International Mission Board (IMB) trustees approved policy changes this week regarding baseline qualifications for IMB missionaries. There have been various misunderstandings communicated online and in social media about these policies, and these mistaken reports have given us the opportunity to provide necessary clarifications concerning what this policy change does and does not mean.
The driving force behind all these changes is to unify all Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) churches under the umbrella of the Baptist Faith and Message in order to send limitless missionary teams to unreached people and places for the glory of God, and I don’t want that to be misunderstood.
One issue that has particularly drawn attention is the practice of speaking in tongues and the use of a private prayer language. Up until this point, if a person had spoken in tongues or practiced a private prayer language, they were immediately disqualified from appointment as an IMB missionary. IMB trustees voted this week to remove that automatic disqualification.
Yet this was a vote that addressed issues of qualification for potential IMB missionaries in the church, not the practical work of actual IMB missionaries on the field.
That is a critical distinction, for over the course of appointing, training, and supervising missionaries, IMB addresses many significant theological, missiological, ecclesiological and practical issues, including the use of tongues or a private prayer language. Though these issues may not affect our base qualifications, they do affect our everyday work.
IMB’s long-held position remains that these practices cannot be normative in teaching or disruptive in practice. Through careful appointment, training and supervisory ...1
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