ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)–The North American Mission Board put real faces on its work — showing three poignant videos featuring brand-new Christians and then bringing those individuals on stage to a series of standing ovations — during its annual report to the Southern Baptist Convention June 16 in Orlando, Fla.
The new believers personified the diversity of Southern Baptist work in North America — one coming from a Muslim background, two teenage African American brothers from the Bronx and a senior citizen couple from a small Alabama town.
“There’s nothing like seeing people come to faith in Christ, their lives changed, and joining the family of God,” NAMB’s interim president, Richard Harris, told the messengers. “Look at the diversity on this stage! This is a snapshot of North America.”
New believers showcased in the videos and on stage were Iraqi artist Terek Allawi of Dallas, led to Christ by Arabic church planter Jalil Dawood; De’sean and Thomas Cruz of South Bronx, N.Y., led to Christ by church planter Andrew Mann of Graffiti 2 Church; and Jerry and Barbara McGowan of Painter, Ala., recently reached by Roger White, pastor of nearby Liberty Baptist Church.
Noting that North America’s diverse needs call for a diverse approach, Harris said 25 percent of the mission board’s missionaries are African American or ethnic. Since NAMB’s inception in 1997, 60 percent of new churches are African American or ethnic congregations. Harris said a significant portion of board-funded missionaries focus their ministries on non-Anglos.
About 8,500 of the SBC’s churches are non-Anglo, Harris said. “Of this 8,500, 6,500 are African American or Hispanic churches,” he said. “The other 2,000 are some other ethnic congregation.”
Referring to SBC messengers’ overwhelming approval of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force’s final report, Tim Dowdy, chairman of the board’s trustees and pastor of Eagles Landing Baptist Church in McDonough, Ga., said, “Yesterday, we heard the voice of the convention.”
“I want you to know that we at NAMB are going to do all we can, with all our energy and might, to put hands and feet to the GCR in the coming year,” Dowdy pledged. “That’s where we’re going.
“Please pray for us as we seek a new president — God’s man — to lead NAMB,” Dowdy added.
NAMB has the privilege of working with 42 state conventions, 1,200 associations and some 50,000 SBC churches and missions to penetrate the “vast lostness” of North America, Dowdy said.
“To penetrate and reach the 258 million people of North America — three out of four — the centerpiece has to be the local church,” Dowdy said of the estimated non-Christian portion of the U.S. populace.
In his report, Harris said that not only are three-fourths of 300 million Americans lost without Christ, but in Canada only 5 percent of that nation’s 34 million people profess to be Christians.
“Southern Baptists, we have to end that,” Harris said. “We have to make a difference.”
Highlighting NAMB’S various accomplishments, Harris said, “None could have been achieved without the support of SBC pastors, church leaders and churches through the Cooperative Program and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering.”
Harris said approximately 10,500 churches participated in the GPS: God’s Plan for Sharing evangelistic initiative this past spring. The campaign included 15 million packets of door-hanger print materials, more than 24,000 TV ads, more than 7,000 radio ads, billboards, yard signs and banners.
“And this is just the beginning,” Harris said. “With our state partners, GPS will continue as a top priority through 2020.” NAMB has committed $15 million for GPS over the next 10 years, he noted.
Sammy Gilbreath, director of evangelism for the Alabama State Board of Missions, called “GPS Across Alabama” the largest organized outreach ever attempted by Alabama Baptists.
“When it was all said and done, Alabama Baptists put 980,000 packets of material on the doors of homes in Alabama,” Gilbreath said. “For a long time, we’ve talked about sharing the Gospel and penetrating the lostness in this country. In my lifetime, this is the first strategy on the table to make this possible.”
Harris also reported that the North American Mission Board:
— commissioned 355 new missionaries and chaplains last year, the second-largest number in the board’s history. The board now has 5,304 missionaries, 3,479 endorsed chaplains and 745 student summer and US/C2 missionaries.
— last year coordinated 97 World Changer and 19 PowerPlant projects, worked with 742 Families on Mission and 5,038 Campers on Mission.
— coordinated 4,821 disaster relief projects, in cooperation with its state and local partners, in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake. State conventions and local associations — partnering with the Florida Baptist Convention, the “on-point” convention for Haiti disaster relief — produced 155,000 Buckets of Hope for Haiti. Harris said 85,377 professions of faith have been recorded in Haiti since the earthquake, 135 churches planted and $1.7 million in contributions received through NAMB.
Harris said metropolitan missions and North American universities and colleges will be top priorities for NAMB in coming years.
“The 4,654 North American colleges and universities, 20 million students and 1.75 million faculty members must be claimed for Christ,” Harris said. “The devil has had a stronghold on these colleges and universities too long. We have to challenge the anti-God, anti-Christian and bigotry against Christians on these campuses. For every $1 million we spend, we could put 800 new student missionaries on college campuses across North America.”
Mickey Noah is a writer with the North American Mission Board. To view or download videos from NAMB’s presentation, visit www.namb.net/orlando2010.