You’ve seen the television commercials. A man falls from his bike. A man stops to help and begins to examine the guy’s injured leg as if he were a physician. In another commerical a man is in a science lab working on a major experiment and is asked by the attendants, "Where did you go to school doctor?" He answers, in both cases, "I am not a doctor but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night." The idea is simple. Those who stay at a Holiday Inn Express will have judgment that allows them to go well beyond their normal abilities and expertise.

I thought about this when I noted last week the decision of the International Mission Board (IMB) of the Southern Baptist Convention, by a vote of 50-15, to no longer appoint candidates for overseas missions who speak in tongues in their private prayer life. Several years ago the IMB voted to not appoint a missionary who practiced tongues, or encouraged this practice, in public. Now they have decided to go even further and stop any new missionary appointee who prays in tongues in their private prayer life. Even though God clearly does not forbid speaking in tongues in private the SBC overseas mission agency (IMB) must know better than God, or they stayed at a Holiday Inn Express and learned things the rest of us poor Bible believers do not understand yet.

The IMB also refuses to appoint candidates who come from local churches that do not teach "believer security and practice only baptism by immersion." Read that very carefully, and slowly, to get the hard sectarian edge of clearly it in mind.

I find this utterly amazing. This is the largest mission agency in the world, currently supporting 5,122 missionaries, serving 1,194 people groups. I was called to the ministry through the work of this agency. I owe my life, in many ways, to the wtiness of the SBC overseas missions witness. At age twelve, through an SBC missionary, I heard God’s call to me.

This decision, by the IMB, is really part of a larger picture of the conservative take-over of the SBC over the last twenty-plus years. Many, like me, prayed for these conservatives in the SBC but now the present leadership leaves us seeking to make some sense of these kinds of decisions. 

I have no desire to be offensive I assure you, but what on earth were these folks thinking at the IMB when they passed a decision to inject their brand of Baptist politics into the private prayer lives of future missionaries? This is more sectarian than the old Landmark Baptist heresy which I fought as a child. (This heresy suggested that the Baptist church was the true church!)

I would hate to answer to God for passing a policy statement that bands what God makes permissible. I would also hate to explain Holiday Inn Expres theology to serious Christians who wanted to go to the mission field with my denominational agency.

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  1. Gene Redlin January 13, 2006 at 11:28 pm

    Sometimes on the mission field all you have is the Gift of Tounges. When you don’t anymore know what to pray, the Spirit Prays thru you. I have known several missionaries who have testified that in the lonely outback sometimes He’s all you have. The good news is, He’s all you need. These kind of actions bear fruit. In this case, I predict not good fruit. Pity.

  2. Lots January 14, 2006 at 2:51 am

    Ain’t been readin’ ya long, John, but I’ve noticed you’re fairly good on politics.
    As a missionary sent by a NON-Baptist church, I have dealt first-hand with a constant stream (and ever increasingly bizzare kinds) of Charismatics flowing onto the field (some FROM the IMB). Charismatic theology is poison. (Full stop!) Despite the defense of its leading proponents, the effects of this spiritual hemlock INVARIABLY undermines the authority and sufficiency of Scripture in the lives of its followers. I cannot more heartily applaud the IMB for this ruling! My soul cries out: “FINALLY, someone has handed out theological spines to the current leadership!” (I just wish I knew where the clinic was! I’d direct members of the baptist union in the country in which I serve, to go stand in line!) What remains is that the IMB would go one step further and make the ruling retroactive!! Let them do their part to rid this scourge from every land! “Sola Scriptura!”
    Lots Tusej

  3. Missional Baptist Blog January 14, 2006 at 10:28 am

    John Armstrong on IMB Policies

    John Armstrong has weighed in on the IMB policies. This decision, by the IMB, is really part of a larger picture of the conservative take-over of the SBC over the last twenty-plus years. Many, like me, prayed for these conservatives in the SBC but now …

  4. Cody C. Lorance January 17, 2006 at 1:42 pm

    Hey John,
    Just a couple thoughts. It wasn’t actually the IMB itself but rather the IMB trustees on this vote. That may sound like a moot point, but it’s worth mentioning because a lot of people in the IMB are against this move. I’m speaking more from the inside and I can tell you this is not without its internal controversy. I’ve even heard that some folks really high up in the organization are kicking against this. Having said that: pretty dumb decision anyway.

  5. The Sheep's Crib January 19, 2006 at 11:39 am

    SBC MISSIONS REDUX: This is a follow up post …

    to an earlier CRIB post. My hope is it helps rather than muddies already muddy IMB Trustee waters.
    A commentor on that post got me to thinking; as a bona fide supporter of the conservative resurgence in the SBC, did I do the right thing in support…

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