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7/25/97 NAMB’s new president commits to ‘impossible’ baptism goal

GLORIETA, N.M. (BP)–Southern Baptists’ Bold Mission Thrust goal of baptizing half a million people a year by A.D. 2000 is impossible, said Bob Reccord, new president of the North American Mission Board.
“We cannot meet this goal in these final three years of Bold Mission Thrust. We’ve already shown that it’s an impossible task for us,” Reccord told NAMB staff and missionaries at Glorieta (N.M.) Baptist Conference Center July 18 during North American Missions Week.
“But it is not impossible for God,” Reccord said of the Southern Baptist Convention goal adopted in 1976.
“I believe God wants us to set goals that are beyond ourselves and then trust him. Let’s focus Southern Baptist resources on this goal, call his people to prayer and see what God can do.”
Convention baptisms declined nearly 4 percent last year to 380,000, Reccord said, “In the past 15 years, we have seen an increase in the number of SBC churches that don’t baptize anyone. Last year, we were only slightly ahead of the Mormon Church in number of conversions reported. We simply must reach more people with the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
The new missions leader also set a target for the number of baptisms in the new millennium. “I believe God wants our churches to baptize a million people a year by the year 2005,” Reccord said. “People will say, ‘That’s impossible.’ Good, because if it makes sense to us, it’s probably not of God. Let’s try something we cannot do without him.”
Reccord told Baptist Press he already has consulted with NAMB’s trustee executive committee and received strong affirmation of the baptism goals which he said will require concerted prayer support.
“We must have a prayer emphasis for this task — not a canned program or empty slogan, but a real call to prayer by every Southern Baptist.”
Reccord also provided an outline for the structure and focus of the new agency which coordinates SBC mission work in the United States and Canada.
“According to Matthew 28:18-20, we as Christians have one master calling and that is to make disciples,” Reccord explained. “To assist our churches in that calling, the Southern Baptist Convention has charged our agency with two major tasks: evangelism and church planting. We have three major delivery systems to do that: missionaries, ministry and media.”
“And,” Reccord said, “we have set four major targets for those efforts: impacting major cities, growing ethnic congregations, evangelizing students and mobilizing volunteers for missions.” Reccord noted delineating the four target emphases will not exclude or replace present efforts or areas of work. “I believe there will be resources to do all we are doing, in addition to these strategically critical areas.”
Emphasizing the primary role of the local church, Reccord said, “The key focus of our polity is the local church. The local church is the cutting edge of everything we do. It’s not the denominational structure, but the local church that God has placed at the center of everything he is doing. The SBC and its agencies exist for one reason, and that is to assist the local church.”
Reccord added, “Cookie-cutter programs don’t work for everybody. NAMB can help identify some principles that seem to work, but we’re going to have to fit strategies with the places and people we’re trying to reach.”
Reccord said many people may be expecting him to lay out a detailed plan for the agency’s first 18 months, but confessed, “I don’t know exactly what or how we’re going to do these things. But I do know we’re going to start by listening to God. Southern Baptists can be assured that everything the North American Mission Board does will be bathed in prayer.”

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  • Martin King