EDITOR’S NOTE: Baptist Press asked the International Mission Board and North American Mission Board to select 10 of their key news and feature stories from 2012 to be posted afresh as the year comes to a close and 2013 begins. This story contains the selections by NAMB.
ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP) — Celebrating Christmas reminds us that God sent Jesus into a world plagued by chaos and darkness. The hope and light He brings is what motivates us to give everyone in North America and throughout the world an opportunity to know Him.
In 2012 Southern Baptists brightened some bleak circumstances by bringing the light of Christ through Disaster Relief ministries. Through its Send North America strategy, the North American Mission Board also challenged Southern Baptists to return to our great cities and regions outside the South, to establish new churches in areas with little Gospel presence.
As we look back, first we are grateful to God for the privilege of joining Him in His work. We also are thankful for the millions of Southern Baptists whose faithful giving through the Cooperative Program and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering allows our church planters and other missionaries to do their work.
10 OF NAMB’S KEY NEWS AND FEATURE STORIES FOR 2012
— Ezell envisions next generation of missionaries
In order to reach the Send North America goal of seeing a net gain of 5,000 SBC churches by 2022, North American Mission Board president Kevin Ezell said Southern Baptists must begin cultivating the next generation of missionaries. To do that, he introduced NAMB’s missionary “Farm System” which will help discover, develop and deploy new missionaries to the places in North America that are most in need.
— At Sandy Hook, chaplains pray, offer hope
In the aftermath of one of the worst school shootings in United States history, Southern Baptist chaplains responded by ministering to the families of victims and many other residents of Newtown, Conn.
— 700 Baptist volunteers at work, sent by 25 state conventions
Southern Baptists prepared more than 1.7 meals for survivors of Hurricane Sandy in the days after the storm. Hundreds of Baptist volunteers spent days and weeks serving residents whose lives were turned upside down by the event. Many had opportunities to share the hope of Christ in the process.
— Collegians aiding Hurricane Sandy survivors
Instead of sleeping in on their Christmas break or hanging out with friends and family at home, hundreds of Southern Baptist college students traveled to New York City to help restore homes and lives battered by Hurricane Sandy.
— 2,000+ attend NAMB’s ‘Send’ church planting conference
In July, more than 2,000 Southern Baptist church planters, pastors, church staff and Baptist leaders attended NAMB’s first Send North America conference where they learned more about the spiritual needs of North America and how individual churches can become personally involved in reaching cities and underserved regions for Christ.
— SBC church plants: up 27 percent in 2011
NAMB reported in June that Southern Baptist church plants in 2011 were up 27 percent over numbers for 2010. While encouraging, the planting rate still falls well below what is needed to keep pace with population growth and to stay ahead of the average of 900 SBC churches that fall off SBC rolls each year.
— FLOURISH: Pastors’ wives, we get you
Ministers’ wives play a key role in many important ministry areas of the church, but often their needs and nurturing is overlooked. That is why in 2012, NAMB launched the Flourish ministry led by Kathy Litton. The ministry, and blog site flourish.me, brings encouragement and support to the thousands of ministers’ wives who serve every day side by side with their husbands on the front lines of ministry.
— Pastors hear Send North America vision
At a luncheon for pastors and church staff attending the annual Southern Baptist Convention in New Orleans, NAMB outlined how churches can become personally involved in church planting through Send North America and celebrated the faithful giving of Southern Baptist churches that allows missions work to continue.
— NAMB, at SBC, spotlights spiritual need of North America
In his presentation to messengers at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in New Orleans this June, NAMB president Kevin Ezell cast a light on North America’s vast spiritual need and how SBC churches can help address the need through personal involvement in church planting. Church revitalization, bivocational pastors and chaplaincy ministries also were featured in the presentation.
— NAMB, states target church stagnation, decline
In addition to planting new churches, Southern Baptists must begin to help the more than 70 percent of churches that are plateaued or declining in membership. To do this, NAMB launched a significant effort in 2012 that will help churches turn around downward trends and give churches on the verge of closing their doors a new chance for a Gospel legacy in their communities.
Mike Ebert is vice president of communications at the North American Mission Board. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).