ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)–Armed with research indicating Southern Baptists are “better known for what we are against than what we are for” by many Americans, the North American Mission Board is introducing a series of television spots that it hopes will correct the misperceptions.
Robert E. Reccord, NAMB president, announced the availability of the spots in his annual report to the Southern Baptist Convention during the closing session of its June 13-14 annual meeting in Orlando, Fla.
The research conducted with the help of pollster George Barna addressed “how the unchurched and nominally churched view Southern Baptists,” Reccord said. Respondents said they were looking for a church that “cared for people and could offer something to change life.”
The ultimate goal, he said, is to counter any perceptions that might hinder churches in reaching their communities with the good news of Jesus Christ.
“We have clearly seen that in this post-Christian and postmodern society [that] preparation to share the gospel must include penetrating through incorrect perceptions,” Reccord said. “As a result, we have done three new commercials to help raise the awareness of Southern Baptists and what we stand for to the general public.”
The commercials portray:
— A young man playing basketball in the inner city who is befriended by an older man, accepts Christ as his Savior and experiences a transformed life.
— An upwardly mobile professional who realizes the emptiness in his life and finds fulfilmment through a local church.
— Student volunteers who repair homes in the inner city and adult volunteers who prepare food for victims of disaster.
At the end of each spot is the common theme: “Changed Lives, Caring People.”
Reccord noted that for years he has been asked why Southern Baptists can’t produce commercials “like the Mormons,” referring to a series of spots highlighting the importance of the family.
The answer, Reccord said, is largely in the cost: an estimated $35-40 million for an effective national campaign for production and distribution. With the new series of spots, the production costs are born by NAMB and distribution costs are covered by the churches and other organizations which sponsor them.
The television spots are being made available free during the month of June to churches, local associations and state conventions willing to sponsor them. They will be available for a nominal fee thereafter.
Those interested in inquiring about the spots may send email to [email protected] or call 800-519-9271.
Also in his report to the convention, Reccord told messengers:
— A record $43.5 million was given last year to North American missions efforts through the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering.
— The Bold Mission Thrust goal approved by the convention in the late 1970s of 5,000 home missionaries by the year 2000 has been exceeded, with 5,025 missionaries reported as of Dec. 31.
— The 1997 restructuring of the convention that resulted in NAMB has been effective in directing more resources to direct mission efforts, he said. “Today, the North American Mission Board is responsible for more ministries yet has reduced personnel by 100 people — that is a decrease of 18 percent.” Overhead expenses also have been reduced from almost 20 percent to just under 12 percent, he added. Also, he said, “over $14 million more has gone to North American mission efforts than would have been able to had restructuring not occurred.”
— The agency has just released a “Closer Look at Freemasonry” publication that expands on and clarifies a controversial “Report on Freemasonry” approved by the board in 1993. “It has clearly enunciated the vast difference between the scriptural teaching and the teaching of Freemasonry,” Reccord said.
— More than 1,700 new churches were started in 1999, including 85 churches planted in the wake of Billy Graham Crusades in Indianapolis and St. Louis. Another 35 churches are expected to result from the recently concluded Billy Graham crusade in Nashville, Tenn.
— In light of statistics showing decreasing baptism rates among those under 30 years old, NAMB has placed a priority on reaching children, students and young adults with the gospel. Those efforts include a partnership with LifeWay Christian Resources in reaching college campuses and strengthened evangelism resources for children.
— Through NAMB’s Evangelism Response Center, callers responding to evangelistic media efforts are able to speak with trained volunteer “encouragers” taking calls from their homes. In the past eight months, 21,000 callers requesting spiritual counseling have been referred to local churches.