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Missions positions abandoned by NAMB ‘saved’ by State Boardcomment (0)

May 24, 2012

By Jennifer Davis Rash

Missions positions abandoned by NAMB ‘saved’ by State Board

Alabama Baptist directors of missions (DOM) are now breathing a sigh of relief following a few months of anxiety after last fall’s announcement that much, if not all, of their North American Mission Board (NAMB) funding was being eliminated. This topic, as well as the announcement of a new prayer initiative and the election of a new Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions (SBOM) office director, was part of the agenda for the May 18 SBOM meeting in Montgomery.

Bobby DuBois, associate executive director of the SBOM, announced a commitment by the SBOM to assume responsibility for the associational missions funding being eliminated by NAMB over the next five years. This funding currently impacts 45 missions positions across the state, which amounts to a little more than $300,000. Other funding for these positions comes from churches, associations and the SBOM, DuBois said. The ministry personnel in these positions will remain employees of their respective associations or churches.

SBOM Executive Director Rick Lance said following the meeting that the details of how to finance this new commitment are still being worked out, but he did not want to leave the DOMs uncertain about their ministries in light of the NAMB action.

DuBois told SBOM board members, “One of the significant partnerships we have in Alabama is with directors of missions, associations and churches. We’ve been working over the last 18 months with … the DOMs to arrive at a template to address funding issues once NAMB implements the changes underway.”

“Those 45 missions positions will continue regardless of what NAMB does,” he explained. “We are going to continue doing missions in Alabama. Forty-two state conventions are charged with the responsibility of giving financial support to Southern Baptist missions and ministries, but only one state convention is charged to reach Alabama and that’s our state. 

“We are working to not allow any of the positions to go unfunded,” DuBois said. “Bottom line: We are going to do missions in Alabama.”

Lance also unveiled a new prayer initiative for March and April 2013 — Praying Across Alabama.

“This is a prayer for spiritual awakening based on 2 Chron. 7:14,” Lance said, noting the SBOM is coordinating this emphasis through DOMs, SBOM trustees, local pastors and local Woman’s Missionary Union leaders.

The plan is for Lance, DuBois, Dale Huff, Sammy Gilbreath, Reggie Quimby and Mike Jackson, all of the SBOM, to spread out across the state and gather with local Christians to pray on the steps of the 72 courthouses in Alabama’s 67 counties.

“This is more than symbolic,” Lance said. “We are hoping it to be a significant call to prayer.” While the final details are still being worked out, Lance encourages Alabama Baptists to take this time of prayer seriously.

“As we look toward helping Alabama Baptists refocus and renew a commitment to the Great Commission and Great Commission Ministries, nothing will be accomplished without desperate praying,” he said. “We need prayer now more than ever.”

This prayer initiative will be the overarching emphasis for the three major emphases being developed by the Great Commission Task Force “as we look toward the future,” Lance noted. The task force was established in November 2010 to determine how Alabama Baptists would respond to the national Southern Baptist Convention’s Great Commission Resurgence priorities approved in June 2010.

The emphases are:

1. Missions mobilization and disaster relief

“This is not new to us, but we are doing it in a new way,” Lance said. “The driving force will be by affinity relationships.”

The new effort, known as Alabama Acts 1:8 Connections, will connect national and international missionaries who have ties to Alabama with Alabama Baptist churches.

“This will be a network with churches and … [all of us working together about] how best to meet the needs in the areas where the missionaries serve and impact lostness in these particular areas,” he said. “This is not the same as the unengaged people groups effort happening with the International Mission Board, but some of those relationships will be in those areas.”

As far as disaster relief, “we are trying our best to not only have trained credentialed volunteers but also know how to best [process and work with] untrained volunteers.”

2. Church planting/church revitalization

“Church planting is tough but specific — church planting is trying to start a church — but church revitalization is much more complex,” Lance said.

With the number of church plants going down nationwide, Alabama Baptists will be encouraged to take a 1 percent-plus challenge with new church starts, he said, noting that is a goal of 32-plus churches every year.

As far as church revitalization, the SBOM wants to walk alongside churches that assess they need help, Lance said, noting about 70 percent of churches nationwide are plateaued.

3. Cooperative Program promotion and stewardship development

Promotional efforts are being developed to help strengthen giving among Alabama Baptists, Lance said, noting an initial two-tenths challenge. “We are saying that increasing giving just two-tenths of 1 percent annually would be $1 million a year (in increased giving through the CP),” he said.

Also during the SBOM meeting, board members elected Rick Barnhart as director-elect of the SBOM’s office of associational missions and church planting.

The current director, Gary Swafford, plans to retire in early 2013, and “his is one of those critical positions that … covers a lot of cooperative efforts across the landscape of Alabama,” Lance said. “The reason we are doing a director-elect position is because of the wealth of information and responsibilities wrapped up in that position. … We need to have someone come alongside Gary Swafford for five or six months.”

Barnhart, DOM for Baldwin Baptist Association, starts Aug. 1

“I don’t know why God is doing this because I’m having the best time of my life as associational missionary in Baldwin County, but I look forward to serving at the State Board in the same way I’ve served in Baldwin County,” Barnhart said.

SBOM board members also approved the annual audit and heard from the various entities and auxiliaries.

In related news, the new Disaster Relief Offering has brought in more than $166,000 so far. The new annual offering was launched April 22 with a goal $200,000 for 2012. 

The monies for this offering will be used for general disaster relief needs and immediate response efforts needed once a disaster happens, Lance said. 

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