While discussion of a possible name change for the Southern Baptist Convention overshadowed the SBC Executive Committee meeting last week, the meeting entailed much more. Other pertinent issues dealt less with debate over the relevance of our brand and more with the relevancy of the gospel for a lost world.
Tom Elliff, the new president of the International Mission Board, shared about the “Embrace” challenge. Current research indicates that 3,800 people groups across the globe remain unreached and unengaged. That is to say, these groups of people with a distinct cultural identity, not only have less than 2 percent of their members following Jesus, but, tragically, we know of no person or group engaging them with the gospel.
Elliff is challenging our approximately 45,000 Southern Baptist churches, local associations, and state conventions to adopt one or more of those people groups with the goal of every group being adopted. In this case, adoption means praying for that people group and seeking to provide a gospel witness to them. Based on Matthew 28:19 and Acts 1:8, Elliff’s vision is in line with God’s vision and is, therefore, attainable. Ready to adopt?
Kevin Ezell, the new president of the North American Mission Board, reported that the end goal of NAMB’s reorganization effort is for North American to be reached with the gospel. Reporting on a 4 percent increase in the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering, Ezell thanked Southern Baptists for allowing NAMB to help facilitate partnerships to advance the gospel through church planting, disaster relief, and a host of other ministries.
Presidents from each of our seminaries gave updates about the education and training of thousands of students. Those students include the next generation of pastors, missionaries, church staff members, and denominational leaders. Through the generosity of Southern Baptists, my wife, Michelle, and I have been able to earn five higher ed degrees from Cooperative Program funded schools. We understand the value of that investment.
O.S. Hawkins, president of Guidestone Financial Resources, expressed gratitude to Southern Baptists for providing for “Mission: Dignity.” Since 1918, GuideStone has been on a “Mission” to provide “Dignity” to retired pastors or their widows. These are men and women who have faithfully served God’s people and now find themselves struggling to meet even basic needs. Many served small, rural churches that paid only modest salaries and couldn’t afford to contribute to their pastors’ retirement. Mission: Dignity currently helps more than 2,000 people with extra money needed for housing, food, and vital medications.
These are but some of the many ministries generous Southern Baptists provide through the CP and direct contributions. Each church has the prerogative to decide how their missions dollars are spent but I haven’t found any mission funding mechanism that even begins to rival the CP.