ORLANDO, Fla. — Southern Baptists’ North American Mission Board (NAMB) report was silent on the biggest news event coming out of the Alpharetta, Ga., office during the past year — the forced departure of President Geoff Hammond in August 2009.
Hammond resigned Aug. 11 after enduring charges of leadership issues that undermined the morale and effectiveness of NAMB.
The resignation came during a special called meeting of the board of trustees to deal with the problems.
One veiled mention of this came when messenger Larry Thomas of Southside Baptist Church in Heber Springs, Ark., asked why NAMB hired outside experts to deal with “the August meeting.”
Thomas also wanted to know how much money was spent and from where it came. NAMB board of trustees Chair Tim Dowdy, pastor of First Baptist Church in Eagle’s Landing, Ga., noted that while he was not chair last August, he did know that no money from the agency’s Annie Armstrong Easter Offering was used for the expert.
Dowdy does believe that expert, outside guidance was necessary to help trustees through the sensitive and difficult issue.
Hammond’s name never was mentioned. What was mentioned during the report was that NAMB trustees are searching for a new leader and that a transition is taking place.
The report also highlighted “God’s Plan for Sharing,” or GPS, NAMB’s decade-long evangelism strategy unveiled by Hammond at last year’s annual SBC meeting. Another emphasis woven throughout NAMB’s report and the presentation which followed it was the Great Commission Resurgence, “penetrating the lostness” and reaching North America with the gospel.
“One thing I ask is that you pray for us in the next few months,” Dowdy said. “We are under one of the crucial (times) for us as we search for a new leader of the North American Mission Board.
“In the meantime, we have been blessed to have Richard Harris, vice president (of missions advancement), as interim. He has provided rock-solid, stable leadership for NAMB in this time.” “Your North American Mission Board is moving forward,” Harris said. “It has a bright future. We have focused on starting churches, sharing Christ and sending missionaries.
“We’ve been attempting to move forward to fulfill the Great Commission. At the forefront is GPS,” he said, noting 10,000 churches are participating and 24,000 TV ads and 7,000 radio ads have aired. “We are leading Southern Baptists to reach the 258 million lost people in North America.”
Harris said NAMB is ready to lead Southern Baptists to “penetrate the lostness” and will be focused on church planting, evangelism discipleship, leadership development and metropolitan missions.
The NAMB presentation featured three of these focus areas by highlighting the work done by a diverse group of NAMB representatives. Each segment began with a video story of a NAMB representative and lives that are being changed. Following the video, the representative and one or more of those featured in the video were interviewed live by Harris.
Those featured included NAMB missionary Jalil Dawood, who works with the Iraqi population in Dallas; Andrew Mann, NAMB missionary in Bronx, N.Y.; and Sammy Gilbreath, director of evangelism for the Alabama Baptist State Convention, who said he has seen tremendous success with GPS. An Iraqi Christian convert featured from Dallas told messengers that immigrants from the Middle East would “be blessed to meet someone like (Dawood).”
“I pray to the Lord that every (person coming) to America, especially from Arabic countries and especially if he’s a Muslim, I wish for him to meet someone like Pastor Jalil and (for that person) to work with him like Pastor Jalil worked with me.”
Mann said the Bronx neighborhood where he lives and works is rough, “but God is here.”
Two brothers who accepted Christ and are spreading the gospel in their family and among their friends said it was Mann’s help and attention to them that made the difference.
“This man is the best man I know right now. He helped me get back to my school. He helped me look for jobs and programs to keep my life together,” the older brother said of Mann. “I just appreciate that and … (am) trying to learn more about Christ and giving my life to the Lord.” Gilbreath noted that the GPS emphasis in Alabama “is probably the largest organized outreach ministry attempted by Alabama Baptists.”
In the recent GPS Easter effort, evangelistic material was hung on nearly 1 million doors in Alabama.
“We didn’t have a lack of passion” for evangelism, Gilbreath said. “But we didn’t have a strategy. … Now we have a way to carry this out.” Noting the contagiousness of Gilbreath’s excitement about sharing the gospel, Harris asked him, “Will you help us in pioneer areas?” “Absolutely,” Gilbreath said. “Alabama stands ready not only to penetrate lostness in Alabama but in all of North America.”