What Needs to Change at the IMB?

I had the privilege of participating in a panel at this year’s SBC on “The Future of the IMB.” The SBC was created for the purpose of having an international mission board that propagates the gospel, so the future of the IMB is massively important.

As I contemplated our discussion of the IMB’s future, I later thought of four suggestions for what needs to change that I want to offer here:

1) The IMB needs younger leadership

I’m not saying the IMB has to hire a younger president, or even that its senior leadership needs to be primarily younger. I am saying that the Boomer-dominated senior leadership of the IMB needs to be diversified so it is represented by younger as well as older.

2) The IMB needs to prioritize different funding models

Our traditional funding model that allows our missionaries to plant churches full-time instead of requiring them to be fundraisers is genius and has served us well. However, many recognize that in order to adequately impact massive global lostness we need to supplement our traditional funding model with business as mission and bi-vocational models so that we can multiply our mission force into the tens of thousands not simply add hundreds or maybe a thousand to it with increased missions giving. We need 100,000 missionaries to accomplish the global missions task not 6, or 7, or 8,000. While the IMB is already doing some of this, in order to blow the lid off, it needs to prioritize and diversify alternative funding models.

3) The IMB needs to get rid of extrabiblical policies

The IMB has some extrabiblical policies that keep Baptists who believe the BFM 2000 from going to the field (i.e. prayer language, baptism in a church that affirms eternal security, a specific theology of calling for candidate and spouse, alcohol, etc.). Let me be clear. I’m not advocating for any of these things personally, but I do think we need to ask the question, “Should we draw such hard lines where the Bible and our statement of faith doesn’t when millions are heading to Hell without having a chance to hear the gospel?”

4) The IMB needs to change the function of trustees

Update: In my original post I had an incomplete understanding of how involved IMB trustees are in the missionary selection process. I am sorry for that and am attempting to correct it now. Let me be clear. I’m thankful for all of our trustees and the time and energy they give to this task. And, I don’t want there to be lack of accountability (I never intended for that to be the takeaway from my article).

My main point was intended to be about efficiency and trust. I think the IMB of the future needs to be more efficient and more trusting of it’s employees who have missiological expertise. I think this could be achieved in large part by a reduced board size who affirm employee selection and then allow those employees to carry out their function under the oversight of the board.

Let’s all commit to pray for the IMB – for its presidential search as well as its future!

Jonathan Akin is the Pastor of Fairview Church in Lebanon, TN, a suburb outside of Nashville, and co-founder of Baptist21