Jerry Rankin, one of my heroes, describes one of the difficult things about managing Southern Baptist mission endeavors:
As president of the IMB, I am the one who receives letters from churches who give faithfully to the Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and are angry when we don’t automatically send out anyone from their fellowship who wants to go as a missionary.
He articulates the problem far better that I can:
With limited personnel, it is more important than ever that those being approved for appointment with the IMB be assigned to the most strategic locations and roles. We would not get very far in fulfilling the Great Commission for everyone to go wherever they wanted, doing what was right in their own eyes. We would readily affirm those who want to work in orphanages, teach school or pastor an English language church overseas. These and many other roles are valid callings, but do not fit the priorities of IMB ministry assignments.Our International Mission Board is a huge, sprawling, sometimes lumbering, sometimes frustrating organization. The IMB trustees (all 96 of them, a staggering number with attendant staggering expenses for upkeep) generally do well but occasionally have me scratching my head.
That is not to judge one’s personal conviction of God’s leadership and say any role that is reaching the lost and ministering in the name of Jesus is inappropriate. The IMB is not the exclusive channel through which God is working, and we are certainly not in competition with anyone working in other ways. But there are many who have already made up their minds where they want to serve and what they want to do, and are just looking for the IMB to provide their support.
I can only hope and pray that the next IMB leader, the one who replaces Rankin, is as resolute and committed to the task of reaching the nations and is as steadfast in managing our mission dollars so that we continue to fund the most strategic locations and roles.