Month: August 2009

NAMB president, 3 associates resign

ALPHARETTA, Ga.  Geoff Hammond and three of his closest associates resigned their positions with the North American Mission Board after trustees met more than seven hours in executive session Aug. 11 at the board’s Alpharetta, Ga., headquarters.

The three staff members who also resigned were Dennis Culbreth, senior assistant to the president; Steve Reid, senior associate to the president for strategy development; and Brandon Pickett, communications team leader.

The resignations came after 54 of the board’s 57 trustees met in an all-day closed session. Four of the 54 trustees participated by conference call.

Until the announcement of the resignations, there was no word from trustees throughout the day about either the substance of their discussions or their progress toward a resolution.

In a statement delivered to the media on Aug. 11, trustee chairman Tim Patterson said:

“First I want to thank the trustees of the North American Mission Board who have come together today and worked through some very difficult issues. They have carried out their responsibilities today in a way that has been honorable, thorough and fair.

“Dr. Hammond has resigned as president of the North American Mission Board and his resignation takes effect immediately. In addition, three of Dr. Hammond’s closest associates — Steve Reid, Dennis Culbreth and Brandon Pickett — will resign their positions as well.

“Even though the subject of today’s meeting has been the topic of much media speculation, it is important to remember that this is a personnel matter and we will keep the details of today’s discussion confidential.

“As you can imagine, these last few days have been very challenging for Dr. Hammond and his family, our trustees and the employees and missionaries of the North American Mission Board. We will continue to be in prayer for Dr. Hammond, his family, and for the families of the others who have resigned.

“I want to thank Southern Baptists for their prayers and ask that they continue praying. We have much work left to do as we seek God’s guidance in these days. I still believe that God has great plans for the North American Mission Board and that NAMB will play a key part in the Southern Baptist effort to reach North America for Christ.”


The following day, Patterson expressed his confidence in the staff and assured them “NAMB is going nowhere but forward.”

NAMB staff gathered for the board-wide meeting on Aug. 12, to hear directly from Patterson who, the day before, presided over the special called meeting to discuss concerns about Hammond’s leadership. Several trustees attended the meeting including Tim Dowdy, pastor of Eagle’s Landing First Baptist Church in McDonough, Ga., who serves as the board’s vice chairman, and Mike Palmer, pastor of Salmon Valley Baptist Church in Salmon, Idaho, the board’s second vice chairman.

Patterson, pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., expressed appreciation to the staff and reaffirmed the importance of their contribution to NAMB’s ministry.

“We want you to know that we love you guys, every one of you,” Patterson said. “Everyone who works here, who gives your heart and time here and has the calling of God on your lives. God has placed you here as surely as God has placed me as pastor of a church.”

Southwestern promo seeks to offset Lottie shortfall

FORT WORTH?Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary has created and launched a free video and other promotional resources to support the call of SBC President Johnny Hunt and other SBC leaders for a special Great Commission emphasis known as Christmas in August.

The emphasis draws awareness to the nearly $30 million dollar shortfall in the 2008 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for international missions and asks churches to make a special effort to give in August as well as December this year to recover the deficit.

Southwestern designed the video to serve as an announcement in church services to make Southern Baptists aware of the need and to tell them how they can be part of the solution. A two-minute video, along with images for announcement slides, web banners, posters and bulletin inserts, are available for free download at Details on the special emphasis and how to make contributions are also posted on the site.

Thomas White, vice president for communications and student services at Southwestern, initiated the idea for the seminary’s involvement after receiving a message from a former student about raising funds to go overseas.

“I have former students who may have to come off the field if this gets worse and current students who will not be able to go unless the funds are available,” White said. “If we don’t give, they can’t go. More importantly, over 6 billion people will face eternity, and we must get the gospel to them.”

“If Southwestern can help our local churches and the convention fulfill the Great Commission in any way, we want to be a part of that.”

