The International Mission Board (IMB) gave The Center of Great Commission Study at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary sobering data on the current missionary personnel as of January 2017. The data revealed that there are currently about 3500 missionaries serving internationally and the ethnic backgrounds represented among missionaries showed the following:
0.44% of current international missionaries are African American
7.12% of current international missionaries are Asian
1.7% of current international missionaries are Hispanic
This percentage is more alarming considering that 25% of all the 40,000+ SBC churches are minority majority congregations. What has happened and what we at SEBTS are doing to address this is the impetus for this post.
Numbers are Deceiving
The popular saying “Numbers never lie” may be true in some sense, but the numbers in the case of minorities and the international mission field does not tell the whole story. This is not an “SBC problem”, since other denominations also report that minorities are underrepresented on the international mission field. This does not mean minorities are not concerned about God’s global mission, but these stats are indicative of historical and socioeconomic factors that characterize the minority experience in America. Here are two of them:
- An oppressed people have limited opportunities. It goes without saying that the history of American Christianity has often been an unfortunate participant in the marginalization and discrimination of minorities of its era. The residual sociological and financial effects of this limits access and hinders minority churches from sending its congregants overseas.
- The problems that are often seen overseas, are often next door. International missions is often motivated by both spiritual and material needs that are present in a given country. However, the needs of minority communities often mirror the problems “over there”. As result of this, the missiological energy of minority Christians is spent at home, because the difficulties of urban, dense and diverse communities are just as urgent spiritually and materially as those overseas.
We all are missing out
Jesus commands all Christians in Matthew 28 to make disciples of all nations . The words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 12 teaches us that the local and global body of Christians has many members; who all have an indispensable part to play. Therefore, the lack of minority representation in international missions is not something to be ignored, rather it should tell us that we currently have an incomplete, and unhealthy picture of the Church overseas. According to Paul, we all suffer when all parts of the body don’t work together, so we all must understand that we are missing out on a vital piece of the blessing and fruit of God’s mission when we are not pursuing it together.
Kingdom Diversity Missions Initiative
Southeastern’s response to change this narrative about minorities and international missions is the Kingdom Diversity Missions Initiative
The KDMI seeks to spark a Great Commission resurgence among multicultural Christians by creating a platform to catalyze minority believers to the ends of the earth and integrate a passion for international missions into their current and future areas of service
– Walter Strickland
To familiarize yourself with this initiative click here to learn more. I pray you can join us and help spread the word because this won’t make the change we all want to see unless we all get involved.
Help change the narrative.
— Kingdom Diversity (@K_Diversity) March 7, 2017