Is There A Better Strategy To Reach the World?

February 11, 2016

Dr. Ron Herrod | Founder & President
R.H.E.M.A. International

*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.

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Jon Estes

Thank you for the article.

I appreciate our present IMB leadership and pray and hope they can discern what to do. There is no easy answer, except for God’s people to get back to reaching the world as the Bible teaches too. I do not know if there are enough SBC people who live internationally and work a job outside of ministry who will have enough time to make the impact needed.I do not know if there are that many who have the time to be trained before shipping out or being trained while there now.

I personally think we made a misstep when we handed over to the nationals the seminaries and hospitals we owned and operated. The one example I would reference is the school we as SB’s stgarted in 1966 in Ogbomosho, Nigeria. In the late 90’s I lived inNigeria and traveled to the school and hospital to visit the SBC missionaries who were serving there. In my most recent travels, I went back to the seminary to meet the President (who was on his way out) and hoped to meet the incoming President (not able to). I was broken hearted by the condition of the school property especially the small burial area of some of our missionaries who gave their ministry lives to the work in Ogbomosho. I have been told the new President has cleaned up the campus and has demanded (and I am glad he has) that the school preswent itself in the best possible way for God’s glory. Google maps shows a much cleaner campus. PTL.

A question I think needs to be asked and answered honestly and the respone dealt with appropraitely is… Do we as Southern Baptist really want to reach our world on our watch? If the answer is yes, then we need to say – prove it and lets do it.

Scott Shaver

It’s hard for me to read Ron Herrod talking about the need for SBC/IMB strategy change at this point in time and take him seriously.

He was among those supporting the CR back in the day (FBC Kenner). In my book, Ron got his changes and they haven’t worked out that well.

    Rick Patrick

    Scott,
    In the words of Ronald Reagan, “There you go again.” Every single Southern Baptist issue does not have its genesis in the Conservative Resurgence…or in the Calvinist Takeover, for that matter, as some might accuse me of being focused too supremely upon that more recent conflict.

    We are discussing whether or not we (a) continue to send our missionaries to reach people groups in the current manner, or (b) begin sending our missionaries only to train the national pastors to reach the people groups directly.

    It seems to me that this shift in missionary strategy has absolutely nothing to do with inerrancy or reformed theology. Moderates, Traditionalists and Calvinists alike could prayerfully choose between the two strategies above.

      Scott Shaver

      Respectfully Rick:

      In the words of Donald Trump….”What the hell are they doing?”

      I realize that not every single CURRENT SBC issue has it’s geneis in the CR. My point had more to do with not being able to take seriously guys/gals who insisted on the class and categories of change which, IMO, have led to some of your current “issues”.

        volfan007

        Scott,

        If the CR had not happened, then we’d be dealing with other issues….worse issues. We would be dealing with Seminary Profs, who denied the virgin birth of Jesus. We’d be dealing with Seminary Profs, who thought it crass to believe in the physical resurrection of Jesus from the dead. We’d probably be dealing with Seminary Profs and Entity Leaders and Workers, who believed that abortion was okay. We’d be dealing with Seminary Profs, Entity workers, Pastors, and Churches, which believed that homosexuality was okay. And, the list goes on and on and on….. It would’ve been a lot, lot, lot worse, than just dealing with Calvinism takeover, or IMB financial woes.

        Thank God for the CR!!!!

        David

          Scott Shaver

          David:

          In reality you can define one specific issue we would be dealing with now “had CR not occurred” because any such “plus” would be based on pure biased speculation regarding something that never happened (i.e. no CR).

          You keep throwing up this straw man in response to my comments. This is the last answer I’ll give for it.

            Scott Shaver

            I would add David that it’s getting harder and harder within the SBC to distinguish the “liberalism” of CBF etc to the “liberalism” of the new SBC (homsexuality, infant baptists, covenant baptisms, anti-law enforcement etc)…you name it.

