Thursday, February 16, 2006

The North American Mission Board critique


The Georgia Baptist's Christian Index published today a very straightforward critique of the North American Mission Board (NAMB). The folks at NAMB have responded with charges that the article is biased and misrepresents its work. Both of these articles are worth reading, particularly for those who are thinking seriously about the future of the SBC.

27 comments:

steven said...

I am not sure if it appropriate to share this here, but here it goes. In 2001, I was riding a shuttle bus while sitting behind Mark Dever. Someone on the bus asked, “Mark, what is the future of the SBC as it relates to local church ministry?” He responded without hesitation, “The SBC will become increasingly irrelevant.” I can honestly say that for those of us who believe and preach the sovereignty of God over history and salvation, his comment was dead on.

Michael Spencer said...

I can tell you that here in SE Ky, where the churches are weak anyway, the identification with the SBC couldn't be weaker. The KBC is the major identifier.

At our school, we appeal through and to the churches of the KBC. Once the SBC is one the map, the agenda is no longer cooperative missions, but theological controversy, culture war, etc.

Dever was calling out the future that's already here on the ground in a lot of places.

The CP cords are growing weak, because cooperative missions depends on a theology that is missional, not controversial.

Scott Hill said...

I am going to presuppose that I understand what Michael means by missional. The problem I see is that we can be as mission minded as we want. However, if we keep baptizing the same people every 3 or 4 years, and keep planting churches that have no doctrinal foundation besides let's be relevant and get a big crowd then the SBC may become irrelevant.

I am a church planter. I am a part of a local CA SBC association that has planted more churches in the last 12 years than most states. While I am thankful for this I don't know that just planting churches willy nilly is going to have any effect on the SBC.

Gordon Cloud said...

As a Georgia Baptist, I have yet to determine what to make of this article. It has an unusually abrasive tone for an article in the Christian Index and as far as I can tell has come out of the left field bleachers.

One thing is for certain if Satan cannot destroy us from without, he will most certainly divide us from within. It seems that both of our mission agencies are experiencing times of conflict.

I really don't know what to make of it except to say that we should pray for our missionaries harder than ever. It certainly cannot be helpful to them in their ministry to have such controversy over their supporting entities.

Perry McCall said...

Thank you Christian Index for exposing what so many of us learned when we were apart of the Nehemiah Project! The promotion was for support. The offering promotions pointed to the NP as an illustration of the AAEO at work. I was shocked when I found out how little funding was available through NAMB. They did provide money, insurance, and negotiating power with the States to require them to fund the work. However, I was shocked and amazed when I learned that being a NAMB (Home Missionary) did not mean that you were funded just like an IMB missionary. I was shocked to find out that a large number of “missionaries” were not funded. NAMB defends themselves with technicalities. They point to the web site as defining the different levels of “mission” service and how they are funded. They parse their words and promotions very well. But I will forever remember the explanation I received when I was told that I could not directly seek funds from Churches so that I could have an adequate salary as a NP Planter. I was told that I couldn’t seek funds like other Church Planters because I would be a NAMB appointed missionary. I pointed out that I was only getting insurance and seed money from NAMB. Salary monies that were available were going to come through the State and/or a local association and sponsoring Churches. The response was simple. People think that NAMB missionaries are fully funded. So, we could get some funding from the glorious NP program. We would be commissioned and appointed as NAMB missionaries. Counted and promoted to the Convention in the proper category. But we could not seek funds for our salaries lest the rank file become confused about NAMB appointed missionaries in the “FIELD” not being fully funded.
I made the decision at that time not to follow through with the program because there were no assurances of my family being provided for. I also made the decision not to talk about it to the Church during the Easter Season. I chose my words carefully and I have never used the NAMB promotional material again. It was always misleading. I don’t have an answer. I am tired of the battles. But this is God’s money. How do we stay positive?

Jim Shaver said...

