29 April 2018
International Mission Board
“To know the will of God, we need an open Bible and open map” -William Carey. Each individual on the earth has a purpose, and that purpose is defined and discovered only through Christ. The whole heart of a missionary must be in tune with the heart of God and be committed to mission work to be effective. And although missions is very closely intertwined with the “heart” of missions, the other and oftentimes equally important side of the equation is the process concerning the fundamental principles and behind the scenes work. The work that is needed behind the international mission work often goes overlooked, but provides the security and safety that the missionary has to have to be successful. The many moving parts behind the action brings it all together and makes mission work fulfill its full potential. Through these different pieces of specifically international missions, it comes together to fulfill the Great Commission laid out for Christians, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).
The history of international missions dates back to 1845. At the first Southern Baptist Convention, the Foreign Mission Board (FMB) was founded as a part of “one sacred effort, for the propagation of the gospel.” Southern Baptist churches believed that by working cooperatively, they could accomplish more for God’s kingdom (“History,” imb.org). The first foreign mission field specifically for the IMB was China. In its early decades, the denomination’s missionary efforts slowly grew further into China and also branched out into Africa as well. During the Civil War, support for international missions became harder to find; with the economy focusing on wars all through 1861 and 1943, large growth in the IMB overseas work did not occur until World War II had finished. The Cooperative Program that was founded in 1925, then led the Southern Baptists to respond with 1,000 missionaries serving in 1955. In the early 1960s, the International Mission Board initiated new opportunities for people to participate in their foreign missions with the two new programs: Missionary Associates and Journeyman. Over time the IMB shifted their focus from strictly geographic countries to people groups as well to start planting churches. In addition, the technological advances have created many opportunities for missionaries to share the gospel, and Southern Baptists have been able to reach into areas that were previously considered as forbidden by political barriers. In one year at IMB, they shared the message of Jesus with 1.7 million people and started 6,200 churches. Every year, the amount of unreached people groups who have been given the access to the gospel of Christ through IMB’s efforts increases. (“History,” imb.org). The IMB has grown to be a primary option when considering a possible foreign trip over the international waters. The reason for their great success in reaching the unreached is simply staying grounded to the word of God through the work they do. Similarly, the most important piece to growing as a program is the vision and the end in mind which has been clearly stated and shown through the work at the IMB.
“Limitless.” This is the word used to describe the overall vision of the IMB. They clearly understand the importance of following their vision and most importantly following it with Christ at the head of their organization. Consider the IMB’s explanation of their purpose; “We want to vastly expand our missions efforts for the spread of the gospel to every people group on the planet, forging a dynamic network of pathways connecting churches and individuals directly to IMB missionary teams around the world” (“About,” imb.org). Their mission is, in fact, the mission-field and with nearly a million people finding themselves into a Christless eternity every month in only China. In addition, people groups who are not just unengaged and unreached, but up until now have been completely uncontacted by the outside world. However, millions of refugees from Syria are becoming more and more open to hearing the gospel than ever before and now there is a way to reach these in search of Christ. In light of the realities before them and the opportunities to share the Gospel, there is no time to stay stagnant, and shrink back as an able and called Christian community. The gospel is too good and our God is too great. “We must do all that we can to see an ever-increasing, Christ-exalting, Spirit-filled force of men and women pursuing the nations for the glory of his name. The entire reason for the existence of the International Mission Board, as they claim, is being able to partner with churches and empower the “limitless” missionary teams. They are trained to make disciples and build churches among the unreached people. (“Vision and Mission,” imb.org).
Partnering with different organizations in one example the Southern Baptist Convention for support, emotionally, spiritually, and financially, is a major part of the success that goes into successfully running the International Mission Board. These specific institutions work together for a greater purpose to further the Kingdom of God. And with a similar purpose and mission, the IMB and the SBC, (Southern Baptist Convention), find themselves partnering together over international waters to follow through on the greater picture. Specifically, The Cooperative Program aids ministries and other missions by cooperating with different state conventions. A portion of those funds is forwarded by state conventions to the national office of the Southern Baptist Convention. About 50 percent of all of the Cooperative Program contributions that are received on a national level are then directed to give further help for the work taking place through the International Mission Board. The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions supplies funds that surpass 50 percent of the overall work accomplished through IMB. Lottie Moon Offering, after a courageous Southern Baptist missionary who served in China at beginning of the 20th century, this specific offering is used solely to help provide everyday support for missionaries that are sent around the globe by their Southern Baptist churches through IMB (“Missions,” sbc.com). Southern Baptists determine the number of missionaries that are sent by their churches by the level of financial support they provide for them through the Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. These missionaries all proclaim the Gospel, start new churches through which new believers are baptized. They also disciple believers in their faith and provide Bible-centered teaching to current and future church leaders similar to the mission of the IMB (“International Missions,” sbc.com). A large part of international missions besides the mission in mind is the mission of action which is perhaps more important than anything else.
