NASHVILLE Four of the five newly-elected Southern Baptist entity presidents delivered their first reports to SBC Executive Committee members, noting some of the challenges they face and thanking churches for supporting their work through the Cooperative Program.
Among the new leaders speaking Sept. 17 in Nashville—in addition to EC President Ronnie Floyd, who gave his first report as president to the committee in June—were Ben Mandrell of LifeWay Christian Resources, Jamie Dew of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Adam Greenway of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Paul Chitwood of the International Mission Board.
Chitwood, who was elected last fall, shared reports on the IMB’s progress and that the entity “is fully committed to promoting all of the cooperative mission work of Southern Baptists, certainly including the Cooperative Program.”
“IMB is the largest single recipient of Cooperative Program funds and as such should have the loudest voice in CP promotion,” Chitwood said. “Rest assured, today’s IMB fully understands and enthusiastically accepts this stewardship.”
To ensure that missionaries are equipped to promote CP, the IMB has added an SBC identity component to its seven-week personnel orientation, “and I personally am teaching that,” Chitwood said.
“My goal is for every IMB missionary, regardless of their background or church origin, to become an active mobilizer who helps all Southern Baptists join in the work of praying, giving, going and sending,” Chitwood said.
“The IMB looks forward this next year to helping Southern Baptists celebrate the fact that for 175 years we have not been without a gospel witness among the nations. Southern Baptists’ generosity, Southern Baptists’ prayers and Southern Baptists’ support of the IMB have made that possible.”
Dew, who was elected in June, said he has been assessing New Orleans Seminary during his first six weeks on campus.
“We’ve been delighted to discover a team of people there that love that city, love that school, love each other and are excited and ready to go,” Dew said.
During discussions about the seminary’s mission, Dew has identified some main principles motivating the work. The seminary wants “to be a people that are passionate about being servants,” he said. They also want “to be a people of great devotion.”
With a goal of taking the gospel to the nations, New Orleans Seminary is underscoring opportunities for impact available in the city, Dew said. He also addressed how the seminary is prioritizing the potential of its undergraduate arm, Leavell College, and renovating the former location of the campus LifeWay store for use as offices for both the college and enrollment, as well as a campus welcome area.
“In our city, the nations sit on our doorstep,” Dew said. “In our city, you have great wealth. You have great poverty. You have great opportunity. You have great brokenness. And if you can do it in that city, then you can do it anywhere.”
Greenway, who was elected in February, expressed gratitude to the “largest cumulative donor in the history” of the seminary, the Southern Baptist Convention.
“We are advocating, championing the work of our convention of churches through the Cooperative Program,” Greenway said, noting the establishment of the B.H. Carroll Center for Baptist Heritage and Mission with Gregory Wills as the founding director and David Dockery as the inaugural theologian-in-residence.
“We are trying to do everything we can to articulate for our convention of churches, for our students, what it means to be authentically and credibly Baptist in the 21st century,” Greenway said. “At a time when many people are trying to run away from our identity and our cooperative methodologies, we want to run into these things to help pass along this rich DNA of what it means to be Southern Baptist.
“It matters because truly God has used our convention of churches to make an eternal impact, and I do not believe God is finished with us as Southern Baptists,” Greenway said.
Mandrell, who was elected in late June, said during his first 90 days on the job he is focusing on, among other things, tightening up mission, vision and values language. He’s investing in a rebranding discussion too, noting “it’s time for LifeWay to rebrand. Our current logo and look was created in 1998.”
Mandrell also presented the Executive Committee with checks for $356,744.73 for the International Mission Board and $197,002.30 for the North American Mission Board from offerings given by this summer’s participants in LifeWay’s Fuge, CentriKids and World Changers ministries.
Mandrell shared how he is taking time to learn more about the products LifeWay offers. “I did not know before coming to LifeWay how much LifeWay does,” he said. And LifeWay continues to see year over year growth in its resources, which is the future of its ministry, he noted.
“We’re up 6 percent over last year in our non-store channels,” he said.
In July alone, traffic to LifeWay websites, Mandrell said, was more than four times larger than the normal monthly traffic to LifeWay Stores.