August 2010

‘Do things differently,’ NAMB’s Harris urges

August 4 2010 by Mickey Noah, Baptist Press

ATLANTA — Southern Baptist leaders “need to be full of faith, not full of fear” as the search for a new North American Mission Board (NAMB) president goes on, and many questions linger about how NAMB will implement the Great Commission Resurgence (GCR) Task Force recommendations, NAMB interim president Richard Harris told almost 500 Baptist state leaders July 25.

“God has given Southern Baptists a prominent role in North America to reach people with the Gospel, but we cannot continue down the same road we’re going,” Harris said. “We are losing North America for Christ, and I don’t think that’s what the Father wants.”

Harris spoke at the North American Mission Board’s annual Summer Senior Leadership Meeting July 25-29 at a hotel near Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

Based on current budget commitments to state conventions, current Cooperative Program giving trends will leave NAMB with nothing for other ministry initiatives by 2020, Harris explained to his audience. “We’ve clearly got to do some things differently,” he said.

According to Harris, the GCR recommendations refocus NAMB on three priorities: evangelism/discipleship, church planting and mobilizing a missional movement. Fully half of the board’s future ministry efforts and resources will go toward planting healthy, multiplying churches in the United States and Canada, he said.

“Metropolitan areas, where 63 percent of the population now lives, will be a top priority. We want to reach — with (the International Mission Board’s) help — the 587 under-reached and under-served people groups. We want to make sure our evangelism strategy fits both the setting and the culture. “To do all this, we must re-prioritize our funding,” Harris said. “The GCR recommendations call for phasing out our cooperative agreements with the states over seven years, but since 2011 budgets are already in place, we will probably not start that process until 2012. We will also re-look at what our metrics of success should be.”

In the first of several listening sessions NAMB will host with key partners, Harris facilitated a lengthy question-and-answer session. Several questions focused on the GCR-recommended “decentralization” of the North American Mission Board.

In response to a question whether the entity’s building would be sold and staff re-deployed out in the field, Harris and NAMB’s trustee chairman, Tim Dowdy, agreed “all options are on the table.”

“The 258 million lost people in North America is our target, our bull’s eye,” said Dowdy, pastor of Eagle’s Landing First Baptist Church in McDonough, Ga. “We are determined to roll up our sleeves and change whatever needs to be changed to reach those 258 million lost people.

“We know you’re in this because you love Jesus and you want to share the gospel. I know this is a radical, scary time,” Dowdy added. “That’s why we want to hear every comment and question. I want every piece of advice from all of you.”

Dowdy said the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force “did their due diligence. It’s obvious from the report that they spent a lot of time and did a good job of investigating what’s going on in North America.

“As chairman of the NAMB trustees, I’m determined that at this point in Southern Baptist life, it’s not a time to just change the labels on doors and do what we’ve always done. We’re not going to say, ‘Well, Orlando has passed, we’re going to rearrange some titles and organization charts and continue business as usual.’ That’s not the plan.”

Dowdy said the plan is, however, to take seriously what the task force recommended and “put hands and feet to it.”

“We don’t know how it’s going to look yet. It’s going to look differently than it does today, I can tell you that because what we’ve got today is not doing the job,” Dowdy said. “We can’t say how every facet and every feature of NAMB will look in the future. But things will change — things have to change.

“Our mission is not to guard the fort but take the city,” Dowdy added. “We at NAMB are challenged with the task of taking the Gospel to those 258 million lost people. We are a service organization that serves the churches.”

Dowdy said no time is being wasted, that trustee officers and the board’s senior leadership has already met since the recommendations passed. They will meet in two weeks to begin mapping out coming changes, prior to the next scheduled board of trustees meeting, slated for Los Angeles in early October.

At the same time, the NAMB president search committee — chaired by Ted Traylor, former NAMB trustee and pastor of Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla. — continues to consider candidates.

Regardless of the changes to come, one major NAMB initiative Harris and other NAMB leaders agreed would continue to be a top priority is the agency’s ongoing GPS (God’s Plan for Sharing) campaign, set to run until 2020.

In this year’s kick-off GPS campaign, between March 1 and April 30, 10,500 SBC churches participated by distributing some 15 million “Find It Here” printed pieces in communities across the nation, reaching nearly 45 million people.

NAMB evangelism team leader Jerry Pipes said the 2012 campaign — “Reaching Across North America” — will be launched with an eight-week media saturation leading into spring 2012. The media campaign — TV, radio, billboards and newspapers — will feature as its tagline: “Hope. Find It Here.”

Pipes asked the state leaders to agree that in 2012, “we will reach 80 percent or 40,000 of our SBC churches. And we want to see 1 million people accept Christ and be baptized in 2012. Can we all agree on that?”

