Editor’s note: This story contains information related to an IMB policy. The text of the policy follows the end of the story.
By Anne Harman, IMB
LOUISVILLE, Ky.—Citing urgency for reaching a lost world and unity with the Baptist Faith & Message, IMB trustees streamlined guidelines for appointing new personnel to fulfill their missionary calling.
Trustees voted to approve the proposal during IMB’s May 12-13 trustee meeting in Louisville, Ky.
God is worthy of the worship of all people, yet billions have yet to hear the good news of the gospel. In February 2015, trustees approved a simplified structure with the goal of empowering limitless teams of missionaries to make disciples and multiply churches among unreached people, explained IMB President David Platt.
Toward this end, IMB aims to provide multiple pathways in which missionaries may serve on these teams, and each will involve specific qualifications. The newly revised policy creates a unified statement of qualifications that will characterize every missionary serving through any pathway created by IMB to mobilize Southern Baptists to share the gospel with unreached people.
“When you hear ‘pathway,’ think ‘possibilities’ — all the possible ways that people in the pews of Southern Baptist churches might serve overseas: as doctors, teachers, accountants, lawyers, fitness instructors, rickshaw drivers, students, retirees,” Platt said. “We’re talking about limitless possibilities that God has providentially arranged for His people to go around the world with the gospel. And as the IMB, we want to send Southern Baptists through as many pathways as possible, which necessitates that we open up the pipeline for people to come through those pathways.”
Prior to the May board of trustees meeting, miscellaneous policies existed for career, apprentice, Journeyman, ISC and Masters program missionary appointees. Specific policy regulations covered issues of faith and practice such as levels of education, history of divorce, teenage children in the home, the practice of a private prayer language, and greater specificity around baptism than the Baptist Faith & Message.
“As we look toward the future and the limitless number of missionaries we want to mobilize from Southern Baptist churches, we want to give Southern Baptists a simple, clear statement of qualifications that unifies not only the missionaries serving on one of those teams on the field, but unifies the IMB with the whole of the SBC,” Platt said, noting the revised policy serves as the unifying standard for all IMB missionaries, regardless of what role they might play on a team.
“To be as clear as possible, this is no lowering of the bar for potential IMB missionaries,” he said. “This is a raising of the bar in all the areas that matter most. … We will continue to train our missionaries and work as missionaries in ways that faithfully represent Southern Baptist churches and Southern Baptist conviction.”
IMB will begin a process of implementing the revised policy — which opens the possibility for new sending pathways — in the days to come, said Sebastian Traeger, IMB executive vice president.
· Missionaries appointed — During the meeting, IMB trustees also appointed 34 new missionaries to serve around the world, joining a total missionary force of approximately 4,800. The missionaries are being commissioned during an appointment service at Highview Baptist Church in Louisville on May 13.
· VP affirmed — Trustees affirmed Rodney Freeman, a current IMB trustee, as vice president of support services. Freeman has served as vice president of global facilities management at Merck & Co. since November 2009, where he has led a global staff of more than 950 professionals and maintenance personnel and managed a budget of more than $1 billion to service 400-plus sites. He and his wife, Kendra, are the parents of four children: Emily, 15; Kacie and Kellie, 13; and Nathan, 10. Freeman earned B.S.E. and M.B.A. degrees from Duke University. He is a member of Somerset Hills Baptist Church in Basking Ridge, New Jersey.
· Global cities initiative announced — Platt acknowledged God has given IMB a 170-year history of taking the gospel to people and places around the world, including extreme places such as deserts, jungles and war zones. He said God also has uniquely given believers opportunities to work, study and retire in global cities, and that God has brought the peoples of the world to these cities (see Acts 17:26-27). Thus, IMB is developing and launching a five-city strategy — including London, Dubai, Shanghai, Mumbai and Kuala Lumpur — that starts with work already being done in those cities, and then explores opportunities in integrating fully-supported church planters, Great Commission partners, professionals, students and retirees into that work.
· Cooperation appreciated — Traeger expressed IMB personnel eagerly anticipate hosting executives from state Baptist conventions during a meeting July 20-22 in Richmond, Virginia, as well as plans to partner with NAMB at the June meeting of the SBC in Columbus, Ohio, and the Aug. 3-4 SEND conference in Nashville, Tennessee.
· Officers elected — John Edie, a member of Second Baptist Church, Springfield, Missouri, was re-elected as chairman of the board of trustees; Jay Collins, a member of First Baptist Church of Haughton, Louisiana, was re-elected as first vice chairman; Sandie Anderson, a member of New Hope Church in Manhattan, Kansas, was re-elected as second vice chairwoman; Cindy Snead, a member of North Phoenix Baptist Church in Phoenix, Arizona, was elected as recording secretary.
The next IMB trustee meeting is Aug. 25-26 in Richmond. The next missionary appointment service is Aug. 26 at Spotswood Baptist Church in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
Anne Harman is an IMB writer.
IMB Policy 200-1
An IMB missionary is a disciple of Jesus set apart by the Holy Spirit, sent out from the church, and affirmed by the IMB to cross geographic, cultural, and/or linguistic barriers as part of a missionary team focused on making disciples and multiplying churches among unreached peoples and places. IMB exists to empower limitless teams of missionaries made up of different men, women, and families with distinct roles and responsibilities. IMB provides multiple pathways in which missionaries may serve on one of these teams, each of which carries unique qualifications. However, any IMB missionary serving through any pathway created by IMB leadership is required to meet the following qualifications:
· Vibrant personal discipleship: As they abide in God’s Word and walk in step with God’s Spirit, IMB missionaries bear fruit of an intimate, growing relationship with Christ.
· Evident personal disciple making: IMB missionaries are meaningfully involved in a local church in which they participate in leading people to faith in Christ, seeing new believers baptized in the church, and showing believers how to obey Christ, all with a view toward reaching the nations with the gospel.
· Call: The call to serve as an IMB missionary has been discerned within a local church and affirmed by that local church alongside IMB leadership.
· Commitment: IMB missionaries are devoted to the vision, mission, values, and beliefs of the IMB.
SOUTHERN BAPTIST IDENTITY
· Currently a baptized member of a Southern Baptist church
· Commitment to and identification with Southern Baptists
· Conviction of truth as expressed in the current Baptist Faith and Message statement of the Southern Baptist Convention
Good physical, emotional, and mental health.
IMB missionaries model a godly family life and/or personal relationships.
Service is open to U.S. citizens and permanent residents of the United States.