ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–The North American Mission Board has named San Diego as the next Strategic Focus City -– an initiative that will bring additional Southern Baptist attention, volunteers and resources in an all-out effort to share the Gospel of Christ with metro San Diego’s 3 million residents.
NAMB’s Strategic Focus Cities (SFC) is a six-year-old strategy for leveraging the resources of the Southern Baptist Convention’s 16.3 million members and 43,000-plus churches to win America’s top 11 metropolitan areas for Christ.
While preliminary work already has started, 2007 will be the planning year for the San Diego outreach, with full implementation in 2008-09.
Fermín A. Whittaker, executive director for the California Southern Baptist Convention, said Baptists there are excited about partnering with NAMB to reach the lost and make disciples in the Golden State.
“With at least 33 million unchurched Californians, we must do everything possible to tell every man, woman, boy and girl about Jesus and His saving grace. This is one more way to help California Southern Baptists’ culturally diverse congregations be on mission and be Kingdom builders,” Whittaker said.
San Diego –- the seventh largest city in the U.S. — was named as a Strategic Focus City because it is a largely unchurched mission field, said John Yarbrough, NAMB vice president for strategic initiatives.
“Only 15 percent of metro San Diego’s 3 million people attend church regularly,” Yarbrough said. “We also chose San Diego because of its existing strengths. The major advantage of metro San Diego is its being home to many strong and dynamic Southern Baptist churches.”
San Diego’s SFC project thus would be “church-centric,” relying heavily on existing Southern Baptist churches’ current ministries, he said.
“Even with our 170 Baptist churches, San Diego’s unchurched population is greater than 18 states and most Canadian provinces,” Yarbrough said. “We have an enormous opportunity to share Christ’s love in a tangible and compelling way.”
Yarbrough noted several traits of 156-year-old San Diego that make it a unique and challenging venue for spreading the Gospel. Such tourist attractions as Balboa Park, the San Diego Zoo, Sea World, the Padres major league baseball team and the NFL Chargers, for example, make the city a magnet for visitors.
With 50 miles bordering on Mexico, San Diego is a diverse city primarily of Caucasians, Hispanics, African Americans and Asians. More than 40 Southern Baptist ethnic churches are active in the metro area.
At the same time, San Diego has a quarter-million college students to reach. And for decades, it has had a military presence larger than that of most U.S. cities, with some 95,000 uniformed military personnel assigned to the home port of the largest naval fleet in the world, Marine Corps bases and Coast Guard stations.
Even with San Diego’s existing SBC churches and missions, Yarbrough said church planting will be a high priority and core assignment for NAMB’s Strategic Focus City staff during the next two years.
“SFC has a strong commitment to church planting. Healthy and solid reproductive church planting is the foundation of all we do and will be our legacy that continues when we’re gone,” Yarbrough said.
San Diego joins Phoenix, Chicago, Las Vegas, Boston, Seattle, Philadelphia, New York City, Miami, Cleveland and Baltimore as NAMB-designated Strategic Focus Cities.