Church planting
NAMB’s church planting vice president, Ken Weathersby, said church planting will also undergo a major sea change in the months ahead. Weathersby said the coming changes in church planting will “liberate us to the point of seeing more people and churches engaged in church planting. We’re going back to our biblical roots.

“We don’t want to rearrange the body of Christ, we want to plant new churches,” Weathersby said. “And church planting success will be defined by discipling and transformation as the desired outcomes, planting built on biblical and prayerful foundations, and in context of the culture.”

Weathersby said the new church planting framework will add to church planting capacity, not diminish it. For instance, plans call for mobilizing lay people — even those without seminary or college degrees — as church planters. He added the process also will include the revamping of the Nehemiah church planting program.

The third major initiative — the new Metropolitan Missions Focus on the major population centers of the U.S. and Canada — was introduced by Harry Lewis, vice president for partnership missions and mobilization.

With an overall U.S. population of 309 million, Lewis said the U.S. is made up of 366 metropolitan statistical areas with over 250 million people representing 83 percent of the nation’s total population. Canada has 109 metro areas with over 25.5 million people representing over 80 percent of that country’s total population.

“Clearly, most people live in metro areas, in core cities of 50,000 and up,” Lewis told the audience. “There’s at least one metro area in every state convention.”

Lewis said under NAMB’s Metropolitan Missions Focus, work will concentrate on four megalopolis areas in the United States: New York (22 million people), Los Angeles (17 million), Chicago (10 million) and Washington, D.C. (8 million). In addition, six focus states will also be targeted — New Jersey, Michigan, Georgia, Colorado, Texas and Oregon/Washington.

BP photo

Frank Page, newly elected CEO of the Southern Baptist executive committee, challenged 500 Baptist state leaders “to be men and women responding only to God’s call” during the North American Mission Board’s annual Summer Senior Leadership Meeting, July 25-29 in Atlanta.

“The U.S. population is growing by one person every 10 seconds,” Lewis said. “A year from now, we’ll have 3 million more people. If churches plant the same number of churches as in the past — which has averaged an annual 1,500 new plants — it means that each one of those new church plants will have to reach 2,000 people just to meet the annual population growth. And if we baptize the same number we typically do, we’ll only reach 11 percent of them. Most of that additional 3 million people will die and go to hell because we’re only reaching a fraction of them.”

Lewis was quick to add that mid-size cities and rural areas can’t be overlooked, either — citing both a small town of 3,300 and a mid-sized city of 40,000 where estimated lostness in each exceeds 90 percent.

Frank Page
Frank Page, the next president of the Southern Baptist Executive Committee in Nashville and until recently, vice president of evangelism for NAMB, capped the meeting with a presentation that used “Why We Do What We Do” as his theme and the story of God’s call to a young Samuel.

“God calls us and wants us to rely upon that call,” Page told the state leaders. “I believe if there’s ever a time, it is now that we listen to the call of God as the reason we do what we do.

“Votes can be taken, councils and task forces can come forth with their recommendations,” Page said. “What will we listen to? Task forces from Nashville? Convention directives? I challenge you to be men and women responding only to God’s call. Your state, your association or your church will not see a revival of God’s Holy Spirit because of some denominational directive. Hear the call, heed the command.”

NAMB’s church planting and evangelism groups closed out the four-day meeting by recognizing individuals and states excelling over the past year:
  • Dennis Hampton Rural Church Planting Award, Douglas Lee, associational director of missions, Nebraska
  • Baptist General Convention of Texas, largest number of new church plants
  • Kansas-Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptists, highest percentage increase in new church plants
  • Lifetime Achievement Awards for Church Planting, Willie McPherson and Floyd Tidsworth
  • Distinguished Service Award, Jean-Baptiste Thomas, New York City
  • “Find It Here” Participation Awards, Kentucky Baptist Convention and Alabama State Board of Missions
  • “Find It Here” Percentage Award, West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists and Convention of Southern Baptists of Puerto Rico/Virgin Islands
  • “Find It Here” Media Awards, California Southern Baptist Convention and Louisiana Baptist Convention
  • “God’s Plan for Sharing” Award, Gary Taylor, Missouri Baptist Convention
  • Excellence in Evangelism Awards, South Carolina Baptist Convention (2), State Convention of Baptists in Ohio, Baptist State Convention of North Carolina
  • C.E. Autrey Evangelism Award, Florida Baptist Convention
  • Charles Roesel Ministry Evangelism Award, Eric Allen, Kentucky Baptist Convention
  • Howard Ramsey Evangelism Award, Convention of Southern Baptists of Puerto Rico/Virgin Islands
  • Roy Fish Excellence in Evangelism Award, David Burton, Florida Baptist Convention
NAMB also recognized and honored three retiring SBC leaders: Ray Tallman, professor at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary; Herman Rios, Florida Baptist Convention; and Bob Mills, who retired as a jointly funded missionary in the roles of state director of missions/ministry evangelism for the Kansas-Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptists. Mills continues to serve as the convention’s executive director.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Noah is a writer for the North American Mission Board.)
8/4/2010 2:37:00 PM by Mickey Noah, Baptist Press | with 1 comments

Criswell College officially separates

August 3 2010 by Tammi Reed Ledbetter, Baptist Press

DALLAS — Criswell College marked the beginning of a new era Aug. 1 as the school officially separated from First Baptist Church (FBC) in Dallas.

