FAQs on IMB Missionary Qualifications

by Mark Morris on May 16, 2015

There is great excitement about this week’s simplified, and clarified policy changes which pave the way for David Platt’s challenge to send limitless Christian Workers throughout the world. The following FAQs clarify some of the questions that have risen. See the IMB’s explanation below.

IMB trustees established a policy to streamline guidelines for appointing new personnel within the framework of the Baptist Faith and Message during their May 12-13 meeting in Louisville, Ky. Below are questions and answers which may explain the changes.

Q: What is the central idea of the new policy?

A: The revised policy approved by IMB trustees on May 13 creates a single statement of qualifications that will characterize every missionary serving through any pathway created by IMB to mobilize more Southern Baptists to go to unreached peoples and places with the gospel.

Q: Why are you changing missionary qualifications?

A: As we look toward the future and the limitless number of missionaries we want to mobilize from Southern Baptist churches, we know that this will likely involve many new pathways through which men and women might serve on missionary teams through the IMB. Each of these pathways may carry unique qualifications, involve various types of training and include different levels of support from IMB. However, we have seen a foundational need for a simple, clear statement of qualifications that not only unifies all IMB missionaries together, but also unifies IMB with the churches and entities of the SBC.

Q: Sending limitless missionary teams is a big goal. How do you plan to achieve this?

A: IMB aims to provide multiple pathways in which members of Southern Baptist churches may serve on a missionary team.

When you hear pathways, think possibilities—all the possible ways that ordinary Christians might serve overseas: as church planters, doctors, teachers, accountants, lawyers, fitness instructors, rickshaw drivers, retirees, students and the list goes on and on. God has providentially arranged a multiplicity of avenues through which His people can take the gospel around the world, and as IMB, we want to help Southern Baptists go through as many of those pathways as possible.

Q: What is an example of how IMB may adjust these specific criteria?

A: As an example, a lead church planter in the remote deserts of the Middle East may require different criteria than an information technology expert in London, a student in Shanghai, a business professional in Dubai or a retiree in Bangkok. IMB may establish different criteria for missionaries serving in each of these pathways and positions, yet all of them will meet a base level of qualifications, which is expressed in this revised policy.

Q: Does this change mean families with teenage children may now be appointed as IMB missionaries?

A: It depends. This revised policy does make it possible for missionaries with teenage children to be appointed. However, the previous policy was established for good reason in light of challenges for children (and their families) moving overseas at certain ages, and we will continue to take those challenges into account when considering missionaries. For example, a family considering serving long-term in an isolated African village may be different than a family considering a one-year term in London.

Q: Does this change mean that people who have been divorced may be appointed as IMB missionaries?

A: Yes. Divorce is no longer an automatic disqualifier for long-term service. Short-term assignments (two to three years in length) have been open to people with a history of divorce for years. In all categories of missionary service, individuals who have been divorced may be able to serve. However, a person’s role on a missionary team, the circumstances surrounding his or her divorce, and the suitability of the culture where he or she will serve will all be considered by the IMB in cooperation with that person’s local church.

Q: What changed with the IMB’s policy related to baptism?

A: IMB will now operate solely in accord with the statement on baptism in the Baptist Faith and Message, which reads: Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. It is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer’s faith in a crucified, buried and risen Savior, the believer’s death to sin, the burial of the old life and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus. It is a testimony to his faith in the final resurrection of the dead. Being a church ordinance, it is prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord’s Supper.

Q: Does this change mean that someone can become an IMB missionary even if they were not baptized by immersion?

A: No. In light of the statement on baptism in the Baptist Faith and Message, any potential IMB missionary must have been baptized by immersion as a symbol of his or her faith in Christ.

Q: What has changed related to speaking in tongues and private prayer languages?

A: A person who has spoken in tongues or may have a private prayer language is not automatically disqualified for missionary service. Further, IMB may still end employment for any missionary who places “persistent emphasis on any specific gift of the Spirit as normative for all or to the extent such emphasis becomes disruptive” to Southern Baptist missions work.

