The Southern Baptist Missionary Board has decided to suspend 69 missionaries who are ready to hit the mission field.
The reason? A shortfall in missions giving. heather sells explains.
More than 5,600 Southern Baptist missionaries span the globe, preaching the gospel and reaching the unreached for Christ.
Right now, however, short-term missionaries--and 69 first-time career missionaries--are on hold.
They rely on the denomination's mission board known as IMB for their funding and this year it did not come in as planned.
This year's missionary offering was the third largest ever in Southern Baptist history. Yet, it still fell $9 million short of the Baptist's goal and created a gut-wrenching decision for the mission board.
Wendy Norvelle of IMB says it was tough to tell the missionaries.
"Mostly what we heard was the passion for going and taking the gospel to people who need it," she recalled.
Norvelle added that the board's strategy now is to take the need to local churches. It hopes to send the missionaries out next spring, and then attend to hundreds of missionary candidates whose pipeline to the mission field has also been slowed.
"I've seen our leadership in prayer times just weep because we know that the challenge is there, the opportunity is there," she said. "More doors are open for the gospel than ever before, but some of those doors won't stay open forever."
Those open doors are perhaps the biggest heartache for Southern Baptists and other mission agencies that are struggling in tough economic times.
It may be a time to reflect on the church's commitment to its historic priority.
Novelle said, "It may be a wake-up call to Southern Baptists to (ask), 'Are we serious about reaching the whole world?'"
*Originally posted September 4, 2009.