NEW ORLEANS — The Southern Baptist Conference of Associational Directors of Missions held its annual meeting at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary June 17-18. Nearly 225 associational leaders attended the SBCADOM sessions in conjunction with the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting June 19-20 in New Orleans.
Day one of the conference was highlighted by interviews with International Mission Board President Tom Elliff and North American Mission Board President Kevin Ezell.
Dale Fisher with the Caldwell Baptist Association in North Carolina first asked Elliff to put into words how Jesus’ words in Matthew 9 about “the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few” impact him as IMB president. Elliff first pointed to Matthew 9:36, which says Jesus “had compassion” on the crowds.
“It literally means that, when Jesus saw the crowds, it was a gut-wrenching experience for Him,” Elliff said. “I have to tell you, Dale, traveling around and seeing what’s happening in this world and realizing how seemingly small our efforts are breaks my heart.”
Elliff pointed out that, while Southern Baptists support about 5,000 international missionaries, that amounts to “less than 3/100ths of 1 percent of our U.S. Southern Baptist constituency.”
Southern Baptists have a great opportunity to get more involved in reaching unengaged, unreached people groups around the world, though, through such initiatives as the IMB’s “Embrace” call for individual churches, associations and entities to adopt one of the more than 3,300 unreached people groups around the world and develop a strategy for reaching them with the Gospel.
NAMB President Kevin Ezell followed Elliff, offering an overview of the mission board’s church planting push and a glimpse of a new church revitalization emphasis being developed.
“I feel like we have brought a sense of focus [to the North American Mission Board],” Ezell said of the church planting emphasis that was the focus of his first two years as president.
Ezell said his goal is for 50 percent of NAMB’s resources to go toward church plants. Currently it is around 42 percent, Ezell said.
Ezell told the directors of missions that NAMB is preparing to launch a church revitalization program in which sponsor churches will directly support restarts or revitalizations.
“Then we can put a young pastor in there who will be mentored and use resources like it was a church plant,” Ezell said.
Ezell also said NAMB is preparing to begin a program by which properties that are no longer in use will be acquired and refurbished to help start churches in the rehabilitated facilities.
The association also heard from Tom Billings, executive director of Houston’s Union Baptist Association, who called the directors of mission to lead their churches to work toward true transformation in their communities. Billings said the overarching story of Scripture includes four main elements: creation, fall, redemption and restoration. Christians too often focus mainly on the fall and redemption, Billings said.
“If that’s all of the story we tell, we’re telling too narrow of a story,” he said. “The full story involves creation and moves all the way to restoration.”
Part of the reason the early church had such a huge impact on society, Billings said, was “the difference that Christians made in the lives of ordinary people.”
“Christ’s followers didn’t just believe in Jesus, they behaved like Jesus,” he said of a major point of emphasis for churches in the Houston-area association.
Billings said he is looking forward to Southern Baptists coming to Houston in June 2013 for the Crossover evangelistic thrust and the annual meeting.
“I really hope that folks will say about Southern Baptists once they come to Houston the kinds of things they say about Southern Baptists here in New Orleans,” Billings said in reference to Southern Baptists’ work in the city following Hurricane Katrina.
Reflecting on the weekend meeting in New Orleans, SBCADOM’s president, Johnny Rumbough, director of missions for the Lexington Baptist Association in South Carolina, said it had been meaningful for participants.
“There were times when we were moved to stand and cheer,” Rumbough said. “There were other times when we were moved to sit and meditate and others where we wanted to get on our knees before the Lord.”
The 2013 Southern Baptist Conference of Associational Directors of Missions is set for the second weekend in June leading up to the SBC annual meeting June 11-12 in Houston. Second Baptist Church in Houston will host the SBCADOM conference.
Frank Michael McCormack is a writer for New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.