Q: Does this change mean that IMB missionaries will now speak in tongues and/or promote speaking in tongues around the world?

A: This is definitively not what this change means. Trustees voted this week specifically on the base qualifications for potential IMB missionaries in the church, not on the practical work of actual IMB missionaries on the field. This 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. Though these issues may not affect our base qualifications, they do affect our everyday work.  Through careful appointment, training, and supervisory processes, IMB ensures that every missionary remains resolutely focused on making disciples and multiplying churches in ways that faithfully represent Southern Baptist theology, missiology, ecclesiology, and practice.

Q: Does this change mean that potential IMB missionaries will no longer need to have a certain level of education?

A: It depends on the particular role that a person might play on an IMB missionary team. As we develop different pathways for people to go overseas and define different positions in which they might serve, various levels of education may be either recommended or required for service. For example, if a potential missionary is going to serve as a lead church planter, IMB will have qualifications pertaining to biblical, theological, missiological, ecclesiological, and practical expertise and/or education. If, on the other hand, a potential missionary is going to serve in an accounting support role for our missionary teams, we would expect him or her to have a level of experience, expertise, and/or education in accounting. In sum, the new policy that trustees created this week establishes a baseline of qualifications which does not include a particular level of education. Any qualifications for education, expertise, or experience will apply to specific positions in particular pathways through which a missionary might serve.

Q: Do these actions by IMB trustees lower the standards for missionaries?

A: No. The opposite is true. The baseline qualification for missionaries includes men and women who bear spiritual fruit of an intimate, growing relationship with Christ. They must be meaningful members of a Southern Baptist church in which they are leading people to faith in Christ, seeing new believers baptized and showing believers how to obey Christ.

Q: How will the local church be involved in determining if an individual is qualified to serve?

A: IMB desires to partner together with local churches as they send out members on mission. As such, prospective missionaries must show evidence of a missionary call that is both discerned within their local church and affirmed by that local church alongside IMB leadership.

Q: What differences does IMB hope these policy changes will make?

A: In addition to uniting IMB more closely with Southern Baptist churches and entities through clear alignment with the Baptist Faith and Message, IMB hopes these changes will open wide the door for Southern Baptist churches to send more qualified members to serve on IMB missionary teams making disciples and multiplying churches among the unreached. Team members will serve in many different positions with many different responsibilities, from church planters to administrative assistants, from business professionals to college students, to active retirees. From a variety of different backgrounds with a variety of different skills and a variety of different qualifications, they will join together to spread the gospel to people who have never heard it. The ultimate aim of this revised policy is to enable limitless God-exalting, Christ-following, Spirit-led, biblically faithful, people-loving, high-quality Southern Baptist missionaries to serve with IMB through a multiplicity of pathways IMB provides in the days ahead.

Q: Can people who were not approved for service under the previous guidelines related to baptism, speaking in tongues, private prayer language, divorce and teenage children reapply under the new guidelines?

A:  Yes. Please remember while this policy change is effective immediately, the processes, systems and procedures will be changing over the coming weeks and months.

Q: What’s the exact wording of the policy?

A: IMB Policy 200-1 An IMB missionary is a disciple of Jesus set apart by the Holy Spirit, sent out from the church, and affirmed by the IMB to cross geographic, cultural, and/or linguistic barriers as part of a missionary team focused on making disciples and multiplying churches among unreached peoples and places. IMB exists to empower limitless teams of missionaries made up of different men, women, and families with distinct roles and responsibilities. IMB provides multiple pathways in which missionaries may serve on one of these teams, each of which carries unique qualifications. However, any IMB missionary serving through any pathway created by IMB leadership is required to meet the following qualifications:


  • Vibrant personal discipleship: As they abide in God’s Word and walk in step with God’s Spirit, IMB missionaries bear fruit of an intimate, growing relationship with Christ.
  • Evident personal disciple making: IMB missionaries are meaningfully involved in a local church in which they participate in leading people to faith in Christ, seeing new believers baptized in the church, and showing believers how to obey Christ, all with a view toward reaching the nations with the gospel.
  • Call: The call to serve as an IMB missionary has been discerned within a local church and affirmed by that local church alongside IMB leadership.
  • Commitment: IMB missionaries are devoted to the vision, mission, values, and beliefs of the IMB.


