Charting a GCR Future for NAMB?


**Posted NAMB missionary totals come from a NAMB document highlighting missionary personnel by state.**

As I think about what it might look like to be part of a convention of churches which is radically, aggressively, sacrificially giving itself to the cause of Gospel advance I cannot help but be excited! However, thinking through the implications of Christ’s call to come and die as He expects us to “take up our cross and follow” Him, I cannot help but think that we are failing in our effort to advance the Kingdom of God. How else do we explain having the Gospel, in its present form, for almost 2,000 years now and still seeing a third of the globe’s population unable to recognize the name of Jesus Christ? How else do we contend with the fact that a significant number of our churches across the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) are rapidly plateaued and declining? How else do I personally come to grips with the fact that in my own city approximately 85% of our population is no where near an Evangelical church on any given Sunday? It really is heartbreaking when you think through the implications. The horror grows even stronger when we recognize that a secular corporation like Google has been in existence for less than 15 years and yet is already one of the 10 most recognizable brands on the planet. It is for these reasons, and many more, I am extremely excited about the upcoming vote on the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force Report. While I recognize that many find these recommendations challenging, and a not a few find them controversial, I am grateful for the forward thinking men and women who have worked within our polity to lead us toward a bold and exciting future.

In particular, and as the impetus for today’s post, I am excited about the new future being charted for the North American Mission Board (NAMB). I am incredibly grateful for the work of our two mission boards. There was a time, not too many years ago, when Tracy and I were employed by the International Mission Board in West Africa, and even today my own parents are church planters with NAMB in southwest Wisconsin. I am regularly encouraged by the leadership and staff at these two institutions and am grateful for the ministry that they fulfill as they seek to push back lostness around the globe. At the same time, however, I find myself increasingly frustrated, and even saddened, at what I believe to be significant strategic problems at NAMB which impede her ability to effectively accomplish the task of assisting “Southern Baptists in their task of fulfilling the Great Commission in the United States, Canada and their territories”.

Over the past week I have been engaging in a bit of research. I have been curious to determine what areas of the US are most unaffected by a Gospel witness. What areas are most in need of missionaries who might be deployed by NAMB? In contrast to that data, how are our missionaries deployed across the country? In essence I was curious to see how strategic we as a convention of churches are being as we allow NAMB to be a catalytic enterprise for helping to advance the Gospel in North America. As I think about how NAMB can be most effective, it seems to me that there are few fundamental struggles that can serve to impede that work.

As I understand our convention’s operation, in respect to NAMB, I recognize that each state convention has a working agreement with NAMB, called a Cooperative Agreement, which is a contractual obligation on the part of NAMB whereby NAMB is required to send a specific portion of funding on to the state convention. What makes these Cooperative Agreements so unusual is that each state has a different agreement with NAMB. There appears to be little rhyme or reason employed as to how these agreements have been determined in the first place. Furthermore, it is a strange cycle that allows the local church to give to the state, the state to forward funds to the Executive Committee of the SBC which in turn disperses those funds to NAMB who then is contractually obligated to send a portion back to each state convention from where it originally came. What is strange about this process, in my mind, is that NAMB does not appear to be free to develop any specific strategy by which it determines how to deploy funding or missionaries. Finally, NAMB is not free to supervise most of the staff which are supported via NAMB funding. Instead the state conventions which initially forward the funds and who receive back a portion of the same funds back in return are now responsible for direct supervision of these NAMB missionaries.

This has led us to a place where our distribution of NAMB missionaries is intriguing, to say the least. Last week, as I looked over a map which is produced by NAMB and which highlights their missionary totals in each state, I was extremely concerned as I thought through our strategy of affecting lostness. To make sure that my concerns were justified I began doing a bit of research concerning Gospel saturation on the whole. Using the Association of Religious Data Archives I compiled a list of all 50 states and then calculated three specific factors to assess lostness. First I considered the ratio of Southern Baptist churches to the total population. Secondly I considered the total number of Southern Baptists against the total population, and finally, and probably most important, I calculated the total number of Evangelicals in respect to the total population. You can access that research here.

