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Monday, October 19, 2009

To the IMB --- It's Personal!

An article over on sbcIMPACT has got me to thinking about what is wrong with the IMB. Let me very quickly say that I believe that the IMB has in the past, and continues to this day, to do some outstanding work. Perhaps to the surprise of many of my readers, I am not against the work the IMB is doing… Anyway, this article caused me to stop and think about where the IMB is missing the boat, so to say, and how it might make positive improvements for the future. Below is the comment I posted over at SBCIMPACT.


I think one of the fundamental problems with the IMB is that our SBC Churches do not know our IMB missionaries. There have been some efforts in recent years to try and connect our missionaries with our Churches and they have failed miserably…

Our church supports two “Independent” missionaries that we both know and love. What has made the difference? We hear from them “directly” each and every month… and at least four or five times a year they pick up the phone and call me directly, and after catching up on what is going on in each others ministries we always wind up praying together over the phone… (I love these men). And usually they visit our church once a year, sometimes they cannot make it home every year but when they are stateside they come see us. I know that is a lot of personal
contact and it takes a lot of effort on their part, but in all honestly this is truly what has made the difference for us and it is what I see missing with the IMB.

I don’t care how much “junk” mail the IMB prints and sends to my church… no amount of this “professionally published” marketing literature they send will every take the place of just one hand written 3x5 post card from the mission field. And no DVD message from the IMB headquarters touting all the wonderful things the IMB is doing can ever replace having the phone ring and hearing the voice of a missionary on the other end say “I’m about to go into a new village this morning, Brother will you pray with me”.


Strange as it may sound… but in a very real way the IMB now finds itself in the position (unintended I am sure) of standing between the relationship of Churches and the Missionaries… Somehow this must be corrected.

Grace Always,

17 comments:

Brent Hobbs said...

This is exactly right. We very much need this kind of personal interaction with our missionaries. With modern communication abilities, there's no reason a church can't partner and interact with missionaries on the field.

Greg Alford said...

Brent,

I think our missionaries would find that support for what they are doing in the field would go through the roof if only they would directly engage the stateside pastors and churches.

Bob said...

Thanks for this brother. I am trying to get the same point across and it is coming across very slowly. We have a GREAT relationship with our independent guys. On top of that, the doubts concerning what gospel is being preached cause us to more and more want to know the missionaries we support personally.
thanks
bob Schembre

Greg Alford said...

Bob,

As Brent noted in his comment above, “With modern communication abilities, there's no reason a church can't partner and interact with missionaries on the field.”

We now have FaceBook, MySpace, Twitter, Instant Message, and email… So there is really no excuse for this lack of communication and partnership building between the missionaries and the churches, except for a SBC “Bureaucracy” that is afraid of loosing control. I hate to go all negative here, but sometimes I honestly think that the IMB/NAMB/SBC leaders are afraid of the churches, or they don’t think they can trust the churches to do the right thing. I honestly don’t know what it is???

One think I do know however is that it’s time for a change…

Greg Alford said...

Correction...

That should read: "One thing I do know..."

Anonymous said...

Pastor Greg,

I've tried contacting you using the information request page on your church website and the email address listed for you. Neither seems to work.

This has been a busy week of mission work in my area of the world. I got to meet with some of our personnel in Romania. Worship in Romania on Sunday was great. The preacher was a young man who is planning to start a new church in Bucharest. Myself and the local IMB team leader were able to discuss start up plans. This relationship has been long-term and just now the fire to begin a new work is igniting. Got home late Wednesday and then spent Thursday going over budget proposals. Today I'm catching up on email after being gone from Kiev the first part of the week.

Pray for a meeting taking place this weekend. Baptist Youth Leaders are meeting over the weekend to discuss efforts to mobilize young people as part of new work efforts. I was glad we had some funds to help offset a bit of the cost. We have a good working relationship with the Baptist Union of Ukraine and their churches, but anytime young people begin branching out there are plenty of nervous pastors. Balancing new church starts and developing the existing church is difficult, but wisdom from above will guide us.

