Jody and Sarah Fox - this phase of our Journey as IMB missionaries in Niger, West Africa

Friday, September 25, 2015

How Must We Respond?

Written by: Jody

As you may have heard, the IMB has made a decision to reduce its missions force by 600 to 900 people.  (Visit imb.org for more info and updates about this plan).  For the last 6 years combined the IMB has spent 210 million dollars more than has been given through the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.  There are many reasons for this, including rising costs of supporting a missionary unit on the field, but that is not the purpose of my writing today. 

Although more money has been spent than what has come in, the IMB has been able to cover costs by selling property and using emergency funds.  However, in order to be financially responsible in the future the IMB must make changes, because global properties will run out and emergency funds do dry up.  And since 80% of IMB funds are spent on personnel, there is no choice but to reduce personnel. 

Reducing personnel is obviously nobody’s first choice.  The idea of 600-900 fewer missionaries in the world where there are 2 billion people still unreached does not make anybody happy.  I have seen lists of what is changing in the IMB and what is not changing; however, the point of my writing today is to ask, “How must we respond?”  I believe that we must respond in 4 crucial areas.   

First, we must respond in unity and brotherly love.  John 13:35 tells us, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  If we are to remain steady on the course of reaching the nations with the Gospel we must heed the words of this verse.  A church or denomination that is not unified will not finish the race strong, in fact may even fail to finish at all.  I’m not saying the nations will not be reached, the Bible clearly tells us that they will.  What I am saying is that if we resort to name-calling and blame casting, our unity will be jeopardized and God will raise up another in our place.  Instead, now is a time for churches to come together in unity and brotherly love in one sacred effort to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth.  Let’s put aside blame and understand that we all, especially our leadership, want more missionaries on the field.  And let’s respond in unity across all denominations, because our testimony and the glory of Christ among the nations depends on it.

Second, let’s respond in faithful and generous giving to the great commission.  Now here is the touchy matter, because it deals with our money.  But think about it, is it really “OUR” money or does it all belong to the Lord and has been entrusted to us?  And if it belongs to the Lord and has been entrusted to us, should we not prove faithful and be generous in our giving?  However, I wonder if materialism has gotten the best of us, including we who are in the church and even we missionaries on the field. 

There really is no longer any excuse for the nations remaining unreached.  We not only have the technology and resources, but we also have the finances to go with it.  But we live in a time of affluence where, although the economy is down, we as middle class American citizens are still within the top 5% of wealthiest people in the world.  We live in a time of indulgence, where we spend hundreds maybe thousands of dollars more on Christmas presents than we do to giving toward the great commission (Lottie Moon).  We spend hundreds of dollars for a prom dress for one night, or feed our hunger for coffee on $5 lattes.  And we live in a time where materialism and keeping up with the Jones’ has so swept into our lives, that it has become out of place to even mention it.  And we are all to blame and all at fault for it, including us your IMB missionaries.  We are just as guilty of building our tower of wealth as the next person.

Instead, we need to come back to a simple understanding of Matthew 6:24b, “You cannot serve God and money.”  We need to begin to lay up treasures in heaven instead of treasures here on earth (Matthew 6:19-24).  And we need to teach this to our children, we need to want Jesus for our children more then we want a good Christmas for our children.  So I plead with you to join me as together we reevaluate our budgets and become more generous in our giving and less focused on ourselves.           

Third, let’s respond in prayer for our leadership.  If anyone thinks for a moment that IMB leadership wants to see its mission personnel shrink, you are deceived.  Instead of pointing fingers or complaining about organizational change or even decisions about how the IMB should reduce its personnel, let us first stop and pray for our leaders.  Is there really any good way to reduce personnel?  Our leaders need your prayers and support, not negative attitudes.  Please pray for them and support them regardless of your own opinions.

Finally, let us respond with the questions, “Why not me?”  “Why not now?”  I know what you may be thinking, “Jody we’re reducing personnel, why would anybody think about going now?”  Because if we stop thinking about going, we have lost the heart of the Gospel message and the very thing that has driven this denomination for well over a century. 

I believe every Christian is called to lose their lives for the sake of Christ, but for many the foreign mission field brings too much loss – loss of family, influence, comfort, and success.  Are we really willing to lose our lives for the sake of the Gospel or is this just a verse to post on our Facebook accounts as we continue to live our lives for our own ambitions?

Maybe God is not calling you to the foreign mission field and if not that’s fine.  However, I wonder if that is just an excuse for many.  Seriously, if we are going to reach all nations we need way more people than the IMB can send.  I believe God is calling out hundreds even thousands to go, but we must be open to hearing His call and even more faithful to follow. And if God is calling you to the foreign mission field why are we waiting for money from the IMB?  Are you a teacher?  Countries all over the world are looking for teachers.  Are you an engineer?  Countries all over the world are looking for engineers.  In fact almost any occupation can be utilized in almost any country of the world.  Yes, I believe in the importance of sending missionaries out with the IMB, but if we are going to reach all nations it cannot stop there.  We need legit tent making missionaries who are working and supporting their families in countries all over the world with the goal of sharing their faith and planting churches along the way.  Why not you?  Why not now?  Consider losing your life for the sake of those who have not heard and are on their way to eternal hell.  Consider Christ as more important than anything else.

The IMB is reducing its personnel, yes that is true.  And yes changes and decisions are coming within the IMB that many may not like.  However, our goal as Southern Baptists remains faithfully the same  -- that a multitude from every language, people, tribe and nation will know and worship our Lord Jesus Christ.  In light of this goal we must respond not with dislike, but instead with unity, generous giving, prayer for leadership, and seeking God’s call in our lives.