Working through that research I found some fascinating pieces of information. For instance, while I have always assumed the Northeastern US was one of the more unreached areas in the country, I was shocked to find that of the 9 most unreached states in the US, only Utah was located outside of the Northeast. What’s more, I was surprised with how significant the lostness was there in comparison to the rest of the other highly unreached areas across the country. For instance, in most of the more unreached Western states, excluding Utah, it was normal to have a ratio of somewhere around 1 Evangelical for every 10-15 people. In the Northeast, however, I was shocked to see that the ratio was typically closer to 1 Evangelical for every 35-45 people. That means that the lostness quotient in the Northeastern US stands in stark contrast, some 300% greater, than the Western US which is considered to be heavily unreached!

The intended conclusion of my research, however, was to see how well we were deploying missionaries to reach these most heavily unreached population segments. I was incredibly disappointed to learn that approximately 6% NAMB missionaries are deployed in the 9 most heavily unreached states (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Utah and Vermont). I was even more shocked when I found out that 19% of NAMB missionaries are deployed in Texas, Georgia and Alabama, states which have an Evangelical ratio of 1 to 5, 1 to 4 and 1 to 3.*

As an entity of the SBC we have not given NAMB the freedom to aggressively attack these areas of greatest lostness. Through the existence of Cooperative Agreements, as well as the “hands off” expectation that NAMB has to operate under in terms of deploying and supervising their missionary force, we have tied their hands and failed to give them the freedom necessary to reach these areas. Accordingly, it makes sense that we would not move outside of these states. The states with the greatest concentration of Southern Baptists are working to reach their own states, and trying hard to do so. They are responsible for their budgets as well as a significant portion of NAMB’s budget. No, it is not necessarily a case of misplaced priorities as much as it may be a case of misplaced strategy. The state conventions responsible for the biggest SBC populations and budgets are responsible to reach their states. If I were leading those state conventions, I would do nothing less myself, and I would make use of every resource at my disposal to do so. While it may be easy to criticize them, and I have unfortunately been guilty of doing so at times, I do not think that we need to assign blame to them. Instead we need to evaluate our structure. We have one entity responsible for advancing the Kingdom across the US, regardless of state lines, and we have tied their hands and failed to give them the freedom to deploy and supervise a missionary force. Beyond that, through our existing financial framework we have not given them the necessary funding to do so. If we are going to reach states with little SBC presence, and more importantly, little Evangelical presence, we are going to have to find a way to place more resources in NAMB’s hands, which unfortunately will mean that some states will have less. My own state will most likely be one of those states. To be honest, however, in each of our states with significant SBC presence we almost assuredly have the necessary foundation of local churches needed to reach that state. In my own state we have almost 2,000 SBC churches and a ratio of 1 Southern Baptist for every 7.5 people. Surely we have a significant enough presence, large enough financial support and the God-honoring, Gospel centered people and churches necessary to reach our own state without taking funding away from states which have little Gospel presence?

The only way that we can rectify this misalignment of strategy and funding is to radically alter how NAMB operates and to give them the freedom that they need to accomplish the task of assisting our churches to advance the Gospel across North America. For that reason I am encouraged by our GCRTF report, plan to vote for it next month in Orlando, and am bringing a number of messengers from our church to the convention. Will you join in this movement to advance across the world, to a people that desperately need to know and believe this great and mighty Gospel?

**UPDATE** A friend from Colorado created the map below. You can increase its size by clicking on it. It uses a color coded description to highlight our lostness quotient.

