ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–Two years after then-SBC President Frank Page issued a challenge to the North American Mission Board’s leadership for a national evangelistic initiative, Page is happy with the development so far of GPS, God’s Plan for Sharing. But not yet satisfied, he notes there’s much more work to do.
NAMB’s interim acting president, Richard Harris, agreed, saying that the mission board continues to be fully committed to spending the $1.2 million already earmarked for GPS.
“Nothing on GPS has changed,” said Harris, referring to the recent leadership change at NAMB. “In fact, I can’t comment on final figures but in addition to the $1.2 million media buy, we are proposing to add many additional dollars for GPS. But we cannot release the figures until our budget is approved by the NAMB board of trustees at their October meeting.
“I hope this sends a strong signal to our partners in the state conventions and local associations that as a [mission board], NAMB is still giving top priority to GPS. All of our leadership is of one heart on this. This is our lead emphasis for 2010, supporting our three priorities — sharing Christ, starting churches and sending missionaries.”
Harris said NAMB staff is working on five- and 10-year budget plans that would project yet additional financial support for GPS for the next 10 years.
“This will enable us to know where we’re going, and it will allow our partners in the states to know we’re committed to GPS so we won’t have to have discussions about what we plan to do. We’re committed in the long run.”
It was NAMB’s evangelization group that worked in conjunction with 120 leaders from 43 state conventions to develop GPS. “This is why GPS has 100 percent buy-in from our state convention partners,” Harris said.
Harris has named longtime NAMB evangelism team leader Thomas Hammond as interim group coordinator of evangelization to give leadership to developing a comprehensive NAMB evangelism strategy built around GPS.
All this is music to the ears of Frank Page.
“The evangelism group at NAMB has done a fantastic job on GPS thus far,” said Page, president of the convention in 2006 and 2007 and senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Taylors, S.C. “It has the elements we need for a 10-year strategy. GPS must be flexible, multifaceted, intentional and involve other entities like LifeWay [Christian Resources]. We just need to flesh it out and develop it more. The process isn’t completed yet, but is well on the way. I’m excited about it, and I appreciate being kept in the loop.”
Page said GPS will extend until 2020 with new themes every two years, encompassing nationwide calls to revival, neighborhood outreach events, more tools and broader training.
“Flexibility is key because some things will work in some places and won’t work in others,” Page said. “We also need heavy involvement among ethnic groups.”
GPS is even more important today than in 2007, Page said, because “there are more lost people now than there was then. This is the third largest lost country in the world, behind China and India. We’re not reaching the cities. The sheer numbers say you need to do something.
“This is the nation that provides the lion’s share of the money for international missions,” Page said. “We’re the base of support for the ministry to the world and if we lose the base, we’ve lost the battle.”
Page said he first issued the call for a national evangelism initiative in 2006 although he had worked with NAMB for several years in evangelism. He said he was aware of the strategies already in place that had worked in the past.
“But I saw the lack of a cogent plan for reaching the nation. There had been some attempts but they would start and stop. I was aware of a large void when it came to a nationwide evangelistic strategy.
“Baptisms continue to decline and many of the factors are frightening,” Page continued. “Why not have something that will pull us Southern Baptists together? We have great state conventions, associations and churches that desperately want someone to sound the charge, rise up, move on and lead the way. Baptists out there want someone to lead and if there is a leader, they will follow.”
Page believes GPS will benefit Southern Baptists by providing clarity, direction and unity.
“We need a unified force. If there’s anything that has unified Southern Baptists in the past, it was evangelistic ministry. We know that’s the Great Commission.”
According to NAMB, the goal of GPS is to fulfill the Great Commission in North America by working to ensure that “every believer shares and every person hears by 2020.”
Under GPS, NAMB and its state partners will launch a special evangelism campaign every two years beginning in 2010. The 2010 theme will be “Across North America.” Subsequent themes: “Reaching Across North America,” 2012; “Serving Across North America,” 2014; “Sharing Across North America,” 2016; “Start Something Across North America,” 2018; and “Celebrating Across North America,” 2020.
Running through Easter Sunday (April 4, 2010), the 2010 GPS campaign will include:
— a three-week targeted media saturation prior to Easter (TV, radio, billboards, newspapers, etc.); NAMB is contributing $1.2 million to the media buys while many state conventions are adding their own funding as well.
— prayerwalking by participating SBC churches.
— church saturation of a community using a clear plastic “door-hanger” containing a “Find It Here” Gospel tract, a church brochure and an invitation to Easter services.
— a five-week follow-up by participating churches.
“GPS will have a great impact on lostness in North America,” Page said, “as we see 44,000 Baptist churches, 43 state conventions and hundreds of local associations truly mobilize — getting the people out and sharing the Good News. I think thousands, if not millions, will come to Christ as a result of GPS.”
SBC churches that want to sample NAMB’s GPS resources can go to the www.gps2020.net website. The GPS media campaign is geared toward driving non-believers to an external website, www.findithere.com. Both websites are up and running.
Mickey Noah is a writer for the North American Mission Board.