ALPHARETTA, Ga.— With nearly every aspect of life and ministry impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the North American Mission Board (NAMB) adjusted its priorities to ensure that the mission of sharing the gospel would move forward.
In the face of the challenges brought on by travel restrictions, economic shutdowns and church closures, NAMB took financial steps to support missionaries and keep them on the field while they served and shared the gospel with their neighbors through church planting and compassion ministry. Evangelism initiatives continued through Who’s Your One, and NAMB provided resources designed to help pastors in the area of leadership and evangelism.
The International Mission Board (IMB) and NAMB announced in February that they would coordinate compassion ministry efforts through Send Relief. A few short weeks later the COVID crisis generated needs in North America and around the world (See related Send Relief 2020 highlights story). Thousands of NAMB-endorsed chaplains also stepped into much needed ministry spaces as spiritual and physical needs increased during the pandemic.
With the obstacles brought on by the pandemic, NAMB’s priority centered on supporting church planting missionaries to make sure they were able to stay on the field and help newly-planted churches weather the crisis. For both established and new churches, for pastors and church planters, NAMB produced a number of webinars and other resources to help leaders adjust to the new normal.
A number of churches launched in 2019 embodied the principles of Send Network, NAMB’s church planting arm, and embraced the challenges posed by COVID, sharing the gospel and serving their communities.
As New York City became the epicenter for COVID-19 in the United States, Send Network church plants were on the front lines serving communities that were hardest hit. Churches also took opportunities to serve in Denver, New Orleans, Phoenix and across North America as the disease spread and needs increased.
The Send Network also deepened its relationship with Southern Baptist state convention partners, including the Baptist Resource Network of Pennsylvania/South Jersey and the launch of Send Network Oklahoma. NAMB also joined New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary to develop a church planting center on their campus.
For churches seeking to launch in 2020, the pandemic made it difficult if not impossible for many, especially in major cities. Many new churches were planted, however, and Send Network assessments and orientation transitioned to a virtual format so that hundreds of missionaries could continue entering the pipeline and prepare to launch new churches in 2021.
Evangelism and Leadership
To assist with evangelism on and around college campuses, NAMB announced the hiring of Paul Worcester as its national director of collegiate evangelism. Worcester will serve alongside Shane Pruitt, NAMB’s executive director of next gen evangelism, and work through on- campus and church-based ministries.
NAMB also began a partnership with Will Mancini to make Next Step Leader available to pastors. Next Step Leader is a proven process that helps pastors increase their leadership capacity and enables them to maximize their church’s evangelistic effectiveness.
The Who’s Your One evangelism emphasis marked its first anniversary in February after the initiative launched in cooperation with J.D. Greear, current Southern Baptist Convention president and pastor of Summit Church in Raleigh, N.C.
While the pandemic caused a number of Who’s Your One Tour events to be postponed, several were conducted safely in the late spring into the early fall. To help with churches that may have been struggling financially, NAMB also offered free evangelism kits to pastors and churches.
One of NAMB’s first events of the year was the official launch of the Timothy + Barnabas Institute (TBI), a two-year coaching and mentoring program for pastors. The TBI launched ahead of one of the more turbulent years in recent memory, and several participants said the timing was providential. Along with the TBI, NAMB hosted several Timothy + Barnabas Retreats, a getaway designed to encourage and instruct pastors in their gospel ministry.
Churches that were struggling to stay afloat before the pandemic encountered significant challenges when the dangers of the coronavirus pandemic forced them to close their doors. Many wondered whether or not they would ever be able to reopen again, but NAMB’s Replant team helped a number of churches find their feet again.
Mark Clifton, the senior director of Replant at NAMB, and his team were able to host their annual Replant Summit in-person in the Kansas City area. In August, a group of experienced practitioners shared what they had learned during the process of replanting and revitalizing struggling or dying congregations.
The Replant team also maintained a Replant cohort designed to encourage and equip pastors to stay strong and avoid burnout during the season of COVID-19 and beyond.
In the early days of the pandemic Southern Baptist military chaplains were some of the first to navigate the ministry challenges, especially as South Korea and Italy became hotspots.
For military chaplains, 2020 became a banner year. NAMB and the Canadian National Baptist Convention (CNBC) partnered together to start endorsing chaplains for the Canadian Armed Forces, and the U.S. Senate confirmed a Southern Baptist chaplain as the Air Force’s Deputy 27th Chief of Chaplains. Military chaplains also recognized the 70th anniversary of significant stages of the Korean War.