identify the IMB’s mission and purpose;
- Select the President and approve the President’s compensation;
- Support and review the performance of the President;
- Monitor IMB operations and use of IMB resources for consistency with IMB’s mission, purpose, and strategy;
- Ensure IMB’s financial viability and monitor its financial status;
- Approve (a) IMB’s annual budget and monitor actual performance against the budget, (b) IMB’s overall investment strategy, (c) the selection and engagement of IMB’s outside auditors, and (d) legal resolutions;
- Adopt and monitor policies that provide oversight of IMB affairs and legal compliance;
- Ensure full disclosure of and avoidance of all potential conflicts of interest within IMB and the board;
- Evaluate the performance of the IMB board of trustees;
- Allow IMB’s President and IMB personnel to implement strategy and carry out day-to-day operations to achieve IMB’s mission, purpose, and strategy;
- Serve as ambassadors for IMB — interpreting its mission, purpose, and strategy and enhancing its public image.
Q: Does the IMB promote any particular theological positions or persuasions?
A: The IMB, including every member of its executive leadership, is completely committed to the most current Baptist Faith & Message as the foundation for our work around the world. In May 2015, IMB staff and field leaders joined with trustees to strengthen IMB policies concerning this commitment to the Baptist Faith and Message.
Q: Does the IMB show favoritism among churches in hiring staff and/or sending missionaries?
A: No, the IMB does not show such favoritism. The IMB desires and works to partner together with the over 40,000 churches in the Southern Baptist Convention and wants to see multitudes of missionaries sent from all of them.
Q: Why did IMB sign the amicus brief that supports the construction of a mosque in New Jersey?
A: IMB supports freedom of religion for all people both in the United States and around the world. IMB signing the amicus brief regarding the New Jersey mosque is an agreement that all people deserve religious liberty, but it does not in any way support the mosque financially or with human resources. [See from ERLC: 4 Things Christians Say When They Deny Religious Liberty to Others / Why We Should Thank Thomas Jefferson?]
Moreover, IMB’s specific interest in the brief arises out of our belief that all peoples of the world have the right to religious liberty, including the freedom to embrace the gospel. This is what we believe and why we take the gospel to them, despite situations that pose great risk. A public record by IMB of supporting freedom of religion for all people in the United States — regardless of their beliefs — gives IMB workers overseas a credible foundation from which to advocate for freedom of religious exercise in countries that are hostile to Christianity, penalize those who convert, or make it difficult for a new church to own or rent property for worship. If one follows global news (e.g., Russia’s restrictive laws signed earlier this year, on-going battles in places like Egypt, Malaysia, or India on the right to convert to Christianity, etc.), it’s apparent that religious liberty is an ongoing global issue. IMB’s call on the government of these other countries to support the religious freedom of their citizens will ring hollow if, in the USA, we only support freedom of religion for Christians.
Finally, IMB is responsible for carrying out its ministry consistent with the entirety of the Baptist Faith & Message, not only the portions related to spreading the gospel. The BF&M supports the historic Baptist position on religious liberty (see section XVII below), so when there are opportunities in the US to support that right that can further our overseas efforts to advance that right, we must consider taking that opportunity.
XVII. Religious Liberty
God alone is Lord of the conscience, and He has left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are contrary to His Word or not contained in it. Church and state should be separate. The state owes to every church protection and full freedom in the pursuit of its spiritual ends. In providing for such freedom no ecclesiastical group or denomination should be favored by the state more than others. Civil government being ordained of God, it is the duty of Christians to render loyal obedience thereto in all things not contrary to the revealed will of God. The church should not resort to the civil power to carry on its work. The gospel of Christ contemplates spiritual means alone for the pursuit of its ends. The state has no right to impose penalties for religious opinions of any kind. The state has no right to impose taxes for the support of any form of religion. A free church in a free state is the Christian ideal, and this implies the right of free and unhindered access to God on the part of all men, and the right to form and propagate opinions in the sphere of religion without interference by the civil power.
Q: How do the International Mission Board (IMB) and North American Mission Board (NAMB) work together?