Many long-term missionaries who have answered the call to serve the Lord on the field are called out of short-term missions. It is in this exchange of getting out of comfort zones, so that God can often open the hearts and minds of other people. The world needs short-term teams to open minds and hearts to what He is doing and how his people can all be a part of that, whether they end up serving across the world or locally. Getting outside of a typical day mentality and trusting the Lord can be an unforgettable, life-changing event. Short-term mission trips should be considered as cultural exchanges, going as learners, anticipating God to show up in mighty ways, instead of as teams going out to “do something” for God or to make life better for people in another place. Short term missions are needed because God loves each of his children equally and wants the hearts of his followers to be broken for those who are hurting. He commands to make disciples of all nations and short-term experiences can create unique opportunities to begin to better know Him and his calling for each individual (“Effects of Short-Term Missions,” seedbed.com). However, although short-term missions do have many benefits, there are also questions as to the real necessity of the short-term missions across the globe. For example, there are many that might end up going on a short-term mission trip, but still don’t fully understand the real sacrifices of missions. Understandably, there is not enough time to fully be immersed in the culture such as having a language barrier and struggling to break it. Also, they have not had to leave their family and friends for more than a couple of weeks which does not fully show the dependence on God that long-term missionaries must have. An important part of missions is the fruit produced from the ones ministered to, but if the trip is not permanent, then the years of service without visible results is never experienced. Interestingly enough, many short-term missionaries visit with the idea that they can change the nation in the mere few weeks they serve. As written in 1 Corinthians 3:6-9; “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building”. Here Paul mentions that the growth is only done by God and that we are the medium through which God reaches the lost people. The importance of selflessness and humility when it comes to missions is pivotal to having a successful short trip. For example, when a team comes into a new place and fixes a roof and paints a house, but does not reach out to the community the purpose of sharing the gospel during the trip is lost. Furthermore, a team of self-absorbed individuals leaves little impact on the community as soon as they return home, (which in fact is not fulfilling the Great Commission given to the followers of Christ). Even with the proper heart attitude and goals, short-term missionaries have more limitations than long-term missionaries. Short-term missions may not necessarily provide the adequate time it takes to really learn the language and culture, build strong relationships, and make disciples, but God definitely uses both short- and long-term missionaries to make disciples of all nations. The heart of both kinds of missionaries is the most important. While the long-term missionaries certainly carry out the majority of missions work, short-term missions can aid the long-term missionaries in small but very impactful ways. Short-term missions is typically most effective under direction from long-term missionaries and the church. Although short-term missions do have some drawbacks, they can most certainly be overshadowed by wisdom, training, and heart (“Short Term Missions,” gotquestions.org). Since short and long-term missionaries both are vital for the growth of the Gospel, there are many that seek to become the missionaries to embark on a spiritual journey. However other than trusting in the Lord completely for finances, there must be earthly responsibility when it comes to providing for a family which is a big question for Christians seeking that experience. There are many people that seek to become missionaries and undergo the process to join the mission field. And although the desire among Christians is great there is an unavoidable aspect of providing for a family or having a stable income.
Full-time Christian missionaries typically fall into the religious workers’ category basically meaning religious workers that are not listed separately according to their registered organization. The average hourly wage for a missionary that is single, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is around $16.49 per hour, which comes out to around $34,300 per year. This overall salary comes from and is dependent upon whatever missions organization that the specific missionary is serving. The money received is intended to be utilized by the missionary and their family for the day-to-day living costs along with the advancement of their particular ministry. The second option for income of a full-time missionary is monetary allowances. There are several different reasons that one might receive a monetary allowance, these possibilities include: having children, retirement, and also having a disability. For the most part, these allowances are only granted based on the need by the actual sending organization and are then given to add on to a yearly salary. The third stream of income is known as sponsorship, which is the most familiar. Sponsorship usually happens when a missionary shares their vision with a community that the listening audience hopefully will be encouraged to give support to the missionary through finances and also with the power of prayer. The ultimate goal for a missionary in regards to sponsorship is to create a strong base of sponsors who will be able to support them in the ministry they have, and in addition, to provide for any of their physical needs. Sponsorship can mostly be organized through the missionary’s actual sending organization or through the missionary themselves. The fourth and final gain of income comes in the form of any physical benefits rather than just cash. Some of these benefits include health care, education, electronics, and transportation. These benefits can always be given to the missionary through their own sending organization or even anonymous donors. It is often very common for donors to decide to gift items to specific missionaries. (“How do Missionaries Make Money?,” bethanygu.edu).
In conclusion, although deciding to chase after God’s calling on your life as a full-time missionary is never an easy decision, choosing to give up all that the world has for you to pursue God’s Kingdom comes with a great eternal reward. With comfort Christ tells us; “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn, yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?” Luke 12:22-26. It is through God that we are cared for and held in His mighty hand. Mission work requires sacrifice but God is, in turn, faithful to those that are faithful to Him. God always does work for the good of those who love Him, and also will be most certainly faithful to provide every need anyone might have as said in Romans 8:28. Over the noise that the world creates about the problems with missions, the eternal reward of a lost soul being brought to everlasting life with Christ is worth the trouble in these days. Ultimately, the Christian body knows that God has each individual in the palm of His hand and will fully guide everyone on their path through the troubles of the earth no matter how deep or wide the struggle is, he plans and ordains each and every individual’s steps. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).