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Lessons of past military defeats helpful in today’s spiritual context

ALPHARETTA, GA. (BP)–The president of the North American Mission Board challenged agency trustees with the urgency of reaching a lost world Oct. 6, applying lessons learned in past military conflicts to Southern Baptists’ evangelistic initiatives.
“The greatest concern for me is so often I see the church in a peacetime mentality, and God’s saying we better get serious that we’re at war and be focused on the right things,” Robert E. Reccord told trustees during their regular meeting at the board’s offices in Alpharetta, Ga.
Also during the meeting, the board adopted a record operations and capital expenditures budget for 2000 of $129,500,000, up from $122,110,000 during the past year.
The board’s missionary personnel committee appointed and approved 12 new missionaries, bringing the number of NAMB missionaries to 4,982. A total of 241 missionaries have been appointed year-to-date, an increase of 18 percent over the previous year — which was a 55 percent increase over the year before.
“Our target was 5,000 missionaries by the end of this year, and we anticipate doing that next month,” said Stewart Simms, chairman of the trustees’ missionary personnel subcommittee.
In his remarks, Reccord used the example of how American forces at Pearl Harbor in 1941 ignored the signs of impending attack. An extraordinarily large blip on the radar was assumed to be at least 50 American planes returning to the base. It turned out to be 382 Japanese planes. Similar errors compounded the severity of the attack.
“Over 1,100 men would die and over 2,400 would be seriously wounded, all because nobody was urgent about the battle at hand,” Reccord said.
He also pointed to the Korean Conflict, in which massive allied losses in the early days prompted a government study, which yielded four critical conclusions. Those conclusions, he said, could just as appropriately apply to Southern Baptists today:
— “They relied too heavily on artillery and air bombardment.” Even today, Reccord said, large media campaigns are only as effective as the “ground troops” in local churches that follow up on them to lead people to Christ. “From the beginning of history it has been done one person at a time,” he said.
Reccord noted, however, that NAMB continues to assist with a coordinated “air bombardment” through such efforts as “The Call” — a new program on the FamilyNet network. The TV program profiles the call of God on individuals’ lives in a newsmagazine format. A segment previewed by trustees focused on two Christian victims of the Columbine High School massacre in Littleton, Colo.
— “They didn’t know their enemy very well.” Old methods of evangelism often are largely irrelevant in a modern culture that is both postmodern and post-Christian, Reccord said. He suggested trustees read Charles Colson’s latest book, “How Now Shall We Live?” which he has also asked his top leadership team to read as soon as possible.
“I believe it is going to be one of the classics of modern Christianity,” he said, noting that the book addresses the breakdown of even a common basis for Christian belief in society. “It is critically important because our worldview colors how we see every single thing in life.”
— “They were unfamiliar with their weapons.” Southern Baptists often speak of themselves as being a “people of the Book,” Reccord said, but when large groups of Christian leaders are asked how many could recite, with references, 25 Scripture verses, the number of responses is always very small.
“Don’t you dare expect our kids to live for Christ in a sold-out way if they don’t see you and me doing it,” Reccord said.
— “They had a fear of moving forward because they didn’t like getting shot,” Reccord said. “So they stayed hunkered in foxholes and in trenches.” This is especially true, he said, in the wake of shootings such as the mass killing at Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, and more recently a seminarian shot in a church kitchen during a Wednesday night prayer meeting.
Reccord said he has been asked if security measures should be increased, but he said beyond common-sense precautions the worst danger is overreaction. “The minute we close the doors in the church is the minute we quit being the church,” he said.
In other business, the board:
— approved a cooperative agreement with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, a new state convention formed by conservatives. The agreement — which provides for planning and cooperative funding of missionary work — is modeled after a previous agreement with the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia convention.
— heard that while receipts for the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering are only slightly ahead of last year, a projected increase of $2.5 million in Cooperative Program receipts will enable the agency to finish the year in the black.
— approved a resolution expressing appreciation for the ministry and contributions of Dellanna O’Brien, retiring executive director of Woman’s Missionary Union.
— approved guidelines for trustees to participate in an annual mission project. The mission trip, coordinated by NAMB, adds a personal missions involvement component to a Missions Awareness Tour offered for board members in previous years. All NAMB employees currently participate in a five-day evangelistic missions opportunity of their choice each year.
— learned that 88 people had been endorsed by the Southern Baptist Chaplains Commission under the board’s auspices, bringing the number of chaplains to 3,015. Additionally, Chaplains Commission trustee chairman Skip Owen reported that chaplains had reported 23,799 professions of faith for 1999 through the end of September. “Chaplains are not only counseling and ministering, but they’re also sharing the gospel,” he said.

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  • James Dotson