W.A. Criswell, a former pastor of the renowned congregation, launched a Bible institute 40 years ago that he said would be “based on conservative evangelical Christianity as practiced in our church” to train leaders for ministry.

“Criswell College operated under the ultimate authority of the members of First Baptist Dallas. This new structure enables the college to expand into new opportunities under an independent board and leadership,” leaders said in a joint release issued at a signing ceremony July 29 in the office of interim president Lamar Cooper.

In 1991, the campus was relocated less than two miles east from the facilities of the church, which remains in downtown Dallas.

Emphasizing the shared past and future vision, the release stated, “Both institutions hold steadfastly to the core values on which both were established and built. Both institutions will continue to apply these critical values, the college in the development and training of the next generation of pastors and ministry leaders — the church in sharing the gospel with the city of Dallas.”

The fate of radio station KCBI-FM is spelled out in the release, noting the station “has served both the college and the church and will continue to be a dynamic ministry to the Dallas-Fort Worth market.” Management of the radio station will move from the college to a new nonprofit organization, First Dallas Media Inc.

Criswell College expects to gain several benefits from the separation without losing the legacy that W.A. Criswell established.

“There will be no change in our commitment to the Bible as God’s infallible and inerrant Word, nor to any other doctrinal position,” Cooper told the TEXAN newsjournal. Calling the separation a historic moment, he said, “We are greatly indebted to the vision of our founder, Dr. W.A. Criswell, and to the members of First Baptist Church Dallas who embraced that vision.”

Cooper said the separation would give the school a new identity, no longer viewed as a church school that is an appendage of the historic downtown church.

“It will therefore make it easier to recruit students for on-campus and our new distance education programs,” he said.

He also expects the separation to help development and fundraising, attracting donors who, prior to the separation, “incorrectly surmised that the college was supported largely by budgeted allocations from First Baptist Church of Dallas.”

“As an independent entity, we look forward to our continued cooperation with the church in reaching common goals appropriate to the Kingdom’s work,” Cooper said. “As a cooperative affiliate we also look forward to a closer working relationship with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and the churches of our convention.”

Under terms of the separation, the school immediately operates under the authority of a new board that includes members elected from the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC) and the W.A. Criswell Foundation, both of which are affiliated with the college.

In addition to eight trustees nominated from each of those entities, the college names five at-large members and the new board is responsible for ratifying all 21 people.

Previously, the bylaws stipulated at least 12 of the 21-member trustee board were to be drawn from among FBC members.

Serving as chairman of that new board is Jimmy Pritchard, pastor of First Baptist Church in Forney, Texas.

“This is a unique opportunity for Criswell College to build in a significant way upon the foundation of its past,” Pritchard told the TEXAN. “A new day always brings exciting possibilities as well as special challenges.”

He expressed hope that the school would “rise to make the most of the new opportunities” as well as confidence in conquering any challenges in the coming days.

Terms of separation were approved by members of the church and the school’s trustees last summer, paving the way for a transition team to draft a Separation and Contribution Agreement. Church and school representatives signed final documents early this year.

Legal documents were ratified Feb. 2, awaiting approval by the Federal Communications Commission and Internal Revenue Service for the go-ahead that allowed separation Aug. 1.

Having served as chairman of the prior governing board since 2005 and a board member since 1998, Dallas attorney Michael Deahl described the separation transaction as “undoubtedly the most significant milestone in the history of Criswell College” apart from its initial founding, “and certainly the most challenging transaction I have ever been involved with.”

While the concept had been informally considered for many years, discussions began in earnest in January 2008, he said. He recalled the hurdles that had to be overcome to get to this point, including the satisfactory agreement of terms of separation, particularly the disposition of KCBI and other radio stations, approval of the transaction by college trustees as well as church deacons and members, approval of the change in governance by the school’s accrediting agency, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, as well as approvals from the FCC and IRS.

First Dallas Media Inc. has the college and First Baptist Church as its sole members. FBC will exercise control over the nonprofit entity through the election of its trustees. The church will continue operating the radio ministry, utilizing income generated from program support and donors. The college will receive guaranteed annual income from station revenue.