* NAMB Missionary totals are below:

Alabama 110
Alaska 53
Arizona 132
Arkansas 124
California 314
Colorado 193
Connecticut 17
Delaware 11
Florida 133
Georgia 339
Hawaii 28
Idaho 34
Illinois 73
Indiana 108
Iowa 46
Kansas 142
Kentucky 204
Louisiana 78
Maine 9
Maryland 82
Massachusetts 76
Michigan 100
Minnesota 34
Mississippi 33
Missouri 75
Montana 71
Nebraska 49
Nevada 63
New Hampshire 12
New Jersey 20
New Mexico 92
New York 117
North Carolina 63
North Dakota 20
Ohio 210
Oklahoma 218
Oregon 54
Pennsylvania 112
Rhode Island 9
South Carolina 113
South Dakota 25
Tennessee 55
Texas 821
Utah 41
Vermont 21
Virginia 95
Washington 114
West Virginia 77
Wisconsin 39
Wyoming 31

Micah is a husband to Tracy & a daddy to Grace, Kessed & Haddon. He’s Senior Pastor at Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, TN. Most of all, he’s a debtor to grace.

26 thoughts on “Charting a GCR Future for NAMB?

  1. Thank you Micah for your post and all your research. As someone in a non-southern state in an SBC church it is time Southern Baptists become aware of the distribution of their missionaries and pose some difficult questions that have to be answered.

    Terry Felton
    New Freedom, PA

  2. When I first saw a copy of that Prayer Map in North Dakota 11 days ago, I knew it would be “eye opening news” to a lot of Southern Baptists.

    If anyone want to do another study that will open your eyes – then look at the amount of NAMB dollars spent in your state convention for staff salaries vs. money that actually gets budgeted for New Work.

  3. Micah, I agree with you in many ways, especially in the issue of how we allocate money from the Cooperative Program among the states. My concer is that almost everyone is talking against NAMB missionaries deployed on the states, though they are on the field, but no one is considering that six seminaries and the ERLC are taking 23% of the total CP money or more that $62,000,000.00, that are NOT GOING TO MISSIONS. it seems like these institutions are untouchables. What do you think?

  4. Micah,

    All of this talk possess one significant question as Southern Baptists, “Are we missional because of our resources, or are we missionaries obligated to be ‘good stewards’ of His resource?” As we begin to ask the tough questions and our eyes are open to the limitless providence of the Store Master and diligently seek His guidance, our identity will be validated and our mission will be confirmed. Why, because He has commissioned us. Every church must face the truth of this question. Great article, keep asking the questions, so that together we may strive to reach His answer!

    “Resource is not defined by size of offering, but by the intentionality of its application in obedience…”

    Andre’ Mooney
    Gift of Hope Baptist Church
    Bottineau, ND

  5. Micah
    Your research is greatly appreciated. From a veteran pastor in the NW I truly appreciate your heart and your passion. I agree with your conclusions- we need a strategy not a program. I have expereinced numerous NAMB programs for revival, evangelism etc… Most have been premised on what worked in other regions and thus didn’t work well here (of course, when I mentioned that I was told it was my fault for not working the plan!)
    I would point out that a primary reason ORegon and Washington – according to your stats- are in the medium category has nothing to do with Southern Baptists. If it weren’t for Foursquare, Calvary Chapel’s, and Conservative Baptists, and other groups I’ve not mentioned…. most northwesterners would never hear the gospel. PArt of our problem (in my opinion) is that we have failed to acknowledge a kingdom mindset and we have tried to plant Southern Baptist churches in areas where an evangelical church was already reaching people (apparently the reasoning: if they can do it we can do it better).
    My prayer is that whoever God has in mind to lead both the SBC as PResident, NAMB, The Executive Committee and the IMB will be kingdom minded and look for strategic partnerships rather than working in isolation from other bible-believing, Christ-centered, God exalting, Spirit honoring believers.
    A strategy rather than a program…a novel idea whose time has come!
    Steve

  6. Micah,

    I am not sure anyone would disagree there is a need for a transformation of NAMB. Your idea who’s time has come has more to do with where we have been than the statistics you present. Let me illustrate –

    A few years ago in our association we learned via NAMB’s consultation Cleveland County is one of the most “lost” counties in Oklahoma. Rather than give you the geography of Oklahoma, let’s just quickly note, it is the location of the University of Oklahoma. Any Florida Gator fan knows where Norman, OK is since we were on the wrong end of a National Football title race under a player who shall not be named. 🙂