Individuals and churches can give to the Lottie Moon offering year-round, so this emphasis is not calling for a new offering, White said.

Hunt and others have promoted the Christmas in August offering in light of reports from the International Mission Board (IMB) that they have been forced by the shortfall to suspend crucial missionary endeavors and reduce the number of full-time missionaries they can send to the field.

Southwestern President Paige Patterson has committed to having a special offering for the emphasis during a fall chapel service. Despite the current national economic situation, Patterson said sacrifice for the sake of the gospel is imperative.

“Southern Baptists simply cannot allow the mistakes of Congress and the monetary establishment to curtail our missionary enterprise, regardless of the financial hardships thrust upon us,” Patterson said.

“Southwestern has suffered as much as any institution or agency, but we plan to do our part, which will include a boot offering early in the fall. While we know that whatever amount is given will certainly not turn the tide, we can at least do our part, and we will emphatically make every effort.”

In a July panel discussion with D.Min. students at Southwestern, Nathan Lino, an IMB trustee, spoke with students about the serious nature of the situation. He explained that because of the shortfall, the IMB only has the funds to appoint 200 missionaries to the mission field in 2009, and as of May, 191 had been appointed.

“So, from May until December of 2009, are you as a Southern Baptist satisfied with the fact that we can afford nine missionaries?” Lino asked.

“Here’s the sad factor: In 2008, if you count the money given to buildings, missions and budget giving, Southern Baptists gave $12 billion to our churches. Of that, 2.5 percent got to the IMB, and only 5 percent of the world’s population lives in the United States. I think we need a Great Commission Resurgence. I think we’ve lost our focus, and we’ve got to get back to valuing the people overseas who are dying more than we do the programs that satisfy our happiness here in the states.”

Online registration for SBTC annual meeting

The SBTC is mailing a letter to churches explaining the process of online registration for messengers to the convention’s annual meeting Oct. 26-27 at the Lubbock Memorial Civic Center in Lubbock.

Tom Campbell, SBTC director of facilitating ministries, said churches should receive the letter in early September.

For additional questions regarding electronic messenger registration, e-mail Campbell at

SBC: Desperate for God to move

By the time you read this I will have attended my first Great Commission Resurgence Task Force meeting. It was quite a surprise for me to have been named to the study group. I am humbled to be allowed to serve.

Recently an area pastor invited me to attend a dialogue about issues in Southern Baptist life. One of the questions asked me was “what is the GCR supposed to do?” With millions of Southern Baptists having their own opinions, it is difficult to meet all the expectations. As a good Baptist, I am simply going to offer my own thoughts.

The greatest need in our Southern Baptist Zion is revival, spiritual awakening, or a return to authentic Christianity. It doesn’t matter what you want to call it. We need it. Some have wanted to quibble about statistics. To deny that churches are in decline is the quintessential ostrich approach. We have been in a free fall in reaching people for 30 years. In real dollars we have been sliding rapidly downward in support of missions. Now we have more who want to go than we can support. There is trouble in Zion. No so-called “top-down” directive is going to bring it.

Somehow we have to get desperate for the moving of the Spirit of God. This must take place in individuals’ hearts. Local churches must get honest; then get thirsty for God. Once we figure out how to see this happen we will see God’s power unleashed. People will come to Christ, lives will transform. Churches will come alive. Giving will rebound.

Prayer is a starting point but it is not a panacea. It must be a sovereign work of God. We are not going to fool him into blessing us for our own sakes. He will not be impressed with an uptick in baptisms just for the report. For my part on the GRC Task Force, I want to see an emphasis on genuine personal and congregational repentance that will at least get us into a position to have God move.

The second area of concern for me is efficiency. God has blessed the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention with a philosophy of ministry that enables us to put the money where people’s hearts are. Sending 55 percent on to the SBC with almost 75 percent of that going to two mission agencies is awesome. Of the 45 percent we retain in Texas, almost 40 percent goes to missions and evangelism. This leaves enough money to provide over 100 ministries to the churches. I believe we have a story to tell.