A: IMB and NAMB are two separate SBC entities who gladly partner together in various ways that help serve churches across the Southern Baptist Convention and the spread of the gospel around the world. This includes everything from hosting events like the SEND Conference together to coordinating strategies for reaching unreached peoples in the United States and around the world.
Q: What does it mean when an IMB missionary says a particular church is their “sending church”?
A: IMB missionaries are sent on mission by both a church and a convention of churches. Each missionary is called by God in the context of a local church, and we want that church to see themselves as a sending church, much like the church at Antioch sent Paul and Barnabas in Acts 13. In order for such a church to send a missionary through the IMB, that church must be “in friendly cooperation with the general Southern Baptist enterprise of reaching the world for Christ.” In that sense, then, the same IMB missionary is sustained and supported not only by one church alone, but also by the convention of churches who are cooperatively praying and giving for the sending of missionaries.
Q: How does the IMB collect and report numbers regarding its work around the world? How should one understand the way numbers from current years relate to numbers from previous years?
A: IMB is committed to biblically faithful reporting of numbers. Various differentiations in numbers are due in part to the complex nature of reporting numbers for IMB work. For a full explanation, read “IMB reiterates commitment to biblically faithful reporting.”
Q: What is the Field Support role?
A: The Field Support role is a support position that provides critical services on behalf of the company in an international location. The primary responsibilities for this missionary are focused on the specific business services needed.
Q: Is a person in the Field Support role an employee or a missionary?
A: Both! This person is hired as an employee to fill a critical business role, and this person also is an active member of a local IMB Missionary Team. Missionaries in a Field Support role are Southern Baptists who answer a call to disciple-making in a cross-cultural context and who are aligned with the Baptist Faith & Message (BF&M) 2000.
Q: Why are you calling the people in these roles “employees”?
A: Anyone receiving a salary in IMB — a $270-million organization — is an employee. This includes career missionaries. A person filling a Field Support role will be an employee hired for the specific business acumen necessary for the task. He or she will be sent by his or her local church and commissioned as a missionary by the IMB. Everyone hired into a Field Support role will be a Southern Baptist who answers a call to disciple-making in a cross-cultural context and who is aligned with the BF&M 2000.
Q: Are all missionaries currently doing Field Support jobs required to transition to this new pathway?
A: No. There are fewer than 40 missionary units that are being required to transition into this new pathway. The vast majority of these units are currently part of the International Service Corp (ISC) program which is being phased out for people serving in Field Support positions. Career missionaries that are doing Field Support work have the option to move to this new compensation and benefits structure. In general, career missionaries in Field Support jobs will not be required to move to the new compensation and benefits structure, except for a few rare cases.
Q: Why will personnel in Field Support roles be commissioned rather than appointed?
A: Being appointed by the IMB means that the Board of Trustees have reviewed and approved the individual or couple as long-term missionaries. The Board of Trustees appoints missionaries who are becoming career missionaries in Global Engagement, focusing primarily on the missionary task. Currently, International Service Corps (ISC) and Journeyman personnel, among others, are commissioned as missionaries and sent by their local churches, but are not appointed by the Board of Trustees. Field Support roles will be handled in the same manner. It is critical, though, that personnel in Field Support roles be commissioned and sent by their local churches because of the role they will play on local missionary teams.
Q: What types of tasks are classified as a “Field Support role”?
A: Any field-based role that is not part of Global Engagement or Training is classified as Field Support. Examples of Field Support roles are Logistics Services Consultants, Medical Coordinators, Financial Specialists, Service Desk Analysts and Guest House Managers.
Q: If IMB already has personnel who perform these types of tasks, why make this change?
A: IMB already has personnel in Field Support jobs on the field, but this new pathway better defines their importance to the company and provides appropriate compensation and benefits for these roles. In addition, the new pathway helps streamline the on-boarding process to help maintain appropriate staffing levels. This change also helps maintain service levels by replacing STAS benefits with vacation benefits. This strategic change is designed to lead to consistent services globally (taking into account context locally) that are delivered with excellence, effectively and efficiently.
