The Southern Baptists have been in the wars lately. For the first time in their history, church membership is falling. Now the denomination’s mission arm, the International Mission Board (IMB) has announced 15% cuts to its overseas missions force due to a $21 million annual shortfall.
But let’s not be too harsh, the SBC is still planting more churches than it’s closing, and for decades the IMB has led the world in fueling movements that multiply disciples and churches.
Here’s a list of some of the leading practitioners, trainers, and authors in the field of multiplying movements — David Watson, Steve Smith, Bill Smith, Kevin Greeson, David Garrison, Bruce Carlton, Ying Kai, Curtis Sergeant, Neil Mims, Nathan Shank and Jeff Sundell.
They are all either current or former IMB staff.
Unfortunately for the IMB too many of these men are now former IMB staff. They now serve with other agencies. Perhaps even more will be caught up in the current attempt to reduce the number of IMB staff. If that happens the IMB is in real trouble.
Financial crunches will come and go. But any denomination that makes life hard for its best people is already in decline.
UPDATE: Steve Smith, David Garrison, Neil Mims, and Kevin Greeson have just announced their resignations. Of this list of outstanding pioneers of movements that multiply disciples and churches, only Nathan Shank remains as a serving IMB missionary. Other leading practitioners like Mike Shipman and Jared Houk remain, (along with others I've not met personally).
The kingdom will not suffer. The ministries of those who have left the IMB will continue under different arrangements. But the IMB must face the root causes of their departures. This is a trend over a number of years, and it should worry any mission agency committed to movements that multiply disciples and churches.
CORRECTION: Jay Pratt has already left the IMB.