Did you think that the economic downturn in the world stopped at the steps of the church? Think again. Many are headed home. They don't want to--most of them, that is. But many are leaving with tears in their eyes.
The latest public announcement came from Southern Baptists. The International Mission Board (IMB) has reached a point that it can no longer increase its missionary force. Not only that, but it cannot sustain its current level of 5,600 missionaries serving around the world. In spite of 12 billion dollars in offerings in the churches in 2008, Southern Baptists did not or could not give to missions at a level that can sustain its missionaries. If just 3% of that 12 billion dollars reached the field through the IMB, there would be a budget of 400 million. Three percent. Three. JUST THREE.
When I think of the reduction in personnel, the consequences are not pleasant. Less people will hear the gospel through IMB efforts. Less of those who are called will have a venue to fulfill their calling. Let me put that in very clear terms: more lost men and women will go to hell because we cut our giving and reduced our personnel.
Do not misunderstand me. The IMB is not the panacea for the lostness of the world. We are not the savior, Jesus is. But the downturn is unmistakable. Some would say this means we have to step up and do something else, and we do. Some would say that means the national believers will have to step up in their own countries, and they should. But let's be realistic. If God is still calling, and he is, then God must have a reason for wanting to send out the ones he has called. God has some in mind that only those he called can reach. God has plans in mind that involve the ones he has called. It should not be an either-or situation; it must be a both-and effort.
Now then, what the article I cited does not say: those remaining 5,000 (or less) missionaries must learn how to do more ministry with fewer resources because the remaining force will still be significantly challenged by the overall level of funding.
This year we Christians must demonstrate our willingness to make sacrifices for the sake of the gospel. This year, we around the world as you to step up to the plate. Perhaps that means you will ask your church to reconsider its giving plan to be sure more funds make it to missions causes. Perhaps it means giving more than ever. What it certainly means is that we must show ourselves faithful.
While you read this, some were were preparing the bags. Because they are going home.
May we change the trend now!