Q: How many current missionaries are affected by this new Field Support Role?
A: There are fewer than 40 units that are directly affected by this announcement and are being transitioned into this new pathway. Support Services and Global Engagement leaders have conducted additional meetings with these affected units and have provided them with personal details. No missionaries are required to leave the field due to these changes.
Q: If IMB needs, for example, an accountant on the mission field, and the greatest accountant in the world applies — but he or she is not a Southern Baptist, or is not called to disciple-making, or is not interested in a cross-cultural context, or is not aligned with the BF&M 2000, will IMB still hire him or her for this role?
A: No. IMB will only hire individuals who are Southern Baptists who answer a call to disciple-making in a cross-cultural context and who are aligned with the BF&M 2000 to fill the Field Support Roles — no matter how excellent they are in their vocation.
Q: If a person hired for a Field Support Role is married, how is the spouse classified?
A: In a business role (i.e., an accountant), a person is hired as an individual for their specific skills. The Field Support role will be hired in a similar way, with the additional value of the person being a Southern Baptist who is answering a call to disciple-making in a cross-cultural context and who is aligned with the BF&M 2000. Their spouse, if not being hired for his or her own Field Support role, would be assessed as a missionary in a Team Associate role on a church-planting team. The couple must both feel called individually and collectively as disciple-makers who are aligned with the BF&M 2000. If the non-employee spouse does not meet the assessment criteria for a Team Associate on a local missionary team, their spouse will not be hired into the Field Support role.
Q: Is a non-employee spouse of a person in a Field Support Role allowed to pursue other ministries or employment in the cross-cultural setting?
A: A non-employee spouse of an IMB missionary in a Field Support role is encouraged to pursue what they feel God calling them to do at that point in their life (i.e. a homeschooling parent, volunteer at a recreation center, work as a barista, etc.). The parameters are that the activity cannot hinder the gospel; cannot hinder IMB work; and cannot jeopardize the security of other IMB personnel and the national believers with whom they work. The couple must both feel called individually and collectively as disciple-makers who are aligned with the BF&M 2000, and the non-employee spouse will be part of a local missionary team as a Team Associate.
Q: Did IMB trustees approve this new Field Support Role pathway?
A: IMB policy does not require trustee approval for this kind of business change, especially since this new pathway adheres to the qualifications of missionaries as outlined in IMB’s general policies (which were approved by our trustees). However, trustees who serve on the Support Services committee and Global Engagement Affinity leadership on the mission field have affirmed this new pathway of service. The Field Support role involved strategic planning and evaluation for about eight months prior to the announced changes. This involved input from all levels of the organization, with specific input from Support managers globally and current ISC missionaries in Field Support positions.
Q: Why is IMB making changes to its information technology team?
A: IMB is reorganizing Technology Solutions (IMB’s information technology team) to more wisely leverage technology to provide a higher level of services and enhance security for IMB field personnel and stateside staff. The decision is driven by a shift to the cloud and other industry-wide technology changes, which fundamentally allow users to accomplish more with fewer resources.
Q: Who is affected by Technology Solutions changes?
A: The changes in Technology Solutions affect the entire team of stateside staff plus eight units on the field. IMB Technology Solutions will shift from 65 to 43 positions.
Q: How will Technology Solutions changes affect missionaries?
A: No missionaries will be required to leave the field. Missionaries will either remain in Technology Solutions or transition to another role on the field.
Q: When will Technology Solutions changes begin and how long will the reorganization take?
A: The changes began March 1, 2017, with the announcement to all Technology Solutions staff, both on the field and stateside. Leadership anticipates the reorganization will be complete 18-20 months from that date.
Q: Did IMB trustees know about the Technology Solutions transition?
A: The full trustee body and its administration committee had an opportunity to discuss the plan and ask questions at their Feb. 28-March 1, 2017, board meeting prior to the reorganization being implemented and announced to staff.
Q: How will this transition affect IMB’s budget?
