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TRUSTEES: NAMB president search to gear up, chairman reports

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–The search for the next North American Mission Board president will accelerate after the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force issues its preliminary report during the SBC Executive Committee’s Feb. 22 meeting in Nashville, Tenn.

That word from Ted Traylor, chairman of NAMB’s presidential search committee, was delivered during the quarterly meeting of the mission board’s trustees Feb. 17. Traylor also serves on the GCR Task Force, chaired by Ronnie Floyd, pastor of First Baptist Church in Springdale, Ark.

“Our team has been working slowly because of the GCR team’s study of the Great Commission and Southern Baptist life,” Traylor, pastor of Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla., told fellow trustees. “With Ronnie’s preliminary report will come the recommendations to the convention in Orlando regarding NAMB. It is our recommendation that there will continue to be a separate NAMB and International Mission Board. But NAMB may change some.

“At our next search committee meeting in March, we’ll start looking high and low for God’s man for NAMB,” Traylor said. “It’s a key time in the life of the convention — with a new CEO coming in Nashville [at the Executive Committee], a new IMB president, a new NAMB president and a new president of the convention [to be elected in Orlando in June]. If we can get the right four men lined up, we hope to catch a fresh wind of God.”

NAMB’s chief financial officer, Carlos Ferrer, told trustees that “despite 2009 being a very tough year, revenues of $133.8 million were down only 7.12 percent.”

“Because of the economy, this was a miracle, a blessing of God,” Ferrer said. Revenue from the Cooperative Program was 5.27 percent off budget for 2009, but down only 1.2 percent compared to 2008 actual results. Annie Armstrong Easter Offering revenue was 7.2 percent off budget, but only 2.7 percent compared to actual 2008 giving. NAMB expenses were down 9.57 percent in 2009 due to staff belt-tightening.

The 2010 Annie Armstrong Easter Offering Week of Prayer emphasis is set for March 7-14, with a goal of $70 million to support more than 5,300 NAMB missionaries throughout North America.

Trustees also heard an update on God’s Plan for Sharing (GPS), a massive evangelization initiative to launch in the three weeks preceding Easter on Sunday, April 4. GPS is a cooperative effort by NAMB, state Baptist conventions, local associations and churches.

With a joint budget of $1.7 million — $1.2 million from NAMB and $500,000 from the states — the GPS “Find It Here” campaign will blanket the United States and Puerto Rico with 25,000 television spots — including spots targeting Hispanics in Oklahoma, Texas, Canada and California — radio spots, newspaper ads, banners, billboards and yard signs.

NAMB communications team leader Mike Ebert said different media will be used in different markets, based on input from the state conventions and local Baptist associations. For instance, mobile signs will be used in Boston, while subway ads will be used in New York City.

The unprecedented effort also will include personal door-to-door evangelism throughout the country, including the placement of some 17 million “Find It Here” door hangers on residential front doors.

“GPS has the greatest potential to have the biggest impact for the Kingdom than anything I’ve ever known or seen while serving here at the board,” said Richard Harris, NAMB’s interim president. “NAMB has committed $15 million for GPS, $1.5 million a year, for the 10-year period through 2020.”

In winding up the trustees meeting, Harris offered trustees a sobering look at the state of spiritual affairs in North America and in the Southern Baptist Convention.

“I applaud Johnny Hunt for having the courage to call this convention to take a new look at fulfilling the Great Commission,” Harris said. “I welcome the recommendations of the GCR. Although they’re rattling our cages, we need to wake up, get busy and get on with what God has called us to do. Is it business as usual or unusual business? Are we really serious about fulfilling the Great Commission?”

In 1999, 18.4 percent of SBC churches baptized no one, according to statistics cited by Harris. He said in 2008, 24.7 percent of churches baptized no one.

“More and more churches are baptizing nobody. When one in four churches is baptizing nobody, you can’t really be serious about fulfilling the Great Commission.”

Harris said that according to a recent NAMB study, 61.6 percent of SBC churches baptized five persons or fewer last year, and 78.6 percent baptized 10 or fewer. Only 21.4 percent of Baptist churches are baptizing 11 or more a year. Only 201 churches baptized 100 or more last year.

Citing another NAMB study for the years 2003-2008, Harris said 71 percent of some 33,000 churches that participated in the survey said they are either plateaued or declining. Only 29 percent said they were growing.

Harris said Southern Baptists account for 13.6 percent of the 365,000 churches in the United States and Canada. If the SBC takes responsibility for winning to Christ just 10 percent of an estimated 258 million non-believers in North America, that would be 25.8 million people.

“If we were successful at reaching these 25.8 million, today’s Baptist churches don’t have enough pews to handle them,” Harris said. Based on current attendance averages, he said, “We’d need another 125,000 churches. If we reached only 5 percent of the 25.8 million, we’d need 62,500 new churches. We would also need 8,400 new missionaries at NAMB.”

Saying that the Southern Baptist Convention needs to grasp the new reality and change old priorities and habits, Harris posed a rhetorical question to the trustees: “Is it the Great Commission or just a ‘great suggestion’?

“If we don’t change how we’re doing things, we are destined to failure in fulfilling the Great Commission,” Harris predicted. “Change is not an option. It’s coming and is at our doorstep. We must make some adjustments and hard decisions if we’re going to get where we need to go.”

Harris said metrics need to change throughout the SBC — at NAMB, in the states, associations and churches.

“We must measure outcomes and results, not activity. We need more accountability. We have too much emphasis on simply being faithful instead of being fruitful. The new metrics should be how many people are baptized and discipled, not just Sunday School and worship attendance.

“The ultimate metric for NAMB is the number of healthy churches and church plants,” Harris said. “The Great Commission was given to the church. We at NAMB are an extension of the church. We are to help the church succeed. If churches are not succeeding, NAMB is not succeeding.”

In other committee reports, NAMB trustees heard that:

— 56 new chaplains were endorsed in mid-February, for a total of 3,456, according to NAMB’s chaplaincy group.

— 30 new missionaries and chaplains were commissioned on Jan. 30 at services at First Baptist Church in Anchorage, the first missionary commissioning ever held in Alaska in NAMB’s history.

— NAMB’s church planting group announced 1,364 new SBC congregations in 2009, including 1,256 new church plants, 108 newly affiliated churches and 489 non-Anglo churches.

— NAMB has received some $740,000 in Haiti-earmarked donations, 100 percent of which will go directly to SBC disaster relief in Haiti in the coming months.

— since the Haiti earthquake on Jan. 12, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief has donated 20 tons of rice (170,000 servings); recorded 991 volunteer days; medical units have treated 7,896 Haitian earthquake victims; distributed 15,435 medicines; and made 8,567 ministry contacts, resulting in 161 professions of faith.
Mickey Noah is a writer for the North American Mission Board.

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