WOODSTOCK, Ga. (BP)–Before 3,000 people at First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga. — one of the largest crowds to ever witness a North American Mission Board missionary commissioning service — NAMB introduced 79 new missionaries and 16 new chaplains on Sunday, March 28.
The new missionaries and chaplains represented 24 states, two Canadian provinces and 23 state Baptist conventions. South Carolina alone accounted for 11 missionaries commissioned during the two-hour service.
One newly commissioned Army chaplain, Capt. Jared Vineyard, will be deployed to Afghanistan later this summer, leaving behind his expectant wife Amanda, son Jacob and daughter Kate at Fort Campbell, Ky. Vineyard will serve as a chaplain in the “Band of Brothers” battalion of the 101st Airborne Division, also known as the “Screaming Eagles.”
As one of seven battalion chaplains, the 30-year-old Vineyard will be pastor to 900 soldiers, part of a 4,000-soldier brigade deploying to Afghanistan in late August.
“The Army says these are your soldiers, and you become a pastor to these 900 men, most of whom are lost,” Vineyard said. “We call it a ministry of presence. When they go out in the field to train, I go out in the field with them.”
The commissioning at First Baptist Woodstock was especially sweet for Charlie and Cindy Minney, who called it “phenomenal” to be commissioned at the same Atlanta-area church where he served 11 years prior to his new assignment as an associational missionary in the Coalfields Baptist Association in Logan, W.Va.
“To be here back at home with the First Baptist Woodstock family, and to have them send us off like this, I can’t explain it in words,” Minney said. In his new post, Minney will work with church planters to start new churches, with existing churches to accomplish specific goals, and with the associational team to develop a mission strategy for the Coalfields region.
Steve and Nellene Carter of Lincolnton, N.C., were commissioned as Missionary Service Corps (MSC) missionaries for Vermont and New Hampshire. To be based in Barre, Vt., the Carters will leave their North Carolina home to spend six months of the year in Vermont to encourage pastors and to serve as “church strengtheners” to the 35 congregations in the Green Mountain Baptist Association serving Vermont and two churches in New Hampshire.
The Carters are both retired from earlier careers — Nellene as a banker and Steve as a manager for a nuclear plant for 27 years.
“We have been to Vermont on short-term mission trips for the last six summers,” Carter said. “During those summers, we developed a heart for Vermont because it’s the least evangelized state in the nation.”
Bill and Monaca Brisbin and Rick and Sharon Bradley, all of South Lebanon, Ohio, were all commissioned as Mission Service Corps missionaries who work with ministries at First Baptist Church, South Lebanon.
The Brisbins, for instance, have led the “Bread Basket” food ministry for the last 18 months, providing 120 families each week with bread products and emergency food boxes.
Johnny Hunt, First Baptist Woodstock’s senior pastor and president of the Southern Baptist Convention, welcomed the missionaries, their families and friends, NAMB staff and others to the church for the commissioning.
“What a joy to support our NAMB missionaries, and for our own people to see that ordinary, common people of every age — senior adults, young couples, single women, single guys — all reflect the example of what we teach.”
Richard Harris, interim president of NAMB in Alpharetta, Ga., challenged the new missionaries and chaplains to be driven by one simple thing: “the call of Almighty God on your life. Never leave it, never lose it, never doubt it. You will need that during the hard days to encourage you and keep you going.”
Harris told the missionaries that God will hold them “accountable for two things — equipping every church member to be a reproducing follower of Christ and sharing the Good News with every person in your Jerusalem and in your sphere of influence.”
“Some SBC churches have forgotten these two things, when you consider that 25 percent of churches baptized nobody last year. More than 61 percent of our churches baptized five or less; 79 percent baptized 10 or less; and only 251 of our bigger churches baptized 100 or more. I’m proud to say that First Baptist Woodstock was one of those,” Harris said.
Harris dismissed the notion that most Baptists don’t have the gift of evangelism.
“There’s no such thing as the gift of evangelism in the Bible,” he said. “Show me where it talks about the gift of evangelism. Ephesians talks about the office of evangelist. But every believer — missionary, chaplain, pastor, church member and Sunday School member — is responsible for bringing people to faith in Christ. If you’re not fishing, you’re not following.”
Harris said three out of every four people — whether in rural areas or urban areas, where 83 percent of North Americans live — need Christ.
“Lostness” is especially pervasive in Canada, where Harris said that out of the nation’s 34 million people, only 5 percent have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Thirty-five Canadian cities with populations of more than 35,000 have no evangelistic witness. Six million French Canadians represent the largest of 587 unreached people groups in North America, Harris noted.
Also participating in the commissioning service were J. Robert White, executive director of the Georgia Baptist Convention, and Kay Miller, national president of Woman’s Missionary Union.
In all, more than 5,300 missionaries serve with the North American Mission Board, most of them through partnerships with state Baptist conventions. In addition to the missionaries, NAMB is the endorsing entity for more than 3,400 Southern Baptist chaplains in military, hospital, professional, corporate, public safety and institutional settings.
Mickey Noah is a writer for the North American Mission Board.