Allen S. Maller

Fewer missionaries seeking to convert Jews and Muslims worldwide

In August 2015 the leaders of the Southern Baptists, America’s largest Protestant denomination, announced that their world wide missionary activity, the International Mission Board, would need to cut 800 paid employees, after spending a total of $210 million more than it had received since 2010. Last August there were about 4,800 missionaries and 450 staff.

Now the number of missionaries stands at about 3,800 and there are about 300 staffers, said International Mission Board spokeswoman Julie McGowan. In addition to remaining the largest missionary-sending organization of its kind, the current full-time payed foreign missionaries staff will be augmented by lay Southern Baptists, ranging from students to retirees who spend time overseas.

Southern Baptists have seen a decline in membership, dropping from 16.3 million in 2003 to just under 15.5 million in 2016. With the money saved by the reduction of full time foreign missionaries, the Baptists will likely expand their efforts to convert Jews and Muslims in the U.S.

Even though missionary groups spend many thousands of dollars for each Jew or Muslim they convert, they do not give up because they believe that “there is no salvation outside the church”.

Judaism lacks a strong missionary impulse because Judaism is a pluralistic religion. Judaism teaches that the Jewish way is right for Jews; and those non-Jews who want to join the Jewish Community.

But Judaism also teaches that good and kind people in other monotheistic religions, who follow the teachings of their own religion, also have a place in the world to come.

As the Qur’an says, “To each of you We prescribed a law and a method. Had Allah willed, He would have made you one nation [united in religion], but [He intended] to test you in what He has given you; so race [compete] to [be] good. To Allah is your return all together, and He will [then] inform you concerning that over which you used to differ. (5:48)

According to Jewish teachings, correct behavior in society is more important for all human beings than correct beliefs about God, although for Jews correct beliefs about God are also vital. Thus, while Jews welcome non-Jews to join our community, we do not have a urgent motive to ‘enlighten’ or ‘save’ their souls.

About the Author
Rabbi Allen S. Maller has published over 850 articles on Jewish values in over a dozen Christian, Jewish, and Muslim magazines and web sites. Rabbi Maller is the author of "Tikunay Nefashot," a spiritually meaningful High Holy Day Machzor, two books of children's short stories, and a popular account of Jewish Mysticism entitled, "God, Sex and Kabbalah." His most recent books are "Judaism and Islam as Synergistic Monotheisms' and "Which Religion Is Right For You?: A 21st Century Kuzari" both available on Amazon.
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