GCR Final Report, Component 4: The Mission Field of North America

The fourth component of the GCR task force's final report deals with the work of the North American Mission Board (NAMB). It calls for NAMB to be refocused and reinvented for better Great Commission effectiveness. The goal and thrust of this component is much the same as it was in the progress report, which you can read more about in my earlier post, Reinventing NAMB. In this post, I'd like to list some of the specifics of the final report.

1. Church Planting as the Priority - The task force envisions NAMB making church planting, which is the most effective means of evangelism, central to its strategy and work. The call is for at least 50% of NAMB ministry efforts to be channeled to "assist churches in planting healthy, multiplying, and faithful Baptist congregations in the United States and Canada." (pg. 10)

2. Cities and Underserved Regions as the Target - Two thirds of our Cooperative Program dollars in North America are spent in Southern States, where Southern Baptist presence is already strong. The task force wants to see our resources going to places in the U.S. and Canada where there is a limited number of churches and little gospel witness.

3. Missional Strategy as the Means - To some, the ideal church plant would be a remake of First Baptist, Some City, Alabama, merely relocated to New York or Michigan, or Oregon. Thankfully, the task force has called us to look at all of our settings as mission fields, which means the churches we plant will be designed to effectively reach and communicate to the populations in their respective communities. This may even include (gasp!) planting churches without 'Baptist' in the name. The point is reaching people with the gospel, not preserving SBC culture and tradition. In fact, in many (most) contexts, Southern Baptist culture gets in the way of helping people to hear the message of salvation by grace through faith alone.

4. Phasing Out Cooperative Agreements - In place since the 1950's, this is the method through which NAMB has partnered with state conventions. The way it currently works, too much is sent back to areas where Southern Baptist presence is already thick. Instead of phasing them out over a 4-year period, as the progress report recommended, the time period has been extended to a 7-year time frame. Also an addition since the progress report, they've called for a strategy to replace this method that will better reflect NAMB's new priorities and areas of emphasis.

5. Leadership Development
- The task force is calling on NAMB to take the central role in developing pastoral leadership with particular attention to contextual evangelism and church planting. This is one area of the report where I'm not personally convinced it's the best idea. It may be appropriate for NAMB to take on this responsibility as long as it remains a small, small part of what they do. The fact that it's geared to equip pastors in contextualization and church planting makes it better. To me, it seems to fall in the not-quite-essential category. I think there are plenty of leadership development opportunities available from various groups and ministries. I'd rather see NAMB point pastor and church leaders to those already available resources than trying to do what's already being done.

6. Decentralization - The progress report mentioned NAMB from seven regional offices rather than one single national office. The final report does mention decentralization (11) but doesn't include specifics of what that decentralization looks like. Of course the decision will be up to NAMB leadership and trustees, but I suppose we have to look back at the progress report for the clearest idea of what the task force has in mind.

Even with some slight reservations as mentioned above, I believe it is essential that the SBC messengers adopt component 4 in Orlando. We cannot continue to operate as we have in the past. NAMB has lacked effectiveness and doesn't inspire confidence among too many Southern Baptists. This is an opportunity to mark a new chapter in the existence of the North American Mission Board.

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