BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP)–Alabama Baptists want to reach North America and the world for Christ. They are committed to it, said Rick Lance, executive director of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions.
And through the Acts 1:8 strategy adopted by both the International Mission Board and the North American Mission Board about eight years ago, “we are doing that,” Lance said.
But the ability to continue strong evangelism efforts in all levels of this strategy — Jerusalem (local area), Judea (state), Samaria (North America) and “the ends of the earth” (international) — depends on the existence of the North American Mission Board.
Recent discussions among Southern Baptists have led to informal proposals of dissolving the two mission boards and combining all missions efforts into one global mission board.
But Lance and others, like Georgia Baptist Convention Executive Director Bob White, believe NAMB is “absolutely essential” to Southern Baptists and reaching North America for Christ.
“North America is a different kind of place because it is North America,” Lance said. “It’s not North Africa. It’s not North Asia. It’s North America.
“So Southern Baptists in their wisdom have felt that North America had to have its own mission board,” he said, noting the North American Mission Board is involved in numerous ministries including church planting, evangelism strategies, disaster relief and missions education.
“It’s a total missional effort,” Lance said. “And those ministries only touch the surface of what really the North American Mission Board seeks to do, much of which is under the radar.”
White, speaking to the GBC executive committee in mid-September, said, “There is no agency in the SBC (Southern Baptist Convention) that works like NAMB.
“In cooperative agreements with 42 state Baptist conventions, NAMB works to support the effort of missionaries in language missions, resort missions and various other ministries that reach our nation for Jesus Christ,” White said. “Those joint efforts are unique to NAMB” and are not shared by any other missions entity, he said. “If we lose this ministry in the homeland, we have lost our homeland security.”
Lance said that if the North American Mission Board no longer existed, then the Alabama State Board of Missions “would have to become a North American Mission Board for Alabama and partnership states in the North.”
“We would have to reinvent something like a North American Mission Board. You’d have to start all over,” Lance said. “The states would have to do it rather than there being a national strategy.”
Both Lance and White noted affirmation from executive directors from smaller and newer state conventions for what Alabama and Georgia state conventions are doing through their support of the Cooperative Program and in partnership with NAMB.
Smaller and “new work” conventions are typically unable to support their ministries without additional funding, so NAMB channels many of the Alabama, Georgia and other strong state conventions’ dollars back to weaker conventions to support staff and missionaries, Lance said.
“They freely tell me that without what [we] are doing they could not exist as a state convention,” White said.
The same is true for Alabama, Lance noted.
“The colleagues I have in the new work states … are very affirming of the Deep South states. They look to us for help. They look to us for resources,” he said. “There are things we do for them that are not counted in … giving through the Southern Baptist Convention Cooperative Program causes.
“We are in partnership … through the North American Mission Board,” Lance explained. “I can name states where 95 to 100 percent of the monies they have to do ministries … come through the North American Mission Board.”
Of that money, $10.5 million to $11 million comes from Alabama, he said, noting that during this past fiscal year, Alabama Baptists were No. 1 in CP giving to SBC causes.
“If you take the SBC receipts to budget, Alabama Baptists gave almost 10 percent of the total receipts that all Southern Baptists gave. Almost a tithe of that came from Alabama,” Lance said.
While Alabama is not the wealthiest state in the nation, nor does it have the highest income per capita, it gave the most, Lance noted.
“And in church membership, we are No. 6, not No. 1,” he said. “That says there’s a certain amount of faithfulness and commitment to cooperative causes and to reaching North America as well as Alabama and the ends of the earth.”
“That is one reason why I’m so committed to the Cooperative Program,” White added. “Because it is the vehicle through which we are able to get resources out to our own nation to people who are walking in darkness and need to see the great light.”
Lance said, “The light that shines the farthest, shines brightest at home…. If we are not shining brightly at home, the light will go out and you won’t be able to shine brightly far away.”
In the area of church planting, NAMB offers associations and state conventions the opportunity to “de-politicize” a church plant, Lance added.
“There won’t be that much more arguing about why do we need a church here or there,” Lance said. “You’ve done your homework. You’ve done the demographic study. … It has been done as a state convention working with an association and bringing in NAMB.
“When you do that you are helping to put in the DNA of new churches the sense of, the virtues, the core values, the beliefs and practices of Southern Baptists and Alabama Baptists,” Lance added.
NAMB also offers a customized solution to missions and ministry across the nation, Lance noted.
“For instance, we are adjacent to Florida but Alabama’s not like Florida … therefore the North American Mission Board works with Florida differently than it would Alabama,” Lance said.
The same goes for Alabama and Michigan, Lance added. While the two state conventions are in a partnership right now, the two states are very different.
“We have as many as 20,000 Muslims in our state [but Michigan has] a very large Arab and Muslim population, especially in the Dearborn area,” Lance explained. “So when the North American Mission Board works with Michigan, they would work with them in a different sort of way to customize the strategy there than they would have in Alabama.
“So it’s a customizing strategy,” Lance said. “There’s no one-size fits all, but you have to think of it not in terms of structure but of human resources.”
White added: “Without [a] relationship with the North American Mission Board, you could say ‘goodbye’ to about two-thirds of state convention work in this country. That would mean we would be leaving for our children and our grandchildren a more greatly lost nation that we are seeing today.”
Jennifer Davis Rash is managing editor of The Alabama Baptist (thealabamabaptist.org), where this article first appeared.