ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–Two longtime North American Mission Board vice presidents have announced they will take the voluntary retirement offer NAMB has extended to all staff members age 54 and older who have at least five years of service.
Richard Harris, vice president of the Sending Missionaries Group and NAMB’s interim president from August 2009 until mid-September 2010, and Harry Lewis, vice president of partnership missions and mobilization, will retire Dec. 31. David Meacham, NAMB’s vice president of associational strategies, retired Oct. 31.
The three will leave the mission board with legacies that span decades and with plans to continue their ministries in other areas for years to come.
“NAMB and Southern Baptists owe each of these men a debt of gratitude for all of their faithful years of service,” NAMB President Kevin Ezell said. “They have served in many capacities over the years and each leaves a legacy that will continue far beyond their last day of service to NAMB.”
Harris began work with the Home Mission Board (NAMB’s predecessor) in 1981 in the area of mass evangelism. In addition to serving in pastorates in Kentucky and Texas, Harris served in more than 25 interim pastorates in the Atlanta area before and during his work with HMB/NAMB.
During his 29-year tenure with NAMB, Harris also served as national chairman of four national evangelism emphases, including “Good News America” and “Here’s Hope” as well as vice president of church planting from 1997-2007.
“Get yourself where God can use you and He’ll wear you out,” said Harris, paraphrasing a favorite preacher, Vance Havner.
In his early years, Harris said he sensed God’s call to national ministry, which was fulfilled with his arrival at the Home Mission Board. There God used Him to help lead Southern Baptists in evangelism efforts, in providing language resources for cross-cultural church planting and in raising the standards for missionary applicants.
“I’m excited about the future,” Harris said. “When I started out in ministry I committed to be in the center of God’s will. As long as I’m there I know I’m in the right place.”
Harris will continue to work with NAMB in the entity’s relationships with Baptist state conventions. He and his wife Nancy have two sons and five grandchildren. They plan to stay in the Atlanta area.
Lewis served as a pastor for nearly 20 years. During that time, he also filled several denominational leadership posts, including serving as a member of the SBC Executive Committee, president of the California Southern Baptist Convention and on the board of trustees for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He came to NAMB in 1997 to serve as a regional coordinator to develop missions and evangelism strategies for associations and state conventions in the Midwest and Canada. Lewis was promoted to NAMB’s vice president of missions and mobilization in 2007.
“I’m not retiring,” Lewis said. “I’m moving on from NAMB but when God puts a call on your life, that doesn’t end with a specific assignment.” He and his wife Shirley will return home to Texas and pursue other ministry opportunities, particularly in the areas of church health and spiritual awakening.
“I have a real heart for spiritual awakening,” Lewis said. “I believe it’s the only hope for Southern Baptists. We’ve lost the passion for making disciples as instructed in Matthew 28:19-20. [Southern Baptists] know what to do but we just don’t do it, and spiritual awakening will renew the passion to do what we know we need to do.”
Meacham began work with HMB/NAMB as a church planter and resort missionary in 1975, following five years as a pastor near Riverside, Calif. Before coming to NAMB in 2008, Meacham served as executive director of the Nevada Baptist Convention and as an associational missionary in Las Vegas. He joined NAMB following his tenure as director of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary’s Leavell Center for Evangelism and Church Health.
“The basic mission to impact lostness has not changed since I started in church planting 35 years ago,” Meacham said. “I think that at all levels of our denomination the key is for us to help churches be successful in their mission work, and partnership is something I believe will continue to be important in the future.”
Meacham and wife Sue will stay in Cumming, Ga., and serve in teaching and service roles at Castleberry Road Baptist Church, making frequent visits to their children and 12 grandchildren in California, Kansas and Tennessee.
Adam Miller is a writer for the North American Mission Board.