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Mission board leaders respond to GCR Task Force recommendation on North American missionscomment (0)

April 15, 2010

By Bob Terry

Jerry Rankin said it is not a radical departure from the way the International Mission Board (IMB) has worked with the North American Mission Board (NAMB) for more than a decade.

Richard Harris said, “We (NAMB) welcome any help we can get.”

Both Southern Baptist Convention mission board presidents (Harris serving in an interim capacity) were commenting on the Great Commission Resurgence (GCR) Task Force’s recommendation that “Southern Baptists entrust to the International Mission Board the ministry to reach the unreached and underserved people groups without regard to any geographic limitations.”

In other words, the IMB would add the United States and Canada to its field of service. Both nations currently are the field of service for NAMB.

In making the recommendation, GCR Task Force chairman Ronnie Floyd said most of the 586 people groups in North America who do not speak English have IMB strategy coordinators working overseas with the same groups. He said as the IMB is allowed to reach these groups in North America, people will come to Christ, churches will be planted and gospel work will be advanced.

That has been the goal of the Inter-Mission Council established in 1995 by the Covenant for a New Century. Leaders from the IMB and NAMB meet twice a year to collaborate about how the two boards can work together to reach the unreached for Christ, Rankin explained.

Harris acknowledged the IMB has representatives overseas with more expertise and experience in reaching some of the ethnic people groups in the U.S. and Canada than NAMB. That is why the day before the task force report was released, officials from both boards agreed to intensify their efforts to work together in reaching these ethnic minority groups.

For the IMB, it is a practical matter. Baptist representatives trained in a culture and language might be able to do their work among their target people group in the U.S. or Canada if visa problems were encountered in certain parts of the world.

The same would be true for those serving overseas who are forced to return home for one reason or another. These people might be able to accept a temporary assignment among their people group in North America until they could return to their overseas assignment.

Rankin said the IMB would have to keep “the perspective of need” related to appointing people to serve. “We could not pull a person off a field of millions in order to serve a field of thousands,” he said.

Still if the GCR recommendation is adopted, then Rankin said it is probable the IMB would appoint a strategy coordinator for many of the various minority ethnic groups in North America that IMB representatives attempt to reach overseas.

These strategy coordinators would not be “religious professionals hired to do what churches need to do,” Rankin explained. He said their primary tasks would be to mentor and train local churches to reach these people groups.

Harris had a slightly different view of the recommendation. “This (the GCR recommendation) gives them permission to work with us in North America. We would still be on lead,” he said. “That is the way I’m reading this recommendation.”

While Floyd said NAMB and the IMB can “communicate” with state conventions and associations to avoid duplication of work, Harris said more than communication will be necessary.

“Coordination of our work is essential, or we will all run over each other,” Harris said. He explained that experience in North America has taught that it is “best to work with and through our partners — associations and state conventions.”

“That is the missiology that works best in North America. IMB may be able to do direct missions overseas, but here it is met with resistance,” Harris observed.

NAMB is about “cooperative missions,” Harris said. That means working as facilitators and helpers to state conventions, associations and churches.

Neither mission board head ventured a prediction about the outcome of the task force recommendation, but both said additional clarification about what the recommendation means would be necessary.

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