When home missionaries in Montana who could barely afford to be there received letters asking for personal contributions to help decorate the current NAMB building, I knew we were in trouble.

Interesting lately that when one criticizes an SBC Mission Board that he becomes an "enemy".

Burt Harper said...

The New Testament plan of sending missionaries and equipping saints for the ministry is through the local church. I would not go to a Southern Baptist church for many years because I knew I could not support many of professors and I had no idea where the missionaries stood thrologically. I know I am accountable to God for the money I give and where it goes. I became a member of a Southern Baptist Church about 4 years ago because it was sound on the basic doctrines of the Bible and because it seemed to be the best church environment for my family to grow and worship. I dont think it is the perfect place. But I think it is the best in my city. Wont it be a joy when Jesus establishes His Kingdom and we have the perfect church. I still have concerns of the theology of people that are supported through the coop program.

The New Testament plan of sending missionaries and equipping saints for the ministry is through the local church. I think the coop program is not exactly what God intended. However, I believe it has been used of God in many ways.
I believe that missionaries, seminaries, and colleges that the coop supports should be supported through the coop. However, I believe that it should be done in a way that accountability is to the coop and the local church. It should be cone in a way that the members of each local church vote on whether to support each ministry.

I believe that if support to each ministry has direct accountability to local churches, then you will get even more support from local church members. I also believe that more of the support will be channeled to ministries that please God. I think it would be more pleasing to God than the current plan because it follows the examples that He has given us in the New Testament.

Now, question for you SBC veterans.
How does one share these concerns with someone in the SBC that may be able address them? If you agreed with my observations, what chances do you think that changes could be made?

Tom said...

Sad state of affairs! Brothers and sisters? Hmmm... Sure doesn't sound like it. I read a letter written by Ignatius of Antioch (2nd century martyr as you probably know) to Polycarp. As a result of Emperor Trajan having ordered his arrest, Ignatius surrendered to the authorities in Antioch and was bound for Rome to be fed to the lions. In his letter he entrusts his congregation to that Great Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ, but asks Polycarp to commission and send a Pastor to Antioch as soon as possible. This story struck a chord. Here we have Christians living in two different countries, pastoring two diffent local churches acting as if they were actually "one". "Sorrow" for the one, was "sorrow" for the other. "Need" in the one, was "need" in the other. Now there is a cooperative program that needed no beauracracy, no fancy buildings, just brothers and sisters in Christ. We've come a long way brothers and sisters.

G. Alford said...

Burt,

I agree 100% with your observations… How can we ask our members in the pews to give to a Para-Church “Company” (NAMB’s own definition) by supporting the C.P. when the funds are gong to purchase “Slick Media Campaigns” and multi-million dollar programs designed to attract new customers?

Just knowing that in 1999 NAMB spend $400,000 on a “Vision Center” constructed in its lobby, and $600,000 in 2004 on leadership conferences fills me with a great since of disgust. This is NOT Missions Work… (I know it, you know it, our Southern Baptist members in the pews know it, and the only ones who don’t seem to understand that this kind of foolishness is not missions work is the leadership of NAMB.)

This kind of “Worldly Marketing” of the kingdom is NOT what Jesus commanded in Mark 16:15, and it is NOT what our Southern Baptist Members are giving to the C.P. for.

Burt you are correct - not only will we as individuals give an account for how our mission dollars are spent, but Record and the Board at NAMB will give an account for this kind of wasteful spending of the funds they have been entrusted with.

“POKE ME WITH A FORK---I’M DONE!”

Paul said...

"The CP cords are growing weak, because cooperative missions depends on a theology that is missional, not controversial."

[That sound is the nail being hit squarely on the head]

And as the IMB policy changes and the defense thereof are proving we are fully operating in a theology of controversy.

Sojourner said...

I'm not certain what is meant by the agenda is no longer coorperative missions, but theological controversy, or cooperative missions depends on a theology that is missional, not controversial.