Old-line state conventions have traditions and constituencies that exert influence but now is the time to put the greatest cause, the Great Commission, before other worthy interests. SBC entities also can be reshaped to enable us to carry out the Great Commission mandate.

There are other minor areas that I have on my list. None of these changes will be significant unless God moves on his people. If you have a burden you want to share with me, I am open to your comments. Please sign up to pray for us at Let us join our hearts to see God work again among his people.

Student Evangelism Conference 2009

DALLAS?The 2009 Student Evangelism Conference at the Dallas Convention Center Aug. 7-8 drew more than 1,900 people to hear speakers such as Afshin Ziafat and Ed Newton and bands such as Santus Real, Brandon Heath and Dutton.

In all, 91 students registered salvation decisions, and 92 other spiritual decisions were recorded during the annual conference.

One highlight of the SEC was on Saturday when speaker Ed Newton called Colton Williams and Tony Ramos of First Baptist Church of Cooper to join him on stage.

Williams, a guest of Ramos at the conference, prayed to receive Christ on Friday night and in his excitement following the event, he told a man on the treadmill next to him at the hotel fitness room of his newfound faith.

The man seemed interested and wanted to know more, so Williams called for his friend, Ramos, who told the man in more detail how he too could have a relationship with God through Jesus.

Dutton - SEC 09The students invited the man to the event on Saturday, offering him a ride.

To their surprise, the man was Saturday’s keynote speaker, Ed Newton. In the top photo, Newton is relaying the story to the audience after he called the young men up on stage with him and is lauding them for their willingness to share Jesus with others.

“Overall, the conference went extremely well because all the volunteers, the speakers and artists, pulled together and fulfilled their assignments. The student groups were enthusiastic, and they walked away with a passion to reach their world for Christ,” said Jared McIntire, SBTC student evangelism associate.

New director named for SE Texas rebuild ministry

VIDOR?Nehemiah’s Vision, a disaster rebuild ministry begun by Southern Baptists in Southeast Texas after Hurricane Rita in 2005, has named James Hall as its chief executive officer.

Hall spent the previous 15 years with Atlanta-based Walk Thru the Bible Ministries, retiring in 2008. With a business and ministry background, Hall said he was energized by seeing the ministry of Nehemiah’s Vision along the Texas Gulf Coast.

Based in Vidor, a town hard hit by Rita and battered again last fall by Hurricane Ike, Nehemiah’s Vision has been a ministry partner of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention in recovery and rebuild efforts after Rita and Ike in 2008, coordinating the work of hundreds of Southern Baptist volunteers and other church groups desiring a reputable ministry to partner with in aiding disaster victims.

Upon meeting countless volunteers and hearing stories of lives touched by the ministry, it confirmed something Hall already thought was true: “When disaster happens, the best response comes from Southern Baptists.”

Hall said he wants to build relationships with more churches able to assist with volunteers and material needs and to raise the visibility of Nehemiah’s Vision, which still has much work to do nearly a year after Ike.

First Baptist Church of Vidor pastor Terry Wright is chairman of the board that oversees the ministry. FBC Vidor was an integral partner in beginning Nehemiah’s Vision and continues to work closely with the ministry.

“We can name what the Scripture tells us: there are good works in Heaven,” Hall stated. “Jesus said, ‘I know your works.’ When you get involved in a ministry like Nehemiah’s Vision, your works are not lukewarm.”

Jim Richardson, SBTC Disaster Relief state director, commented: “We enjoy a great relationship with Nehemiah’s Vision in the disaster relief rebuild ministry area. Their ministry plans and coordinates the rebuild ministry opportunities in the aftermath of disaster events. I look forward to serving with Jim Hall as he brings his leadership and vision to the CEO role for Nehemiah’s Vision.”

