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.

Most Read

What does a special-needs family experience when they visit your church?

Editor’s note: The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention has designated July 14 as Disability Ministry Sunday. We walked up to the registration area for the children’s classes one Sunday at the church we were visiting in …

Stay informed on the news that matters most.

Stay connected to quality news affecting the lives of southern baptists in Texas and worldwide. Get Texan news delivered straight to your home and digital device.