Recent news from the International Mission Board was shocking to many. The IMB has limited the number of missionaries it will appoint in 2009. Last year more than 1,000 were newly appointed. A significant part of that number was non-career serving on two-year assignment. Nonetheless, any of us who love Christ and desire that all people in every nation hear the Gospel received this news with broken hearts.
This, coupled with the call by Johnny Hunt and Danny Akin for a Great Commission Resurgence, has set off a cacophony of cries for drastic measures to ensure all missionaries can and will be appointed. This is no doubt a good time for Southern Baptists to re-evaluate everything we do in light of the lostness of our state, nation and world. The re-examination must begin on a personal level and then make its way through the church, association and state and national conventions.
Much of the talk is about re-dividing the pie or resources now available. Some have suggested drastic cuts in ministry locally and nationally to push more money overseas. I suggest examining everything we do and searching for efficiencies should be a priority. I can tell you that it is a regular and ongoing process at our state offices. But redirecting the resources we now have will not provide the dollars necessary to fulfill the Great Commission from the door of the church to the ends of the earth. No, it will take something more direct.
I would propose that as we carry out the arduous job of evaluation we also discuss the expanding of the pie. This will require believers to look deep within their hearts and analyze their financial obedience. Are we willing to tithe and give beyond the tithe so that people everywhere may hear the Good News? It is easy to blame the church or convention for not handling the dollars effectively—and when they don’t it should be dealt with swiftly. But it is more difficult to lay every dollar of our own resources before God and ask, “What does He want from me?”
I have heard it said many times—if all our active church members were tithers the local church and all other ministries would be adequately funded. We usually brush off those words because we realize that not all members of the church are saved and many are living in carnality. Such members do not usually see tithing as an “ought” in their lives. But I would propose that if every pastor, staff member, deacon, and Sunday School teacher would tithe, the church and extended ministries would have abundant resources.
Churches must examine their faithfulness to give beyond themselves. I am so proud of Oklahoma Baptists. Our churches give nearly 9.4 percent through the Cooperative Program according to those reporting on the Annual Church Profile. This is just over 3 percentage points beyond the national level of 6.24 percent. But when serious examination begins, all of us must ask the question, “Are we doing enough?” I would propose that national leaders should examine their own commitment to Cooperative Program giving.
State conventions have responsibility to give generously beyond themselves. Among old line states with multiple institutions, Oklahoma is again one of the leading state conventions in the amount we send beyond our borders (40 percent). Can we do more? We have. Some years we have given 50 percent of all dollars over our budget to national and international causes. We will join in the re-examination of our work and make every effort to mine efficiencies that will allow us to push more toward the nation and world.
The national convention ministries must be analyzed to make sure they are not duplicating efforts accomplished by the state conventions and associations.
It is examination time. That is not a bad thing if the examination is performed by people who understand and respect every level of our work as Southern Baptists and who have no agenda other than to win the world to Christ. Otherwise, the baby will be thrown out with the wash. This is the time for the men of Issachar to arise.