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NAMB passes baton to SBC messengers

ST. LOUIS (BP)–The North American Mission Board literally passed the baton to hundreds of Southern Baptist Convention messengers June 11, challenging them to consider their personal role in the “Go” part of the Great Commission by personally participating in a mission trip during 2003.

NAMB President Robert E. Reccord, during the agency’s annual report and presentation to the SBC, asked any who would make such a commitment to accept a small aluminum baton from one of the Mission Service Corps missionaries around the convention floor as a reminder of their commitment.

“The anchor leg of this mission relay is one that your mission board can’t run for you,” he said. “It’s not even one your missionaries can run alone. To complete the race of taking the gospel to North America, we need your hand ready to accept this challenge.”

Mobilization will be a primary emphasis for the agency during 2003, Reccord said, including serving as the theme of the North American Mission Study. Materials for the study, titled “Answer the Call,” are being made available this month.

NAMB’s presentation at the SBC recapped the experiences of many who have accepted the challenge of personal involvement in missions. Reccord conducted a live interview with Johnny Hunt, pastor of the Atlanta-area First Baptist Church, Woodstock, and Vance Pitman, pastor of Hope Baptist Church in Las Vegas, which the Georgia church helped start last year.

“It’s the fastest-growing city in America,” Hunt said, noting that he believes God is going to use the church to begin a church planting movement throughout the area. “We need probably 80 Southern Baptist churches there now,” he said.

Through video segments, messengers also heard from volunteers of the impact their involvement has had not only on the people they encountered — but also on their church and themselves.

“It is true, we are pretty good at giving and praying — that’s the mission activity that we do inside the walls of the church,” Reccord said, referring to a statement by one of the volunteers in the video. “But if we can just get people on the ‘Go’ part of it, I think we’ll be amazed at what happens in empowering kingdom growth on the mission field and when they return home.”

For those interested in becoming involved, Reccord suggested the “Answer the Call” mission study, the volunteers.namb.net website linking volunteers with needs, and a small booklet titled “Pathways” describing the range of volunteer opportunities.

Reccord also gave a progress report on the first five years of the North American Mission Board’s existence. The original goal of the committee recommending the reorganization, he said, was that in the first five years it would save $34 million more than what would have been spent if the previous organizations had remained in place.

“I’m here to tell you we didn’t make it — we surpassed it, redirecting to front-line ministries a total of $40,387,000,” Reccord said.

The redirected funds, he said, have made possible Strategic Focus Cities church planting and evangelism efforts, the Nehemiah Project training and mentoring program for church planters, and other ministries.

He cited some statistics from Phoenix, one of the first Strategic Focus Cities in 2000, which illustrated the lasting impact. Baptisms so far this year are up 232 percent above the same period in the previous record year of 2000, while missions giving is up 28.6.

He also cited similar successes with World Changers and disaster relief efforts in New York and Washington, D.C.

During the time for questions following his report, Reccord was asked for clarification regarding the board’s decision earlier this year to stop endorsing ordained women as chaplains. Reccord said ordained women currently serving as endorsed chaplains would not be affected by the new policy unless they changed to a different type of ordination, such as from military chaplaincy to healthcare chaplaincy.

In answer to the messenger’s second question about what would happen if a chaplain is ordained after her endorsement, Reccord said it was a hypothetical situation that would be dealt with by the Chaplains Commission if it ever occurs.

In response to a second question, Reccord said that while a timeline for a Strategic Focus Cities effort in Cleveland has not been announced, the city is “still on the list, and the list is growing.” A total of 17 cities, including Cleveland, were announced as eventual locations for SFC efforts when the initiative was announced in 1998.

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  • James Dotson