*Dr. Herrod is former SBC Vice President and former President of Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists
For more information about R.H.E.M.A. and Dr. Harrod click HERE.
All of us as Southern Baptists are saddened over the necessity of bringing back home so many of our missionary families due to financial shortfalls. I have just returned from some meetings in Richmond where I witnessed the pain that many are experiencing.
One of the statistics that I learned in these meetings is that the average tenure of our appointed career missionaries is 8 years. With family time, medical situations, language training, orientation, furloughs, conferences and other stateside time, the actual ministry time averages less than 4 years. As we transition out our older missionaries, the average will decrease over the next few years. Most of our new appointees have children on the field which increases costs.
With the growing cost of sending and maintaining our missionary force, we face an enormous challenge. The average cost per missionary couple or family in 2014 was over $100,000 not including traveling to conferences and personnel necessary to assist and undergird their ministry. So the cost of the actual 4 years of ministry will approach $1M. So Baptists should not be surprised at the necessity of reducing our missionary force. Southern Baptists will respond with increased Lottie Moon giving and our state conventions will send more to the IMB. This will not be enough to impact 7 billion plus souls on planet earth with our current missions strategy.
Our small ministry is involved in a strategy that is working. We have trained (a 2 year course in 10 weeks) and graduated more than 6000 national church planters, missionaries, evangelists and church leaders over the past 20 years. In 2016 we will graduate more than 300 additional church planters and leaders. They are the right color, right culture and speak the right language to reach their people when they are properly equipped to do it.
I am so thankful for the excellent help given us by IMB representatives in 3 of the 6 countries where we have provided these institutes. Now here is a bold statement. I am convinced the only reason to send American missionaries now is to equip the national to win the lost, disciple believers, and plant New Testament churches. This is the ONLY strategy that will enable us to fulfill the Great Commission in our generation.
We are now talking about sending out 100,000 new “missionaries.” Of course we are referring to people who are paid by their company but would work alongside our missionaries throughout the world and represent Southern Baptists. Can you imagine the task of administering such a group. Who will train them? How will they be accountable morally, spiritually, socially, and doctrinally? We must be careful.
If we do not quickly revise our strategy in order to train and equip an army of national leaders and support them as they plant indigenous churches, then we will continue to give more money and get less results. In our ministry we are able to train a man to plant a church and support him for a year in Asia for less than $3000. This man receives a 3 year course in ten weeks and is a part of a spiritual revolution. Those churches usually plant other churches. Check the Book of Acts and you will discover it is the the best church planting manual ever written.
As a pastor of growing churches for 36 years, I led our churches to give often record amounts to missions. Our family still generously supports the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. I love and respect our missionaries and pray fervently for God to give wisdom to our IMB leadership to make decisions that will enable us to engage every person on the planet with the Gospel.
Southern Baptists continue to invest more and more in a missions strategy that is producing less and less. That must change. May our leaders have the wisdom to discern the will of God and the courage to obey it.