To contact Hall, e-mail him at

First Person: Moment critical for NAMB

Another North American Mission Board president has left the scene and NAMB trustees once again find themselves in the unenviable position of having to explain to their Southern Baptist constituents why they can’t seem to find and keep a president. Of course the dismissal of Geoff Hammond is not really the biggest issue on the table. With respect to Hammond I’m sure the trustees did what they felt they needed to do?after all, they know things the rest of us do not. No, the bigger issue, which has merely been accentuated by Hammond’s departure, is that from all appearances NAMB looks like a ship without a rudder, adrift in a sea of changing denominational tides. The fact that they can’t seem to find a captain simply exacerbates their already desperate situation.

From my point of view as a pastor of a missions-minded church, NAMB appears to be antiquated, unfocused and ineffective. NAMB needs to break with the past. If our meeting in Louisville taught us anything, it is that a new day has dawned in the SBC and that our people are not willing to allow things to be done as they’ve always been done, especially when what’s being done is not effective. As the mission board charged with reaching our country, NAMB should be leading the way, not lagging behind.

Perhaps NAMB should take a cue from its sister organization, the International Mission Board of the SBC. It seems that NAMB is still operating with a structure the IMB jettisoned years ago. Let me explain in very simple terms:

Before the present administration at the IMB, many missionaries, while commissioned by the then Foreign Mission Board, in reality worked for a variety of national conventions around the world. For instance, if a missionary was stationed in Spain, where I served with the IMB, the missionary would actually be paid by, report to and work at the direction of the Spanish Baptist Convention. The FMB paid the national conventions which in turn paid the missionaries. Such missionaries were employed by the FMB, but worked for the national convention in their country. The result was that instead of the FMB having a unified purpose, vision and strategy, there were as many strategies as there were national conventions. IMB administration changed that some time ago. While agreeing to coordinate efforts with national conventions, the IMB has implemented a very effective church planting strategy for all of their missionaries around the world. The missionaries now work for the IMB, not for the national conventions.

From a functional point of view, today’s North American Mission Board looks a lot like the old FMB. Instead of having a national strategy for church planting, NAMB sends their money through state conventions, just like the FMB did to the national conventions. Each state convention, equipped with its own strategy and priorities, ends up using those NAMB dollars as they see fit, oftentimes to perpetuate jobs that are not effective enough to be self-sustaining. Simply put: there are too many people on the NAMB dole, people with a sense of entitlement or with enough political connections to keep the funds coming their way. Times have changed but NAMB has not changed with the times.

NAMB needs to break the cycle of dependence they have created with state conventions. They need to follow the IMB’s example and develop a national strategy that coordinates efforts with state conventions but at the same time maintains their own autonomy. Their missionaries need to work for NAMB, not for state conventions. They need to stop sending their money and their responsibility on to state conventions and do what Southern Baptists have charged them to do.

If the state conventions are willing to allow the IMB to have and implement its own strategy, why would they not afford NAMB the same opportunity? What has worked for the IMB will work for NAMB if the trustees can put aside the politics and courageously allow their next president to do what needs to be done. Severing the ties with the past is never easy, but is nonetheless necessary if NAMB is ever going to become effective. It’s time to set aside our individual empires and to truly focus on the kingdom of God.

Without a doubt NAMB faces a questionable future. Will NAMB as we know it survive? What kind of confidence do the trustees really think Southern Baptists can have in an organization that has, for whatever reasons, forcibly dismissed their last three presidents? Why can’t they seem to find a president to lead us into the future? Hammond’s forced resignation could not have come at a more inopportune time for NAMB and her trustees. Surely it did not escape their notice that just across town the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force was meeting. If the NAMB trustees don’t order their own house, and do it soon, someone else will order it for them. Southern Baptists are patient people but enough is enough! Orlando is only 10 months away.