  • Currently a baptized member of a Southern Baptist church
  • Commitment to and identification with Southern Baptists
  • Conviction of truth as expressed in the current Baptist Faith and Message statement of the Southern Baptist Convention


Good physical, emotional, and mental health.


IMB missionaries model a godly family life and/or personal relationships.


Service is open to U. S. citizens and permanent residents of the United States.


A Theology of Strategic Risk

by Mark Morris on October 10, 2014

Anthology Magazine of MissioNexus recently published an article I wrote on the issue of Strategic Risk and the theological and practical questions churches, agencies and missionaries face regarding Risk and the advance of the gospel.


“Two pressing questions drive the discussion. The first is personal: would our sovereign God knowingly direct us to engage in dangerous gospel witness, even to the point of death? The second question is institutional: How should the church and mission-sending institutions respond when the ones we send insist on obeying God’s direction, even when it means entering or remaining in harm’s way. The answer to both questions will have a drastic impact on the way we do missions. As we will see, Scripture and history are not silent in regards to costly mission.”

read more


Five Unanswered Questions in Missions

by Mark Morris on October 4, 2014

Five Unanswered Questions in 21st Century Missions:

  • How do we mobilize the whole Church with the whole gospel for the task remaining?
  • What are the scalable models of agency-served, effective local Church-based sending?
  • What are the solutions to the collaboration of marketplace and missionary?
  • How do we align virtual and presence strategies?
  • What is next after CPM?

Since 1983 I have been a participant in what might be classified as the modern missionary movement. As a participant I have started cross-cultural churches in various places in Africa, Asia, and the United States. As a student of missions and world religions and as an adjunct professor, my intrigue has only increased over historical mission strategy and unresolved strategic issues. Patterns of questions and problems arise in my own mind as I long for the completion of the task of global evangelism.

Numerous questions and mission issues plague us. However, five questions come to mind that continually bump into missionaries, strategists and scholars. At least, these are five questions, the solutions to which irritate and antagonize my pragmatism.

The first question is a matter of mobilization. Specifically, why are so few responding in obedience to the missionary mandate? What will it take to unclog the quagmire of churches that remain stagnant and unmoved by the Great Commission? What will unleash the next massive wave of missionaries unto the nations?

The second question addresses the issue of modalities of sending. The matter is a two-fold issue: does the church or do mission agencies own this mission; and if the church is so anxious to own it, how will agencies and churches work together effectively in the future?  What does effective local-church based sending in partnership with mission agencies work?

The third question addresses marketplace evangelism. How does the church embrace her members who own and live within a global marketplace and equip them and send them as effective global missionaries within the marketplace? This question may offer a solution to the first question of massive mobilization. If we can unleash and equip marketplace missionaries we may have rediscover the secrets that the Moravians uncovered nearly 3 centuries ago.

The fourth question is an effort to encourage collaboration between two very real but distant worlds –virtual and physical presence strategies. When asking a young person about some online ministry she interjected just for clarification, “virtual relationships are real relationships.” In the modern mission era, in ministries focused on moving back into our cities, and in personal evangelism strategies the importance of presence has been highly emphasized. Nonresidential, impersonal, drive-by, mass communication of the gospel has been viewed as a cheap imitation of missions. Yet text message, social media, skype, etc. etc. have pressed the definitions of virtual and reality as they relation to presence.  For the future of effective missions a redefinition of presence is required. Certainly the two worlds will more effectively impact the nations with the gospel if they can combine efforts.

Finally the fifth question is what comes after CPM? The question grows from nearly 5 decades of effective missions being defined by the concept of church planting movements. CPM has become the goal of everything missionary. As everyone seems to have adopted this as their goal and as people point to a variety of activities that they dubbed as CPM, the definition has become blurred to mean a variety of extrapolations. So this final question is about the need to refine our vision so that we can look toward new technologies that press the limits of global advance. What are the missing technologies and tools that will aid God’s global assault on darkness?