            Not looking real “reformed” and “improved” over previous version at this stage of the game. In fact…looks further developed along “undesirable” lines.

          norm

          So right, David. The theological heresies you cite as being worse issues if the CR had not happened were the very reasons the CR did happen. Theological heresy of the worst sort is a matter of historical documentation. But much worse in another way: I met a security guard from SBTS a few years ago who was a student when homosexuality at SBTS was prevalent and there was overt support of it. He had to leave the school because the overnight noises in the men’s dorms were too perverse for him to tolerate.
          Going back to Elliott’s commentary on Genesis from the early ’60s shows the detestable longevity of theological drift. As a matter of record, there are scores of testimonies from former SBTS students who said their faith was destroyed by those profs who subscribed to JEDP and other heresies as you have cited.
          Any who would downplay the need for the CR is either willfully ignorant or simply stubborn to make an ancillary point — or is just a whining naysayer whose vain arguments deserve no response.

            Les

            Norm, you are exactly right…not that you need my voice added to yours. I was around for the early part of the CR. I had a professor at NOBTS who denied the miracles in the bible and tried to explain them away. JEDP wasn’t just examined and found wanting, it was promoted as truth.

            Most people in evangelical circles paying attention acknowledge that the conservatives saved the SBC (by God’s grace) from heading the way of the UMC and the PCUSA. I know I’m thankful for the CR. It has been very good for SB and for Christianity in the world.

            Maybe these critics of the CR would feel more at home in CBF circles.

              Scott Shaver

              Les adding credibility to the CR from a Presbyterian perspective should carry the day….LOL.

              Les

              Scott,

              “adding credibility to the CR from a Presbyterian perspective should carry the day”

              Yeah, it’s a risk of ridicule for sure. But I was saved thru the ministry of a SB church back in 1983 and immersed a 2nd time and attended NOBTS, ultimately graduating from MABTS in Memphis. I went to several of those big annual meetings and saw some of what was going on. I’m no expert for sure. But my experience and the testimony of many others convinces me that the conservatives saved the convention.

                Scott Shaver

                Was at a few of those annual meetings myself Les. Were you one of the young messengers at the 89 convention in New Orleans wearing the personal name tags with FUNDAMENTALIST in bold print? Saw a lot of that.

                Les

                Scott,

                “Were you one of the young messengers at the 89 convention in New Orleans wearing the personal name tags with FUNDAMENTALIST in bold print?”

                Let’s see, in June of 89 I was 32, so I was “younger.” But no, I wasn’t there. Had I been there I would not have been wearing a name tag with FUNDAMENTALIST on it.

            Scott Shaver

            Pure speculation Norm. Same speculation the thugs used to justify it with in the beginning….the threat of something that never happened as it was exchanged for something much worse. Some kind of Christian leadership that squanders both funds and people in the name of Christ.

            Scott Shaver

            Elliott’s commentary on Genesis was and still is one of the jewels of SBC scholarship….whether or not some SBCers want to recognize. I recommend it all the time.

            Proof of its value is in the fact that SBC morons wanted it burned. :)

            Too bad it scares you Norm. Otherwise you might find it highly beneficial.

            Scott Shaver

            Can “genuine” Christian “faith” be destroyed by the reasonings of man, or is there a question of whether the “faith” was genuine from the first?

          Lydia

          Al Mohler stated publicly that “we” have lied about homosexuality. It barely got a raised eyebrow from his well heeled peers in the SBC.

          Scott Shaver

          Could be wrong David, but looks to me like you’ve got more sbc pastors, professors and churches flirting with and giving moral quarter to homosexuality etc now than prior to CR. Even after you’ve kicked out all the “skunks”.

          Scott Shaver

          Don’t blame God for something he didn’t initiate (CR).

          That credit would have to go the devil and his also-rans.

      Max

      “Every single Southern Baptist issue does not have its genesis in the Conservative Resurgence …”

      If the resurgence was really only about “conservative”, millions of Southern Baptists would shout Amen to that. Lord knows the SBC has always had issues to deal with. However, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that the Conservative Resurgence has merged into a Calvinist Resurgence – a goal of some of the CR architects. And that shift in belief and practice will define SBC strategies for reaching the world going forth.

Tom

I am not confident in the IMB leadership. IMO we never should have had to reduce our missionary numbers. How do you overspend the budget my millions and no one sound the alarms? The people in the pews can not be blamed–they have been giving and many sacrificially.

    Max

    “The people in the pews can not be blamed–they have been giving and many sacrificially.”

