NASHVILLE—The International Mission Board announced Feb. 24 that 1,132 missionaries and stateside staff have transitioned outside the mission entity during the past six months as a result of its voluntary retirement and resignation incentive programs.
IMB President David Platt told trustees the organization now expects to operate a balanced budget for 2017 due to its organizational “reset” processes and the generosity of Southern Baptists who have given sacrificially.
“IMB is now in a much healthier financial position,” Platt said during IMB’s meeting near Richmond, Va. “Due to increased giving from Southern Baptist churches, Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon Christmas Offering giving are trending upward.”
Over recent years, IMB has consistently spent more money than it has received—a combined $210 million more since 2010. Though IMB has covered the shortfalls through reserves and global property sales, in August 2015 Platt announced a critical need to balance the organization’s budget.
Because 80 percent of IMB’s budget is devoted to personnel salary, benefits and support expenses, leaders determined a need to reduce the total number of personnel by approximately 600-800 people to get to a healthy financial place in the present for sustained growth and engagement in the future.
At that time, Platt outlined a two-phase process for reducing the number of IMB personnel. Phase One involved a Voluntary Retirement Incentive available to eligible retirement-age personnel, and Phase Two included a Hand Raising Opportunity available to everyone in the IMB.
Platt reported that the VRI and HRO have resulted in 983 missionaries and 149 stateside staff transitioning outside the IMB over the past six months. He reported 702 missionaries and 109 stateside staff took the voluntary retirement incentive, and 281 missionaries and 40 stateside staff took the hand raising opportunity. He noted it is possible the number of missionaries who have taken the HRO may decrease, since missionaries can rescind their decisions through April.
IMB chose a voluntary process that would leave as much decision-making as possible in the hands of IMB personnel,” Platt said. The same voluntary process was applied to stateside staff, with the exception of 30 personnel in IMB’s Richmond communications office whose positions were eliminated in IMB’s new mobilization structure.
The number of missionaries on the field is now around 3,800, according to IMB figures. The last time the number of missionaries was below 4,000, according to SBC Annual reports, was in 1993 at 3,954.
“While this news is disappointing to all of us,” said Ronnie Floyd, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, “we know we have prayed for God’s leadership; therefore, we will trust God in this season and with our future as Southern Baptists.”
“This reset is not regress or retreat,” Floyd said. “Southern Baptist churches must see this as a fresh calling to reaching the world for Christ. Now is the time to go forward with a clear vision and an aggressive strategy to make disciples of all the nations for Christ.”
Frank Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee, said, “My heart is broken to hear of the large number of missionaries and staff who are leaving the IMB. My prayers are with them as they transition.
“However most of all,” Page noted, “My prayers are focused on the fact of the massive lostness in our world. May God bless Dr. Platt as he leads us in a new strategy to see a new day of intentional evangelism around our world.”
In addition to reducing the total number of personnel over the last six months, IMB has made significant changes to its infrastructures and systems in order to work with greater excellence, effectiveness and efficiency, Platt reported.
The future IMB strategy revolves around:
n 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 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.
n Serving and mobilizing local churches as the primary agent God has promised to bless for the spread of the gospel in the world.
n Training and equipping Christians and church leaders, pastors and missionaries to make disciples and multiply churches across cultures.
n 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.
n Supporting and strengthening an ever-multiplying mission force through practical services that include everything from logistical help to health care to tax assistance.
“The stage is now set financially, organizationally and spiritually for IMB to work with Southern Baptist churches to create exponentially more opportunities for disciple making and church planting among unreached peoples around the world,” Platt said. “IMB is committed to a future marked by faithful stewardship, operational excellence, wise evaluation, ongoing innovation and joyful devotion to making disciples and multiplying churches among the unreached.” (BP/IMB)