Of course there are many other questions to ask. But these five, seem critical to the future of missions.

I would love to hear your thoughts? Are these the correct questions? What insights have you found in addressing these five?


David Platt – Last Sunday at Brook Hills

by Mark Morris on September 16, 2014

By a divinely orchestrated “accident,” I found myself at The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham this past Sunday morning.

At the beginning of the service, I was delighted to witness our new 36-year-old IMB president baptize his son Caleb. When Platt came to Brook Hills 8 years ago, it was just David and Heather. Now there are six Platts, two of whom were adopted – including Caleb, from Kazakstan. The emotional baptism was followed by David Platt’s last sermon as pastor of the church. The mutual affection between pastor and parish was palatable. The service concluded with the Brook Hills faith family commissioning David as President of Southern Baptists’ International Mission Board.

Back to the sermon – Platt began his message openly pondering – What do I preach today – on this last day as your pastor? Appropriately God led him to 1 Corinthians 15.
David began reading from the first verse.

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you.

Platt explained that in this chapter, Paul addressed three reasons to hold fast to the gospel with radical faith. It was not surprising that Platt’s final message and his passion for the author of that message would not vary at all from the messages that have resounded from Platt over the past eight years.

Platt explained: Casual, comfortable Christianity is not Christianity at all. This gospel changes the way we live.

And as he has done so often, Platt reminded the audience of the daunting global reality that stands in stark contrast from the gospel of light:

  • a billion people in desperate spiritual need.
  • 20,000 children will die of hunger-related disease –  today!
  • 4-5 billion people who “right now are on a road to an everlasting hell.”
  • a couple of those billion “have never, ever heard the gospel.”

Platt’s voice raised and quivered as he challenged the audience: We Don’t Have Time To Play Games!

We have a mission that warrants radical urgency and my prayer (Brook Hills) is that you won’t forget that.

Don’t shrink back. Hold fast to this gospel with radical faith.

Some may say that David Platt is too young. Others might complain that he has never lived on an international mission field. How could he lead the International Mission Board?

So why is the most significant global force of missionaries finding such excitement at David’s appointment to the IMB? What is it about David that rivets thousands of young Christians, let alone young Southern Baptists?

A few of David’s characteristics were apparent on Sunday.

  • He is real and approachable. Few refer to David as Dr. David Platt, Brother Platt, Pastor Platt. Most just call him, “David” or simply “Platt.”
  • David’s every thought and fiber overflow with the gospel message that demands radical faith. You know where David is heading with his messages. Expect to hear the Great Commission and the Great Commandment.
  • David’s is neither a mindless nor a passionless message. In this Sunday’s message, like many of his books and sermons, Platt addressed a deeply theological and controversial issue – the reality of hell, the imminence of death, the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection and the consequences of choices made in this life.

Platt unfolded his theological argument asserting that the resurrection is real—

But if Jesus did not rise from the dead . . .

Then our faith is futile and we stand guilty of sin.

If Jesus did not rise from the dead .  .  .

Then our message is false and our mission is destructive.

If Jesus did not rise from the dead .  .  .

Then those who have died in Christ have been dammed before God.

And If Jesus did not rise from the dead .  .  .

Then radical, sacrificial, risk-taking faith is to be pitied in this world.

Obviously that is not where Platt’s message ended. His exegesis of the entire chapter led to his final, emotional charge to his beloved Brook Hills family.

I call you, Church at Brook Hills, to lead this church in such a way that it only makes sense that Christ has risen from the dead. Eight years ago, in His grace, God led me to Brook Hills. But in these last days, the King has made it clear that I have another battle to fight.

Regardless, let us hold fast to this gospel.

Platt concluded his message reading 1 Cor 15:58

. . . be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

In response, the entire congregation joined together in a mass commissioning prayer for the Platt family.

Jim Shaddix, Pastor for Teaching and Training, challenged the Platts as follows.