    When I asked one of our associational staff members how the research was conducted it reminded me of the way you have given us your numbers. You may remember my Twitter question as you were conducting your research. You state how you determined “lostness” for an area. Here is another way to state what you noted –

    1. You are lost if you are not a Southern Baptist
    2. You are lost if you do not self-identify as an Evangelical

    This is the same process NAMB used to determine that Cleveland County is the most lost County in Oklahoma. I am not suggesting there are no lost people in Cleveland County. It is simply that those two distinctions do not in any way determine lostness. I suspect you would agree that when we cannot locate half of our membership across the Country we may think some who once identified as Southern Baptists may themselves have no relationship with Jesus.

    One of these days we will discover there are a host of people, maybe more, who would claim Christ but not Southern Baptists nor Evangelical.

    Your shock at the statistical lostness in the Northeast – could it stem from research methods that automatically assume if someone identified as Roman Catholic they were “lost?” Are we really wiling to assume “all” Roman Catholics are lost? Careful, not sure you want to contend all Southern Baptists aren’t.

    You see, for me it would be far better for us to own up to that fact we are not “God’s Last and Only Hope.” We may partner with the Spirit of God to declare Jesus Is Lord calling for faithful trust and obedience as one of the voices drawing attention to the Kingdom of God as opposed to the only voice. If NAMB is ineffective there is no singular fault line. Those trumpeting its failures have also been the same propping it up for more than 30 years of “finally getting it right.”

    We are human. Our structures sometimes take a life of their own. If we are looking to scapegoat for the failures of NAMB then we all hold a piece of that animal.

    We may well need a resurgence. But, let’s see if we can put together information that is beyond question when extolling the virtues of the impact of the report. I am glad you will be there championing the measure. I hope it passes. I fear we would not know what to do if it did not.

    Todd

  7. Todd-

    I appreciate your heart and I agree with you. However, for the purpose of strategy development I don’t know of any better way than to utilize this type of research. In order to somehow produce objective evidence that informs our strategy, I don’t think we have a better method.

    That being said, this post wasn’t an attack on NAMB. I tried to explain that in the post. If anything it is a recognition that our structure keeps NAMB from being able to accomplish its own purpose statement.

  8. MIcah –

    Thank you for your gracious reply to what could have easily been taken as terse.

    I would press you at the point of objective evidence. This is skewed evidence. A poor method is no method. Better to admit we have mischaracterized our Presbyterian brothers who prefer the “Mainline” moniker to “Evangelical” than continue to categorize them as lost because they do not self-identify according to our methodology.

    Surely you don’t mean to imply that we continue to use faulty research to develop “better” strategies! I cannot even see how is inspiring in the least. You are soon to earn your degree from MWBTS. I cannot imagine any professor accepting what you describe as acceptable. You must re-think holding on to this.

    Better for us to admit we have been so unwilling to believe anyone else may follow Christ outside our circles and that has dominated our strategy. We set our premises up to support just such a practice. Then we self-declare we are reaching more people than any other group. Micah – if this is where we are headed – we must vote the thing down.

    If we do not rethink this then we must assume for the purposes of our strategy development all Mainliners and Catholics are lost and all Southern Baptists are saved. I cannot support any SBC agency that make this triumphalistic, presumptive move.

    I . . . am . . . in . . . disbelief . . . we are indeed in worse shape than I imagined.

  9. Todd-

    Thanks again for your thoughts. However, on this point we are simply going to disagree. While I think that there are certainly Evangelicals who are non-believers, and non-Evangelicals who are believers, I also recognize that our common, Evangelical understanding of God and salvation are, just that, Evangelical in nature.

    As a Southern Baptist pastor, concerned about the distribution of the Gospel in relationship to the SBC and her entities, I find the research to be effective and appropriate. Thankfully a number of professors have looked at and affirmed the research. Not only that, but I understand the article and its research were actually used in a seminary class by a professor yesterday, so it appears they find the research acceptable.

