By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
Tennessee Baptist Convention churches are observing the Week for Prayer for International Missions this week and are in the process of collecting the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.
If past years are any indicator, Tennessee Baptists will be generous when it comes to supporting our international missionaries who serve all over the world. I hope this response continues this year as well.
In September I had the opportunity to participate in a vision trip for Baptist state paper editors hosted by the International Mission Board in London.
The trip was primarily to introduce the editors to their Global Cities Initiative, a part of IMB President David Platt’s plan to introduce a “limitless” missionary force of Southern Baptists. That will include, of course, people who serve in ways other than the traditional full- time missionaries.
A secondary purpose of the vision trip was to introduce state editors to the IMB’s media network. The media network takes over for the communications office of the IMB that was basically disbanded earlier this year.
Quite frankly, I disagreed with the IMB’s decision to eliminate the majority of its communications staff when it happened and nothing occurred in London to change my mind.
Don’t get me wrong. The media network team members we met are great people. They are missionaries committed to the Lord.
But they are being asked to perform an impossible task. For years, the communications office of the IMB was the envy of Southern Baptist journalists. Their writers and photographers almost always won the top awards from the Baptist Communicators Association (formerly Baptist Public Relations Association). The IMB’s The Commission magazine not only won awards but it played a role in convincing people to become missionaries.
Chris Turner, communications director for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board and a former IMB missionary, has shared on numerous occasions how he was inspired by an article in The Commission. He sought and gained employment in the IMB communications office and he and his wife Michelle were later appointed as missionaries.
The print issue is long gone though there is an online version of The Commission. It is a shell of its former self.
We were told during our meeting that: “We are no longer geared to be a news desk and produce the press ready content you’ve come to expect.” While they did transport us to London to hear our concerns, I think their minds were already made up.
Granted, they don’t need our approval. They are an autonomous entity, but for years the IMB has depended upon state papers to communicate to Southern Baptists what God is doing all across the world.
They don’t seem to understand that what they’re now proposing does not work for us. Sadly, they don’t really seem to care. I don’t blame the media network. They get their marching orders from David Platt. It is just another example of what I see as a disconnect between IMB and current leadership with grassroots Southern Baptists.
I could go on, but I won’t. My feelings do not matter. I had convinced myself I would “boycott” by not promoting the offering this year. God quickly reminded me that was not His will. He changed my heart to make me realize it does not matter what I think about IMB leadership. What matters are the missionaries who give up everything and leave family and friends to serve Him wherever He calls.
The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering is all about our missionaries. They deserve and need our support.
While in London I had the opportunity to meet Ben and Judy Armacost. (See story.) While they are not Tennesseans they have strong ties. I decided to tell their story to feature our Lottie Moon Christmas Offering this year.
They are an amazing couple with a passion for evangelism and a zeal to tell the people of London about our Lord Jesus Christ.
Missionaries like the Armacosts are why it is imperative that we continue to support our Southern Baptist missionaries. The LMCO is about them and God. Nothing else matters.