“Time is short and the task is tall but God has equipped you. You have often quoted C.T. Studd who said, ‘I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell.’

David, now is your chance to go run a rescue shop and bring Southern Baptists with you.”

As is their weekly practice, David Platt, now the president of the IMB, concluded the service by leading the congregation in the recitation of the Great Commission. This was certainly a fitting end to one era and an appropriate beginning for the next.

David’s messages in this series are available at www.brookhills.org/media/series/for-the-love-of-god/


Mission Leaders RoundTable

by Mark Morris on September 13, 2014

Memphis Global Roundtable – Nov 4
Pastors and mission leaders will join the IMB’s global strategy leaders to pray for the world and share in strategic thinking and planning.  If you are a pastor or mission leader please come for a working lunch
Tuesday, November 04, 2014 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM (Central Time)
Christ Fellowship Baptist Church
170 N. Oak Grove Rd.
Memphis, Tennessee 38120
Map and Directions

The week of November 4 -9, Affinity Group Strategy Leaders will gather near Memphis for a series of meetings culminating in the appointment of new missionaries by the IMB’s new president, David Platt.

The IMB is inviting pastors to join him and and global leaders during their one-day retreat and planning event.

From 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. come share lunch and join round table discussions with the 9 IMB Global Leaders. Pastors will be seated around tables with each of field leaders and there will be opportunity to learn about the various field strategies and to learn from pastors ways that the IMB can better serve local church strategies.


10:00 a.m. check-in

Pastors and Mission Leaders Roundtable
10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. (Lunch included)

7:00 p.m. there will be a gathering of up to 400 will be held at SOS Memphis, 2505 Poplar Ave, Memphis, TN 38112 for any individuals who are interested in more specific information about serving internationally.

Register Here


Ramadan Prayers

by Mark Morris on July 23, 2014

I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations. Ps 108:3 ESV

In the midst of Ramadan, and the approach of the “Night of Power” I’m reminded that Muslims view this night as the most powerful night of the year. Adherents believe that Allah will reveal himself in special ways on this night. This night represents the first revelation to their prophet.

During these last two weeks Muslims have been praying and fasting for special merit to be earned through their sacrifices of self-denial. They believe that certain angels are only visible to humans on the night of power. Perhaps, they think, a special need will be met by these angels.

My heart is saddened in two regards.

First, no human work or sacrifice of merit will suffice to cover the sins of man. False hope, meaningless sacrifices, and misappropriated devotion will be found empty.

Second, the substitutionary, redemptive work of Jesus Christ on the Cross will be blatantly ignored tomorrow by millions of Muslims who feign appreciation of Jesus, the prophet, while discounting the divine nature, work,  message and divine nature of the Living Lord.

How I long for Turks, Kurds, Zaza, Pushtun, Hazara, Tajik, Arabs, Berbers, and the Muslim peoples throughout the earth to hear and believe and worship the one true God through Jesus Christ, the Messiah.

Pray . . .

  • for followers of Christ in the Muslim world to appropriately communicate the message of the Messiah during the remaining days of Ramadan.
  • for new followers of Jesus to remain faithful and strong during their first Ramadan as followers of Jesus Christ.
  • for God’s glory among the multitude of ethne who will gather at the throne of grace worshiping the one true God.


A Life Laid Down (From World Magazine)

by Mark Morris on December 7, 2013

I have linked below the World Magazine article on Ronnie Smith’s death today in Benghazi.  I have also attached John Piper’s article on the topic.

LIBYAAn American teacher killed in Benghazi strived to ‘treasure Christ above all things’

Posted Dec. 6, 2013, 11:46 a.m.

Hours after assailants gunned down American teacher Ronnie Smith during his morning jog near the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on Thursday, grieving friends on opposite sides of the globe remembered Smith, 33, as a devoted teacher, family man, and Christian.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for Smith’s murder, but Islamist militants had called for the kidnapping of U.S. citizens in Libya in October. Hospital officials said the teacher had been shot multiple times. Read More

John Piper writes the following poignant message about Ronnie.

