Alabama pastor shares firsthand account of working with IMBcomment (0)
November 28, 2013
By Richard L. Richie
Since June 2010, I have had the privilege of serving our Lord, Southern Baptists and Alabama Baptists as a trustee of the International Mission Board (IMB). I am one of 84 trustees on the board and one of five trustees representing Alabama.
The past four years have afforded me a firsthand opportunity to observe and work with the IMB. As a pastor, I led my churches to become involved in international missions, adopt international missionaries and support the IMB through financial giving. However, I was not completely aware of the true magnitude of the work and difference that the IMB is making in the world. Since becoming a trustee, my eyes have been opened. I have found that the IMB is an excellent, if not the best, missions organization in the world. The IMB and its missionaries are highly respected, revered and admired throughout the world. No other missions organization trains, sends and financially supports its missionaries like the IMB. The executive and support staff members are highly professional and extremely committed to their call and vision of reaching the lost world for Jesus Christ. The field missionaries are highly trained, very talented and extremely innovative in their approaches to reach people for Christ. Finally, IMB logistics professionals ensure that all of the missionaries are well equipped and provided for, helping to meet most if not all of their basic needs. We truly have an impressive missionary corps.
Though we have the most well-equipped and capable missionary force in the world, our missionaries simply cannot complete their work alone. The missionaries need willing helpers to work side-by-side with them on the missions field. Our missionaries need churches and individuals that are willing to adopt them, partner with them, pray for them and assist them in the conduct of their work via short-term missions trips and projects.
For example, several missionaries in the Czech Republic are presently seeking church teams that would be willing to go to Prague next year to conduct sports camps, Vacation Bible Schools, backyard Bible clubs and block parties. In London, our missionaries have established a borough adoption process and a website (www.AdoptLondon.com) where churches can choose one of London’s 33 boroughs to pray for, research, visit and work with field personnel to eventually plant a church there. Because London is such a diverse, international community with 190 nations and 300 distinct language groups, our missionaries believe that “if one can reach London, one can reach the world.”
Some missions locations don’t require short-term missions teams but require specialized resources for their unique missions platforms. For example, a group of church planters that I met this summer in Portugal are reaching Portuguese men and their families through the game of American football. The missionaries have set up leagues, teams and games as a means of drawing people to Jesus Christ. The thing most needed is ample amounts of new or used football equipment.
God continues to call gifted and talented men and women from a myriad of locations throughout the world to serve as international missionaries. The current pipeline of potential Southern Baptist missionaries is plentiful. However, the dollars to support those missionaries is diminishing and, in some cases, not currently available.
The Cooperative Program (CP) and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering (LMCO) are the two well-known flagships of our convention’s missionary efforts, yet we have member churches who are not even “participating” in our convention by financially giving through these important instruments. How can these churches say that they are fully cooperating churches of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) yet give nothing toward the causes of the SBC? This giving pattern has negatively impacted the capacity of our board to call, train, send, equip and support our missionary corps. Because of these reduced amounts of giving, we are now having to consider possibly reducing the number of missionaries that we are sending overseas. At one point, we celebrated a missionary force of more than 5,600 missionaries. However, we now have less than 4,800 missionaries (and that number is dwindling) because of decreased giving.
I call upon all Southern Baptist churches to rise up and seize the opportunity that we now have before us. We must do whatever we can to increase our financial giving through the CP and LMCO in order to meet the missionary needs and lostness around the world. We must also accept the Acts 1:8 missions call, becoming actively involved in missions both here and abroad.
Editor’s Note — Richard L. Richie is pastor of Flint Baptist Church, Decatur, and a trustee of the International Mission Board.