IMB to cut 600-800 missionaries

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IMB to cut 600-800 missionaries

Postby William Thornton » Sat Aug 29, 2015 3:44 pm

Not many SBCers here but this is news.

Huge deficits ($210 million since 2010) partly covered by overseas sales of property.

To get to the number that can be supported, IMB is proposing cutting from 4800 to 4200 or 4000 overseas personnel.

You can read my piece on it, with links to relevant articles: IMB sailing through an ocean of red ink
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Re: IMB to cut 600-800 missionaries

Postby Dave Roberts » Sat Aug 29, 2015 7:14 pm

While I no longer have anything to do with the SBC, I find this as a sad report of both the financial decline of the SBC and the lack of mission support. The loss of people who have dedicated themselves to working in another culture will be a loss as they are phased out in this restructuring.
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Re: IMB to cut 600-800 missionaries

Postby William Thornton » Sat Aug 29, 2015 7:31 pm

Dave Roberts wrote:While I no longer have anything to do with the SBC, I find this as a sad report of both the financial decline of the SBC and the lack of mission support. The loss of people who have dedicated themselves to working in another culture will be a loss as they are phased out in this restructuring.


The plan is to offer a retirement package, incentives. The IMB is still a $280-$300 million budget outfit...but not a sustainable $300-$350m outfit.
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Re: IMB to cut 600-800 missionaries

Postby Tim Bonney » Sun Aug 30, 2015 10:07 am

William, do you know what percentage of those missionaries are pastoring local churches in other countries? Maybe the reduction isn't all bad news if pastorates get passed over to local native personnel.

Given the numbers you've shared, it is likely that Southern Baptists have the most missionaries of anyone in the US. United Methodists don't do missions the same way so even as the second largest Protestant group in the US we don't have anywhere close to the number of missionaries the SBC does.
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Re: IMB to cut 600-800 missionaries

Postby William Thornton » Sun Aug 30, 2015 1:26 pm

I don't know, Timothy, but the SBC model has not been to pastor churches for decades. Enabling indigenous leaders has been the plan for a long time.
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Re: IMB to cut 600-800 missionaries

Postby Tim Bonney » Sun Aug 30, 2015 2:00 pm

William Thornton wrote:I don't know, Timothy, but the SBC model has not been to pastor churches for decades. Enabling indigenous leaders has been the plan for a long time.


I didn't know that. I've been out of the SBC too long. That makes me wonder what the missionary assignments are like. About 1/3 of the UM (4.4 Mil) members are outside the US. So the model is different. Even with that it looks to me like we have something less than 800 missionaries outside the US counting our relief workers that are working full-time. We have something like 100,000 short term volunteers a year. But I'm sure the SBC has thousands of short term volunteers too.
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Re: IMB to cut 600-800 missionaries

Postby Sandy » Sun Aug 30, 2015 2:33 pm

Most of those I went to college and seminary with who are still on the international mission field are involved in theological education and training of indigenous pastors and church workers. In some places, a lot f IMB personnel are still involved in church planting, too. There are several countries where the need for IMB support is rapidly dwindling as the national Baptist bodies are strong enough and financially sound enough to manage their own mission enterprises, like S. Korea and Brazil.
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Re: IMB to cut 600-800 missionaries

Postby Tim Bonney » Sun Aug 30, 2015 3:11 pm

Sandy wrote:Most of those I went to college and seminary with who are still on the international mission field are involved in theological education and training of indigenous pastors and church workers. In some places, a lot f IMB personnel are still involved in church planting, too. There are several countries where the need for IMB support is rapidly dwindling as the national Baptist bodies are strong enough and financially sound enough to manage their own mission enterprises, like S. Korea and Brazil.


Thanks Sandy! We have our own UM Central Conferences doing church planting and education. But they aren't designated as missionaries because they are working in their own country in their own conference. Since it is kind of apples and oranges I'm not sure I can even guess as to the SBC and the UMC compare in international work.
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Re: IMB to cut 600-800 missionaries

Postby Ed Pettibone » Sun Aug 30, 2015 7:32 pm

Timothy Bonney wrote:
Sandy wrote:Most of those I went to college and seminary with who are still on the international mission field are involved in theological education and training of indigenous pastors and church workers. In some places, a lot f IMB personnel are still involved in church planting, too. There are several countries where the need for IMB support is rapidly dwindling as the national Baptist bodies are strong enough and financially sound enough to manage their own mission enterprises, like S. Korea and Brazil.


