LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–God is transforming lives through the ministries of North American Mission Board missionaries and chaplains, but North America is still in dire need of a Savior, NAMB president Geoff Hammond told messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention June 24.
“North America is a mission field,” Hammond told the audience gathered at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, Ky. “And it will take missionaries, living with urgency, who know missionary principles to reach this mission field.”
Through video and in person, Hammond introduced missionaries Ken and Sharon Dean, Ben and Jill Barfield, Army Chaplain (Major) Daniel Middlebrooks and Army Chaplain (Col.) Pat Hash.
Dean, a church and community ministries missionary who serves in partnership with the California Southern Baptist Convention, has seen hundreds of lives changed in his work helping churches develop Gospel-centered social ministries that meet people’s physical needs while meeting their spiritual needs as well.
Hammond then introduced a video featuring the work of Southern Baptist chaplains serving in Iraq. The video featured the ministry of Chaplain Middlebrooks, who serves in the emergency room at Camp Victory in Baghdad.
“It’s meeting them at their point of need and walking with them in the journey,” Middlebrooks said in the video. “Because eventually they let you lead, when you have earned credibility. And the only place I can lead them is toward the foot of the cross.”
Middlebrooks was unable to appear in person, but Hammond invited Chaplain (Col.) Pat Hash on stage to accept the appreciation of the audience, who gave him a sustained standing ovation.
Eyes throughout the convention hall quickly turned moist as the next video introduced NAMB missionary Ben Barfield, whose ministry touched the life of a young atheist father whose baby daughter’s miraculous birth led to his spiritual rebirth.
Hammond invited Barfield, his wife Jill, and the atheist-turned-Christian father — Danny McDermott and his wife Danielle — on stage to join in a moment of embrace as those in attendance rose to their feet in applause. The McDermott’s daughter, Bobbi, was born with multiple health complications and died 18 months after birth.
“Danielle told me backstage tonight that they know they’ll both see Bobbi again because now they both know the Lord,” Hammond shared, adding that Barfield’s church is already in the process of starting three new church plants.
In between missionary stories, American Idol 2006 finalist Mandisa performed her Christian music hit “Voice of a Savior” and she joined Hammond, the missionaries and Chaplain Hash onstage at the end of the presentation as well.
Prior to the NAMB presentation, Hammond reported to messengers that Southern Baptist churches, local associations, all 42 state conventions and the Canadian National Baptist Convention have joined the GPS — God’s Plan for Sharing — effort in what he said will be “the largest, most extended and far-reaching national evangelism initiative ever launched in the SBC.”
Telling the Louisville messengers about GPS’ four pilot projects this spring, Hammond mentioned a saintly 95-year-old woman in Lubbock, Texas — seen using her walker to move door-to-door on her street to hand out tracts from her church, doing her part to share the Gospel.
Lubbock Association joined the Stone Mountain Association of Atlanta, Ga., the Inland Association of Riverside, Calif., and the Philadelphia (Penn.) Association to prayer walk and sow down the Gospel in their communities in the three weeks leading up to last Easter.
“In all, 265 churches enlisted more than 8,000 volunteers who touched more than 270,000 homes with the Gospel during the four pilots,” according to Hammond. “And just as the Scripture tells us, when we sow, we will reap. The numbers show there were more than 600 decisions for Christ, and many more have come to Christ since then.”
Hammond told the convention messengers that if only half of all Baptist associations participated in the same percentage as the churches in the four pilots, Southern Baptists could touch 32 million homes in 2010, about one-third of the population of North America.
Shifting to Southern Baptists’ role in church planting in North America and the partnership among NAMB, state conventions, associations and local churches, Hammond said Southern Baptists started one new church every eight hours in 2008, four churches every day or 30 new churches each week.
“Almost half these church starts were among the ethnic and African-American population of North America,” Hammond said. The Southern Baptist Convention now has some 50,000 churches across North America, and NAMB’s vision is for every church to be engaged in starting a new church among all people groups by 2020.
While church planting is under way in remote, rural and suburban areas, Hammond said reaching major American cities remains the chief priority at NAMB.
“Today, 65 percent of the population resides in the 100 largest metropolitan areas of North America,” Hammond said. “Most of the people groups in North America are found in these major cities.”
Hammond reported that NAMB’s number of jointly funded and approved missionaries is now more than 5,600, including Mission Service Corps missionaries who raise their own support. Another 261,000 Southern Baptists served as short-term missionaries in 2008 — 65,000 of them in the poverty-stricken Appalachian region of the U.S.
“None of this could be done without the generous giving of Southern Baptist church members and, on behalf of our missionaries, I want to thank you for your sacrificial giving to the Cooperative Program and to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions,” Hammond said.
Mickey Noah is a writer for the North American Mission Board. Mike Ebert is NAMB’s coordinator of publications and media relations .