    This is not ” triumphalistic” or “presumptive”, rather it is a recognition that on the fundamental question of “What is the Gospel?” we have some significant differences with those who are outside our stream of Christianity.

    Blessings!

  10. Micah,

    This is an excellent blog post. I’m a Yankee currently living in the South, and attending a Southern Baptist Church. I grew up in the Northeast, in a Fundamental Baptist Church, and lived there through my early twenties(I’m in my late twenties now). I have long lamented the lack of solid, evangelical(Baptist particularly) churches in the Northeast. I grew up in what you could consider the “Bible Belt” of the state of Delaware. There were a fair amount of churches in that part of Delaware, and honestly I thought that in the town I lived in there was a large amount of churches. Then I moved down South. In the town I currently live in, when I drive to church on Sunday, I drive by ten churches. There are probably 100 evangelical churches in my town. Many of them are Baptist and Southern Baptist. There’s maybe half that in one of the larger cities in Delaware.

    Approximately one quarter of the population of the United States lives in what we’d call the Northeast Region. That doesn’t include all of New England, but it stretches from approximately Washington, D.C. up to Boston, Mass. There is a tremendous amount of lostness there, and many of the “evangelical” churches, are extremely liberal and don’t actually teach the Gospel of Christ.

    When the GCR reports started coming out this year, I read them with keen interest. Being from the Northeast, I’ve long known of the lack of Southern Baptist churches in that area. I only knew of one Fundamental Baptist group that was actively attempting to get Fundamental Baptist preachers to start planting churches in the Northeast, and I knew of another Fundamental Baptist group that was trying to get pastors to fill pulpits in the Northeast of existing churches. So I had hopes that the GCR would include recommendations for how to go about reaching the areas in the U.S. with the greatest lostness. I wasn’t terribly surprised to see that 2/3’s of CP Stateside dollars are being spent on the South(where 1/3 of the US population resides). The evidence is all around me down here.

    And I think that the reason for the disparity is fairly simple. It’s harder to plant a church in the Northeast. Honestly, it really is. It is still easier to plant a church in the South. People here are more likely to go to church if you ask them. In the Northeast, the people are more resistant to the Gospel, and many younger pastors give up. I’ve seen it happen many times. And here in the South, it’s easier to plant a church and grow it large enough to become a “full-time minister”. In the Northeast however, a pastor has to often times be bi-vocational in order to make enough money to feed his family.

    So what is the answer? How do we start working on making more efforts to reach areas like the Northeast? Now that we recognize the problem, how do we rectify it? Obviously, the cooperative agreements between the NAMB and the State Conventions(and I don’t even pretend to understand how the CP works. It confuses me) need to be reworked. There’s too much money staying in the Bible belt, and not enough getting out to the rest of the United States. Somehow, that needs to be fixed. And then we need to train church planters to go into these lost areas and just start “plowing out the rocks”. It’s rocky soil out there, but we need folks to get up there and start plowing the ground. Adoniram Judson spent many years in Burma before he saw his first convert. It just might be that we send a church planter into New Jersey who doesn’t see a convert for months or even years. But we need to keep sowing the Gospel.

    Sorry for rambling a little. It’s just that the topic of the Northeast and the Gospel tends to get my mind wandering in a hundred different directions in trying to piece this all together for those less familiar with where I was born and bred. I love the Northeast, and hope to someday return there. And I’d love to go back up there to see SBC churches being planted. And maybe I’ll be planting one of them someday.

  11. Micah,

    We have disagreed before and been able to carry on. Working out the implications of a relationship with Jesus shows up in how we disagree.

    You wrote –
    This is not ” triumphalistic” or “presumptive”, rather it is a recognition that on the fundamental question of “What is the Gospel?” we have some significant differences with those who are outside our stream of Christianity.

    And that seems typed by one who believes our stream is “the” stream. You prove my point.