From my perspective, the problems we are having cannot be seperated from theology. Certainly, no one at the NAMB has as their goal controversy and division, nor are they purposefully trying to be anti-missional. To even suggest that their goal is such is slanderous.

However, if you mean that the problem is that their theology of mission is terrible, then I agree. The problem, then, is rooted in poor, worldly, human-centered theologies and an errant understanding of man's hatred of God and the work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration, and the necessity of humility, prayer, and brokeness for conversion of souls. The "let's baptize a million" campaign is the manifestation of such thinking.

If that's what is meant, then I agree. If this is a backhanded way to try and pretend that theology isn't worth fussing about, then I wholeheartedly disagree.

Burt Harper said...

Sojourner,

If the coop was only to administer funds that individual churches gave to support either the school or the missionary, then theological tensions would subside somewhat. Because each church's membership would vote to support the school or missionary with its funds. Then a church would not have to support a school or missionary that they were theologically at odds with. Each local church would set its own theological standards. Would we have had the liberal movement in the 70's if giving had been distributed this way? I think not. I dont believe that there were enough liberal Southern Baptist churches to support very many theologically liberal seminaries or missionaries. But currently, I wonder if any Reformed Baptist would support this type of reform. Would many General Baptist SBC churches support Southern Baptist Theological Seminary as long as Reformed Baptist AL Mohler is its President? Would there be enough Reformed Baptist SBC churches for Southern Baptist Theological Seminary to operate as long as there is a Reformed Baptist in charge of the seminary? Would you be concerned about this, knowing that God is sovereign? If He wanted the seminary to prosper with Al Mohler as president, then it would prosper. Understanding this potential delimma for supported SBC missionaries and agencies, do you agree that local church accountability is the Biblical way to support Christian organizations?

Sojourner said...

Burt,

I must be having a bad day because I'm not sure what your point is either. What you propose is already in effect. No church is forced to give to the cooperative program, and your local church can support any Seminary, student, or missionary that it chooses by simply donating directly to whatever you want. The BFM 2000, The Abstract of Principles, and other guidlines established by NAMB, the IMB, or perhaps the local seminary or college already defines who should or should not be employed by those agencies.

Do we need to reform those documents, or do they need to be more strictly enforced? This is the question in my mind. Further, questions like the new policy at the IMB are things that we must consider. But to imagine that every local SBC affiliated church has the time to investigate or fund missionaries and schools is way too optimistic. I would be willing to wager that if the cooperative program ceased, many of these churches would keep their money and not send it anywhere.

When our church sends our money to the cooperative program, it is because we assume that those hired by the SBC are men and women who hold to the BFM 2000 and/or are in agreement with the Abstract of Principles or other policies in place, and that those in charge of hiring them are interviewing and testing them to make certain that this is the case. If not, then we need to act on those in charge and those hired, but not necessarily dump the program.

Burt Harper said...

Sojourner,

Thank you for educating me on the process for supporting SBC missionaries and agencies. I did not know that each church in the SBC can direct each dollar it sends to the coop to support the agency it wants to support. I am surprised that in the 4 years I have been a faithful server and attender of my church, that we have never voted as a church body how much to send our missionaries or schools we support.

I used to be a member at an Independent Baptist Church. This church investigates every organization that it sends money to and the process is very simple and very rewarding to the local church member. Either someone from the organization would visit us, or we would send someone to visit them. I was personally able to go spend a week with a missionary in Mexico and when I came back I reported to the church. The church spent about one Wednesday night a month on average discussing missionary or school needs and voting on whether to support. Discussion and questions were open to the whole congregation as the pastor moderated. It was very organized. There were times when we had to tell a missionary or school that we could no longer send them money due to what they believed or practiced. For the most part we supported missionaries and schools consistently for years.

The benefits were tremendously positive for mission mindedness. This method brought about more personal knowledge of every missionary and school we supported. It influenced the congregation so that 5 missionary families and numerous Christian educators came out of a membership of about 500. Over 75% of the money given to the church supported missionaries and schools. I have never been to a more mission minded church where the results were new converts that were really converts.

