Exclusive: IMB experiences budget shortfall, moves missionaries amid pandemic

Exclusive: IMB experiences budget shortfall, moves missionaries amid pandemic

As the impact of COVID-19 continues to ripple throughout the world, the International Mission Board reported it has experienced a significant budget shortfall during the past two months. The Southern Baptist missions organization also has evacuated and relocated IMB personnel for many reasons related to the pandemic.

IMB President Paul Chitwood expressed gratitude for “the sacrificial investment that Southern Baptists have been making in getting the gospel to the nations for 175 years. A growth in giving through the Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon Christmas Offering® (LMCO) leading into March of 2020 has enabled the IMB to enter into the storm of this pandemic from a strong financial position.

“Because of the past generosity of Southern Baptists, we are in a solid financial position, but we will need help staying there,” he said. “The impact of COVID-19, however, upon local churches — and, thus, the impact upon the IMB — is quickly becoming evident.”

He reported that revenue totals for March and April dipped $2 million below budget. “Moreover,” he said, “we have made a significant investment in evacuating and relocating IMB personnel from certain places around the globe for a host of reasons related to the pandemic. These were unbudgeted expenses that are coming in at about $2 million. That amount includes getting our missionaries back to the field or, in some cases, getting them established in new places. Some of our missionaries were required to leave everything behind and will need to start life anew in another harvest field.”

$4 million impact

Because of “this combined negative impact of $4 million,” the IMB has cut spending and established a hiring freeze for most stateside staff positions, Chitwood reported.

“IMB missionaries are eternally essential workers, and their witness is needed more in the midst of this pandemic than ever before,” he said, in calling on Southern Baptists to pray and give.

“We are appealing to any faithful givers who might have the ability to make an additional gift through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering right now as an investment in caring for missionaries and ensuring that the witness to the gospel among the nations is not interrupted,” he said. One hundred percent of LMCO gifts support Southern Baptist missionaries on the field.

“We also believe that just as our Lord prayed fervently, the prayers of Southern Baptists undergird our mission efforts. Each missionary faces unique challenges, and those challenges are compounded during this unexpected time,” Chitwood said, urging Southern Baptists to pray for opportunities for the gospel to advance during this pandemic.

“Our continued work relies on Southern Baptists rallying together now through giving and praying,” he said.

Alabama IMB trustee Jim Cooley, pastor of First Baptist Church, Birmingham, agreed.

“During a time of economic challenge when it would be tempting to step aside from Cooperative Program giving, it is more important than ever for our churches to be faithful to that commitment,” he said. “Southern Baptists have always believed in the power of together, believing that when we join in undergirding the ministry of our Mission Boards, we will accomplish more for the Kingdom than any church can accomplish alone. This is one of those times when we must renew our commitment to that conviction by supporting the ministry of the IMB through faithful congregational stewardship.

“It is no accident that the Lord has brought Dr. Paul Chitwood to lead the International Mission Board during days such as these,” Cooley noted. “He is providing outstanding vision, leadership and guidance to the IMB. Most of all, he leads as a man of great faith and personal humility. I am confident of the future of our mission calling under his leadership. Together, we will continue to fulfill the heritage of faithfulness that has been our hallmark for 175 years.”

(Jennifer Davis Rash contributed)


International Mission Board marks 175th anniversary

Note from Alabama IMB trustee Jim Cooley, pastor of First Baptist Church, Birmingham:

“It is important for Southern Baptists to realize that the crisis our world has been facing in recent months as a result of the global pandemic has been taking place during the 175th anniversary of the International Mission Board. From our beginning as a denomination, the Lord has given Baptists a unique vision of working together to carry the gospel to the world. Throughout the years, the ministry we know as the International Mission Board has been unceasingly faithful to God’s call to carry the gospel to lost people around the globe. The IMB has been fulfilling its mission throughout wars, epidemics, economic disasters, and all of the changes and challenges that the world have endured. Through every challenge and crisis, our mission board has been unceasingly faithful to its calling to carry the good news of Jesus to the peoples of the world.”