    Peace.
    Todd

  12. Todd-

    The reason I take issue with your point is I believe it assumes wrongly in respect to my opinion. Let me try to explain.

    I obviously don’t believe that those in other streams necessarily have a good understanding of the Gospel. As an example, most of my family, on my dad’s side, are Catholics. A few of them, unfortunately very few, appear to be authentic believers in Christ, and in every case it is in spite of their faith tradition, not because of it.

    I disagree with the words “triumphalistic” or “persumptive” simply because by definition they convey an attitude of superiority, which is inaccurate. Do I believe that an Evangelical perspective of the Gospel is accurate? Sure I do. That’s why I am an Evangelical. Do I believe that somehow I maintain a position of superiority because of my belief? I sure hope not. There is a difference between believing that something is true and walking in a spirit of superiority concerning that belief. So, I am not trying to refute your position that I believe that Evangelicals are mostly right in respect to the Gospel, but I am refuting the verbiage you used which seems to convey an attitude about that belief that I don’t believe I share.

  13. I was concerned with the numbers represented for Michigan since I am one of what I thought were a small number of appointed missionaries. I verified today the following number of funded missionaries we have in Michigan. Here is the breakdown.
    12 associational missionaries
    20 church planters and strategists
    5 consultants connected to state convention (BSCM)
    7 state staff at BSCM (includes part funding for 2 secretaries)
    Total is 34

    A few more church planters are to be approved by NAMB Trustees in May and June, so hopefully our numbers will increase some. I should that is a confirmed 34 funded NAMB missionaries in contrast to the 100 reported. I would want to confirm actual numbers and ratios for other states, too.

    Thanks Micah for raising this issue though … very helpful to be thinking through this as part of the process for evaluating where we are as Southern Baptist.

  14. Bobby-

    To clarify those numbers come directly from NAMB. They claim to have 100 missionaries in Michigan. I believe NAMB does not separate based on funder or non-funded missionaries, and I should add that I don’t think they should. I’m planning to post a quick explanation of that perspective in just a few minutes.

  15. I guess I’m somewhat concerned with the whole “unified strategy” approach. It strikes me as a top-down model – very denominational-centered rather than local church centered. I believe it is the local church that sends out. I believe it is the local church that has been given the mandate. I believe in NAMB, but I believe in NAMB as an entity with a responsibility to assist the local church, not as one that imposes a strategy on the local church.

    Example: if there was a couple in my church who felt led by God to plant a church in Alaska and if my church confirmed that call with them and sent them out, I would want them to have the freedom to fulfill whatever strategy they have been led to by God and that has been confirmed in the local church. I wouldn’t want to send them out so that someone in Georgia can tell them how they think they should do ministry in Alaska, what they think the results should be, and how long (or short) they intend to support them. I’m thinking of ReformedFundy’s scenario in the Northeast and his illustration of Adoniram Judson. If Judson had been appointed as a church planter by NAMB he would likely have been defunded after three years. But what if my local church still believes in the call on that couple after three years of hard work with few tangible (numeric) results? Well, we are free to fund them ourselves at that point, but our partner and facilitator NAMB will no longer be there to support the vision of the local church. Why? Because we’ve given strategy over to them rather than keeping it locally in Alaska (or wherever) and affirmed in the local church. No longer does the local church need to affirm God’s call. A denominational entity can now do that.

    Sounds like great business, but doesn’t sound much like the New Testament, to me.

  16. I would disagree. There should be a clear distinction of those who are funded and not funded. For instance, in Michigan, they commission our wives too. But our wives are no more appointed missionaries than any other local church member. They are required to work full time jobs to support our families.They seek to live out their live incarnationally just like any church member should. Otehrs that are non-funded may be like one guy in one of my associations. He has been active in a prision ministry of his church for a number of years. Due to changing legal requirements he wanted to have some credentials for his ministry. He was just endorsed as a NAMB Endorsed chapalin and will now be counted as a NMAB missionary. Those are both significantly different than a church planter or associational missionary that is directly engaged in strategic ministry to push back the lostness of their focus ministry area.

