NAMB Builds Guidelines for Southern Baptist Identity Planting

May 10, 2003 03:53 PM EDT

ALPHARETTA, Ga.- Delegates to the North American Mission Board meeting in Alpharetta adopted “suggested covenant guidelines” to help ensure the identity of Southern Baptist Churches across the nation, May 7. The "Suggested Covenant Guidelines for a Southern Baptist Church Plant," designed for state conventions working in partnership with NAMB, came as part of recommendations from a special task force created by trustees last year.

"Some of the trustees raised a concern that we were putting a lot of dollars out there, and committed Southern Baptist churches weren't coming out," said Richard Harris, chairman of the task force and vice president of church planting for NAMB. "Our task force found out it wasn't nearly the issue of great concern as some folks thought, but we did identify the need to have some kind of articulated guidelines and a draft of a covenant from which people could work."

The panel of trustees in the 2002 conference were asked to find ways of increasing the number of Southern Baptist fund planted churches remain Southern Baptist in doctrine, polity and commitment to missions.

“The need for such steps is increasing, as churches' emphasis on denominational identity declines,” said Harris.

The suggested agreement details expectations of responsibilities and accountability for partners in a church plant, including the congregation itself, the sponsoring church, the association and state convention.

Examples of suggested expectations of churches include stated affiliation with the SBC in a mission congregation's founding documents, participation in the Cooperative Program, and intentional plans to reproduce annually through new Bible studies, ministries or church plants. Responsibilities of sponsoring churches, meanwhile, include support through prayer, finances, strategic planning, volunteers and doctrinal oversight.

Harris said much of the model agreement is based on documents already used by a number of Southern Baptist state conventions. He stressed that state conventions remain free to use or not use the suggestions as they see fit; implementation is not required for NAMB funding.

"It would be the desire of the task force for state conventions to give prayerful consideration for using as much of the guidelines and covenant as possible," Harris said.

The board also approved a set of recommendations to encourage seminaries to strengthen efforts to equip students of distinct Baptist doctrines.

By Pauline J.