Sojourner said...

Burt,

I am certain that you are not alone. The fact is that we have become lazy in informing our people exactly how the cooperative program works. It is just a 'given' item in the budget that doesn't get much thought, and as a result the accountability goes down.

Basically, every dollar given to the cooperative program is divided up amongst the SBC institutions. I need to correct something that I said. I meant that you may fund any non-IMB missionary that you wish or non-NAMB missionary that you wish by sending money to them directly. The salaries of the NAMB/IMB folks are supposed to be taken care of...at least that is the impresion. (That is part of Perry McCall's complaint.) But yes, you can donate directly to the institutions or the IMB if you wish, or even directly to NAMB.

In fact, you can even choose to only donate to the State convention, or you may by-pass the state and give only to the National Convention. For those who are willing to look into their options, I believe that there is a great degree of freedom to give.

GeneMBridges said...

Thank you for educating me on the process for supporting SBC missionaries and agencies. I did not know that each church in the SBC can direct each dollar it sends to the coop to support the agency it wants to support. I am surprised that in the 4 years I have been a faithful server and attender of my church, that we have never voted as a church body how much to send our missionaries or schools we support

Wow, Burt. I have to echo Sojourner's words here. Sadly this is all too common a situation in SBC churches and it needs to be corrected.

IMO, part of the problem lies in the way the CP was institutionalized. It was only a generation or two ago that our RA's and GA's were indoctrinated on the CP as children, so that, by the time they came to adulthood, it was understood that folks new the CP and could explain it to others. My personal theory is that the denomination became complacent in that respect and simply assumes that everybody understands the way the CP works, ergo, the problems in understanding the CP in your situation and that of thousands of other Southern Baptists. We see this played out in Sunday School too. After all, even in some of the most nominal SBC churches with which I have intersected in my time, I have noticed a tendency to use the Lifeway (formerly BSSB) literature out of habit, but everybody snickers about it and says "It doesn't teach people that don't know anything, much less folks that know their Bibles."

Sad, but true. This can't be laid at the feet of the pre-79 Convention either, as this phenomenon has only continued since then. My prayer is that Thom Rainer @ Lifeway will change this over time. I would like to see some educational material on the CP...something substantitive come from Lifeway that really explained the CP, especially for folks like you coming from independent churches.

Also, you should check with your associational office. They will be able to tell you more about what is going on at that level, and they should have an in depth knowledge of the funding formulas in your state.

Let me take my home church. They are one of the larger SBC churches, so they are able to fund several local missions projects and have even planted some local churches on their own in the area in the recent past. They have scholarship funds for their members to go on home missions or missions abroad for annual trips that rotate, usually on a bi-monthly or quarterly basis. In addition, they are able to support a missionary in residence as well as certain others working abroad, like a friend of mine teaching the gospel (literally teaching Jesus and the Gospels) at a university in China.

However, they also designate the usual dollars to Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong as well as their CP contributions. In this state, there are something like 4 funding formulas from which churches may legitimately choose. Each state is different, so the way CP dollars are divided will vary. Typically, the formula is something like 65 % in state, the rest to Nashville, but, in states like mine, there are ways to reverse that proportion or even designate to particular projects, like the state's Bible Institute. Again, your church and association should have this information for you and they should help you make sense of it once you have it.

We have got to get the membership of the churches in the SBC on board with the way the CP works and the way the Convention is run. It is precisely because most of them are on "cruise control" that we end up rubberstamping decisions at the annual meetings of our state and national conventions and not giving real thought to what we are doing. This is as much a recipe for disaster under a theologically conservative leadership of any stripe as it is under a more, how shall we say, forgiving, administration (theologically speaking).

Burt Harper said...