    I have discovered this afternoon that those numbers are closer to the 100 mark when you count spouses, etc. as a part of our missionary force. Realistically, they are no more a part of the missionary force than any other church member is a part of that missionary force. They just have the stresses of living in a ministers home and make huge sacrifices to support those of us serving the Lord in the ministries he has called us to.

    Again, thanks for stimulating this conversation.

  17. Micah –

    To assert that Evangelicals have the Gospel right and others come up short is a self-determined position. I have a number of Presbyterian friends – PCUSA and PCA. They may or may not prefer to be considered Evangelical since they hail from what is traditionally termed “Mainline.” It has been the SBC’s posture to demonstrate how effective we have been in our evangelistic strategies over against these Mainline denominations. We point out the drop in baptisms and attendance. Now we find ourselves in the same boat shouting, “But we do better because we have the Gospel.” If someone does not self-identify as a Southern Baptist and/or as an Evangelical it is presumptive to categorically pitch them as “lost.” And yes, that is precisely what NAMB did in their surveys in Cleveland County in Oklahoma. It is a faulty premise to make the presumption. If we continue to cast our strategy on that particular premise then we must also assume that a good percentage of Southern Baptists and Evangelicals are also “lost.” Surely you can see where our numbers are now skewed. Even more, if I make the determination for you regarding your lostness despite your protests to the contrary, I have set my self up as arbiter of your spiritual condition – something Jesus opposes in his day.

    My insistence to press you at this point, despite support from SBC sources which should signal something, that determining a strategy to push back lostness that is predicated on a faulty premise will today yield no better strategy than the one you rightly point out is in error today.

    It is not that I disagree with your assertion. It is that I find the premise you use to support your facts seems to be one of those times where, “Let’s not let our facts get in the way of a good story.”

    I too agree with Bobby as to the numbers reported by NAMB. Here is another way to look at it. You present the numbers to indicate we have over emphasized regions that are more “Evangelical.” This has been clear to us since before you did your research. David Phillips was quoted by Ronnie Floyd in the preliminary report in February when he remarked that we were a regional denomination with national aspirations – or something to that effect. David wrote that in August of last year. You are stating the obvious.

    What blurs the line is that if we are talking about NAMB support, most of us understand that idiom as “financial.” So, NAMB is not financially supporting, say, 100 missionaries in Michigan – far less. So to intimate NAMB’s strategy has us sending more “support” – meaning financial – to these areas is misleading at best.

    So that I am not misunderstood. I stand in line with those that think NAMB needs a new vision. I am also with Paul who contends the vision MUST center on the local church rather than a continued outsourcing to NAMB as the experts. To re-vision NAMB with these premises you outline will simply re-create the same kind of strategy. I simply have not found your premises believable or inspiring. If an employee of any of our entities supports these findings, my response would be let’s invite non-Southern Baptist Evangelicals and non-Evangelicals to weigh in on the premises.

    Keep working toward the call to re-vision NAMB. If this means a continued push to follow these premises, I will simply continue to disagree, and likely hold the conviction that it is typical of what I have grown up with that characterizes we Southern Baptists – We are God’s last and only hope. We tell ourselves that. We tell each other that. And the way we read our statistics is to support that. That my friend, is triumphalism at its best and Baptist Identity mongering at its worst.

  18. Micah, I’m with Bobby on this one. The numbers are a farce if they are not differentiated. For instance, our DOM in Delaware retired Oct 2008. He is still considered a NAMB missionary, counted in NAMB numbers.

    The real issue here is that this is a ploy about numbers, an attempt to make the numbers look good. This is the same issue with the IMB. They did not baptize 500,000+ people last year. They baptized about 70,000. The rest occurred by our “partners”, many of whom could not be appointed as IMB missionaries because they drink wine, weren’t baptized by a baptist, or some other silly reason. But we want our dollars to be doing something so the IMB doesn’t tell everyone the division of the baptism numbers.