?Calvin Wittmanis pastor of Applewood Baptist Church in Wheat Ridge, Colo., and was raised in Texas.He served as an International Mission Board missionary in Spain and serves on the Executive Board of Criswell College.

Pray without ceasing for the GCR Task Force

1 Thessalonians 5:17 says, “Pray without ceasing.” The Great Commission Resurgence Task Force needs your prayer. Please lift up to the Lord the individual members and the group. Ask God to minister to and through the GCR Task Force. We are asking for at least 5,000 to sign up to pray for the GCR. Thank you for your willingness to intercede for us.

Jim Richards
SBTC Executive Director
GCR website goes live BP article

GCR website goes live at

NASHVILLE, Tenn.?A website encouraging support for the Southern Baptist Convention’s Great Commission Resurgence Task Force has been launched at

The site, which went live Aug. 1, gives interested people an opportunity to register their commitment to pray, interact with the task force through blogs, Facebook and Twitter, sign up for updates about significant developments and see photos of the 23 task force members.

The task force is asking for 5,000 believers to commit themselves to pray for task force members and a renewed passion for the Great Commission among Southern Baptists, chairman Ronnie Floyd said in a press statement.

“We cannot accomplish the task entrusted to us without a groundswell of prayer support. Surely, thousands will join in prayer together,” said Floyd, who is senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Springdale, Ark., and the Church at Pinnacle Hills in Rogers. “I know Southern Baptists love the Great Commission and will want to join us in praying for this resurgence. The urgency of the hour calls us to pray.

“Southern Baptists have entrusted the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force with a great responsibility. I can assure all Southern Baptists that our final report will reflect the boldest visionary dreams of Southern Baptists to reach the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are ready to get busy with bold thinking, hard questions, fervent prayer, and big dreams. The world is waiting to see how serious we are. I can tell you that this task force is ready to get to work. This is why we are asking you to join us by going to, sign the prayer partner list and share it with your friends and family members across the world.”

In a statement posted on the website, Southern Baptist Convention president Johnny Hunt echoed the call to prayer.

“Would you please pray for us daily, weekly, or ever how God lays it on your heart? Also, please encourage your church family to join us in praying that God would help the Southern Baptist Convention to have a Great Commission Resurgence in order that church-planting, as well as church revitalization, would become a priority in our hearts like never before and that we, as pastors and laypeople, would be intentional witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus Christ to a lost and dying nation,” Hunt said. “May we give like never before that the Gospel would be taken to the furthest ends of the earth. I trust that it will become the rally cry of our denomination that, as we think of the Cooperative Program, we would all simply say, ‘We can do more.’ I will assure you that if that would be our mindset, only heaven knows what will be given for that cause.”

Floyd said he is asking supporters to pray about three primary concerns:

?for the members of the task force and “for God’s leadership to be upon them mightily, making His direction clear for them;”

?for a Great Commission resurgence “to occur in my life, my church, and through the 50,000 churches and missions in our convention;”

?for a Great Commission resurgence “to occur in the leaders of and through the entities of the Southern Baptist Convention.”

The SBTC’s Richards added,”1 Thessalonians 5:17 says, ‘Pray without ceasing.’ The Great Commission Resurgence Task Force needs your prayer. Please lift up to the Lord the individual members and the group. Ask God to minister to and through the GCR Task Force. We are asking for at least 5,000 to sign up to pray for the GCR. Thank you for your willingness to intercede for us.”

Task force members were scheduled to meet twice in August, the first time Aug. 11-12 at the Renaissance Hotel near the Atlanta airport and then Aug. 26-27 at the Embassy Suites Northwest Arkansas in Rogers. Floyd said the Arkansas meeting will be preceded by a luncheon for area pastors and staff, laypersons serving on SBC entities and “anyone who wants to come.” Reservations must be made by 2 p.m., Aug. 24, by e-mailing Debbie Swart at debbies@fbcs.netor calling (479) 751-4523.

As of press time, 1,300 prayer partners had registered through the site.

