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NAMB reaches Bold Mission Thrust goal of 5,000 missionaries by year 2000

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–One of the most significant goals of the 1976 Bold Mission Thrust initiative was reached right on schedule this past year as the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board reached the level of 5,000 active missionaries.

The number was actually reached in November, but because missionary counts are released only once each year the count on Dec. 31 was officially recorded as 5,025.

One of the original goals of Bold Mission Thrust — a comprehensive long-range plan for denominational growth — was that the number of home missionaries would reach 5,000 by the year 2000.

Of the total number of missionaries approved and appointed, 3,264 are missionaries and their spouses operating under various levels of cooperative funding with state conventions and local associations. Another 1,761 are long-term volunteers with two or more years of service operating under the Mission Service Corps program.

The number of appointments for the year is also up sharply over the last few years, from 154 in 1996 under the former Home Mission Board to 327 in 1999.

Interviews of potential missionaries rose from 240 in 1997 to 411 in 1999.

Robert E. Reccord, NAMB’s president, called the expanding missionary force a “two edged sword.”

“It is an exhilarating opportunity while at the same time being an overwhelming challenge,” Reccord said, adding that credit for the achievement extends far beyond the agency.

“It takes everybody doing their part and working in cooperation to make it happen. That’s the strength of Southern Baptists. I thank God for our partnership with our seminaries, state conventions, associations and local churches to see this wonderful milestone reached,” Reccord said.

“With the long-term impact of YouthLink 2000 — which resulted in thousands of commitments to missions service — I believe we will see an even further explosion in the missionary force of the future both in North America and around the world,” Reccord added. “What a great time it is to be alive and on mission for the King!”

Bill Graham, manager of NAMB’s missionary personnel unit, said much of the jump has been due to more dollars made available for missionary support because of efficiencies gained from the restructuring of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1997.

NAMB was formed in 1997 from the former Home Mission Board, Brotherhood Commission and Radio and Television Commission.

“The intent of the restructuring has been to put money forward in the field, and I think we are seeing the results of that action,” Graham said. “And the commitment that the agency is making is showing up in the numbers.”

The rising number of missionaries also reflects a new priority on church planting at the agency, Graham said.

“Rather than talking about church planting as a process, the church-planting group is trying to set a climate for a church-planting movement — not just using appointed folks but developing lay leaders,” Graham said. “We’re seeing the first wave of folks rising to lead in that movement.”

Much of the growth in missionary appointments has resulted from the Nehemiah Project – NAMB’s new seminary-based system for training and mentoring church planters. Beginning in the fall of 1998 it replaced a system of church-planter apprentices with the new category of church-planter interns, and the number of appointments more than doubled.

Prospects for continued growth also are strong, Graham noted, because of a new emphasis being placed at NAMB on recruitment and development of potential candidates for career missions service. A missionary mobilization team was created during 1999 to help identify potential career missionaries early on and shepherd them through the process of responding to God’s call.

Individuals interested in learning more about career missions opportunities should contact missionary mobilization associate Randy Wood at (770) 410-6454. Inquires also may be sent via e-mail to [email protected].

(BP) graph of missionary appointments from 1995 to 1999 to accompany this story, in black and white and color versions, will be posted in the BP Photos sections of www.sbc.net. Original EPS-format versions of the graphic are available on request from [email protected].

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  • James Dotson