End the Missionary Drawdown, Start the Surge!

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I am Southern Baptist missionsThe ongoing debate over withdrawing troops from Iraq and Afghanistan seems to revolve around at least four basic issues: the cost of troop deployment, the purpose/success/failure of the mission, the desire of families to get their loved ones back home, and, of course, the politics. As the U.S. economy struggles and the wars wear on, the cost of troop deployment, the desire of families to get their loves ones back home, and the waning political enthusiasm have resulted in plans to withdraw most of the troops sooner rather than later.

That leaves us with only the mission to debate. Has the mission been accomplished? Can we see evidence of a lasting victory? If not, are we willing to move ahead with a drawdown and accept defeat?

As concerned as Americans should be about the War on Terror and debates over the deployment or withdrawal of our military troops, as Kentucky Baptists and Southern Baptists, we must be conscious of a drawdown with much greater consequences. Tom Elliff, president of the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, recently shared with me that the current number of IMB missionaries is 4,886. When I served as chairman of the trustee board of the IMB two years ago, that number was close to 1,000 more.

The drawdown of missionaries over the past two years is nearing 20 percent. Is it a matter of politics? No, the vote on the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force recommendations revealed that SBC politics are on the side of the Great Commission. Is the drawdown a matter of families wanting loved ones back home? As painful as is the separation of loved ones, the greatest cheerleaders for our missionaries are usually their families here at home. Are we withdrawing troops because the mission has been accomplished? With over 3,000 people groups still unreached and unengaged, clearly the mission has not been accomplished.

That leaves us with but one issue remaining—the cost of troop deployment. That is the issue. To state it plainly, over 15 million Southern Baptists and over 45,000 Southern Baptist churches have failed to provide the support necessary for a mission force of more than 5,000 troops. Our actions suggest that we believe the mission is just too expensive.

But we don’t really believe that, do we? If you haven’t already done so, would you join Michelle and me in making a sacrificial gift to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering? Beyond that, would you challenge your church to give at least a tithe of undesignated receipts through the Cooperative Program to ensure the ongoing support of our missionaries who serve at home and abroad? The time has come, not for a drawdown, but for a surge!

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