Gene,

Thanks for the information . I admit that the error is mostly mine for not taking the responsibility for finding out before now. Time slips by so quickly. I tell my son that part of learning to be a man is to accept responsibility and reject passivity. However, I have not been a good example to him on this issue. You guys have helped me to see my error.

What do you think of changing the method of giving to something more similar to the early church of Acts? Giving in the ways I have spoken above. Wouldnt it be very hard to become complacent if we voted on our giving in each local church as each opportunity to give was presented?

PBill said...

Interesting development and quite surprising for The Christian Index. The brethren close to namb in GA get a steady stream of feedback on namb developments. I'm shocked they printed the stuff, but glad they did.

We conservatives dont like to say it but all those moderate-led churches, long now tepid or hostile to the SBC national organizations, were heavy CP givers and the mega-churches were weaker CP givers. The SBC has lost the enthusiasm of the moderates in giving and the mega-churches aren't large enough to make up the differences. Where NAMB is going is a mystery to this Georgia pastor, who doesn't see much of anything in namb to be excited about and not a little to be disgusted about.

For me personally, NAMB lost a ton of credibility with their funny business in the handling of 911 designated gifts. The brethren there need an new plan, perhaps a new leader.

GeneMBridges said...

What do you think of changing the method of giving to something more similar to the early church of Acts?

Well, in theory that's what the CP does. In theory it pools the resources of the churches for the missions efforts. Now, missions includes: the seminaries, the mission boards, and at the state level things like your state Baptist colleges and Bible Institutes (depending on where you live). In theory, (notice IN THEORY) this makes the agencies/missions entities servants of the churches.

In practice, as you may have noticed from the talk here in months past, the reverse is often the case. Ergo. Mark Dever's referenced comment in Steven's post above.

Also, we have to be careful about the Acts model. Jerusalem was the mother church of them all, but, in part because "they held all things common" and sold their land and put it all into the common "funds," the daughter churches took up a generous offering to help them out later. This was also an offering that brought unity between the Jewish segment of believers and the Gentile believers (ergo, when Paul takes it to Jerusalem before he is imprisoned, the picture is that "the gospel has come full circle" and the church is one church with one Lord).

Anyway, one could argue that the method in Acts has some drawbacks and isn't intended to be universal plan for giving, because they appear to have found themselves in a bind later. Also, they economy then was different. We live in a different economic age, and things are more complex. We have investment options and other things folks did not have and ways to multiply funds they did not have then.

At the same time, the CP itself, while I think it is marvelous, may need to be periodically revisited and even restructured to adjust for economic changes. For example, in my part of the nation, we are moving from a manufacturing economy to a service economy, so there is a lot of flux. Giving fluctuates with that, and the CP is affected. We have to adjust for that. I think the CP is flexible in most respect; I'm just saying it could be adjusted.

The point is that we need to be wiser about the way we do missions, and I think cooperation is the key, especially for the smaller churches.

There's a sense that a church like my home church can handle more; after all they have more resources. Also, there is a feeling in some areas that these churches eclipse the small ones anyway, so members gravitate to them. The small churches need to cooperate to be effective.

Right now, I'm in a church with about fifty members. We're a new work; about a year old. We have set a goal to pay our pastor a full time salary, and will be "weaning him" from his current job in stages so he and his family can adjust. We also support two or 3 mission works, but we are also paying rent in a hotel for Sunday services and trying to build a library...you know,the basic things new churches do. Coming from "big church" is a major change (one I actually am most blessed and excited about, as I've never been part of a brand new work before), but now I really do see that small churches need to collaborate in order to do work.

Joel Rainey said...

