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Ga. exec: SBC needs NAMB, CP

DULUTH, Ga. (BP)–The North American Mission Board is “absolutely essential” to Southern Baptists as a stand-alone entity and is critical to reaching the continent for Christ, Georgia Baptist Convention Executive Director J. Robert White said to the GBC executive committee in mid-September.

“There is no agency in the SBC that works like NAMB,” White said, citing the unique relationship between the mission board and state conventions jointly carrying out the Great Commission.

“In cooperative agreements with 42 state Baptist conventions, NAMB works to support the effort of missionaries in language missions, resort missions and various other ministries that reach our nation for Jesus Christ. Those joint efforts are unique to NAMB” and are not shared by any other missions entity, White said.

“If we lose this ministry in the homeland, we have lost our homeland security.”

White, who has led the state convention for 17 years, said he is frequently thanked by executive directors from smaller conventions for what Georgia Baptists are doing through their support of the Cooperative Program.

Since smaller conventions are unable to support their ministries without additional funding, NAMB channels many of those Georgia Baptist dollars and those from other strong conventions back to weaker conventions to support staff and missionaries.

“They freely tell me that without what Georgia Baptists are doing they could not exist as a state convention,” White said.

“Old Line” conventions such as Georgia, then, are able to support, through the Cooperative Program, “ministries that really are reaching every village in our nation with the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ,” he said.

“That is one reason why I’m so committed to the Cooperative Program — because it is the vehicle through which we are able to get resources out to our own nation to people who are walking in darkness and need to see the great light.

“Without that kind of relationship with the North American Mission Board, you could say ‘goodbye’ to about two-thirds of state convention work in this country. That would mean we would be leaving for our children and our grandchildren a more greatly lost nation than we are seeing today,” White said.

“In Acts 1:8, Jesus specified four mission fields … Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the uttermost. As far as we can tell, He gave equal weight to each of those areas. But, in Luke 24:47, He said we are to begin in Jerusalem, which is our homeland.”

White said he refuses to give up on the homeland “because I believe in spiritual homeland security. I believe in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and I believe with all my heart that we need the North American Mission Board. We need to pray for revival as we have never prayed before, both across Georgia and across our land, that God will bring a great sweeping revival.”

NAMB will play a critical role in coordinating those revival efforts on a national level and across Canada, White said, through emphases such as God’s Plan for Sharing.

In two follow-up meetings before a statewide orientation of new pastors and in a regular chapel service, White continued to affirm his support of the Cooperative Program as the only viable way to support Southern Baptist missions enterprises.

“The Cooperative Program, from the time of its origin in 1925, was never intended to be a required payment or an assessment of dues that a church would pay to the Southern Baptist Convention. It was just assumed that when we, as Southern Baptists in our churches, would see that we could do a whole lot more in missions together than we could independently, that our churches would choose to cooperate in the Cooperative Program,” White said.

“It’s a matter of fact that since its founding the Cooperative Program has advanced Southern Baptists to become the greatest evangelical force in the world,” he continued. “With nearly 11,000 missionaries serving in North America, Canada, our territories and 186 countries of the world through NAMB and the International Mission Board, it is just amazing what God has done.

“All you can say is ‘Wow, that’s absolutely incredible. What a joy to be part of something so much bigger than me, so much bigger than my church could ever do, just by joining resources with others.'”

White, in addressing his comments to the new pastors, acknowledged that volunteer missions has been one of the greatest movements among Southern Baptists. He lauded churches involved in mission trips but cautioned against the temptation to take money from the Cooperative Program to support such trips.

“One should not pre-empt the other; a church can be strongly involved in missions and a strong supporter of the Cooperative Program, and I know several that do this well,” White said. “But cutting back on Cooperative Program giving to provide trips for church members severely limits the resources for our career missionaries who remain long after the volunteers return home after a week on the field.”

The state executive urged the pastors to use existing funding channels to support all Southern Baptist ministries through the Cooperative Program and then provide additional support to other ministries, as the congregation chooses, through the special offerings set aside for those purposes.

“You don’t need to change the funding formula to get more money to one agency over the other,” White said. “If a church feels a strong calling to provide additional support to one of the agencies, it just increases the amount it gives to one of the special offerings, such as Annie Armstrong for NAMB or Lottie Moon for IMB.

“When you use those special offerings as they were intended, 100 percent of your gifts go directly to that agency of preference, and that is how it was designed to operate.”

White said it is interesting to observe that, in recent years, a number of pastors seem to have become increasingly independent in their spirit.

“Apparently some pastors have come to believe that they can do more going it alone than by cooperating with others. They will tell you something like, ‘Our church supports its own missionaries and we like it that way because they come home and report to us about the work they are doing. Then, our church receives firsthand experience as we go out to the mission field to work alongside them. We really like seeing where our money goes.’

“I applaud a pastor and a congregation that loves the mission field and has a missionary heart, but just understand that you absolutely can never accomplish all by yourself as a church what you can accomplish if you join with others.

“It’s a proven fact that a very large church can only support a dozen or maybe two-dozen families on the international mission field. When you think about it, those members have to provide all the resources the folks on the field need for daily life, medical coverage, life insurance and retirement plans.

“They have to work with the local government to make sure all their documents are in order and to provide for the children’s education, many times in a private school system where they are safe and get a good, solid education. This is a huge amount of responsibility for a church to undertake.”

Then those churches have to deal with those missionaries coming back to the church and reporting that they don’t have adequate resources to accomplish the work they have been sent to accomplish, White continued. At that point, the congregation discovers it has created an emotional draw upon itself to increase the giving to those missionaries to keep ahead of rising costs.

“It can soon get to the point that it’s all a church can do to provide for the needs of their missionaries in a miniscule part of the world,” White said. “Whereas if that church would simply cooperate with 43,000 other likeminded churches they could be a part of supporting 11,000 missionaries in nearly 190 countries,” he explained.

“Because Southern Baptists’ current funding channel is a cooperative effort handled through the mission boards, you don’t have the missionaries coming to your church to ask for funds for their individual ministries, and pastors can devote more time to preparing for the spiritual nurture of their congregation. It is a much more effective and efficient system, so why would we want to neglect it?”
Joe Westbury is managing editor of The Christian Index (www.christianindex.org), newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention.

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