Jim and Marge sank exhausted into their seats aboard a jumbo jet that would take them to a new and exciting world. They were headed to a new home in Kenya, where they would train pastors and other Christian leaders. After years of education and pastoral experience, at last they would be missionaries.

Never did they dream that in less than four years they would board a similar jet headed for home, returning to the United States discouraged and sick, their missionary hopes seemingly forever shattered. Jim and Marge number among the hundreds of missionaries every year who resign their commissions, at a cost to the missions enterprise into the millions of dollars.

Accurate, comprehensive records are not kept on how many missionaries resign, retire, die, or simply fail to return to the field each year after leaves of absence. But in many cases, recruitment of new missionaries enables mission agencies only to replace personnel who leave the field.

Agencies associated with the two major evangelical missions associations report little growth in recent years. “Both the Interdenominational Foreign Mission Association (IFMA) and the Evangelical Foreign Missions Association (EFMA) have had some growth,” says E. L. (Jack) Frizen, IFMA executive director. “But that is primarily due to receiving new mission agencies into membership, rather than to growth of the missionary force.”

Losses By Retirement

The retirement of missionaries accounts for a significant portion of the lost personnel. However, it is not expected to produce the major losses predicted several years ago. At that time, statisticians noted that Christians who formed a massive missions movement at the end of World War II would reach age 65 in the 1980s. ...

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