Budget woes on mission field

The IMB has cut 15 percent of its workforce this year due to $21 million deficit

The International Mission Board (IMB) has begun cutting back on funding for its missionaries. As a result, several hundred missionaries are being offered early retirement and asked to voluntarily return to the U.S.

GLOBAL GOAL — Recall of missionaries impacts the spreading of the gospel. Google Images

GLOBAL GOAL — Recall of missionaries impacts the spreading of the gospel. Google Images

According to IMB president David Platt, the IMB has spent $210 million more than it has taken in over the past six years. In an official announcement Aug. 27, Platt said the mission organization will be releasing as many as 800 employees.

The IMB is an entity of the Southern Baptist Convention that partners with churches to send missionaries all over the world. Platt explained in an open letter the reasons for the drastic cuts, shared how difficult the decision was to make, and announced his plans for changing how the IMB does business.

“For many of you, they are your family, friends, and fellow church members,” Platt said. “They are brothers and sisters whom I love, and brothers and sisters whom I want to serve and support.”

As a member of the Christian faith, I find it disturbing that an important contributor to missions around the world cannot keep up with financial demands. The church, at least in part, is responsible for helping the IMB, and other organizations like it, to stay afloat in a tough economy.

Once the recession made an impact on many members of the church, the first expenditures to be cancelled were donations to non-profits like the IMB. Because of this, they have struggled to meet their financial needs.

During the past year, as the economy has regained some of its ground, the IMB has seen more donations come through its door. However, they still did not meet their annual fundraising goal of $175 million, according to Tamara Audi of the Wall Street Journal.

“The mission board began reducing its numbers through attrition and cut back on the number of new missionaries it sent,” Audi said. “It tapped reserve funds and sold property, but that wasn’t enough to bring the budget into line and stabilize its finances for the long term.”

The IMB is a 170-year-old organization that has existed to bring the gospel to the unreached. However, if Christians continue to withhold their donations, the IMB will continue to be forced to cut back on its staff.

As believers, we should always be willing to support missionaries. Our tithes and our donations are what are used to reach so many people that have yet to hear the good news of Jesus. If we cannot give our time or our resources to missions, the unreached may never hear the gospel.

It is up to every believer to continue to give generously in order to see mission organizations succeed in the field. Platt said he is encouraged by the support he has received from churches and is assured the IMB can continue to work with what it has been given.

“To be sure, IMB is committed to operating within our means in the days ahead, yet we are praying that those means might increase so that we can stop pulling missionaries off of the field and start sending multitudes onto the field,” Platt wrote. “Indeed, the field is ripe for harvest, and the time is now to take the gospel to those who have never heard it.”

YOUNG is an opinion writer.

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