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Hunt ‘surprised’ by talk of combining NAMB, IMB into single missions entity

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–Speaking to some 200 North American Mission Board staffers at chapel June 4, Southern Baptist Convention President Johnny Hunt said, “I was as surprised as you were when the story hit proposing to join NAMB and the IMB [International Mission Board].

“The Great Commission Resurgence has absolutely nothing to do with that. I want to clear the air,” said Hunt, adding, “God forbid that we call ourselves connected to the Creator of the universe and be afraid of a question. I should never be afraid of a question. I shouldn’t be afraid of the examination.”

Hunt, senior pastor of the Atlanta-area First Baptist Church in Woodstock, was referring to his recently released “Toward a Great Commission Resurgence” declaration, which offers a 10-point initiative for rekindling Southern Baptists’ passion for Jesus’ last earthly command to share the Gospel throughout the world. Since its release on April 27, the declaration has been signed by some 3,400 Southern Baptists to date.

“The Great Commission Resurgence is a major North America initiative to help us and the churches reach the United States -– the third-largest lost nation in the world,” Hunt told NAMB employees.

Hunt opened with an illustration of soldiers who must take a strongly defended hill.

“The men who are courageous and bold take the hill. But a military rule of battle is that you never place a hill-taker in the role of a hill-occupier. You want the hill-takers to move on to the next hill. If you put the hill-taker in as an occupier, they’ll think there are no new hills to take,” Hunt said.

Following Hunt’s remarks, Geoff Hammond, president of the North American Mission Board, said he sees NAMB as a strategic missions partner for Southern Baptists to take the “North American hill” for Christ.

“Never has there been a time when Southern Baptists need focus so much on this growing sea of lost people called North America,” Hammond said. “There is still much land to take for God’s Kingdom, whether it’s in urban settings, major cities, rural America or among the vast growing number of people groups in North America.”

Hunt said, “I’m grateful to God for what we called the Conservative Resurgence [in the SBC]. We needed that and needed to make a stand. But let me ask you a question: Are there any more hills we need to take or was that it?”

Hunt said he still believes that if Baptists would give more than ever before, “we can still fulfill the Great Commission in my lifetime.”

“We have the mechanisms, the people, the resources. We don’t need to hunker down right now because of the economic downturn,” Hunt said. “The last time I checked, God owns the earth and the fullness thereof, and has cattle on a thousand hills. Jesus Christ does not read The Wall Street Journal.”

Hunt invited questions from NAMB staff at the end of his message. In answer to a question from one employee, Hunt confirmed he believes in the effectiveness and efficiency of the Cooperative Program, and that it is still as valid today as in 1925 when it began.

“I really believe it is [still valid]. What we’ve promised as national leaders is that we would be open, vulnerable and give great clarity and that’s what I’m asking for [in the Great Commission Resurgence].

“I think we still have the greatest structure [for giving], although I was quoted in a national article that I was going to dismantle the Cooperative Program and decimate the SBC because I don’t believe in the structure. Of course I do. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be sending $525,000 undesignated out of my budget, and $2 million designated to Southern Baptist causes this year. If I didn’t believe in the Cooperative Program, I wouldn’t be doing that.”

Hunt also responded when asked the difference between “resurgence” and “refocus.” NAMB President Geoff Hammond announced May 20 that he will appoint a “North American Great Commission Task Force” to study the actions and activities that will help Southern Baptists more effectively reach North America for Christ. Hammond has referred to this as a “refocus” on the Great Commission.

“Resurgence involves the need for the rising of the entire denomination,” Hunt said. “As you refocus, it will show the areas where you need to rise. I think it’s healthy to take a look, whether it’s the denomination or the local churches. Somebody said we did that in 1997, but every 18 months knowledge and technology double. [First Baptist] Woodstock looks nothing like it did in 1997, including the church and me. Facts are our friends.”

Hunt said that in his 36 years as a Christian, at 56 years old, with 33 years as a pastor and 23 years at Woodstock, he has never lost his passion for the work of Christ. “I think we just have too many people who’ve gotten over Jesus,” he said.

“For the record, let me say I’m first and foremost a local church pastor. I was before and I will be after [his term as SBC president]. I haven’t missed a Sunday at my church this year because of the SBC. That’s because I believe my platform is stronger if I do what I was called to do with the people of First Baptist Church Woodstock.”

In welcoming Hunt to NAMB, Hammond said, “I’m grateful to Johnny for directing the attention of Southern Baptists to the Great Commission This is a great time for NAMB to tell Southern Baptists all we are doing to help them make the greatest impact for the Great Commission.”
Mickey Noah is a writer for the North American Mission Board.

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