Thursday, January 10

What's wrong with this picture?

Les Puryear has done us a favor by pointing out some interesting comparisons on statistics as reported by the IMB and USA SBC churches at large. Good job, Les, for all our many faults and blunders as field missionaries, I found your observations quite telling. Let the numbers speak for themselves!
I don't know if anyone has noticed but God has been working mightily through our IMB missionaries. Overseas baptisms in 2007 were an astounding 609,968 compared to 475,072 in 2006 (2007 Book of Reports, p.56). That's an increase of 28.4%!

Also, IMB reports 25,497 new overseas churches planted compared to 23,486 planted in 2006 (2007 Book of Reports, p.56), which is an increase of 8.5%.

We currently have 5,338 field personnel under appointment. These numbers are staggering. Do you realize that the number of baptisms equals 114 per missionary? Do you realize that the number of new church plants equals 4.77 per missionary?

Compare those numbers to our numbers in the USA for 2006 according to the 2007 Book of reports. Our baptisms were 394,321. Our new church plants were 151. The number of churches in the USA is 44,223. Based on these figures, the number of baptisms per church was 9. The number of new church plants was 0.0034 per church.

What's wrong with this picture? How do 5,338 missionaries account for 114 baptisms per person and 44,223 churches account for only 9 baptisms per church?

I think it is time for SBC pastors and leaders in the USA to turn to our own IMB for a better understanding of how to reach people for Christ. I call on the leaders of our convention to adopt the evangelism techniques and mindset currently in use by the IMB and provide training opportunities for all SBC church pastors and leaders in such techniques.
Les, you ask some good questions that need answers. What does this say about the way we view and understand Christianity and the Church in the USA? Indeed, what is wrong with this picture?


Tim Patterson said...


These are staggering numbers and a sober comparison. However, we need to remember that the vast majority of baptisms and new church starts are implemented by scores of indigenous workers, not by the IMB missionaries themselves (with a few exceptions). Not to diminish what our IMB missionaries do... many are catalysts and trainers for a number of indigenous partners... and that is the way it should be for missions... we must decrease and they must increase. Also, there are some strategic volunteers from engaging churches that help to catalyze and train trainers.

I saw somewhere that the great majority of these results overseas come from a small number of church planting movements in certain regions of the world. That should also be taken into consideration when making this comparison. We really can't take too much credit for a cpm, something only God can do and something only we can mess up.

One thing we in the states could learn from IMB is how to train trainers (make disciple makers). Also, how to empower "lay" people to do the work of the ministry, obeying all of the commands of Christ.

Thanks for pointing out this phenomenon... God really is doing an amazing thing in our day!

GuyMuse said...


You are exactly right in your observations. Very few IMB M's that I know ever personally plant churches or baptize believers. We are catalysts and work to promote national brethren to be in the "drivers seat".

I was on the phone earlier today with a Stateside potential partner and explained that we might be able to personally plant 1-2 churches per year, but choose to invest our time, energy, into training nationals. Our goal is to train 500 church planters this year which will result in many more church plants than if we were to try and do so ourselves.

The stats that surprised me from Les's study were not so much those that M's are credited for, but the staggering 9 baptisms average for an entire church, and the 0.0034 church plants per SBC church. This ought to be a loud wake up call for the way we are doing "church" in America. Something is wrong with that picture!

Sandy 何聖欣 said...

What an interesting comparison. One may wonder if churches in the States can be a bit inward focused, and not considering church planting as a goal. I was at a church once that needed to split to two morning services because of growth, and regular members didn't like it "because they couldn't see everyone". But then again another church in the area, sent several members to help a church start.

Certainly instead of church building starts, the T4T concept could be implemented as well. Thanks for a thought-provoking blog. (We're tentmakers in Taiwan.)

GuyMuse said...


Welcome to the "M blog" I think this is the first time you have commented.

I think that at least one of the reasons for the great disparity between the numbers being reported is due to the focus of many SBC churches on their buildings and church programs, and less upon what Christ commanded us to do (make disciples). Of course there are exceptions, but for the most part, most Stateside churches are focused on keeping the organizational machinery running, and simply do not have time for 'making disciples' and planting new churches.

Rhea said...


I think you're right on in stating that part of the reason for the disparity could be due to the focus in the US on church buildings programs. It seems that for many, in the US, the church is more of an institution, or perhaps "company" is a better term to use. Also, I think that sometimes in the US, individuals are less active in evangelism personally, and expect their pastor to do all the work in saving souls. The most work that many Christians in church (Southern Baptist or any other denomination) want to do is to simply invite their neighbor to church, if even that. I think that part of this comes from a fear that the individual doesn't "know it all" and can't effectively share his faith. I know that many individuals in the US grow up in some sort of "Christian" home. Perhaps part of the problem is that there's a big issues of "cultural Christianity" in the US, where in many other Christians, that is not the case. You either are a Christian or you are not. In the US, many CLAIM to be Christians, but are not. Somehow I doubt that that is found worldwide.

GuyMuse said...


I just returned from a day of training where over 600 people showed up wanting to know how to go about making disciples. They eagerly counted out their coins to pay for the materials, and were so grateful to be shown how to implement the steps into their daily lives. Once again, I was greatly encouraged to see the hunger and yearning in the people here to be used of God to make disciples of the nations. It is no wonder to me that the explosive growth going on in many developing countries today. To be around that kind of people for the past twelve hours who are on the edge of their seats not wanting to miss a word!

Darrell said...

Amen Guy! Thanks for making the call. I agree completely with you. We in America ought to be greatly humbled and repent from our unfruitful self-centered ways. As someone in the states making the same call to my fellow brothers and sisters it is very encouraging to hear another voice making the same call. When God lead my family to do something about this I was very hopeful that we could bring many of our Christian brothers and sisters along with us. That was three years ago and none of them have gone with us. I know they love Jesus, but they just could not make the change. It seems that after a person has sat in a pew for any length of time they become almost paralyzed and "addicted" to going to church. I have given up on trying to get my Christian brother and sisters to become CPM disciple makers. From now on I am focusing on the harvest for the workers. I pray with all my heart that one day the people of God in America will put the Kingdom first and be willing to do whatever-it-takes to get the job done.

God bless you and yours. Please continue to lead the way!

GuyMuse said...


You write, From now on I am focusing on the harvest for the workers. This is what has to be done. Changes are not likely to come from the existing church structures. The changes have to come from new work. Start with fresh, new believers. I have spent enormous amounts of time and energy trying to get the existing churches to "see the light" and realize that very little has been accomplished with this approach. The secret lies with those coming out of the harvest. Keep your focus there, and after a few years you will begin to see some of the longed for changes.

Darrell said...

Thanks Guy. You are so right. I did not want to accept this for a long time. I see the enormity of the need and long for more CPM workers who can get the job done.

However now that I am focused on the harvest and making disciples I feel so much more useful.

Blessings to you my friend.