Perhaps the most important decision that will be made in the Southern Baptist Convention for years to come is the choice of the next president of the IMB. I say that, not because he will be so critical to the success of the IMB (generally speaking, we need less of man and more of God in our workings anyway), but because a poor choice would be disastrous for the convention.
So, here is my advice- offered freely, and worth about what you are paying- to the next IMB president.
I would like you to focus on 3 things and start one massive new project.
1. Focus on making the IMB effective. You should be a big picture guy. Help the organization reach the unreached and unengaged groups while mobilizing areas where the harvest is ripe. Keep our focus on disciple-making. Help us focus on starting churches that can be led by nationals. Draw our attention to evangelism that moves towards discipleship. You don’t have to be chase fads- we’d rather you not. But do consider innovations that will help us to be effective while staying true to biblical convictions and proven practices.
Don’t lose sight of the historic success of cooperative missions. It has been an awesome legacy and has much to offer. (If we go back to a societal approach, some bright young seminarian will one day say, “I’ve got an innovative new idea! Let’s do cooperative missions!” He will be heralded as a genius and someone will honor him with a haiku- and since I’m not a big haiku fan, let’s just keep the cooperative approach.)
At the same time, if we can have more direct involvement of churches supporting missionaries- let’s consider it. Maybe we can have some of the best of both worlds. Let’s encourage mission trips and direct involvement of our churches. Just don’t throw away cooperative missions, whatever you do.
2. Focus on making the IMB efficient. Work to make the IMB lean and mean. Okay, the mean part comes easily for us Baptists sometimes, but let’s make it lean. Fight for efficiency in the organization. Fight. Little old ladies give sacrificially to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. Be a careful steward. Every dollar wasted is a dollar that doesn’t impact lostness. Be a careful steward.
Efficiency doesn’t always mean frugality. I love the word “frugal”. Mom thinks it was the first word I said as an infant. :) But, don’t be penny wise and pound foolish. Spend money, but do so carefully, thoughtfully and strategically.
Help our missionaries to be efficient. Be careful about policies that make them think reports are the most important work they can do. Reports are certainly necessary to efficiency. But make reports meaningful if they are required. Please don’t require reports that aren’t read or meetings that aren’t well planned or training that isn’t top notch.
Would you encourage the SBC Executive Committee to reduce the number of IMB trustees to about 30? That alone would save an enormous amount of money for the field. And, I believe the trustee experience would be more meaningful and effective. There are something like 90ish trustees now. If each of them spoke for 3 minutes at a meeting, the meeting would be 41/2 hours long just from that. We can keep regional trustee representation as we have it now, but we should shoot for efficiency.
3. Focus on providing the IMB energy. Bring passion and enthusiasm to the job. Missionaries are great, but they can become discouraged. Keep them focused on the life-giving energy of time spent with the Lord in daily devotions. Remind them often of the joy of the Lord.
Bring energy for missions to our churches. While we need a good spanking on occasion, normally the best way to bring energy to our churches is to encourage them to be involved in God’s work through missions. All spankings with no encouragement tends to make resentful mission partners. Help them see God’s heart for the nations and His passion for people. Preach with passion. Teach with passion. Lead with passion. Drink from the water fountain with passion. (Just threw that last one in to see if you were still with me.)
As for the one new thing-
1. Begin a massive new IMB Endowment. I would like to see the IMB work towards a $20 billion dollar endowment. That is “billion” with a “b” as in “really, really big”.
That revenue stream would be a constant and would make a huge impact in our sending ability. It would be a buffer against the turmoils of the market. It would be a steady source in good or bad times.
Encourage every Southern Baptist to leave the IMB in their will. Thousands would respond to that plea. Thousands and thousands.
It can be done. Harvard has an endowment of over $30 billion. With all due respect to Harvard, our job is bigger and greater.
Blessings on the search committee. Seek the Lord and ask Him for wisdom. And, next president- whoever you are- I’m praying for you already.