Thanks Sandy! We have our own UM Central Conferences doing church planting and education. But they aren't designated as missionaries because they are working in their own country in their own conference. Since it is kind of apples and oranges I'm not sure I can even guess as to the SBC and the UMC compare in international work.
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Re: IMB to cut 600-800 missionaries

Postby Sandy » Mon Aug 31, 2015 8:18 am

Timothy Bonney wrote:
Sandy wrote:Most of those I went to college and seminary with who are still on the international mission field are involved in theological education and training of indigenous pastors and church workers. In some places, a lot f IMB personnel are still involved in church planting, too. There are several countries where the need for IMB support is rapidly dwindling as the national Baptist bodies are strong enough and financially sound enough to manage their own mission enterprises, like S. Korea and Brazil.


Thanks Sandy! We have our own UM Central Conferences doing church planting and education. But they aren't designated as missionaries because they are working in their own country in their own conference. Since it is kind of apples and oranges I'm not sure I can even guess as to the SBC and the UMC compare in international work.


There may still be a lot of IMB missionaries involved in medical missions. I do know that in recent years, there's been a move toward getting into areas that have been previously unreached. I had a good friend from college who served with his wife in Ghana as what they referred to as "support personnel", working with several churches around a Baptist hospital there, but as the churches grew, and strengthened, local pastors and leaders were able to take over the work. The hospital is still there, as a base for the ministry, but I don't think there are any IMB personnel there any more. My friend is now in Tanzania, and is about to be phased out of there as well.
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Re: IMB to cut 600-800 missionaries

Postby Tim Bonney » Mon Aug 31, 2015 12:17 pm

I think all US Christian groups are going to have to figure out ways to maximize dollars in regards to US personnel relying much more on Christians who are already native to that country being much more in a training or consultative role. Years ago when I served on the ABC Board of International Ministries the big conversation was how best to do "indigenous mission" partnerships rather than US missionaries coming in a running the show. Indigenous missions can often be better than someone from outside the country trying to bring the gospel and it is also more cost effective than shipping Americans all over the world. Maybe the SBC will move more in that direction.
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Re: IMB to cut 600-800 missionaries

Postby Sandy » Mon Aug 31, 2015 3:05 pm

It's kind of interesting, actually, to see how the concept of "international missions" is used. We're still hearing and seeing the emotional, guilt-trip kinds of pushes to move resources and people to international mission work, because of the abundance of resource we have, compared to most of the rest of the world, and the fact that we are a culture that is saturated with churches and Bibles, whereas there is such a great need elsewhere in the world. But there are a lot of places around the world now where the Christians are able to provide resources, are well trained and equipped, and are having a lot of success in evangelism and church growth, and don't really need the help of American missionaries. But we'll have plenty of people get organized in groups, and go spend a week or so in some exotic, impoverished country, to "do missions." The airfare, food and lodging resources we consume in taking a group of people on a mission trip could supply indigenous personnel in their work for years in some cases.

The IMB has, in recent years, done a good job of shifting its focus into areas where there's been little done in the way of evangelism, and resources, though it is getting harder to get missionary personnel into those areas. There's a pretty good group of people working in places where they come in contact with people who are from countries which are closed off to Christian evangelism and missions. We had a couple in our church in Houston who were actually under IMB appointment, doing student work at the Texas Medical Center, with the idea that every Chinese student they won to Christ who would go back to China eventually would carry the gospel with them. I think that is also something that is happening elsewhere, with other groups from countries where on-site ministry isn't possible.

In the CMA, over 80% of the total denominational membership is outside the US, so the structure of missionary personnel is much different. There is a lot of financial support that is expected from US churches, through the "Great Commission Fund", but most of the personnel, pastors and church workers, are indigenous.
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Re: IMB to cut 600-800 missionaries

Postby Tim Bonney » Mon Aug 31, 2015 3:23 pm

Sandy wrote:
In the CMA, over 80% of the total denominational membership is outside the US, so the structure of missionary personnel is much different. There is a lot of financial support that is expected from US churches, through the "Great Commission Fund", but most of the personnel, pastors and church workers, are indigenous.


That makes a lot of sense to me. Why teach some Anglo to speak a tough language, learn a new culture and move across the globe if you have qualified people already present?

In the UMC the African conferences are the fastest growing in the world. We partner with them and help provide resources. But they don't need our help with personnel.
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Re: IMB to cut 600-800 missionaries

Postby Kai Steppan » Mon Aug 31, 2015 4:00 pm

It is maybe not directly connected with the topic, but what comes to my mind is:

Maybe people in other, especially non-western countries (do one counts south american countries as "western"? i don`t know.), don`t need so much help with staff.
But with knowledge and guidance in theological matters.

With that i don`t mean western missionaries should simply appear in a country, let`s say in an african country, and tell the natives how to be christian and do everything for them. Surely the natives should find and experience their own way to the bible and god.