I am a NAMB appointed missionary in Maryland, and after reading all of the above posts, felt it neccesary to respond to some of the concerns:

First to Perry McCall: I'm so sorry for your experience with the Nehemiah Project, but as a former Nehemiah guy I wanted to let you know how it should have worked. First of all, whoever recruited you for Nehemiah should have been clear from the start as to how the position was funded. NAMB works directly with state conventions, and assumes if the state signs off that the appropriate funding has been raised. The understanding is that the local folks know better what is an appropriate level of support for their area.than NAMB does. Second, if you were working with an Association, they are usually the last "denominational" hurdle in the process. Associational personnel (guys like me) have a responsibility in working with the state and NAMB to ensure that the funding level is appropriate before signing off. In addition, if your sponsoring church is the employing entity, they too would have a vital role in this process. All this is to say that NAMB works only with the state, and assumes if all comes back well that the local folks are happy with the level of support. I now plant churches regionally at the Associational level, and we have brought in two Nehemiah guys this past year whose support is solid for two years, but it is because our Association worked closely with the state to make sure of this. Bottom line: Someone obviously dropped the ball in your case, but from my experience, I'd be less inclined to point to NAMB, and more to the state, or even the Association. Finalization of these issues is always the responsibility of the local field. Of course, none of that solves your situation, but I wanted to add clarity to your situation to say that while there is certainly someone to blame, I'm not sure its NAMB.

To Burt Harper. You made a great statement when you said that accountability should ultimately be to the local church. Ideally, that is the way our system was designd to work. Issues such as that now happening at the IMB can cast doubt on whether our SBC entities really feel indebted to and accountable to our churches, but that is the way it is supposed to work. As someone new to the SBC, I would encourag you, if you have concerns, to start with your Associational Director of Missions, and also your trustee(s) who oversee the work of the entity of your concern. In terms of your concern over the theological position(s) of our missionary personell, you are more than welcome to start with me, and I'll be happy as a missionary to be an "open book," because I strongly feel that my primary accountability is to the churches that give to the CP so that I can be here.
One final note: Under my watch this past year, four new churches were planted to reach the unchurched in the Baltimore-D.C. area, and between five and seven will be planted this coming year (Three of those are already preparing for takeoff!). As a former pastor, I certainly understand the concerns that many of you have expressed here, but know that because of NAMB, I am able to do what I do. As such, thanks for sticking with the SBC while these issues are worked through.

Perry McCall said...

Joel,

The promotion was clear. The shock came on the front end not on the back end. My director was wonderful. My personal experience in the program was wonderful. I am simply pointing out that one has to be very involved and clear told that a NAMB missionary is not fully funded. The assumption in the Church because of the promotional materials for offerings is that we have thousands of missionaries and they are funded. I just assumed that being a church planter would mean seeking funding in the way that you just explained. State, Association, local Churches, and individuals. I was excited to here about the NP because that would mean being an actual appointed missionary with funding. My dismay came suddenly but the logic of local leadership and support made sense on many different levels. The outrage came later when I began to realize that I was not alone in my assumptions about what it means to be a NAMB missionary. I would explain (for a positive and educational purpose) how at any given time close to 50% of our missionaries are not funded by NAMB. My people would always ask, “what about the AAEO?” For the sake of charity and from personal experience I chose to believe that misleading of SBC members was not an organized campaign of evil doers. The system is the problem. Protecting an institution is the problem.
P.S. Yes, I am ranting a little. OK, a lot.

Kevin Bussey said...

My experience was more like Joel's. NAMB did everything they promised me. The state convention I was a part of at the time tried to take NAMB's $$ and say it was part of the $$ the state convention had promised me. In other words they tried to cheat me.

My recommendation is that the SBC start fewer better funded churches rather than a lot of poorly funded churches. We flat out ran out of $$. I think we could do a whole lot better if we committed 5 years funding to a team of at least 3 planters.

Perry McCall said...

Again!!!