    While the pew was sacrificially-giving in a poor economy, past IMB leadership was deficit-spending to budgets more than those sacrifices were coming in. How else was this going to turn out?! And the pew didn’t have a clue about years of financial blunders until missionaries were forced to come home … and then they got blamed for poor giving! When you hold your hand to point a finger, you find that most fingers are pointing back at you.

David Lawson

Dr. Herrod I could not agree with you more.
I heard the gospel and came to know Jesus in a SBC church. I attended SBTS, and pastured an SBC church. I have always been in a cooperating SBC church.
That said, I have spent the last six years with an independent mission organization, Hope and Help International, training church planters in Southern Asia. Equipping the nationals to do the work of the ministry is the most effective way at to reach the lost. In India alone there are over 2000 unreached people groups. we will never reach them at the pace required to put an American on the field. For 100k we can reach hundreds of villages with the gospel.
Unless the IMB begins to work with and support the national church planters God is raising up they will find themselves increasingly isolated and ineffective.
Thank you for a well written, impassioned plea for change.
David Lawson

norm

“Southern Baptists will respond with increased Lottie Moon giving and our state conventions will send more to the IMB.”

I seriously doubt this, Ron. Current leaders spent the IMB into $210 million worth of oblivion. And they punished other employees instead owning their financial travesty and exemplifying the integrity to resign. If the IMB wants to earn back the trust of 1000s of Southern Baptists, then those who squandered millions must go. It is beyond unconscionable that those who lost 1/5 of a billion dollars still have their jobs. If Southern Baptists increase their giving to the IMB, it will be throwing good money after bad with no guarantee that the good money will not turn bad.

Tell me, Ron: If you gave a financial investor $100K and he/she lost it all, would you be inclined to invest anymore with that person?

Tom

Norm said:”It is beyond unconscionable that those who lost 1/5 of a billion dollars still have their jobs. If Southern Baptists increase their giving to the IMB, it will be throwing good money after bad with no guarantee that the good money will not turn bad.”

Why do those that overspent these monies still have their jobs? This is a very big deal! But the story is covered up to us pew sitters. Where is the transparency these leaders would call for from others?

    Scott Shaver

    Hear ya Tom. Sad fact of the matter is “pew sitters” have not had any weight or voice since they were recruited by young pastors and brought in by caravans of buses to the highest attended Southern Baptist Convention ever recorded. That was a long time ago my friend.

    If you haven’t had transparency since that time, do you expect such 20-30 years post mortem? Millions of dollars (six years worth) of deficit spending should be a clue.

    Lydia has referred often to the “Lock-Box”. Nobody seems willing to pursue the unlocking.

    Boils down individually to the choice of which waters one feels compelled to cast his bread upon for “Southern Baptists”.

Tom

Norm, you said”Any who would downplay the need for the CR is either willfully ignorant or simply stubborn to make an ancillary point — or is just a whining naysayer whose vain arguments deserve no response.”

I can assure you I am not willfully ignorant or stubborn to make an ancillary point. The CR ruined the SBC–lives were destroyed and women made second class citizens. But if you and the others that supported the CR want to ignore all destruction done and the destruction that continues to occur in the SBC on “your watch-continue on, but it will never change the facts. You can say you all won-but won what?

    Scott Shaver

    Hey Tom:

    For “vain arguments that deserve no response”, they sure keep firing the responses back, huh?

volfan007

I was there….in the CR. I remember what was happening, and what was going on. It wasn’t good. The SBC was heading the way of the United Methodist and Presbyterian USA. And, if we would’ve continued down that liberal, spiritually dead path, then we would be dying as bad as the Methodist and the Presbyterian denominations are dying. The Church I pastor is full of former Methodists and Presbyterians. In fact, I used to be a Methodist, but the last two Pastors we had denied the miracles of the Bible; said it didn’t matter whether someone believed in the virgin birth of Christ; and made fun of my Mother for believing in the trustworthiness of the Bible. We left that dead Church, and went to a Church that had a Pastor, who preached the Gospel and taught the Bible. We went to Bellevue Baptist Church, and we were blessed by the ministry of Dr. Adrian Rogers.
So, Scott, don’t try to tell us that monsters weren’t real. Those of us, who lived back in the day, know better. We heard them. We read their books. We know that there were false teachers and heretics amongst us…too many of them. We had Profs calling God, our mother. We had Profs saying that everyone is saved….universalism. We had Profs saying that it’s crass to believe in the physical resurrection of Jesus. We had Profs, who believed the JEDP theory, and they taught it as truth. We had SB leaders, who believed in abortion. Scott, I was there. I got in, on the tale end of the CR, but I was there.
So, again, thank God for the CR! And, I’m glad we’re dealing with the issues that we’re dealing with, rather than dealing with the things that we were dealing with in the CR days; or worse, what it would’ve been if the CR had not happened. In fact, I would’ve left the SBC if things didn’t change.