When We Send a Person to His Death

by John Piper | December 6, 2013

Ronnie Smith was shot and killed in Benghazi, Libya, on Thursday. He was 33. He was a husband and father. The leaders of his home church have given me permission to respond to his death publicly and carefully. You can read the fuller story at World or in the mainstream media.

One of the reasons I want to respond is because Ronnie wrote to us at Desiring God last year and told us that one of my messages was significant in leading him and his family to Libya.

Read The Entire Article


Transforming Halloween?

by Mark Morris on October 30, 2013

Do you know what happened October 31, 1517?

Find out when you read Albert Mohler’s article below on the history of Halloween and an appropriate Christian response.

WEDNESDAY • October 30, 2013

From AlbertMohler.com

WEDNESDAY • October 30, 2013

Over a hundred years ago, the great Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck predicted that the 20th century would “witness a gigantic conflict of spirits.” His prediction turned out to be an understatement, and this great conflict continues into the 21st century.

The issue of Halloween presses itself annually upon the Christian conscience. Acutely aware of dangers new and old, many Christian parents choose to withdraw their children from the holiday altogether. Others choose to follow a strategic battle plan for engagement with the holiday. Still others have gone further, seeking to convert Halloween into an evangelistic opportunity. Is Halloween really that significant?

Well, Halloween is a big deal in the marketplace. Halloween is surpassed only by Christmas in terms of economic activity. Reporting in 2007, David J. Skal estimated: “Precise figures are difficult to determine, but the annual economic impact of Halloween is now somewhere between 4 billion and 6 billion dollars depending on the number and kinds of industries one includes in the calculations.” As of 2012, that total exceeded $8 billion. Read the full article


Do We Believe The Gospel?

by Mark Morris on October 20, 2013

Akbar does.

It is Eid (Muslim holiday) around the world. Everyone makes lots of visits to neighbors. One of the attractions of Islam is the strong sense of community and brotherhood. The hospitality extended during Eid just adds to the sense of oneness.

On one of those Eid visits, the Imam (Muslim leader) and his family made a visit to Akbar’s home. While visiting, in Akbar’s home, the Imam noticed a Bible and a Christian movie, The Jesus Film. The Imam immediately declared the materials unclean and unsuitable to have in the home. He stirred up a big argument.

If you were in one of the most dangerous places on earth, surrounded by staunch Muslims and the Bible and all that it represents was declared unclean and unsuitable, what would you do?

With much thought and prayer Akbar declared, I believe in Jesus. I am a follow of Jesus the Messiah. He had never made that statement out loud. He had been seeking God and studying the Bible and learning about Christ. But when trapped and cornered, Akbar recognized the authenticity of God’s Word and acknowledged the gospel as his own belief.

The question – do we believe the gospel? Do you believe the gospel enough to stand and declare in the most hostile environment, “I Believe in Jesus?”

Pray for Akbar and his wife:

– Pray that she we trust Jesus and stand with Akbar as the Imam will now begin pressing Akbar’s wife’s family to force a divorce.

– Pray for Akbar’s parents and brothers to be supportive of Akbar.

– Pray for safety and a place to sleep as Akbar will likely be forced from his village.

– Pray for Akbar’s continued boldness.


Pray for Iran

by Mark Morris on October 1, 2013

A historic phone call between the leaders of two nations set in motion a flurry of speculation, fears and concerns. So as followers of Christ, what do we do?

We pray, as suggested in the following prayer guide for Iran from centralasianpeoples.imb.org.

Today’s Prayer

PERSIANS OF IRAN – (PURR-zhuns) Iranians love Jesus, because Islam considers Him to be a good man and a prophet. Since Iran’s Islamic revolution in 1979, there has been an increasing dissatisfaction and a longing for “something more.” People are hungry for the Gospel, and many are coming to faith in Christ. Please pray that God’s kingdom will continue to be established in Iran. Ask God to use this nation to spread the Good News, rather than the beliefs of Shia Islam, to its neighboring nations that follow Sunni Islam. read more