By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
The choices we make as individuals have consequences. Refer to Adam and Eve in Genesis 1.
Life is full of choices. Do I eat the double scoop of chocolate peanut butter ice cream on half price scoop night at Baskin-Robbins or do I skip it? Eat it and I gain five pounds. Skip it and I miss a wonderful treat.
Denominational entities and churches have to make choices all the time as well.
The International Mission Board announced last week they will be eliminating 600-800 positions over the next few months and into next year. See story, “IMB Announces Budget Shortfall; 600 to 800 Positions to Be Eliminated” posted Aug. 26.
The financial plight of the IMB did not happen overnight. They didn’t wake up last week, notice a huge shortfall, and reacting in a knee-jerk fashion.
You might even say the IMB has been blessed. Tennessee Baptist Convention leaders made drastic budget cuts and eliminated personnel more than two years ago.
Other Southern Baptist Convention entities also have made cuts in personnel and budget in recent years, most notably the North American Mission Board.
Many churches in our state have had to cut budgets and make financial decisions which impacted personnel and budgets.
What’s happening at the IMB is not that unusual given the times in which we live. They will have to “tighten the belt” as everyone else has. IMB personnel may have to find creative ways to leverage technology and reduce travel expenses. It can be done.
Give IMB President David Platt credit. He is concerned about those employees who may take early retirement or choose to find another place of service. I listened to some of his conference call and I could hear the hurt in his voice.
I also give him credit for not “blaming” Southern Baptists for their budget woes.
Southern Baptists are giving a gigantic amount of money for missions causes. SBC President Ronnie Floyd wrote a blog in January of this year. He shared some interesting information.
Floyd reported that $482,279,059 was given in total Cooperative Program gifts by churches through their respective state conventions through the 2012-13 fiscal year.
Add up all the other missions dollars given to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering, various state convention offerings, and more, total Great Commission giving for the same period was $777,452,659. Great Commission giving is defined on the Annual Church Profile as “total amount of all money given to Southern Baptist missions causes by the congregation.”
That is an amazing total.
But it’s a drop in the bucket. Floyd went on to observe that Southern Baptist churches (during the same time frame) reported total missions expenditures of $1,294,701,479. That is 1 BILLION-plus.
What does that mean. Floyd expressed it this way: “When you subtract the $777,452,659 of Great Commission giving from the $1,294,701,479 it means that Southern Baptist congregations gave an additional $517,248,659 to direct church missions trips or projects or non-Southern Baptist missions causes. There is no way to quantify what was used for specific church missions trips or projects as compared to non-Southern Baptist Convention missions causes.”
Choices. Southern Baptist churches chose to give more than a half billion dollars for missions efforts outside the Cooperative Program. Just a fraction of that could have helped ease the IMB shortfall.
And, for those who think that sending 50 percent of CP funds given in Tennessee will go directly to the IMB, think again. That 50 percent goes through the SBC process so other entities get their share of those funds.
Read Chris Turner’s column “Relevancy and the Elephant in the Room.” Chris is a former IMB missionary and has an interesting perspective.
Pray for the IMB, its administration, and those faithful missionaries who serve our Lord internationally.
In the meantime consider the choices you make individually and collectively as churches. Those choices have consequences.