The problem was never with NAMB keeping promises or giving me false promises. The problem is the false impression that is given to our Churches through promotional material over many years that our officially endorsed, commissioned, and appointed missionaries are fully funded. We are not informed and NAMB benefits from our lack of understanding. I don't call it an intentional campaign to deceive. Although, I do spout off in frustration sometimes. Kdawgs suggestions are wonderful. The idea of our Church Planters not being fully funded isn't neccesarily the problem. Those are what I would call a "programing" difference. We must be willing to acept those types of differences. However, I believe that we have some how developed a culture promotional deception. When a pastor/church planter is not allowed to seek funds to provide for his family nor allowed to work a part-time job because our Churches will find out that their assumptions about missionary funding are wrong, then I think we need to change the system. The only option that was available for providing income was for a wife/mother to work outside of the home. Let us assume the most positive attitude about NAMB. Lets assume that 95-99% of the leadership is genuinely clueless to assumptions of the people in the pews. I am actaully considering this for the first time myself. I wonder how many people currently involved with promotion and communication have been Southern Baptist for more than 10 years? The assumption problem could very well be a product of life-long SB members who grew up in RA's and GA's. Policies have changed since the restructuring. I began by asking the question of how do we stay positive? First, we must focus on Christ. Second, we look at our own hearts. Lastly, we assume the best from our bothers and sisters in Christ.

Joel Rainey said...

Perry,
Thanks for the clarification. Overall, maybe NAMB should do a better job of communicating HOW our missionaries are funded. With the exception of a few "national" missionaries, none of our personnel are fully funded by NAMB, but are supplimented by the state convention and, where appropriate, the state convention.
But the other side of this issue is how Cooperative Program dollars are distributed. State Conventions, for example, should also be more clear with the churches concerning how much of their CP giving stays in the state vs. how much actually makes it to Nashville to be divided among our mission boards, seminaries, and other arms of SBC ministry.
For example, here in Maryland, 60% of CP dollars given stay in Maryland, and only 40% makes it to Nashville. In Kentucky where I used to serve as pastor, 67% stays in the state and only 33% goes to Nashville.
With that said, I think it is only fair to say that if more of those monies actually made it to NAMB, then we might be more justified in expecting NAMB to fully fund missionaries.
Regarding the raising of support and the "cooperative agreement" between NAMB and the churches, Nehemiah church planters are now allowed to raise funds AFTER their approval, but PRIOR to their appointment. Also, NAMB has now allowed us to use a bi-vocational approach to Nehemiah, meaning that there is less money invested in the planter, but it allows the planter to work an outside job (something I had to do for a while anyway when I planted), but still get the two years of insurance benefits.
Honestly (to Perry and Kdawg), its always a struggle knowing how to best devise a strategy for funding new churches. Obviously we need to take care of the guy on the field, but for how long? Here, we have moved from "two years and goodbye" strategy to one that steps down each year. In short, you don't get two years of full funding anymore, but neither do you go from all to zero after two years. This has seemed to help both our planters and our new churches adjust better, and I admit that we can always improve. Honestly, each plant offers a differernt context, and we really should be about releasing funds according to what is best for that context.

Joel Rainey said...

One more thing . . .Just for the record, I am one of those missionaries whose salary comes from NAMB, the state, and my Association. Of my total salary, NAMB only puts in about $12,000 annually. But the health benefits are the greatest help. you guys need to know that while NAMB may not contribute much to my income, they supply top-notch health care for me and my family, and it only costs me about $100 per month to be a part of their program. Honestly, that is probably where most of their missionary support monies go now. I'm sure all of you are aware of the astronomical costs of health insurance now.
Anyway, thought since I was describing how most of our missionary force is funded, I'd go ahead and let you know that I am in that number.

J.A.L. said...

For anyone out there that is reading this and not the current thread on the Hunt_Caner_Ascol dialogue.

I am a current NAMB Missionary through the Nehemiah Project. I about midway through my second year and was part-time a few months before I that. I started in June, 2004; became full-time and appointed Dec. 1, 2004. I have also served on a NAMB church plant team in a different state.

I would first say I appreciate the Index doing the analysis and it brings to light some important issues and things that I have struggled with in my personal ministry. I would also say that it is unbalanced and reading NAMB's response will help get a better perspective.