But in my opinion, there is a certain challenge not to mix old habits and old religions with the christian religion.
For example: in the old religion people worshipped pictures or statues of their god. It is possible they could think or feel the urge to worship pictures of Jesus or god (what they think how god is looking) - which would not work well with christian religion, for the christian religion is not one of idols.

So western missionaries should maybe explain the natives why it would be a theological problem to hang on that part of the old religion while beeing a christian at the same time even if the people think they are doing something good in worshipping a picture of Jesus.

From my point of view that would be useful.
It is connected with ideals of education and making the people able to deal by themselves.
Helping them to help themselves and make them independent and free in ways of faith and normal life.
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Re: IMB to cut 600-800 missionaries

Postby Tim Bonney » Mon Aug 31, 2015 4:19 pm

Kai,

We have a similar problem with missionaries accidentally teaching people to not just be Christians but to be Western Christians. While indigenous people shouldn't necessarily mix previous religions into Christianity they shouldn't have to worship Jesus like an American either singing our hymns using our worship orders etc.
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Re: IMB to cut 600-800 missionaries

Postby Ed Pettibone » Tue Sep 01, 2015 10:42 am

Ed: Tim how does any one go about accidentally teach people to not just be Christians but to be Western Christians.

I have an idea that when it happens it is because those teaching believe their way is if not the only way, it is the best way.

I was pleased at last years missions conference celebrating 200 years of ABC Missions that we had the opportunity to set in on several worship services, each was conducted buy people, native and Missionaries from different areas of the wold and the diversity was amazing. For me the Russian Baptist was much too ornate, and formal, the band from the Congo was much to loud for me, another had a Pentecostal flavor, the others where different than what we generally have but where not as distracting as the the first two however each conveyed a feeling of sincere worship. I am not positive that all ABC missions do as well at adapting the gospel to local cultures but many of our visionaries obviously do it quite well.
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Re: IMB to cut 600-800 missionaries

Postby Tim Bonney » Tue Sep 01, 2015 11:18 pm

You do it accidentally by not realizing how much you've mixed your own culture into Christianity. Read some missiology by Raymond Bakke. He has talked about it for years.

American Baptists have done some of the best job of indigenous missions that I've seen anywhere. One of the values of the ABC's diversity is that the ABC gets why you don't want to promote one particular culture over another. I see this as one of the ABC's strengths.
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Re: IMB to cut 600-800 missionaries

Postby Joseph Patrick » Thu Sep 10, 2015 9:09 pm

From Joseph Patrick...aka Gerry Milligan
Something that I have not seen addressed concerns those 600-800 missionaries who are to be retired...When we retired from the IMB we had planned our final furlough so that I would turn 65 early in that furlough. We had a mission house which we had secured two years before our furlough. Now, 600-800 missionaries will have voluntary retirement starting the first of the year. Not much time for planning. Where to live, buying furniture, buying a car, what about income? Very big decisions facing the 600-800 right now, and it looks as if this is only phase 1. Will phase 2 be forced retirement if someone has 5 years on the field and is 50 years old?

I still do not envy David Platt and what must be done, but I really do not envy any missionary who is already 50 with 5 years service.
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Re: IMB to cut 600-800 missionaries

Postby Tim Bonney » Thu Sep 10, 2015 9:47 pm

Joseph Patrick wrote:From Joseph Patrick...aka Gerry Milligan
Something that I have not seen addressed concerns those 600-800 missionaries who are to be retired...When we retired from the IMB we had planned our final furlough so that I would turn 65 early in that furlough. We had a mission house which we had secured two years before our furlough. Now, 600-800 missionaries will have voluntary retirement starting the first of the year. Not much time for planning. Where to live, buying furniture, buying a car, what about income? Very big decisions facing the 600-800 right now, and it looks as if this is only phase 1. Will phase 2 be forced retirement if someone has 5 years on the field and is 50 years old?

I still do not envy David Platt and what must be done, but I really do not envy any missionary who is already 50 with 5 years service.


You are sharing what could be a very distressing situation for many people. How many of those missionaries will be getting early retirement and how many are just out of work?