Jesus’ mandate for bigger government

The temporarily ascendant Religious Left has been more imaginative than the U.S. Supreme Court in finding rights and mandates in their primary documents. For our more liberal brothers, that document is nominally the Bible. While many Americans found it shocking when vice presidential candidate Joe Biden called voting for higher taxes a patriotic duty last year, the rhetoric within evangelical circles has only gone further out since then.

Look at some of the passages frequently abused in these discussions. Matthew 25:34-40, Jesus’ teaching about the judgment wherein he commends and condemns the sheep and the goats, respectively, is a tempting one for those who believe the gospel is mostly social. Here, in this eschatological passage, Jesus judges according to the only thing for which we will be eternally judged, belief in him. The “least of these” actions refer to good works that flow (or don’t flow, in the case of the goats) from a supernaturally transformed heart. He is not granting or denying access to eternal life based on good works alone.

The feeding of the multitudes in Mark 8, Matthew 15, Luke 9, and John 6 presents a different lesson. Here Jesus works a sign that authenticates his message and his claim to be the Messiah, God himself. Yes, he did feed the people but he did not need to come to earth to do that. I don’t believe that full bellies were the point of this wonder. Alleviating the crowd’s hunger served his greater point. And yet American Baptist theologian Larry Greenfield claims that providing food was exactly the main point of this narrative. He says this on the way to making the claim that Jesus’ compassion on the hungry crowd implies that we must support the mandatory redistribution of wealth in America so that everyone has health insurance. This seems a bit of a reach.

Consider Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10. Because the merciful traveler dressed the wounds of the injured man and gave the innkeeper money for his continued care, some also see the 2009 Democrat Party platform in Jesus’ command to “go and do likewise.” Oliver Thomas, formerly of the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs, is quoted in USA Today as saying this parable is “about health care,” so universal health care becomes a moral imperative. And of course, those of us who don’t see it must be compelled through taxation to support all aspects of the scheme. Perhaps Jesus could have made his point more effectively if the Samaritan had chased down the heartless Levite that passed by on the other side and forced him at spear point to provide for the wounded traveler. If Jesus was saying what Mr. Thomas and others believe, such an action would have made his point about loving our neighbors more clearly. The fact that such a scenario seems absurd to our minds suggests that it is incompatible with Jesus’ lesson.

Notice that each of these interpretations fixes Scripture to a narrow agenda. That agenda is temporal and actually difficult to apply to Christians of all times and places. In some contexts these lessons imply that Christians should lead a Marxist overthrow of their heartless government. In other contexts, it takes the focus off what I should do when confronted with another man’s need and places it on what some millionaire should be forced to do in my name. By choosing to make the gospel a tract for the redistribution of wealth, we diminish its life-changing power.

Using the gospel to support a merely humanist agenda also removes personal responsibility and reward from our good works. In reality, as our total taxation rate approaches or surpasses 50 percent, our compassionate response to the needs around us will not diminish?our resources to respond will diminish, though. Will even the best governmental system on earth (ours) really do a better job of caring for the needy than the hundreds of not-for-profit organizations? Will this system be more efficient and flexible than they? When Jesus said that we should give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s, he did not mean that we should desire to entrust all our benevolent works to the state. Perhaps it is beside the point but it is also ironic to hear many redistributionist politicians and celebrities who give a paltry amount to charitable causes drone on about the need for others to pay higher taxes, though only so long as the opinion makers like the man in office.

Those who reframe the gospel to support what they consider to be a fine political agenda regarding health insurance play a dangerous game with the Word of God. If Jesus’ message is more about extended physical life than about eternal spiritual life we’ve traded something breathtaking for a band-aid. Even if we remove compassion for the poor from its biblical context, it does not naturally translate into a God-given right to utilize every technological capability of man for the extension of our days or for our temporary comfort. We are all too fixated on those two things to begin with.

If Jesus does not return in the