A: The savings expected in the 2017 calendar year will cover the one-time costs during the same period. Therefore, IMB finance leaders do not expect a negative impact to the 2017 budget. Once the transition is complete, we expect a positive impact on IMB’s budget going forward.
Q: What is the status of David Platt’s role at IMB and MBC?
A: The elders of McLean Bible Church (MBC) have asked Dr. David Platt to consider becoming Pastor-Teacher of the church, a title used in the church’s constitution to describe the pastor whose primary duty is “to preach and teach the Word of God.” As Pastor-Teacher (or Teaching Pastor), Dr. Platt would serve alongside other pastors in the church including Dale Sutherland, who is the Lead Pastor responsible for overall day-to-day leadership in the church. Dr. Platt would serve as Teaching Pastor, not Senior Pastor, he would not be involved in overall day-to-day leadership in the church, and he would not receive a salary for his role at MBC. Dr. Platt is completely committed to continuing to lead the International Mission Board (IMB) as president.
Q: Why is Dr. Platt preaching in one local church (MBC)? How often will he preach there and at other SBC churches?
A: While Dr. Platt is committed to serving many local churches, he fully believes in the biblical importance of membership in one local church. Upon becoming president of IMB, Dr. Platt and IMB trustees mutually agreed that in light of the age and stage of his family and the amount of travel he would do domestically and internationally during the week, it would be a good, wise, and right use of his time to be with his family on weekends serving in one local Southern Baptist church. Therefore, since stepping into his role as president, Dr. Platt has been home with his family serving in a local Southern Baptist church approximately 65% of his weekends. On the remaining 35% of his weekends, he has traveled domestically and internationally carrying out IMB responsibilities and preaching in Southern Baptist churches. Dr. Platt travels extensively during the week in his role as IMB president.
As Teaching Pastor at MBC, Dr. Platt would continue the pattern of being with his family in this local church approximately 65% of his weekends. He also will continue to spend 35% of his weekends traveling domestically and internationally carrying out IMB responsibilities and preaching in Southern Baptist churches, in addition to his extensive travel during the week.
Q: What is MBC’s relationship to the SBC?
A: In 2016, MBC became a cooperating church with the SBC. Like other cooperating churches, MBC remains an autonomous local church (i.e., MBC leaders and members have authority under Christ for all the affairs of MBC). And like other cooperating churches, MBC has chosen to work with this coalition of like-minded, Bible-believing churches for Kingdom ministries and purposes in North America and around the world. MBC initially became a cooperating church in 2016 when it became the hub for the North American Mission Board’s church-planting efforts in the Washington, D.C., area. Since then, numerous other doors have opened for increased partnership in the spread of the gospel both locally and globally in cooperation with the SBC.
Q: What do IMB Trustees think about Dr. Platt becoming Teaching Pastor at MBC?
A: At the beginning of 2017, as soon as Dr. Platt was asked to serve as Interim Teaching Pastor at MBC, he contacted trustee officers to discuss this possibility. During their February 2017 meeting, trustees expressed support for Dr. Platt serving in this role. Dr. Platt asked trustee leaders to provide continual evaluation of his participation in this role, and he provided an update to all trustees in June 2017. During their August 2017 meeting, the Executive Committee of the IMB Trustees agreed to evaluate Dr. Platt’s involvement as Teaching Pastor at MBC during a provisional period over the coming months.
IMB trustees established a policy to streamline guidelines for appointing new personnel within the framework of the Baptist Faith and Message during their May 12-13, 2015, meeting in Louisville, Ky. Below are questions and answers explaining the changes.
Q: What was the central idea of this policy change?
A: The revised policy created a single statement that characterized every missionary serving through any pathway created by IMB to mobilize more Southern Baptists to go to unreached peoples and places with the gospel.
Q: Why change the missionary qualifications?
A: As we look toward the future and the limitless number of missionaries we want to mobilize from Southern Baptist churches, we know this will likely involve many new pathways through which men and women might serve on missionary teams through the IMB. Each of these pathways may carry unique qualifications, involve various types of training and include different levels of support from IMB. However, we have seen a foundational need for a simple, clear statement of qualifications that not only unifies all IMB missionaries, but also unifies IMB with the churches and entities of the SBC.