I know when I was still in the ABC/USA I decided to not ever consider working for the denomination because I could see those jobs slowly disappearing. And would you be able to get back into the pastorate if that happened? At least in the UMC if I took a denominational job and it disappeared I'd still get an appointment somewhere.
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Re: IMB to cut 600-800 missionaries

Postby Joseph Patrick » Thu Sep 10, 2015 11:13 pm

From Joseph Patrick...aka Gerry Milligan

Timothy, you said, "I know when I was still in the ABC/USA I decided to not ever consider working for the denomination because I could see those jobs slowly disappearing. And would you be able to get back into the pastorate if that happened? At least in the UMC if I took a denominational job and it disappeared I'd still get an appointment somewhere." This is a BIG concern for many career missionaries as they have been out of the loop for too long. No one remembers them...thus they have problems finding a church or whatever. I heard this for years from many missionaries on the field, "What will I do if I am forced to go home?"
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Re: IMB to cut 600-800 missionaries

Postby Tim Bonney » Thu Sep 10, 2015 11:26 pm

Joseph Patrick wrote:From Joseph Patrick...aka Gerry Milligan

Timothy, you said, "I know when I was still in the ABC/USA I decided to not ever consider working for the denomination because I could see those jobs slowly disappearing. And would you be able to get back into the pastorate if that happened? At least in the UMC if I took a denominational job and it disappeared I'd still get an appointment somewhere." This is a BIG concern for many career missionaries as they have been out of the loop for too long. No one remembers them...thus they have problems finding a church or whatever. I heard this for years from many missionaries on the field, "What will I do if I am forced to go home?"


In the staff cuts that William brought with this thread that hadn't occurred to me. Even five years out of Baptist life means your thinking changes. I can't believe that easily several hundred missionaries will be able to find a church job. There are going to be some hard situations for people.
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Re: IMB to cut 600-800 missionaries

Postby Dave Roberts » Fri Sep 11, 2015 7:20 am

Joseph Patrick wrote:From Joseph Patrick...aka Gerry Milligan

Timothy, you said, "I know when I was still in the ABC/USA I decided to not ever consider working for the denomination because I could see those jobs slowly disappearing. And would you be able to get back into the pastorate if that happened? At least in the UMC if I took a denominational job and it disappeared I'd still get an appointment somewhere." This is a BIG concern for many career missionaries as they have been out of the loop for too long. No one remembers them...thus they have problems finding a church or whatever. I heard this for years from many missionaries on the field, "What will I do if I am forced to go home?"


I don't think this is just a question of getting back in the loop. In Baptist life, all stripes, there is a shrinking base of full-time church ministry positions. I was looking this week at the classifieds in a Baptist publication, and there were far more churches seeking part-time staff in various ministry areas--youth, children, pastoral care, and administration--than were seeking full-time. The churches placing the ads were across the spectrum of Baptists--SBC, CBF, ABC, and Alliance. Even pastoral positions appeared in some cares to be bi-vocational. The demographics do not bode well for the 50-year-olds with 5 or more years of mission service.
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Re: IMB to cut 600-800 missionaries

Postby William Thornton » Fri Sep 11, 2015 9:54 am

I think Dave is right on this. There are a lot of retired, semi-retired SBC clergy in the marketplace on my area. Downsizing at the GBC and NAMB put a lot of people out there looking for jobs. Seminaries continue to churn out far more grads than there are viable church positions and my sense is that there are more churches that are barely marginal in being able to have a FT pastor.
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Re: IMB to cut 600-800 missionaries

Postby Dave Roberts » Fri Sep 11, 2015 10:11 am

William Thornton wrote:I think Dave is right on this. There are a lot of retired, semi-retired SBC clergy in the marketplace on my area. Downsizing at the GBC and NAMB put a lot of people out there looking for jobs. Seminaries continue to churn out far more grads than there are viable church positions and my sense is that there are more churches that are barely marginal in being able to have a FT pastor.


You are seeing exactly what I am seeing in VA. I am in the semi-retired IIM group. Increasingly. there are fewer churches who will be able to maintain a FT pastor. Indeed, many of their pastoral families have been bivocational for a generation--the spouse has been the other vocation that allowed the minister to keep going. One in my area recently moved from FT to bivocational, admitting they can no longer provide for a full salary and benefits. Others are devoting 60 to 70% of their budgets to salary and benefits leaving nothing for programming in the church or even funds that the pastor can use to carry on his/her ministry. Our offices for CBFVA are upstairs over the regional presbytery of the PCUSA, and they are discussing more yoked churches in order to provide for ministry through them. Baptists need to take a serious look at linking churches together in rural and inner-city areas. The current models are not viable, and a number of churches are just awaiting a few more funerals until they close.
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Re: IMB to cut 600-800 missionaries

Postby Ed Pettibone » Fri Sep 11, 2015 2:10 pm

Ed: Dave, I am going to be busy for a few days so I am not going to follow up on this consistently. I do however Have an understanding of the delima sp you present. We all ready have several Yoked churches in Upstate NYS. I do not see for the life of me how a Baptist Pastor can be a part time Presbyterian or Methodist. The ones I know call it a real struggle.
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