KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP)–Delivering the devotional to trustees of the North American Mission Board at their May 19 meeting in Kansas City, Mo., Great Commission Resurgence Task Force (GCRTF) chairman Ronnie Floyd said he’s “never had a greater passion than I do today to see that North America and the world have a Gospel witness for Jesus Christ.”
“How long has it been since you’ve re-thought what you’re being asked to do on this board?” asked Floyd, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Springdale, Ark. “Pause and get your heart around that. God has entrusted you with the privilege of sitting on this board and to operate as a team to develop a heart, passion and vision to reach North America with the Gospel. I have a big spiritual word for that –- ‘Wow!'”
Southern Baptist Convention President Johnny Hunt, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., also attended but did not speak at the Wednesday meeting. He addressed NAMB trustees in an informal gathering the night before when he and Floyd discussed details of the recent GCRTF recommendations and took questions from trustees.
NAMB trustees elected Tim Dowdy, pastor of Eagle’s Landing First Baptist Church in McDonough, Ga., as the board’s new chairman. Dowdy has served for two years as the board’s first vice chairman. Elected first vice chairman: Doug Dieterly, an attorney who serves as executive pastor of Plymouth Baptist Church in Plymouth, Ind.; second vice chairman, Ric Camp, pastor of Sonrise Baptist Church in Mobile, Ala.
The search for a new NAMB president continues, Ted Traylor, chairman of the president search team and pastor of Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla., reported.
“Although the announcement of a nominee is not imminent, the team is making progress,” Traylor said in comments after the meeting.
While Traylor’s eight-year term as a NAMB trustee expires in mid-June, trustees voted in executive session to allow him to continue to chair the search team. The extension gives Traylor a vote on the search committee, but he will not have a vote when the entire board of trustees ultimately decides on a new president of NAMB.
In addition to Traylor, other members of the NAMB president search team are trustees Tim Dowdy; Doug Dieterly; Larry Gipson, pastor of First Baptist Church, Oneonta, Ala.; Chuck Herring, senior pastor of Collierville (Tenn.) First Baptist Church; Lisa Knutsen, an elementary school teacher from Las Vegas; Ryan Palmer, Seventh Metro Church, Baltimore, Md.; and ex-officio member Tim Patterson, outgoing NAMB trustee chairman and senior pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church, Jacksonville, Fla.
In his remarks to the trustees, interim NAMB President Richard Harris rhetorically asked whether NAMB’s staff and trustees will face the future with faith or fear.
“NAMB’s future has been described by some — not me — as broken and which can’t be fixed,” Harris said. “I’ve heard others say NAMB is ineffective and insignificant — that NAMB has no future and has squandered its opportunities.
“The day I think those things, I’ll walk out the door. If you believe NAMB is ineffective, insignificant or has squandered opportunities — whether you’re on the staff or a trustee — you ought to resign and go home. I think NAMB has a greater future that most of us can imagine,” Harris said.
Harris said he agrees with the assessment of longtime Southern Baptist Convention attorney Jim Guenther, who has stated that “As NAMB goes, so goes the SBC.”
Harris said the mission board’s work and purpose has not changed: to lead the Southern Baptist Convention to evangelize and congregationalize North America in order to penetrate the continent’s vast lostness, encompassing some 258 million non-believers, or three of every four North Americans.
“Ladies and gentlemen, staff and trustees, this is our watch,” Harris said. “We’re going to stand before God and give an account of the decisions we made, the faith we exercised and the directions we took. In my humble conviction, this may be the most crucial year in the history of NAMB, the staff and the trustees.
“We need to stop looking in the rearview mirror and get our eyes on where the Lord is leading. We need to commit to a new cooperation and collaboration by those in this room. We need to bring forth creative ideas — pooling the ideas of the best missiological thinkers.
“We need a new model of partnership among the national agencies, state conventions and associations — a partnership to build the Kingdom, not our kingdom. We need to work together to help churches partner and succeed in fulfilling the Great Commission. Most important, we need a fresh touch from above and to be empowered by the Holy Spirit.”
Harris highlighted the positive results of several recent NAMB initiatives:
— the commissioning of 88 new missionaries and chaplains on May 16 at Lenexa (Kan.) Baptist Church in Lenexa, Kan.
— the upcoming deployment of 437 semester missionaries and 745 summer missionaries.
— coordination of the delivery of 155,000 Buckets of Hope in Haiti, with major support from state conventions, associations and local churches. As a result of Southern Baptist disaster relief volunteers and Haitian Baptists, more than 135,000 professions of faith have been recorded since the earthquake on Jan. 12; for every two DR workers, there have been two professions of faith. So far 135 new Baptist churches have been planted in Haiti since the earthquake.
— success in the March 1-April 30 God’s Plan for Sharing (GPS) campaign, with 10,500 churches participating to distribute some 15 million “Find It Here” printed pieces.
In his financial report to the trustees, NAMB’s vice president and chief financial officer, Carlos Ferrer, announced that through April 30, overall year-to-date revenues were down 2.8 percent. Cooperative Program revenue was down 5.15 percent. Ferrer said Annie Armstrong Easter Offering revenue normally doesn’t start coming in until June. This year’s Annie Armstrong Easter Offering goal is $70 million.
In closing the meeting, newly elected chairman Tim Dowdy reminded trustees of NAMB’s primary task.
“There are 258 million lost people in North America,” Dowdy said. “I went to bed last night thinking about that number. What if it was my best friend? What if it was my dad? What if it was my mom? Let’s go to the [annual Southern Baptist] Convention and do our work in the years to come not so interested in what we have to protect but what we have to proclaim. The Gospel is indeed still Good News no matter what language you speak and that’s what we’re about at the North American Mission Board.”
Mickey Noah is a writer for the North American Mission Board.