Q: Sending limitless missionary teams is a big goal. How does IMB plan to achieve this?
A: IMB aims to provide multiple pathways where members of Southern Baptist churches may serve on a missionary team. When you hear pathways, think possibilities—all the possible ways that ordinary Christians might serve overseas: church planters, doctors, teachers, accountants, lawyers, fitness instructors, rickshaw drivers, retirees, students and the list goes on. God has providentially arranged a multiplicity of avenues through which His people can take the gospel around the world, and as IMB, we want to help Southern Baptists go through as many of those pathways as possible.
Q: When will IMB begin sending limitless personnel through these pathways?
A: New pathways are being explored and implemented in addition to the fully funded, full-time church planters traditionally appointed through IMB. “Limitless” teams are comprised of all personnel, so each missionary already on the field and each newly appointed missionary is part of the “limitless” vision.
Q: What is an example of how IMB may adjust these specific criteria?
A: As an example, a lead church planter in the remote deserts of the Middle East may require different criteria than an information technology expert in London, a student in Shanghai, a business professional in Dubai or a retiree in Bangkok. IMB may establish different criteria for missionaries serving in each of these pathways and positions, yet all of them will meet a base level of qualifications, which is expressed in this revised policy.
Q: Does this change mean families with teenage children may be appointed as IMB missionaries?
A: It depends. This revised policy does make it possible for missionaries with teenage children to be appointed. However, the previous policy was established for good reason in light of challenges for children (and their families) moving cross-culturally at certain ages, and we will continue to take those challenges into account when considering missionaries. For example, a family considering serving long-term in an isolated African village may be different than a family considering a one-year term in London.
Q: Does this change mean that people who have been divorced may be appointed as IMB missionaries?
A: Yes. Divorce is no longer an automatic disqualifier for long-term service. Short-term assignments (two to three years in length) have been open to people with a history of divorce for years. In all categories of missionary service, individuals who have been divorced may be able to serve. However, a person’s role on a missionary team, the circumstances surrounding his or her divorce, and the suitability of the culture where he or she will serve will all be considered by the IMB in cooperation with that person’s local church.
Q: What changed with the IMB’s policy related to baptism?
A: IMB now operates solely in accord with the statement on baptism in the Baptist Faith and Message, which reads: Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. It is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer’s faith in a crucified, buried and risen Savior, the believer’s death to sin, the burial of the old life and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus. It is a testimony to his faith in the final resurrection of the dead. Being a church ordinance, it is prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord’s Supper.
Q: Does this change mean that someone can become an IMB missionary even if they were not baptized by immersion?
A: No. In light of the statement on baptism in the Baptist Faith and Message, any potential IMB missionary must have been baptized by immersion as a symbol of his or her faith in Christ.
Q: What has changed related to speaking in tongues and private prayer languages?
A: A person who has spoken in tongues or may have a private prayer language is not automatically disqualified as a potential IMB missionary. However, IMB missionaries in no way promote speaking in tongues or a private prayer language. Further, IMB may still end employment for any missionary who places “persistent emphasis on any specific gift of the Spirit as normative for all or to the extent such emphasis becomes disruptive” to our missions work, which must align with the Baptist Faith & Message agreed upon by the Southern Baptist Convention.
Q: Does this change mean that IMB missionaries will now speak in tongues and/or promote speaking in tongues around the world?
A: This is definitively not what this change means. Trustees voted specifically on the base qualifications for potential IMB missionaries in the church, not on the practical work of actual IMB missionaries on the field. This is a critical distinction, for over the course of appointing, training, and supervising missionaries, IMB addresses many significant theological, missiological, ecclesiological, and practical issues, including the use of tongues. Though these issues may not affect our base qualifications, they do affect our everyday work. Through careful appointment, training and supervisory processes, IMB ensures that every missionary remains resolutely focused on making disciples and multiplying churches in ways that faithfully represent Southern Baptist theology, missiology, ecclesiology, and practice.
