Southern Baptists Will Cut 600 to 800 Missionaries and Staff

Two months after promoting plans to send out “limitless” numbers of missionaries, the International Mission Board (IMB) of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) faces a financial crisis.

IMB president David Platt announced Thursday that the agency needs to cut at least 600 missionaries and staff in order to balance its budget. Those cuts are needed to make up for a $21 million deficit for 2015.

The first of the cuts will come from voluntary retirements, followed by a restructuring. Overall, the IMB could release as many as 800 employees, according to an FAQ posted on the IMB’s website.

Sometimes we Catholics think we’re the only Church with problems, but the so-called main line protestant churches are losing an extraordinary number of members. I read that the Evangelicals (and Mormons) are increasing in membership, picking up many of those leaving the other denominations.

I think we can assume that most of the missions are in Catholic countries and I can’t feel too sad that they are understaffed. :wink:

Pray for our Christian brothers and sisters that the Holy Spirit assist them into bringing people into the faith of God. :gopray:

This is a sad statement. If you actually read anything by David Platt, you would know that his goal in taking over the IMB is to bring the Gospel to those who have never heard of Christ.

Amen–spoken like a true follower of Christ.

I think we should pray for the Southern Baptists. Many other Protestant communions, including many Baptist conventions, have abandoned historic Christian and Baptist teaching on issues like abortion and marriage. They have stood fairly firm on those and other issues, to the extent many congregations left, and individuals have left SBC churches. Their most prominent member, former President Carter, became a secular hero when he left the SBC and supported abortion. The fact that someone like Carter felt the need to leave the SBC says good things about the SBC. I cringe at similar politicians who are comfortable in our own Church.

I am sure there have been incidents of “sheepstealing”, but nowadays there are millions of people who have barely heard the gospel even in former Catholic countries.

I think the non-denominational churches are what’s really hurting the SBC. At least around here, they are basically identical in theology and practice, but they don’t send any money to the SBC. Comedian Tim Hawkins once called non-denoms “Baptists with a cool website”. It’s tragic because 600 to 800 missionaries could reach a lot of people.

Around here, also. The non denoms tend to be somewhat consumer-driven. They provide what many people want, within a very minimal doctrinal framework. The call to conversion, whether it be Baptist or Catholic, makes being Christian difficult at times. The non denoms don’t have it. They talk about transformation, in the vague sense of makeover, to be a more fulfilled person the way you want to be. Not much talk about repentance, our personal sins, or Hell.

Southern Baptists talk about sin, dying to self, and being born again.

But aren’t Southern Baptists Evangelical Christians by most definitions?

They are. Their numbers are falling, but “Evangelicals” as a whole are growing. Many former Southern Baptists and people who would have become Southern Baptists are now attending what are essentially Southern Baptist churches that do not belong to a denomination.

Baptists technically don’t have “denominations”. An individual can join the Catholic Church, the United Methodist Church, or TEC. But a Baptist individual really only “belongs” to his or her congregation. The congregation chooses to affiliate with the Southern Baptist Convention, one of the other Baptist conventions, or no convention. A convention is a free association of autonomous congregations that, for the moment, happen to be in fellowship.

A “convention” may produce Sunday School materials, endorse seminaries, or sponsor missionaries. Congregations can, and do, leave or join the Southern Baptist and other conventions, or go independent if they choose. I suspect secular society exerts indirect pressure on Baptist conventions to either adopt more liberal doctrinal positions - some have now endorsed legal abortion, and gay “marriage” - or simply deemphasize doctrine, as non denominationals do.

Either of these trends would tempt congregations to pull out of conventions that send out missionaries, since missionaries need a fixed doctrinal framework. If congregations are sliding towards liberal or lite doctrine, one way to save money is to pull out of SBC. There is no fixed boundary line here, a congregation can still advertise as Baptist even though it is essentially non denominational. The problem for Baptists is that the crucial element - freedom from man-made tradition and hierarchy - can be stretched much farther than the founders intended.

Let’s hope the SBC holds the line and lets congregations leave, rather than chase the trends.

Thanks for answering my exact question. I was wondering if for the SBC if the loss in members was more the result of congregations leaving due to the loose affiliation they share rather than individuals as it tends to be for the RCC and mainline protestants which have always been more hierarchical.

I don’t think the decline is mainly due to churches leaving the convention. I read somewhere that there are now more SBC churches in the US than ever before. I believe the major source for the decline is a decline in making new converts. One in four SBC churches reported that they baptized zero converts in 2012.

(And before someone remarks that “Baptists believe baptism is symbolic so they don’t emphasize it” to explain the lack of baptisms, Southern Baptists do indeed stress the importance of water baptism, especially when counting church membership.)

Baptists and other Evangelicals do a LOT of church planting. I think that may account for why there are more SBC churches than ever before. Plus, it is expected that there would be more to account for a growing population. The question being, are they actually keeping up with population growth?

New church plants are often born out of existing churches. They’ll take a number of core members from the existing church and try to grow in the new church. Success in making new disciples is a lot harder than bringing in members from other area churches that are looking for something new. There is a LOT of church hopping in Baptist/Evangelical churches.

This was a sad read for me, as my Dad and Mom were Southern Baptist missionaries to Honduras for thirty years. I was just speaking to someone last week about how well Southern Baptist take care of their foreign missionaries. I can only imagine all the reasons that the IMB is now spending more money than it is receiving from the cooperative program and Lottie Moon offerings.
I will not give my opinion as to cause, but I post to say how sorry I am to hear that this is happening.

In His service,


I believe one of the explanations is fewer SBC churches are contributing to SBC programs. Either churches prefer to contribute to non-SBC missionary programs (because maybe these churches have more affinity with these non-denominational outfits or maybe they think they are more effective) or they choose to invest most of their money in their own local church due to an overall decline in giving brought on by slow economic growth. :shrug:

I think all churches, evangelical, liberal Protestant, Catholic, tend to de emphasize the importance of salvation. When I grew up there was an urgency to send missionaries to places where people had never heard the gospel, or needed to help develop local churches for very new Christians. Today, Christians in the West are rightly sympathetic, as always, to the plight of persons in other places affected by war or poverty; but we are less concerned over whether they hear the gospel.

People see the church down the road offering more recreation programs, with a nicer building, “why can’t we do more stuff like that?”. It’s much harder for us, now, to “see” the need to spread opportunity for salvation or growth in holiness in distant places (or even our own town).

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