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Hammond addresses staff for first time

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–“Lord, help me to lead the North American Mission Board from my knees,” new NAMB president-elect Geoff Hammond told 250 NAMB staffers during their first meeting together on March 22.

The day before, NAMB’s board of trustees unanimously elected as its new president Hammond, who has been called a missionary’s missionary and a church planter’s church planter.

“As the result of you and your work, I want Southern Baptists to fall in love with missionaries all over again,” Hammond told the NAMB employees, who gave him two long standing ovations.

Nigerian-born, the youngest of five children and a third-generation missionary, the 49-year-old Hammond called his new job at NAMB “way, way bigger than one man.

“We’re going to work hard to be the premier mission agency for reaching North America for Christ,” Hammond said. “No one else can do it like we do — in the U.S., in Canada and in the territories. God has called us to work as a team.”

Hammond said he wanted NAMB employees to think “ethnic, bi-lingual, people groups and with a worldview.”

“What you do is not just for the North American Mission Board or Southern Baptists. What you do is for the Lord God Almighty,” he said. “And the people we serve are not the ones we see everyday.”

Missionaries are the “special forces,” Hammond said. “They live in the same nation we do, but in different cities and towns and with different license plates. But they are pulled in all the different ways and directions we are pulled.”

Hammond sounded a tone of partnership when he said he would emphasize cooperation among various SBC entities, as well as foster closer relationships with state conventions, local associations and local churches.

“Jesus died for the church,” he said. “I believe in the local church but I also believe in cooperation in missions in order to carry out the Great Commission. I believe the Cooperative Program is still the most effective way to support missions.

“I’m grateful to be a Southern Baptist, and I’m a Southern Baptist by choice. You can tell that by my accent,” he joked, referring to his mild but obvious British accent.

England is still home today for his sister and mother, who once told Hammond -– as a young boy -– that “being a missionary’s kid won’t get you to heaven, son.”

Hammond said he was born in a Southern Baptist mission hospital in Ogbomosho, Nigeria in 1957. As a teenager, he found Christ at a John Ankerberg crusade in Harare, Zimbabwe. After studying at Spurgeon’s College in London and at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth where he earned his doctorate, he served as an intern, assistant pastor and mission church pastor for the First Baptist Church of Dallas.

He has served as both a NAMB and International Mission Board (IMB) missionary, and a professor and church planter in Brazil, where he served with wife Debbie, who was an IMB journeyman missionary. Hammond also served as a director of missions in Springdale, Ark., leading an association that, during his tenure, started its first new churches in 15 years. Prior to his unanimous election as president-elect of NAMB, he was an executive and church planter strategist with the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia convention.

“I’ve been fortunate to live all over the world. I’ve had the privilege of helping plant churches on four different continents,” he said, reminding NAMB employees that North America is not the largest continent in the world.

It doesn’t matter, he said, whether a missionary is fully funded, partially funded or one of NAMB’s Mission Service Corps missionaries.

“What counts is whether you’re doing mission work. If you’re a fully funded missionary and still not leading people to Christ, not planting churches or not doing ministry-based evangelism, you’re not a missionary.”

Hammond said he dreams of the day when a Southern Baptist is witnessing to someone who speaks Farsi or Arabic and says, “Let me call up NAMB and see what resources they can give me for witnessing to this person.” But he added that NAMB must continue learning to contextualize, not just translate.

Mentioning NAMB’s headquarters building in Alpharetta, Ga., Hammond said he wants to create an even stronger missionary culture and mindset in the building. “I want us to think like missionaries in this building. When people come into this building, I want them to immediately realize that we’re in touch with missionaries across North America.”

Bill Curtis, chairman of NAMB’s board of trustees, told NAMB employees, “I believe with all my heart that God has given us the man who has met every one of our criteria, and who is equipped, called and committed to leading the North American Mission Board toward what God wants it to be.”

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  • Mickey Noah