Q: Does this change mean that potential IMB missionaries will no longer need to have a certain level of education?
A: It depends on the particular role that a person might play on an IMB missionary team. As we develop different pathways for people to go overseas and define different positions in which they might serve, various levels of education may be either recommended or required for service. For example, if a potential missionary is going to serve as a lead church planter, IMB will have qualifications pertaining to biblical, theological, missiological, ecclesiological and practical expertise and/or education. If, on the other hand, a potential missionary is going to serve in an accounting support role for our missionary teams, we would expect him or her to have a level of experience, expertise, and/or education in accounting. In sum, the new policy that trustees created established a baseline of qualifications which does not include a particular level of education. Any qualifications for education, expertise or experience will apply to specific positions in particular pathways through which a missionary might serve.
Q: Do these actions by IMB trustees lower the standards for missionaries?
A: No. The opposite is true. The baseline qualification for missionaries includes men and women who bear spiritual fruit of an intimate, growing relationship with Christ. They must be meaningful members of a Southern Baptist church where they are leading people to faith in Christ, seeing new believers baptized and showing believers how to obey Christ.
Q: How is the local church involved in determining if an individual is qualified to serve?
A: IMB desires to partner with local churches as they send out members on mission. As such, prospective missionaries must show evidence of a missionary call that is both discerned within their local church and affirmed by that local church alongside IMB leadership.
Q: What differences does IMB hope these policy changes will make?
A: In addition to uniting IMB more closely with Southern Baptist churches and entities through clear alignment with the Baptist Faith & Message, IMB hopes these changes will open the door wider for Southern Baptist churches to send more qualified members to serve on IMB missionary teams making disciples and multiplying churches among the unreached. Team members will serve in many different positions with many different responsibilities, from church planters to administrative assistants, from business professionals to college students, to active retirees. From a variety of different backgrounds with a variety of different skills and a variety of different qualifications, they will join together to spread the gospel to people who have never heard it. The ultimate aim of this revised policy was to enable limitless God-exalting, Christ-following, Spirit-led, biblically faithful, people-loving, high-quality Southern Baptist missionaries to serve with IMB through a multiplicity of pathways IMB provides in the days ahead.
Q: Can people who were not approved for service under the previous guidelines related to baptism, speaking in tongues, private prayer language, divorce and teenage children reapply under the new guidelines?
Q: What is the exact wording of the policy?
A: IMB Policy 200-1 — An IMB missionary is a disciple of Jesus set apart by the Holy Spirit, sent out from the church, and affirmed by the IMB to cross geographic, cultural, and/or linguistic barriers as part of a missionary team focused on making disciples and multiplying churches among unreached peoples and places. IMB exists to empower limitless teams of missionaries made up of different men, women, and families with distinct roles and responsibilities. IMB provides multiple pathways in which missionaries may serve on one of these teams, each of which carries unique qualifications. However, any IMB missionary serving through any pathway created by IMB leadership is required to meet the following qualifications:
- Vibrant personal discipleship: As they abide in God’s Word and walk in step with God’s Spirit, IMB missionaries bear fruit of an intimate, growing relationship with Christ.
- Evident personal disciple making: IMB missionaries are meaningfully involved in a local church in which they participate in leading people to faith in Christ, seeing new believers baptized in the church, and showing believers how to obey Christ, all with a view toward reaching the nations with the gospel.
- Call: The call to serve as an IMB missionary has been discerned within a local church and affirmed by that local church alongside IMB leadership.
- Commitment: IMB missionaries are devoted to the vision, mission, values, and beliefs of the IMB.
SOUTHERN BAPTIST IDENTITY
- Currently a baptized member of a Southern Baptist church
- Commitment to and identification with Southern Baptists
- Conviction of truth as expressed in the current Baptist Faith and Message statement of the Southern Baptist Convention
- Good physical, emotional, and mental health.
- IMB missionaries model a godly family life and/or personal relationships.
- Service is open to U. S. citizens and permanent residents of the United States.
Updated Dec. 8, 2017. This page will continue to be updated as new information is available.