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NAMB task force discusses name, purpose; closes meetings to media

ATLANTA (BP)–The North American Great Commission Task Force held its first working meeting July 28, discussing its purpose and the need for a new name — and voting to hold its meetings in private.

Geoff Hammond, president of the North American Mission Board, announced on May 21 the creation of “a specially called North American Great Commission Task Force that will seriously study the actions and activities that will impact this continent for Christ in more effective ways.” The following month, Hammond named 24 members to the group, which would be co-facilitated by Steve Reid, one of his senior staff members, to “take a fresh look at how Southern Baptists should look at the Great Commission.” Adding the group’s other co-facilitator, Ed Stetzer, director of LifeWay Research, and counting Hammond, the original group totaled 27. However, three new members have been added bringing membership on the task force to 30 individuals. The new members are:

— James Cowley, pastor, Hillcrest Baptist Church, Galax, Va.

— Milton Hollifield, executive director, Baptist State Convention of North Carolina

— Tammi Reed Ledbetter, field ministry facilitator, Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and news editor, Southern Baptist Texan

A complete list is provided following this article.

The press release announcing the task force’s membership said it was “designed to dovetail with the Great Commission Resurgence declaration issued by Southern Baptist Convention President Johnny Hunt, who will be kept apprised of the group’s progress.”

Hunt was authorized by the Southern Baptist Convention in June to name a Great Commission Task Force to study how Southern Baptists can work “more faithfully and effectively together in serving Christ through the Great Commission.” He appointed Arkansas pastor Ronnie W. Floyd to chair the task force, which will hold its first two meetings in August, one in Atlanta and one near Rogers, Ark.

Confusion over the name similarity of the two task forces came up during the Atlanta meeting as one reason to change the name of the NAMB group, while also affording the opportunity to select a name more descriptive of its purpose. Discussion among the 25 members present revolved around replacing the words “Great Commission” with some derivation of the words “missions” or “missiological.” They also discussed replacing “task force” with “study group,” but did not settle on a final name. They also discussed a purpose statement for the task force that said the group “exists to help NAMB, its partners and Southern Baptists engage North America as a mission field to accomplish the Great Commission.”

Stetzer led the group to consider how communication about its meetings would be handled and whether its meetings should be open or closed to non-members, including journalists. The editor of the Illinois Baptist was the only outside journalist present to cover the meeting, but also attending were a NAMB trustee and a NAMB communication staff member who are not members of the task force.

Members expressed support for timely public communication, while agreeing they should not post updates to social websites like Facebook and Twitter during the meetings. The group generally agreed that members will be allowed to talk with reporters about the meetings but asked them to be clear their opinions were personal and may not represent the task force. No recommendation was proposed concerning news releases or official statements from the group.

While some members expressed concern that the presence of reporters might stifle discussion, Stetzer offered that reporters could be admitted under what reporters call “background rules,” which would prevent writers from attributing quotes to specific individuals while allowing meetings to be reported by professional journalists. However, the group approved an alternative suggestion to close all meetings except for one hour of a February meeting in Nashville when reporters would be admitted. The editor of the Illinois Baptist was asked to leave the meeting, and the remaining three hours were held behind closed doors.

Several members of the task force later confirmed the group spent much of the meeting compiling a list of 10 areas to study, but they were unwilling to release the list themselves. Reid explained that in the end the group requested time to “think about the list, pray about it, edit it, and add to it as needed” before setting the items in stone.

Stetzer told the Illinois Baptist he was “encouraged to be talking with leaders from across the SBC about how to help our churches see and engage North America as a mission field. Southern Baptists are increasingly seeing the need for missiological thought and engagement. My hope is that we can help encourage our churches to be on mission in our contexts.”

Reid added similar thoughts, saying he thought the members were ready for the task.

“The group interacted wonderfully” in the various small groups that were formed at multiple times, he told Baptist Press, adding, “We filled a couple of whiteboards,” with ideas and recommendations.

“They enjoyed the opportunity to address the issues in small groups and come together and share the collective thinking and help shape one another’s thoughts,” Reid offered.

The NAMB task force will meet in an Internet-based conference Nov. 23, 2009, and April 16, 2010. Its only other scheduled face-to-face meeting will be Feb. 22 or 23, 2010, in Nashville. Final recommendations will be reported at the June 2010 SBC annual meeting in Orlando, Fla.
Martin King is editor of the Illinois Baptist (ibsa.org/illinoisbaptist), newsjournal of the Illinois Baptist State Asociation. With additional reporting by Will Hall, executive editor of Baptist Press.

Task Force members:
— D.D. Alexander, pastor, Holy Tabernacle of God, Inglewood, Calif.
— James Cowley, pastor, Hillcrest Baptist Church, Galax, Va.
— D. Ray Davis, associate vice president, church and partner connections, International Mission Board
— Stephen Davis, executive director, State Convention of Baptists in Indiana
— Bob Dean, director of missions, Dallas Baptist Association, Texas
— Mark Edlund, executive director, Colorado Baptist General Convention
— Geoff Hammond, president, North American Mission Board
— Thomas Hammond, team leader, personal evangelism team, North American Mission Board
— David Hankins, executive director, Louisiana Baptist Convention
— Joe Hernandez, team leader, field services team, strategic planning and people group, North American Mission Board
— Milton Hollifield, executive director, Baptist State Convention of North Carolina
— Van Kicklighter, senior strategist, church planting group, North American Mission Board
— Chuck Lawless, dean, Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
— Tammi Reed Ledbetter, field ministry facilitator, Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and news editor, Southern Baptist Texan
— Fred Luter, pastor, Franklin Avenue Baptist Church, New Orleans
— Kaye Miller, president, Woman’s Missionary Union
— Michael Pigg, president, National African American Fellowship and pastor, Philadelphia Baptist Church, Lithonia, Ga.
— Alvin Reid, professor of evangelism, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
— Steve Reid, associate to the president for strategy development, North American Mission Board
— Terry Robertson, executive director, Baptist Convention of New York
— Charles Roesel, pastor emeritus, First Baptist Church, Leesburg, Fla., and founder, Christian Care Center
— Danny Sanchez, director, Scarborough Institute, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
— Van Sanders, strategic development coordinator, strategic initiative office, North American Mission Board
— Ed Stetzer, director, LifeWay Research, LifeWay Christian Resources
— Gus Suarez, professor of church planting and director, Nehemiah Center for North American church planting, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
— Phil Taylor, director of missions, Bradley Baptist Association, Cleveland, Tenn.
— David Uth, pastor, First Baptist Church, Orlando, Fla.
— Ken Weathersby, senior strategist, evangelization group, North American Mission Board
— Don Wilton, pastor, First Baptist Church, Spartanburg, S.C.
— Larry Wynn, pastor, Hebron Baptist Church, Dacula, Ga.

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  • Martin King