Thoughts from an IMB Missionary about Restructuring for Gospel-Centered Ministry

By: Marcus DeWare (pseudonym of a Guest Blogger who is a missionary in a high-security area)

I recently returned from an annual meeting of IMB colleagues.  Serving on the field sometimes requires families and individuals to be isolated from co-workers.  This annual meeting is a great time to congregate with co-laborers to worship God, encourage one another in our work, console those who are hurting, and to hear how our Master is moving among the various people groups we are targeting with the gospel.

On July 1, the IMB implemented a global restructuring and the changes will continue for several more months.  The motif of change reverberated throughout our whole meeting.  We have a new catalog of acronyms (and for anyone who has spent time with people from the Board, you know our company acronyms can be dizzying).  We have a new leadership structure. We have new team groupings.  The unreached people groups we are passionate about targeting are the heart of this re-organization.  These changes hope to facilitate front-line workers to be freed up and better equipped in their task.  These changes were more difficult for some than others.

I observed that the people who are affected most by these changes are the ones that are the most removed from front-line positions of evangelism and church planting.  Most people I talked to at our meeting who are front-line personnel do not feel like their assignment or task has changed at all. The people who are experiencing the most change and uneasiness are those serving in support positions and administrative roles.  Most everyone in our company does not like change, but we all embrace changes that will make us more useful for the sake of Jesus’ fame among the nations.

The changes we are experiencing as the missions agency of the SBC can help inform the changes the SBC may experience in the near future as a result of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force. I was one of the first people to sign the declaration. I love our convention and am grateful to God for the opportunities to be discipled in an SBC church, trained for gospel ministry in an SBC seminary, and sent out to the global harvest through our SBC missions agency.  I am expectantly looking forward to how the structure and arrangement of the SBC will be changing in the future so that all Southern Baptists may impact the globe for Jesus’ fame.  Several observations from our recent annual meeting are useful the SBC in the coming months and years.

  1. Focused on lost people.  Testimony after testimony at our meeting highlighted how God is using a plethora of evangelism and training tactics to win the lost and equip national believers to reach their people. Jesus told the disciples to lift up their eyes and see that the harvest is plentiful. Our convention voted by a large majority last month to collectively look to the harvest fields of the world.  I sense a real desire among Southern Baptists to cooperate in a real way that penetrates lostness in our world.
  2. Cooperation. SBC missionaries come from diverse backgrounds.  We are diverse in some of our theological convictions. Some are Calvinists and some are anti-Calvinists. Yet, the issues of one’s soteriology are rarely a factor in our efforts to reach people.  Perhaps, many field workers take for granted that we are all on the same page soteriologically because of the strenuous appointment process we go through.  Despite the differences we all know that no one will experience salvation unless they first hear the gospel.  Some may attempt to get the gospel to peoples ears by using humanitarian methods; others may employ business models, while others still teach in established institutions or do cold call evangelism. The methods are as diverse as our personalities. Despite the differences, we celebrate the victories and stir one another on to continue in good works. I look forward to the day Southern Baptists are so united in completing the Great Commission that we are described by outsiders as being united in one-mind.
  3. Looking to the future and not dwelling on the past. IMB workers have seen God do great things through their ministries; they also admit that they have screwed up from time to time in their work.  However, my co-workers are not dwelling on their past victories or failures except to learn from them. Our collective vision is for the future and what God wants to do for his glory among the nations and our people groups specifically.  Southern Baptists do well to imitate this mentality. There is no need to finger point or make accusations.  The future ahead is a place none of us have ever visited.  Together we can take on the future without fear and carry the torch of the gospel learning from our past not idolizing the victories or criticizing the failures.
  4. Sacrificial life-styles. Our family of missionaries certainly is allowed to see wonderful acts of God in bringing the nations to himself.  We are also a group of people that experience great suffering and sacrifice.  Last week, our group grieved the loss of an innovative and passionate colleague.  We live in many countries where M’s are not welcomed; so, people live day to day knowing tomorrow in their host country is not guaranteed.  Sometimes corruption and government interference restricts our ability to access our people.  Yet, we do not lose heart.  We joyfully make sacrifices that are necessary to get the gospel to the lost.  We even demonstrate that in our giving.  Approximately 200 personnel who are fully supported out of the CP gave just under $50,000 to a special LMCO at our meeting.  We are an example of the CP reinvesting in missions!  Will the people in our convention continue to make sacrifices (financially or otherwise) to get the gospel to their neighbors and communities?

I am praying for the SBC and the GCR Task Force.  I pray that through any changes the SBC may adopt that the convention will be more suited to do the work the gospel demands of us all as Southern Baptists.  Change is inevitable.  We can either impact the change or be impacted by it.  Through proactive steps and the visionary leadership of godly men and women in our denomination I believe the SBC still can look to great days ahead for the purpose of reaching the nations.  We exist as a cooperation of autonomous churches because of the gospel; we ought to maintain that gospel-centeredness through the changes and to the next generations.