IMB & NAMB partnership to transcend borders
Erich Bridges, Baptist Press
July 01, 2011

IMB & NAMB partnership to transcend borders

IMB & NAMB partnership to transcend borders
Erich Bridges, Baptist Press
July 01, 2011


— Recently planted seeds of a new partnership between Southern Baptists’ two

mission boards are already beginning to sprout.

Previously, the International Mission Board (IMB) and North American Mission Board (NAMB)

carefully observed the geographical separation between their two ministry

assignments. But national borders no longer define the task of missions in a

globalized world marked by the rapid migrations of people groups in need of the


Messengers to the SBC annual meeting in

Phoenix gave final approval to ministry assignment changes for both boards

emerging from “Great Commission Resurgence” recommendations adopted at last

year’s SBC annual meeting in Orlando, Fla.

One of the assignment changes directs the IMB to “provide specialized, defined

and agreed upon assistance to the North American Mission Board in assisting

churches to reach unreached and underserved people groups within the United

States and Canada.”

IMB Photo

A Meskhetian Turkish immigrant family arrives in the United States in this 2006 file photo. A ministry assignment change approved by Southern Baptist Convention messengers this year enables the International Mission Board to help the North American Mission Board in assisting churches to reach unreached and underserved people groups within the United States and Canada. The excitement evidences by Turkish family exemplifies the hopes of many immigrants, refugees and other internationals coming to North America from around the globe. What they need most, besides friends, is the gospel. National borders no longer define the task of missions in a globalized world marked by the rapid migrations of people groups.

NAMB and IMB mobilization leaders met while in Phoenix

to discuss some of the directions that cooperation will take in the days ahead.

Plans coming into focus include:

  • joint ethnographic mapping of the top 100 North American cities.
  • creation of a unified information database to help identify unengaged,

    unreached people groups in North America and provide

    resources to reach them.

  • multiple training opportunities to help churches and individuals plant

    churches among unreached groups.

“We’re recognizing the diaspora of peoples and the globalization of the world,

and we’re seeking the unreached and least-reached peoples wherever they are on

the globe, including North America,” said Ken Winter,

IMB vice president for church and partner services. “What the convention in Orlando

recommended, the convention in Phoenix

has now approved — and we’re moving forward with it.

“We’re beyond the ‘Can we do this?’ stage. Now we’re identifying the strategies

to assist the churches,” Winter said.

The urban face of North America in particular is

changing as the world rushes toward the United

States and Canada.

According to current mission research, 584 unengaged, unreached people groups

can be found in North America, many of which live in urban areas. These groups

have less than 2 percent evangelical Christians among them, and no evangelical

church or group has a viable plan to present the Gospel to them in ways they

can understand and respond to it.

“We’re no longer training people here in America

just to engage people groups overseas,” said Aaron Coe, NAMB’s vice president

for mobilization. “We’re training people to engage people groups here in America

and overseas.

“We have IMB missionaries working among peoples overseas, but we also have many

of those peoples living within the boundaries of North America,”

Coe said. “We can strategically work together as we look at reaching those

people groups overseas as well as here at home. We’re just at the beginning of

what that could look like, but you might have missionaries that come home and

move to a city where their people group lives. For instance, if you’ve worked

with West Africans in Mali and there’s a high concentration of West Africans in

a place like New York City, that might be an option for you. …

“We’re excited about the potential,” Coe said, “because we’re on the same team

working toward the same thing, and there are a lot of resources we can share.

We’re going to be far more effective and efficient because of it.”

Speaking of New York, it will be the first of three North American locations

for “EthnéCITY: Reaching the Unreached in the Urban Center,” a gathering

designed for pastors, missionaries, church planters, missions leaders, students

or anyone who might be described as “interested in exploring what it will take

to engage the diaspora of unreached people groups in the urban centers of the

world.” Dates and sites: Oct. 20-22 in New York;

Nov. 17-19 in Houston; and May 3-5, 2012, in Vancouver,

Canada. To find out more

or register, visit http://ethnecity.com.

Strategists from Southern Baptist churches, associations, seminaries, state

conventions, NAMB and IMB gathered May 9-10 to trade ideas about the challenge

of engaging unreached people groups in U.S.

urban centers. In April, NAMB President Kevin Ezell met with IMB President Tom

Elliff to brainstorm ways to partner in mobilizing Southern Baptists to

evangelize the lost, make disciples and plant new congregations.

“We’re overjoyed that leadership in both IMB and NAMB are determined to be good

stewards of the resources that are entrusted to them,” Elliff said. “One of the

evidences of that is a new and refreshing openness to utilizing the strengths

each organization brings to the table for reaching a lost world.”

Ezell added, “It just makes sense to Southern Baptists that their two missions

entities would work together like this. North America is too big and too

diverse for us to say we can’t benefit from IMB’s expertise. We want to say to

every church, ‘If God has put a people group on your heart somewhere in the

world, help us reach them here at home as well.’”

Top leadership of both mission boards intend to meet again later this year to

continue joint planning. In the meantime, IMB is surveying retired and former

missionaries who might serve as resources, mentors and participants in reaching

the unreached of North America. They’re also developing ways missionaries

currently overseas can interact with U.S.

churches to share ideas for engaging peoples in North America,

including a monthly webinar that connects people across the globe for dialogue.

“We’re trying to create learning communities,” said IMB mobilizer Terry Sharp,

who works with Southern Baptist state conventions and associations and

facilitates urban strategies. “It’s so much fun seeing how God is opening these

doors, seeing barriers broken down and the way people are getting it now.

“For some reason, because we as a convention have said, ‘Let’s do this

together,’ people are saying, ‘I’ve been overseas and this people group is on

my heart. Help me discover where that same group is here in America.’”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Bridges is an International Mission Board global correspondent.)