IMB trustees approve pilot to aid churches in sending missionaries
Dec 2, 2011
By NORM MILLER & TAMMI LEDBETTER
Southern Baptist TEXAN

RICHMOND, Va. (TEXAN)—A new Great Commission Global Connect (GC2) pilot project approved unanimously by International Mission Board trustees Nov. 15 will allow up to 25 sending churches to fully fund their own short-term missionaries.

Sending churches will pay for the deployment costs as well as ongoing salary for GC2s and have a key role as accountability partners to those personnel. IMB will partner with GC2 churches by providing personnel selection and strategy consultation as well as administrative support and training.

After unveiling the proposal, IMB President Tom Elliff made it clear that GC2 personnel field ministry will be “in concert with the total strategy” of the IMB. The IMB will cover the cost of sending church-funded GC2 missionaries through its standard eight-week training regimen, with a limit of 100 adults to be approved for the pilot.

“It’s not as if they come up with a strategy, tell us what they want to do and go over and do that,” Elliff said. “That’s not the way this works,” he said, calling the strategy “field-driven.”

When GC2s arrive on the field, they will “absolutely, 100 percent be operating under the supervision, under the authority of our field team,” Elliff told the TEXAN in a later interview. Total compliance with IMB policy is specifically required of GC2 appointees in the covenant agreement between the sending churches and the IMB.

The TEXAN obtained a draft copy of the pending covenant, which currently states that all practices and policies now applying to IMB missionary personnel will apply equally to all GC2s. That includes conducting ministry within the parameters of the current Baptist Faith & Message and following the principles of the IMB’s indigenous, reproducible multiplicative church planting strategy.

GC2 appointees would not be “some privileged people who can hop, skip and jump into the system without chinning the same bar that the rest of our personnel do,” he said, later comparing the standards for which they will be accountable to those currently used with International Service Corps. Only members of Southern Baptist churches who are in agreement with the BF&M and give evidence of a growing Christian faith and commitment to evangelism need apply.

Furthermore, missionaries deployed under the pilot project “don’t get any more money or less money” than current IMB personnel serving in comparable settings.

Participating churches will send designated gifts--a quarter in advance--to provide the amount of budget necessary to pay GC2s, Elliff explained. “They’ll be on the same kind of stipend as every one of our personnel in the same kind of agreement.” Failure to make timely payments will result in termination of the covenant and withdrawal of GC2 missionaries.

Accountability for on-field GC2 ministry practices and personal behaviors will not rest solely with the IMB, but also with the sending churches, representing a significant change from current practice of traditionally appointed missionaries.

When GC2 missionaries “realize that they are responsible to local churches, and their churches are going to be in their face with regard to their lives and what they are doing on the field--I can’t see that, friends, as anything but healthy and in recognition of who we are--a parachurch organization,” Elliff told trustees.

“We are a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Southern Baptist Convention,” he explained, reminding that missionaries are sent out by local churches under the call of God. “We are a facilitating organization.”

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