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NAMB trustees meet, approve guidelines for church starts

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–Trustees of the North American Mission Board approved a 34-page document Oct. 6 that will serve as a guideline for what constitutes a New Testament church. NAMB starts 1,500 new Southern Baptist churches each year.

“It is important that the North American Mission Board have a very clear statement of what we see to be a Baptist church,” said NAMB president Robert E. (Bob) Reccord. “We are not planting ‘baptistic’ churches. We are not planting churches that resemble what Baptists are. We are planting Southern Baptist churches that reflect what a biblical New Testament church is.”

Speaking to trustees during their regularly scheduled meeting, Reccord said the document was needed because of the rapid proliferation across the country of some non-biblical church models including the ‘family’ or ‘simple’ church networks.

“In many parts of North America, an errant theology of church has begun to spread, especially in a few younger church planters, because these non-biblical models sound good and it’s easy to get sucked in,” he said. “A church cannot be myself and my wife meeting in our home, and it’s we two and no more. That is not a church. What we’re doing with this document is giving guidelines to ensure that Southern Baptists are starting biblically sound New Testament churches.”

The document, titled “Ecclesiological Guidelines to Inform Southern Baptist Church Planters,” was written by Stan Norman, associate professor of Theology at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Norman also serves as director of the Baptist Center for Theology and Ministry and occupies the Cooperative Program Chair of SBC Studies at the seminary.

“Church planting strategies and endeavors must be conducted in such a way that they are obedient and submitted to the New Testament for faith and practice as well as committed to Baptist ecclesiology as stated in the Baptist Faith and Message 2000,” Norman wrote in the introduction. “The following guidelines and discussion will assist the North American Mission Board to know the type of churches it affirms and will direct its church planting ministry.”

The paper reviews and comments on such issues as the authority of a Baptist church, classic marks of a true church, congregational polity, autonomy, and the offices, ordinances, and mission of a New Testament church.

Trustee chairman Barry Holcomb said the paper would “prevent us from getting to the extremes such as one account I read that said a family could use pancakes around the breakfast table for the Lord’s Supper. This paper is a sound theological document and position.”

Richard Harris, NAMB’s vice president of church planting, initiated development of the guidelines “to ensure that churches we help start throughout North America are Southern Baptist.” He expressed appreciation to Norman as well as to the Council of Southern Baptist Seminary Deans and two SBC seminary presidents, Paige Patterson and Phil Roberts, all of whom reviewed and affirmed the paper.

David Thompson, chairman of NAMB’s church planting committee and pastor of Northpointe Community Church in Old Hickory, Tenn., said, “I’m very passionate and excited about this document. One hundred years from now, much of what we do won’t matter, but I believe this document will.”

The paper was approved by NAMB trustees with two dissenting votes. Harris said his staff would use the guidelines to review and guide the agency’s church planting strategies, processes and materials.

The complete document is available for review at www.namb.net.

In his report to the trustees, Reccord outlined six major goals that will guide NAMB’s priorities through 2010:

— Equip for evangelism.

“We desire to work with our strategic partners across North America to equip and engage 1 million believers yearly to share the Gospel and assist Southern Baptist churches to average more than 500,000 baptisms per year by the end of the church year in 2010,” Reccord said.

— Assist in church planting.

“We will work with our strategic partners to engage one out of four Southern Baptist churches to be involved in church planting in North America and to enthusiastically support the Cooperative Program and the Annie Armstrong Offering so that Southern Baptists can plant 11,000 new churches by 2010.”

— Mobilize Christians

“When Jesus talked about church, his focus was on people, yet many times when we talk about church we focus on a building,” Record said. “NAMB commits to do everything within our power to equip and engage 750,000 Southern Baptists to participate in short-term mission projects by the year 2010.

— Deploy missionaries.

“North America is the largest English-speaking mission field in the world, because North America is the only continent on which Christianity is not growing,” Reccord said. “NAMB will strive to help equip and deploy 10,000 missionaries and chaplains to be on mission throughout North America by 2010.”

— Penetrate the cultures.

“Every Christ-follower is called to be on mission right where he or she is,” Reccord said. “We want to work with strategic partners to facilitate the creation of a strategic network of passionate on-mission Christian leaders and members of influential professions and arenas such as education, law, politics, business and real estate by the end of 2010.”

— Develop leaders.

“NAMB is in the process of creating a leadership greenhouse which will provide for every employee, from the mailroom to the boardroom, a personalized growth development plan with measurable goals to which they will be held accountable for personal growth in servant leadership.”

“Southern Baptists have long said, we can accomplish far more together than we can ever do separately.”

In other business, NAMB trustees:

— approved a 2005 budget of $120.7 million, a 2 percent increase over the 2004 budget.

— appointed Randy Singer as president of FamilyNet through 2005 in addition to his responsibilities as chief counsel and special assistant to the president.

— approved a cooperative agreement with the Dakota Baptist Convention.
— Lee Weeks contributed to this story.

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