ATLANTA (BP)–More than 430 Southern Baptist leaders — state executives, local association representatives and church planting and evangelism specialists from across North America — converged on Atlanta July 26-30 for the North American Mission Board’s annual summer senior leadership meeting.
Using “Live With Urgency: Sharing God’s Transforming Power” as the major conference’s theme, NAMB President Geoff Hammond challenged the attendees on how they can make the greatest impact for the Great Commission.
The event brings together directors of mission, directors of evangelism, church planting missionaries and other state and national denominational leaders for a time of planning state and national evangelism and church planting efforts.
“We stand at a historical point in Southern Baptist life. We are embarking on the most extended, farthest-reaching national evangelism initiative we’ve ever attempted,” said Hammond, referring to NAMB’s GPS (God’s Plan for Sharing) effort now under way.
“Forty-two state conventions have bought into GPS, and we have the possibility in the weeks before next Easter to sow down the Gospel impacting 32 million homes, one-third of the population of North America. I don’t know of any other denomination that can do that.”
Hammond said Southern Baptist church planters across North America are planting a new church every six hours, four new churches a day, and 30 new churches each week. “And these are not just Anglo churches, but Hispanic and African-American churches as well.”
Stressing that North America is a mission field, Hammond said in 30 years, 30 percent of the U.S. population will be Hispanic and only 46 percent Anglo. “If we’re going to reach the lost of North America, we must have much more diversity in worship, in thinking and in working together.
“In Toronto, 911 emergency calls are answered in one of as many as 150 different languages,” he said. “The population of the United States will increase 400 million over the next 35 years. Canada is growing by 250,000 each year.”
And while 65 million people in North America live in the top 100 metro areas, lostness also exists throughout America’s rural areas, Hammond said.
“We must have a Christian presence to change a community for Christ,” he said. “That’s why we send missionaries. But there are 186 counties in the north central states with no Southern Baptist witness. In Wisconsin alone, there are 25 school districts with not a single evangelical church. There are 440 counties — with 7.6 million people — in the U.S. with no SBC work at all.”
North American mission work, he said, must be cross-cultural, reproducible, indigenous and must use multiplication, not simple addition, in order to reach the continent’s estimated 255 million unbelievers.
Another featured speaker during the four-day conference was Tom Elliff of Oklahoma City, former Southern Baptist Convention president and former IMB executive. Attendees also heard from Don Piper, author of “90 Minutes in Heaven.”
During the four-day conference, Hammond announced the presentation of the “President’s Award” to Charles L. Chaney, who retired in 1997 as vice president of the Home Mission Board, the predecessor of the North American Mission Board.
Hammond introduced a video in which Van Kicklighter, NAMB’s senior strategist for church planting, personally presented the award to Chaney, now 75, during a recent visit to Chaney’s home in Granbury, Texas.
“Dr. Chaney, this award is an acknowledgement of the things you did and the difference you made in helping Southern Baptists across North America,” Kicklighter said. “What you did as you led the extension section of the HMB has laid the foundation we’re still building on. We are still standing on your shoulders. This award is for your vision, challenge, leadership and ministry to reach North America for Christ through church planting.”
Another top NAMB award — the 2009 Dennis Hampton Rural Church Planting Award — was presented to Terry Dorsett, associational missionary for Green Mountain Baptist Association in Vermont (which covers the entire state) for the past seven years. Under Dorsett’s leadership, the Green Mountain Baptist Association has grown from 17 churches to 37 churches. In 1999, fewer than 600 people worshipped in a Vermont Southern Baptist church on a typical Sunday. By 2008, that number had tripled to almost 1,900. The award is named in honor of Hampton, who was a veteran church planting missionary in Nebraska and who died in 2006.
NAMB’s evangelization group honored five state Baptist conventions for their state’s increase in the number of baptisms between 2007 and 2008. The state conventions honored were: Florida Baptist Convention, Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, Tennessee Baptist Convention, Kentucky Baptist Convention and the Baptist Convention of New Mexico.
Also honored for their percentage increase in baptisms during 2007-2008 were the Wyoming Southern Baptist Convention, Dakota Baptist Convention, the Baptist Convention of New Mexico, the Baptist State Convention of Michigan and the Kansas-Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptists.
NAMB’s church planting group recognized several state conventions for outstanding church planting in 2008: Illinois Baptist State Association (first in readiness/awareness); Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware (first in enlistment); Georgia Baptist Convention (first in equipping); and the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (first in multiplication).
Also honored during NAMB’s summer senior leadership meeting were the following recent retirees: Peck Lindsay, Kansas/Nebraska Convention, 52 years of total service (state conventions/local associations/pastorates/missionary service); Ken James, Kansas/Nebraska Convention, 43 total years of service; and John Kovalchuk, Penn/South Jersey Convention, 31
total years of service.
Mickey Noah is a writer for the North American Mission Board.