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Harris to NAMB: opportunity is ‘before us’


ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–“It’s a brand new day, and we have an opportunity before us,” Richard Harris, newly appointed acting interim president for the North American Mission Board (NAMB), told staff at their weekly prayer chapel, Thursday.

The staff gathered just two days after a meeting of NAMB’s board of trustees ended with the resignation of the entity’s president, Geoff Hammond, and three of his closest associates.

Harris told staff he’s a “windshield” Christian, not a “rearview mirror” Christian. “I’m going to honor the past and try to learn from the past, but every day is a new day,” he said. “I hope as we move forward that God will bind our hearts together and we would accomplish what He put us here to do.”

He reminded staff that the hour is urgent and that 255 million people in North America still do not have a relationship with Jesus Christ. Harris challenged staff to go home and look in the mirror and imagine they are holding those 255 million people in their hands and to say, “God, I’m responsible. This is under our watch. What are we going to do?”

Citing Hebrews 12:1, Harris told staff that if they fix their eyes on any human, they are going to be disappointed.

“Don’t let circumstances determine your joy,” Harris said. “Our joy ought to be determined by a relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ, not by circumstances. The joy of the Lord is our strength.

“We need to lay aside everything that entangles and hinders us and let’s fix our eyes on Jesus.”

Harris said that during the interim NAMB would continue to focus on three priorities: sharing Christ, starting churches and sending missionaries.

“There will be one special focus that will be the lead and that’s GPS — God’s Plan for Sharing.”

According to Harris, NAMB leadership is reviewing ways they can not only fulfill current funding promises for GPS, but also prioritize more resources for the effort. GPS is NAMB’s national evangelism initiative introduced at the 2008 SBC annual meeting. Harris commended NAMB’s evangelism team for laying a solid foundation, getting the strategy in place and building consensus and ownership among state leaders.

“The members of the SLT [strategic leadership team] and I believe that this must be our priority,” he said. “It’s our opportunity to make the greatest impact in the time that we have.”

Harris said he would continue to work with the strategic leadership team to make strategic decisions guided by the Holy Spirit.

“Our goal will be to stay the course, try to stay effective and relevant, doing what God has put us here to do.”

Harris asked staff to commit to praying for the strategic leadership team, the trustees, missionaries and for one another.

“We’ve got to get our hearts knitted in the spirit of God, and prayer is one of the best ways to do that,” Harris said. “That’s where we make sure we’re listening to God so we don’t make mistakes.

“If we’re going to see an awakening in North America, it’s got to start right here in our hearts.”

Responding to the Great Commission Task Force meetings held earlier in the week, Harris said he believed Southern Baptists need two mission boards.

“Can things be done more efficiently and effectively? Absolutely, and we will certainly cooperate to that end,” Harris said.

“I want us to join our hearts, our hands and our heads and take NAMB to the next level with an intentional commitment to reach North America,” Harris said. “This is not a game, this is serious business, and it’s the greatest business on the earth.”

In coming days, Harris said, direct communication about changes and priorities would be made with NAMB missionaries, state executive directors, state directors of missions, state directors of evangelism and all of NAMB’s partners.

These could, Harris said, the greatest days of impacting North America. “Not because we’re here, but because that would bring glory to Jesus. As we move forward, God is sovereign and He is on His throne.”
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Carol Pipes is editor of On Mission and a staff writer for the North American Mission Board.