David

    Scott Shaver

    David:

    If, as you say, the SBC was heading the way of “……Prebyterians USA”, I’d say you’re moving faster and closer to Presbyterian now than before the event in question (which we will not mention :). How did the event-in-question, therefore, stop/assuage/prevent any of the “liberal” induced bleeding?

      Scott Shaver

      I was there too, David, and saw the chicanery in all its smoke-filled glory (or should the word be gore?)

      volfan007

      It’s not liberalism, false teaching, and heresy that we’re dealing with, today, but rather finer points of theology and practice. Thank God!

        Scott Shaver

        David, if all ends up at the same place in terms of reality, ideology and practice……what’s the difference?

        Thank God, as individuals we don’t have to play the game.

    Les

    Scott,

    I certainly cannot speak for David. But I conjecture a guess that if for some bizarre reason a conservative Southern Baptist had to abandon the SB ship, he would in no way, ever move to the Presbyterian USA. They can hardly be called a true church. But I suspect given only an option to join some Presbys, they would join many other conservative former SB who have joined up with the PCA, a conservative Presbyterian church with much in common with SB. And I dispute the silliness that the SBC is moving faster and closer to Presbyterianism.

      Scott Shaver

      Les: “And I dispute the silliness that the SBC is moving faster and closer to Presbyterianism.”

      Dispute all you want Les. Doesn’t change the fact that Louisville residents refer to SBTS as “the Presbyterian” seminary for that area.

      Convince them, not me.

      Scott Shaver

      PUSA/PCA….six of one, half-dozen of the other.

      Les

      Scott, now you’re really displaying your ignorance.

        Scott Shaver

        Les:

        If that’s really where you want to go I’d rather be “ignorant” than stupid.

Tom

Scott:

You said:”Hey Tom:For “vain arguments that deserve no response”, they sure keep firing the responses back, huh?
They must feel guilty about their participation in the Great Takeover of the SBC. Many of these CR guys never supported the SBC financially and after they unfairly removed and replaced them with their guys they gladly took over what IMO is in essence stealing what others had supported for decades.

    Scott Shaver

    Bet you a five-spot, Tom, that part of the story isn’t in their glorified and revised histories.

      Scott Shaver

      Wasn’t Adrian Rogers withholding funds and threatening to leave the SBC about that time, Tom?

      Isn’t that about the time Gray Allison et al started Mid-America Seminary?

Gerry Milligan

It would be so nice to be able to go through a posting and not hearing the same old stuff about CR or Calvinism…why can educated people not stay on topic?
Now, to the posting, I agree with Dr. Herrod and Jon Estes. First, there was a problem in turning so many productive ministries over to National Baptists. Too often all of the work accomplished was almost immediately undone. I speak specifically of Gaza Baptist Hospital and Ajloun Baptist hospitals. In almost no time both of these institutions reverted to poor excuses for hospitals. The same with many Baptist schools around the world. Another problem was when the IMB said that it would no longer send missionaries to pastor churches. How many opportunities to lead a congregation to be soul winners of those people with whom they worked, and lived?
A national has a much greater influence on other nationals than does a foreigner…why is the IMB not making it easier to use them?

    Scott Shaver

    Why can “educated” people not discuss what comes up as long as it’s relevant or related to the “topic”?
    I can understand the desire of some not to want to have to deal with any correlated topics on recent SBC history. That is not, however, an “honest” approach….IMO.

    Do those commenting need to show preference to the “educated” (term begging definition by the way) on these matters?

    What say ye?

Bill Mac

I hate to interrupt the CR discussion but….

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.

For a long time this has seemed to be the only strategy that makes sense. Well done and thanks for your service.

    Scott Shaver

    Bill Mac:

    From your perspective, define “NEW TESTAMENT”.

