ATLANTA (BP)–A record number of state Southern Baptist leaders were encouraged to “live with urgency” in order to win North America for Christ during the North American Mission Board’s annual summer state leadership meeting in Atlanta.
The meeting’s 466 participants represented state and associational executives, missions directors, church planters, evangelism specialists and missionaries from 42 state Baptist conventions, Canada and Puerto Rico.
NAMB President Geoff Hammond urged participants to seize the divine moments God is giving Southern Baptists.
“What divine moment is God calling on you to seize?” Hammond asked the leaders. “I have to believe God has brought something to your mind this week. If we don’t take it, it passes on by and maybe He uses someone else who is more obedient and more willing to seize that moment.”
Attendees also heard from Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, and Sammy Gilbreath, who delivered the “urgency” theme in a most personal way.
Gilbreath is the 59-year-old director of evangelism for the Alabama Baptist State Convention in Montgomery. With no small amount of courage and faith, he faces each day with a large aneurysm near his heart’s left ventricle that -– if it ruptures -— could kill him instantly at anytime. Heart surgeons say they can do nothing to repair his fatally defective heart, that he would not survive a heart transplant operation.
Yet Sammy goes on day after day, speaking some 350-400 times a year. He still does most of the driving to his speaking commitments, accompanied by his wife of 38 years, Carol.
“To live with urgency, live like you’re dying,” Gilbreath said in his native Alabama drawl. “After all, all of us in this room are [dying]. No one is promised to have tomorrow.
“And if we’re going to live with urgency by living like we’re dying, we must be passionate about the life we have left. If we don’t have a sense of urgency about the King of kings and Lord of lords, we can’t have passion about anything.”
Presiding over his first summer leadership conference since becoming NAMB’s new president in May, Hammond noted that NAMB has three major objectives: share Christ, start churches and send missionaries.
“We share Christ by doing evangelism, planting churches and sending missionaries,” Hammond said. “There’s a great temptation for us leaders and preachers to think because we always talk about it [sharing Christ], we do it. I want to be personally accountable for soul-winning, like I know you do.”
Hammond challenged meeting’s participants to see North America in terms of the diverse people groups now making up its population, a fact that should cause all Christians to think more like missionaries.
“I sense that we are together and we are all committed to be missionaries,” Hammond said. “As you go back, can you be sure that your state convention and your association are missions agencies?”
Calling the audience his “heroes,” Page -– elected to his second term as SBC president in June -– said, “I thank God for what you’re doing, for your passion, your commitment and your sacrifice.”
Some 20 individual and state convention awards were presented by Hammond during the July 29-Aug. 1 gathering.
NAMB’s evangelization group honored the following state conventions for the largest percentage increase in the number of baptisms between 2005 and 2006: Alaska Baptist Convention, Florida Baptist Convention, Hawaii-Pacific Baptist Convention, Convention of Southern Baptist Churches of Puerto Rico and Wyoming Southern Baptist Convention.
Recognized for an increase in the overall number of baptisms last year were the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, Arkansas Baptist State Convention, Kentucky Baptist Convention, State Convention of Baptists in Ohio and Tennessee Baptist Convention.
NAMB’s church planting group presented the following awards: most new church plants (205), Baptist General Convention of Texas; highest percentage increase in church plants, State Convention of Baptists in Indiana; first in equipping, the Ohio convention; first in enlistment, South Carolina Baptist Convention; first in readiness/awareness, Kansas-Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptists; first in strengthening/reproduction, Arizona Southern Baptist Convention.
In addition, Frank and Karen Cornelius, church planters in rural Colorado, accepted the annual “Dennis Hampton Rural Church Planting Award.” In Colorado, Cornelius has served as lead church planter for two rural churches; facilitated five rural church starts as a minister of missions; and assisted in three church starts as associational director of missions.
Daniel Sanchez received the “Distinguished Service Award” in recognition of his “tireless and faithful leadership in evangelism, missiology, theological education and church planting among Southern Baptists throughout North America, as well as your influence for the Kingdom for reaching all people groups, especially Hispanics, for more than 54 years.” Sanchez started the Scarborough Institute for Church Planting and Growth at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, in 1993.
NAMB’s leadership also honored Richard Alford of Alabama, who is retiring after 28 years of work as language program leader and ministry evangelism director, and Eliseo Aldape of Hawaii, who is retiring as state director of missions after 27 years of service.
Mickey Noah is a writer for the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board.