“I realize that many members of the college’s constituency have been waiting and watching to see if the separation was really going to happen,” Deahl said. Now that it has occurred, he said the school’s independent status and alignment with the SBTC and the W.A. Criswell Foundation “will serve as an impetus for the college to broaden its influence and ministry in the years to come.”

Deahl was eager to recognize the entire Criswell College and KCBI family “who remained focused on the work of the ministry throughout the ups and downs of the past several years; my fellow trustees at the college who took their responsibilities seriously, always held me accountable and were a privilege to lead; the church staff and deacon leadership who were instrumental in enabling the separation transaction to be completed in a spirit of cooperation and harmony; and college interim president Lamar Cooper, who has provided solid and stable leadership at the college for the past two years.”

After the separation agreement papers were signed, Jim Richards, executive director of the SBTC, told the TEXAN, “A new day has dawned at Criswell College. The rich heritage of First Baptist Church Dallas will always be a part of the college’s legacy.”

Richards expressed confidence that the future of the school “is as limitless as the promises of God,” and pledged the state convention’s commitment to helping Criswell College transition “to the greatest days of ministry yet.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Ledbetter is news editor of the Southern Baptist TEXAN, newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.)
8/3/2010 2:09:00 PM by Tammi Reed Ledbetter, Baptist Press | with 1 comments

Virginia leader nabs BWA presidency

August 2 2010 by Marv Knox, Associated Baptist Press

HONOLULU — The Baptist World Alliance (BWA) has elected John Upton, a denominational executive with experience on the mission field and in the pastorate, as its new president.

Upton will continue as executive director of the Baptist General Association of Virginia, a post he has held since 2001. Previously, he was a missionary to Taiwan and a pastor in Virginia.

The BWA General Council nominated Upton for the presidency a year ago, when the group held its annual meeting in the Netherlands. Delegates to the 20th Baptist World Congress confirmed that nomination July 31 in Honolulu. His term will last until the summer of 2015.

“I believe in the Baptist World Alliance,” Upton told BWA delegates moments after his election. “I believe in the way we elevate the name of Christ, serve in the name of Christ, listen to the Spirit of God, and build up the body of Christ in all its many languages, cultures and customs. I believe in who we are.”

The best symbol for the BWA is “the way we praise God together,” Upton said. “It’s what captures who we are.”

Photo by Rand Jenkins

John Upton was elected president of the BWA at the 20th Baptist World Congress in Honolulu.

That symbol may seem too ordinary and too benign, but it is powerful, he contended. He cited a litany of other ministries, activities and projects BWA members undertake together, but the symbol of praise rises above the rest.

“We spend so much time in praise when we’re together,” he observed. “Why do we do this? Does God need it? It’s in our DNA. When we praise God, we touch the heart of God.”

Praise symbolizes the BWA because it is subversive, he maintained. “It is a cry for radical freedom under God. To live in praise is to say those (worldly) powers are limited” in their control over God’s work among God’s people all over the world. That’s why Baptists stand for justice and redemption — because they believe it will only come through the power of God.

“Gathering to praise God is not just a nice thing to do. It’s the only thing to do,” Upton said.

The new president pledged to the delegates: “I will commit to serve you with dignity, respect, inclusiveness and, yes, praise these next five years as we are in step with the Spirit.”

Callam praises Upton
In a news conference after the election, BWA General Secretary Neville Callam endorsed Upton’s election “without any doubt.”

“He’s eminently suited to be the president of BWA,” Callam said of Upton, noting the staff at BWA headquarters in Falls Church, Va., is joyful because of the election.

Upton has led Virginia Baptists to the “cutting edge of mission and witness,” and Upton likewise succeeded as a missionary and pastor, Callam said. He praised Upton’s involvement in BWA across many years. Upton has served on the BWA’s Executive Committee and General Council and Program Committee this year, as well as on other BWA groups and the Executive Committee of the North American Baptist Fellowship, BWA’s regional affiliate in Canada and the United States.

Upton is an excellent cross-cultural communicator, Callam added, noting he will represent the BWA well before governments and other religious bodies, will provide clear vision and will help unite the worldwide Baptist organization.

“The search committee found its ideal candidate” in Upton, he said.

Upton succeeded David Coffey of the United Kingdom, who served as BWA president since the 19th Baptist World Congress in Birmingham, England, in 2005.

BWA delegates also elected Daniel Carro of Argentina as first vice president.

They selected a slate of vice presidents from across the world — Joel Sierra, Mexico; Regina Claas, Germany; Nabil Costa, Lebanon; Harry Gardner, Canada; William Epps, United States; Olu Menjay, Liberia; Paul Msiza, South Africa; Victor Samuel Gonzalez, Cuba; Burchell Taylor, Jamaica; John Kok, Malaysia; and Ross Clifford, Australia.

The newly elected BWA treasurer is Caroline Fossen of the United States.
8/2/2010 10:17:00 AM by Marv Knox, Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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