Let me know if the contact information listed on the church website is correct or if there is a better method to try.

Blessings,
Shannon
IMB - Europe

Greg Alford said...

Shannon,

I just went and tried the contact page on our website and you are right it is not working. I will try and get this fixed ASAP, but until then please feel free to use my personal email: alfordg@paec.org I don’t want to give out my personal phone numbers on the blog but if you will send me an email I will be happy to send them to you.

It is very heartwarming to hear from you! When I came to the office this morning I had a ton of work to do and 19 emails to answer. But when I came to your comment on my blog I knew I had to lay everything else aside and pray for you and the work you are doing in Kiev, Bucharest, and throughout the region.

Please know that I will continue to pray for you daily, and if there is ever anything I can do to help you in the work you are doing there in Eastern Europe please know that I will do all that I can to assist you.

Grace and Blessings,
Greg

Anonymous said...

I hope you get my email.

Shannon

Greg Alford said...

Shannon,

As of 8:25 CST, 11/05/2009… I have not received your email. You might want to check the address and try sending it again. alfordg@paec.org Let me know when you send it again and if it does not get through I will give you another address to try.

Grace and Blessings,
Greg

Chris Ziglar said...

Hi brother. Glad to read your post regarding the IMB. I appreciate your honesty. I wanted to offer a few comments, and make an offer to all of your readers. As you know my family and I have become IMB missionaries this year. We are now in language school in Costa Rica, but will be moving to begin our ministry among the Chorti people of Honduras on Dec. 21st. We are excited about the opportunity to make the name of Lord known among these indigenous people.

As we worked through the extensive selection process with the IMB, I was struck by one very interesting fact. Before we reported to the International Learning Center for 9 weeks of training, we had to have at least 5 churches who we had contacted and asked to be "prayer partners". These would be churches that would commit to being prayer advocates, and we (missionaries) would commit to keeping informed. To my surprise, one of the very first things we had to do when arriving in Virginia was report who our churches were, and how we planned to continue our relationship (blog, email, newsletter, phone calls, etc.)

Also, during the 9 weeks of invaluable training we received in Virginia, several sessions were focused on the very issue that you have brought up. The leadership of the IMB recognizes that it is imperative that missionaries make those connections with churches back home. I do not know how long this emphasis has been. Maybe we were the first group, but I suspect not.

I can not speak for the other 5,000 IMB missionaries, but I want you to know that I would welcome ANYONE who desires to have an ongoing relationship with a missionary. I am here and begging for you to pray with and for us. Two weeks ago our family walked through the valley as we lost our 3 month old unborn child. To go through this so far from family was hard, but knowing that we had hundreds of our prayer partners lifting our names around the throne of the King brought us much comfort. Also, in just a few short weeks we will be arriving on front lines. I know there are going to be more dark, hard days ahead, and we will need much prayer. But.. I also believe there will be rejoicing as we see hearts changed from stone to flesh, and we see scales fall from eyes, and we see more God glorifying churches planted. I want those back home to be there for that time of rejoicing also.. to see their prayers answered by our faithful God.

So.. I am here as an IMB missionary offer myself to anyone, or any church who wants to have a closer relationship. Just let me know what I can do to help facilitate that.

Being refined,
Chris Ziglar

chris.ziglar@yahoo.com
850-937-7505

Marvin Merriweather said...

Chris, I hope you are a Calvinist because Greg will find a way to criticize you if you're not!

Marvin Merriweather said...

Chris, I hope you are a Calvinist because Greg will find a way to criticize you if you're not!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Greg Alford said...

Marvin,

Your last comment is “absolutely” untrue, and just proves that you do not know me!

Dr. Paul Whisnant, Founder and CEO of International Servants, is a close personal friend of many years and to my knowledge Paul is not a Calvinist. I have served on the board of International Servants for many years and personally support this ministry with a check each month and the issue of Calvinism has NEVER once came up.

You can click on the picture at the top of this article to go the web-site for International Servants. Paul’s contact information is posted on their web-site, so anyone who wishes may contact Dr. Whisnant directly to verify the truth of what I say.