I thing it is also important to note that I think there are some underlying convention politics at work here. The local baptist paper where NAMB is based writing this on the eve of the Annie Armstrong offering, something is fishy. As Gordon Cloud notes correctly above "It has an unusually abrasive tone for an article in the Christian Index and as far as I can tell has come out of the left field bleachers. " I think there are some politics at play most of us are not informed of.

Maybe Gerald Harris or Joe Westbury lost at golf one to many times to Reccord or Singer:) JK

Through all my NAMB experiences I would echo many of PErry Mccall's comments: "The problem is the false impression that is given to our Churches through promotional material over many years that our officially endorsed, commissioned, and appointed missionaries are fully funded. "

I was glad you nailed it Joel in your second comment: "Overall, maybe NAMB should do a better job of communicating HOW our missionaries are funded."

I am currently dealing with this in a very personal way. Let me explain. I primarily and ministering doing evangelism with a Muslim immigrants in an urban area. We beleive that God will sovereignly save many any day and our hopeful as we proclaim the gospel that there will be a harvest. The state wants me to continue this work after my "term is officially over, but their funding will cut 75% from my salary. I realize changes have been made in "soliciting" funds from churches but this was after I started. So the state has encouraged me to go find "partnering" churches to help. How can I encourage them to support Annie Armstrong and the CP when if I want to continue to proclaim the gospel (yes I realize God can provide, I'm speaking of the responsibility on my part) to muslims I've got to raise my own funds. I also have to tell folks I don't support all of the slick media and using fire trucks to promote conferences. This waste of funds really hurts me personally as I have spoken to raise money for NAMB & IMB and I personally have no actual ministry budget, I must provide it all from my own salary, which I've just found out is low enough to qualify for the tax credit. It is a bit embarrasing when I can't afford Arabic tracts/Bibles but there is a huge money pit for the next national evangelism program.

Overall, I do feel there is definitely a focus on "numbers." Just look at the monthly reports we feel out. It would be encouraging to see KDawg's suggestion carried out: better funded churches/planters and lower quantity. But the Index article is also complaining about the number of churches being planted.

The Index's notice of not having a national evangelism strategy is also a worthy critique. While I feel the Strategic Focus cities is a worthy campaign overall there is nationally no focus to try and reach the 5-7 million Muslim population in this country from the SBC. Yes, NAMB produced the "Cross & Cresent" training material but that is just a tool to use in local churches to begin to introduce them to Islam and not a focused evangelism strategy. Furthermore, it hasn't been revised since the 9/11 or current global terrorism trends. If we take a look at what is going on in the world from the recent Danish cartoons we can see the huge Muslim outrage over it. This is a great time to dialogue an proclaim the gospel to the Muslims. Also, what an opportunity we have to reached the Muslims God has brought here to our doorstep from "closed" countries. While overall we (NAMB & many state conventions) are more worried about planting the next high-impact surburban Saddleback look alike reaching the unchurched upper-middle class.

Oh, and Joel you are right about the health insurance cost. NAMB just uses United Healthcare to administer their policy. THEY PAY EVERY CENT of our actual medical cost. It is not actual "insurance" i the traditional meaning of the word. I am very grateful for the great coverage and whatever route I take I will have to pick up the tab after December when my term ends

I also echo the thoughts on being accountable to the local church, and I am glad to say that I minister under their authority in my context and we have tried to model an Antioch sending model (sending from within)

Well, that is a little more of a rant that I meant and there is much more that could be commented on but I better leave it at that. I am grateful overall for the chance I have been given to proclaim the gospel vocationally in a needed and strategic role.

And thanks for everyone’s support of taking the gospel forth through your giving.

jbuchanan said...

I think that the NAMB must refocus on the primacy of the local church. Everything begins and ends with the local church and the sooner the denomination sees that the better. I also believe that much more money and effort needs to be put into planting new churches. The NAMB needs to put mroe money and training where it will do the best work.