    In Delaware we do not have 11 missionaries and in Maryland there are not 82. That is, unless you count the kids and the animals.

    You remember Kiki & Doug, right? They are campus ministers in Pittsburg. They are NAMB appointed but receive no funds. And no insurance. When they talk to people about helping fund their ministry, because they are self-supporting, they are questioned as to why NAMB doesn’t support them. People assume that because you are NAMB sponsored, you are NAMB funded. Last year Kiki found a tumor in her breast and they had not been able to afford insurance because the lack of funds. Thankfully it was benign, but people were shocked that NAMB didn’t provide insurance for them…They were, after all, NAMB appointed.

    By not publicizing the difference, people don’t know that the majority of “NAMB Appointed” people actually receive no financial support. They are normal people earning their keep like Paul did.

    If the distinction is made, then maybe more folks might be willing to give out of their blessing to help the majority of missionaries who are living out their calling because they are called, not because they get a check. Maybe more churches would be willing to give out of their blessing. Since you guys are cutting CP support, maybe you could help Kiki and Doug in their ministry so they can buy insurance for their family or be able to put food on their table. If not them, maybe some other unfunded NAMB appointed missionary. You could even count it as Great Commission Giving!

    Of course, the bigger question really could be one of money and strategy. Where does the money go? If we want to contend we are giving more support in people and money to the regions needing it the least, then where does the money given to NAMB go? for if most of our NAMB appointed are not funded, then exactly what do we do with the lion share of the resources that make their way to NAMB? Are they kick backs to the South?

  19. David hit a bulls-eye here. I’m not sure how that slipped by me, but there’s no way that Delaware and Maryland have those kinds of numbers. I would have known for sure about that much of a size of a Southern Baptist presence in Delaware for sure, and probably would have known about it in Maryland as well. I was a pastor’s son, and I knew of most of the churches in my county, and in the other two. The only Southern Baptist church that I had direct contact with was the one in Dover, and I knew of a couple others in New Castle County north of me. But I never heard of that large a presence in Delaware of Southern Baptists. Now I’m kind of wondering about these statistics.

    -Will

  20. David, Fundy & Bobby,

    I don’t think I’ve been clear enough, evidently. I agree with your point in that the numbers are a farce, in fact that helps prove my point, I think. Every person who is named a missionary with NAMB, regardless of funding, should be appointed with a strategic purpose that serves to fulfill NAMB’s mission statement. If these numbers are the numbers that NAMB claims, and many are not serving strategic purposes which help to accomplish NAMB’s purpose then that clarifies my point that we have a significant number of missionaries who are not being deployed based on strategy.

    Funded and/or non-funded should not, in theory, matter. The IMB, for instance, has non-funded personnel, or people who are financially able to support themselves when they go overseas. It’s a small number, but they exist. Even still those missionaries are only able to go when they get through IMB’s assessment process, fit with an approved job description and work within the IMB’s strategy. While they are on the field they would be subject to every rule, expectation, etc. that the IMB has in place. NAMB should function in the same manner.

    In fact, I have people in my church who are volunteers – in fact the majority of our workers are volunteers, and we ask them to fill a specific role in accord with our church’s purpose.

    Does that make sense?

  21. and guys, one final note on the topic, don’t shoot me for simply repeating the numbers that NAMB has placed out there – as I said before, these numbers are transposed directly from a NAMB publication

  22. The numbers that NAMB reports as Missionaries is another glaring example of things not being as they should be in the SBC.

    We say we have 16 million + members in our SBC Churches and all of us know that does not reflect reality.

    Now we’re hearing that NAMB says they have 100 Missionaries in Michigan but only 34 of them are really funded in any way and the others are merely missionaries in name only? With a population of 10 million+ in Michigan this begs an even greater question – Why are Southern Baptists not spending more mission money where the unchurched populations live?

    I am convinced that GCR will ultimately mean more Mission Money for states like Michigan.

    And states like Texas and Mine (Missouri) will have to take up more of the slack.

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