Grace Always,
Greg

Dr. James Willingham said...

Any good Sovereign Grace Believer, like Bro. Alford, is hardly going to limit himself only to other Sovereign Grace believers. To do so, for one thing, would be to act contrary to the example set by our Southern Baptist predecessors who declared that the preaching that Christ tasted death for every man will be no bar to communion. What some have to realize who are not Sovereign Grace believers is that the preaching that Christ made an effectual atonement for the many is to be preached to all without exception as a paradoxical intervention which might be more inviting than the preaching that He tasted death for every one without exception and that must be the case as Jsus said to the woman of Canaan in Mt. 15 that he was not sent but to the lost sheep of the House of Israel and she was not a jew. He also said to her that it was not meet to take the children's bread and cast it to dogs, and she thought that was really great and she grabbed it and ran with it (True, Lord, but even the dogs eat of the crumbs that fall from their (little) master's table (what kid is there that gave such a small crumb to their pet dog - the kid would give half of the biscuit to the dog). No, Bro. Greg would not be so foolish, but he does like any one else reserve the right to disagree even with his friends. And what is a disagreement between friends, but an opportunity to deepen the friendship by working through he differences. Gentlemen, we are going to win the whole earth to Christ, every last person on it in one generation and even for a thousand more generations after that one for so I pray. After all the promises to Abraham (the seed as numerous as the stars of heaven and the sand by the seasore) and the number of the redeemed in Heaven (in Revelaton) as a number no man can number.

Melany said...

Interesting article. I too have some concerns with a different aspect of the IMB's approach, although I greatly appreciate their work for the Lord.

I served as a summer missionary with a team of IMB missionaries in the capital city of one country, and during this time, I felt that there was also a breakdown in personal connection of the missionaries with the people they were serving.

According to my understanding, missionary placements had been made by the IMB. Although I understand the strategic benefits of this approach, and sympathize with the idea that a missionary should be willing to follow the call of God anywhere and be commissioned by the church to love and share the Gospel in any location, I still found this problematic because several of the missionaries seemed that their hearts were in a different place, and thus had difficulty connecting with the place that they were. There also seemed to have been a number of short placements and relocation (reminiscent of Embassy workers) that discourages personal ties.

This was hard for me to understand, because I had a deep personal love for this country and its people. It traveled there six times over the course of five years. My vision was long term. Now I serve as a tentmaker on Rosebud Reservation in the United States. I can not imagine what it would be like if I did not have a personal burden for the people, a desire to be here, and a strong conviction of the Lord's leading. It would be easy to get burnt out.

I realize that the lack of connection does not characterize all of the IMB missionaries. One couple in particular demonstrated such love and dedication that it radiated through all that they did. I very much admired them. I simply believe that the present system may not fully encourage that.

However, if someone is in the situation that they feel they were "placed" somewhere (by a mission board) rather than "led" (by the Lord), I think though it is important to recognize that God is Sovereign in all circumstances, that He can supply an infinite and boundless supply of His love for the country and people of your placement. Ask Him to pour out His love upon you, and commit to serve faithfully in that location, until He shows you a different plan.

Greg Alford said...

Melany,

You bring up a very important point in this discussion. Does God’s calling upon Missionaries include where they should serve? Or, is God’s calling upon Missionaries a general call to missions and their place of service is not really relevant?

I personally believe that God’s calling includes the place of service… That does not mean that Missionaries cannot be of any service elsewhere… but that their best, most fruitful, and fulfilling service will be where God has their heart.

If what you are telling me is true and the IMB is in fact dictating where our Missionaries will serve, and not allowing the Holy Spirit to direct their placement through a strong conviction of the individual missionary as to where they should serve, then the IMB is in great danger of actually opposing the will of the Holy Spirit and this will never be blessed of God regardless of how much money the churches poor into the coffers of the IMB.

I would love to have some of our Missionaries share their experience on this issue…

Grace for the Journey,
Greg