ALPHARETTA, Ga. — As North American Mission Board (NAMB) trustees looked toward the 2009 Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions (AAEO), they celebrated news that NAMB’s missionary count topped 5,600 at the end of 2008 and Southern Baptist church plants increased 6 percent over 2007.
NAMB President Geoff Hammond highlighted the upcoming Annie Armstrong Offering season during the trustees’ Feb. 11 meeting at NAMB’s offices in Alpharetta, Ga.
Citing the partners who promote the offering, with a goal of $65 million, Hammond said, “(W)e’re grateful to Woman’s Missionary Union, all the state conventions and local associations, but ultimately it’s the local pastor who must challenge people to contribute.”
This year’s Annie Armstrong theme, “Sowing Together For Harvest,” calls Southern Baptists to pray for, give to and ponder together to reach North America for Christ,” he said.
Hammond showed a video of eight NAMB missionaries in North America who are being featured as part of this year’s Annie Armstrong Easter Offering Week of Prayer, March 1-8.
Willie Jacobs, a national missionary in Memphis, Tenn., featured on the video, was on hand to speak to trustees about the challenges of his ministry amid the crime and violence in Memphis’ inner city.
“In Memphis, 1 million people do not know Jesus as their personal Savior,” Jacobs said. “We’re challenged with going into places where people don’t look like us, act like us or think like us. But they need the Gospel. I’m glad God has chosen me to be part of it. Pray for me as we go into drug-infested areas. Remember that He loves the drug addict, the one on skid row, the prostitute and the homosexual.”
Hammond called for “a renewed urgency in North America about the gospel and the need to sow the gospel in North America. We have enough Southern Baptists to reach all the people of North America. Through GPS, (the SBC’s new evangelism initiative) God’s Plan for Sharing, we want every believer sharing and every person believing by 2020.”
Referencing John 4:35-37, Hammond outlined seven principles of sowing the gospel: “We must sow to reap. We reap where others have sown. We sow where others will reap. We reap what we sow. Those that sow in tears will reap with joy. We must sow together for harvest. And you always reap more than you sow.”
Holding up a kernel and an ear of corn in each hand, Hammond illustrated the last of the seven principles. But he said, “For too long, we have tried to reap in rows that have never been sown. With GPS, we’re trusting God for one of the greatest harvests Southern Baptists have ever achieved during the next 12 years.”
Much of the trustees meeting focused on GPS, the strategic evangelization initiative Hammond introduced at last year’s SBC annual meeting and which is beginning to gather steam.
Earlier in February, NAMB announced its plan to invest $1.2 million in 2010 on a strategic media buy to implement GPS, including TV, radio, newspapers, outdoor media and the Internet. The media campaign will be coordinated with state convention partners to ensure the most effective approach is used in each region.
In the first of several committee reports, NAMB’s chaplaincy team reported that 2,875 NAMB-sponsored and endorsed chaplains are now serving in military and civilian roles. The number of serving chaplains should exceed 3,000 in 2009, trustees were told.
In 2008, NAMB-endorsed military and civilian chaplains serving in more than 17 countries made 38,000-plus gospel presentations and recorded more than 8,600 professions of faith and 4,000 baptisms.
NAMB’s Sending Missionaries Team recorded a net gain of 212 long-term missionaries during 2008, bringing the total to more than 5,600. Trustees were told that 125 US/C2 missionaries are now serving in the field, the largest number ever. Also, an unprecedented 1,973 students served last year as summer and semester missionaries.
The board’s church planting group reported that new church plants increased 6 percent in 2008 — from 1,445 church plants to 1,538. Even so, more than 400 counties out of some 3,000 in the United States do not have a Southern Baptist presence.
NAMB’s evangelization group recorded a significant increase in hunger ministry volunteers, 104,000 in 2008 compared to only 67,000 in 2007. The World Hunger Fund portion for North America was down 3 percent, to $1,195,922 in 2008 from $1,238,817 in 2007. But despite fewer resources, the hunger ministry marked 36,074 professions of faith in 2008 compared to 35,336 in 2007. Hunger ministry baptisms were up to 5,763 last year, an increase over 2007’s 5,024.
Carlos Ferrer, NAMB’s chief financial officer, reported that the board’s 2008 income — primarily from Southern Baptists’ Cooperative Program gifts and the Annie Armstrong Offering — came in $8.3 million below budget projections. However, the board finished the year $457,066 to the good thanks to under-spends, larger than expected designated gifts and asset sales, including the former Radio and Television Commission building in Fort Worth, Texas.
As for 2009, NAMB team leaders have been told to limit spending to within 90 percent of their approved budget; a hiring slowdown also has been in place since the beginning of the year.
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Noah is a writer for NAMB.)