Thomas Kidd, professor of history at Baylor University and co-author of Baptists in America: A History, tells Breitbart News: “Southern Baptists’ giving to missions has simply not kept up with the aspirations of the IMB [International Mission Board].”
Last week, the IMB, an arm of the 15 million strong Southern Baptist Convention, announced it was reducing its staff by 15 percent.
Kidd says that the leadership of the IMB has made the right move.
“It is tempting to keep kicking the can down the road, but David Platt and the IMB leadership have decided to adopt more stringent measures to get the IMB’s budget under control. In the long run, that will be a good thing,” Kidd tells Breitbart News.
“The staff reductions at the IMB,” Kidd adds, “reflect challenges at two levels for the Southern Baptist Convention.”
“One is that, as with any large organization, it is easy for expenses and personnel to slowly grow beyond a sustainable level,” Kidd says.
“The second, more concerning level,” Kidd notes, “is that Southern Baptists’ giving to missions has simply not kept up with the aspirations of the IMB.”
“Although recent years have seen an uptick in giving to missions, it has not made up the gap in funding needs. The SBC will need to revisit issues related to the way that members and churches give to missions, and who counts as an SBC missionary,” Kidd points out.
“Can giving be made more personal, going directly to individual missionaries, rather than through impersonal denominational bureaucracy? Can more volunteer and bi-vocational missionaries be mobilized?” Kidd asks.
“Whether the [Southern Baptist Convention] is in a protracted decline remains to be seen, but there is no question that the denomination is not growing at a pace that can support what the budgets of its state conventions and missions agencies currently demand,” Kidd concludes.
Jed Coppenger, pastor at Redemption City Church in Franklin, Tennessee, and co-founder of Baptist21, a group of young Southern Baptist pastors agrees with Kidd.
“Southern Baptists are always in a conversation about how best to fund a mission. This is a new leadership at IMB with a new approach to an existing problem; how to fund the Great Commission,” Coppenger tells Breitbart News.
“When I say the Great Commission, I mean the spreading of the Gospel among all people of the earth, as commanded in Matthew 28: 18-20,” Coppenger explains.
Though the IMB decision will reduce the number of missionaries in the field from 4,800 to 4,200, Coppenger remains upbeat.
“I don’t think it [the IMB staff reduction] signals decline. I think it signals a different approach for positioning Southern Baptists for long term effectiveness,” Coppenger says.
Baylor University, based in Waco, Texas, is affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas, which in turn is one of the state conventions that comprise the Southern Baptist Convention.
According to the Baylor Alumni Magazine, “it was one of the first Baptist colleges associated with a state general convention to alter its relationship with its sponsoring denomination following the 1979 takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention by political fundamentalists.”
“Baylor’s charter change was engineered in 1990 by then-President Herbert H. Reynolds — a move that allowed the Baptist General Convention of Texas to elect only one-quarter of the University’s governing board, whereas previously, the BGCT elected all of the trustees,” the Magazine reported.
“Although the charter change was a move away from the fundamentalist-controlled SBC, it was not a move away from Baylor’s Baptist roots,” the Magazine concluded.
The Southern Baptist Convention website lists Baylor as a Baptist university affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas.
Baylor is the home base of Professor Rodney Stark, the nation’s leading academic expert on the sociology of religion.