    Let’s see how much discord and variety of biblical opinion/perspective/dogma we can stir up with that one. :0

Tom

Bill Mac:

Are you ok with the IMB overspending their budget by 210 million dollars? Something has to have these spenders believe they could spend this money–not their money without any consequences. IMO these people should be fired or criminally prosecuted or both. What say you?

    Bill Mac

    Are you ok with the IMB overspending their budget by 210 million dollars?
    Is this a trick question? No, I’m not OK with this.
    IMO these people should be fired or criminally prosecuted or both. What say you?
    I’m afraid I don’t know who the personnel at the IMB are other than Platt and he wasn’t responsible for the overspending as far as I know. If there are people responsible for the years of deficit spending still at the IMB, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them fired, but I won’t be baying for their blood. Criminal prosecution? Can you tell me what laws have been broken? No, I didn’t think so.

    Now that that is out of the way, what does any of that have to do with agreeing with the author that equipping native Christians to do missions work is the best strategy?

      Scott Shaver

      Bill Mac: “what does any of that have to do with agreeing with the author that equipping native Christians to do mission works is the best stragegy.”

      Don’t know about other comments on this thread, but mine had nothing to with either the viability or liabilities of “equipping native Christians to do missions”.

      My comment had to do with taking advice about “the best course” of action from people who’ve already demonstrated their ineptitude for choosing or delineating “strategies”.

Tom

Bill:

I will bet you and I do not bet not a single person will be fired over the 210 million dollars overspending. Would you and others have tolerated this and not bayed for blood if this had occurred before the TAKEOVER.

Let’s see we call home 600 to 800 missionaries and now we are talking about a better strategy–can you not see the irony?

BTW how old are you?

    Gerry Milligan

    Tom, why would the leaders who allowed such a financial disaster to happen be brought to any sort of justice when those same leaders allowed a million dollar embezzlement to occur on their watch?

    Bill Mac

    Well, I’m no expert but it seems to me that massive overspending and as a result, having to bring hundreds of missionaries home is not a good strategy. So the “irony” of discussing a better strategy is lost on me. It only seems polite that one or two people actually engage the author of this post on his ideas.

      Scott Shaver

      “It only seems polite”……..

      Spoken like a true “toast master” Bill Mac. Your superior faith and intellect always comes shining through the darkness huh?

Tom

Gerry: You said: “Tom, why would the leaders who allowed such a financial disaster to happen be brought to any sort of justice when those same leaders allowed a million dollar embezzlement to occur on their watch?”

Bingo-you get the prize! It is all about the same leaders who look the other way when any of them do anything wrong. It is beyond pitiful and the SBC leaders can not figure out why the SBC is dying a very quick death. No mission strategy is going to work IMO.

Strider

Hmmm…. this is a strange place, I have not been to this site in a long time. A great article on missiology was published and the comment stream has decided to rehash the CR and talk about prosecuting people they don’t know for reasons they don’t understand. Wow.
Here is the deal. Many of us in the IMB have been doing what this article describes for a long time. I love discipling national church planters, it is a joy and it is very biblical. I think that this strategy should be much more promoted and implemented in our organization and I have advocated for such.
As for why we went so far into the red that is a sad story. Uncle Jerry had a vision for 8000 missionaries to reach the last of the unreached. He was passionate and he believed that if he did not back down it would be an act of faith. By faith he kept the appointment process moving even when we could no longer afford it. He did not want to advertise our shortfalls because he wanted to get SB’s excited about what he called the Task. I believe his vision was wrong because it made reaching the lost all about US. The above article puts us in our proper place as servants in a much greater story of what He is doing in the world today. Full time overseas personnel are called by God to be where He sends them for the purpose of making disciples. I think David Platt will put us on this course. This is a Gideon moment and I am praying for an even greater victory.

Lydia

“I think David Platt will put us on this course. This is a Gideon moment and I am praying for an even greater victory.”

I find that naive considering Platt only learned the “beauty of the CP” when he was appointed.to the radical 6 figure job. And allowed himself to be presented as if he was in a dangerous mission field in an ,”undisclosed ” location at the Dubai Marriott. I am shocked he has any credibility considering the event was promoted in Duba and thwre was never any danger accordinf to american ex pats living there. He was trying to fool people in the States. Not well done. Where is character and integrity?

The guru worship needs to stop. You end up overlooking serious character problems.

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