Last week, at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, sixty-one newly commissioned North American Mission Board missionaries were introduced during the agency's annual report and presentation June 15. The missionaries will serve 21 states, the District of Columbia, and Saskatchewan, Canada.
NAMB president Robert E. "Bob" Reccord said the new missionaries have been called to "stand alongside you in confronting lostness in North America."
"They have left behind the comfort and convenience of home and family to share the life-changing message of the Gospel with a lost continent," Reccord said as he encouraged messengers to "thank them for responding to vocational missions, and stand alongside them and their families as they serve."
NAMB reported that the majority of the missionaries are jointly funded with cooperating state Baptist conventions, and those commissioned during the annual SBC meeting will serve in 21 states, the District of Columbia, and Saskatchewan, Canada. Thirty-four will be involved in starting new SBC churches, 16 in associational missions and 11 in campus and ministry evangelism.
Reccord interviewed three of the newly-commissioned missionaries about their calling to North American missions, including Will Dodson, an attorney and former Texas judge who is starting an SBC church in Washington, DC. Dodson, a former DC staff member for SBC's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, told the convention "the need for churches in DC is tremendous."
"Fifty-five percent of the District is unchurched," Dodson said. "Based on my experiences and fondness for the law, I long for the day when we have laws that protect sanctity of life and marriage." He asked messengers to pray for spiritual awakening in the nation's capital.
Reccord also spoke with Gary Frost, a former NAMB vice president who has been elected as director of missions for the Metropolitan New York (City) Baptist Association, and Paulette DeHart who will serve as the Georgia Baptist Convention's literacy mission consultant.
During Reccord's report to the convention, he emphasized the lostness of North America where an estimated 298 million people do not claim a saving relationship with Christ.
A video annual report highlighted many of the agency's initiatives to assist Southern Baptist churches in reaching the lost including 25,000 World Changers participants who renovated 1,100 homes last year, shared the Gospel 11,000 times and led 1,300 people to Christ. Thirteen thousand Southern Baptist disaster relief volunteers were mobilized last year and prepared 1.6 million meals for victims of natural disasters.
Reccord's report also highlighted the success of Strategic Focus Cities, NAMB's evangelism and church-starting initiative in major metropolitan areas which have resulted in 400 new SBC churches in cities like New York, Miami, Las Vegas, Philadelphia and Phoenix.
"Before SFC efforts in Phoenix, there were only two SBC churches running over 400 in attendance. Now, less than four years later, there are several churches with more than 750 in weekly attendance, including two that run over 1,000," Reccord said. "[O]ne of those was a new church start in 2000 which is today running over 1,300 every week, and they're already starting additional new churches."
Reccord also acknowledged 2003 was a difficult year financially for the agency, which is supported by gifts to the Cooperative Program and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering. "Adjusted for inflation, giving to CP and the Annie Armstrong Offering has been flat for 20 years," he said, while many costs have increased significantly including health care benefits.
NAMB eliminated 31 staff positions in the fall of 2003 and was forced to leave 181 missionary positions vacant and to turn away 200 summer and semester missionaries because of a lack of funding.
But Reccord said he is encouraged that giving to the Annie Armstrong Offering is ahead of the same time last year and ahead of budget projections. And, although it's too early to make an accurate projection of anticipated gifts to this year's offering, Reccord offered a word of appreciation.
"Thank you, thank you, thank you to Southern Baptists for their faithful support of our missionaries who are taking the Gospel to a lost continent," he concluded.