The Jan. 2 edition of the Biblical Recorder (BR) outlines news highlights that defined 2015. The stories, chosen by BR staff, communicate the events that affected the lives of North Carolina Baptists and others around the world. Stories from the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) are recounted, like the International Mission Board’s (IMB) decision to remedy budget deficits by reducing personnel numbers by 600-800. Coverage also included stories about the Send Network, an initiative of the North American Mission Board (NAMB) to plant churches across the nation.
2015 Send Conference celebrates life on mission
A sold-out crowd of more than 13,500 from all 50 states and four Canadian provinces flooded into Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena to celebrate life on mission at the 2015 Send North America Conference Aug. 3-4. It was the largest gathering of Southern Baptists since 1996 when 13,706 messengers gathered for the annual meeting in New Orleans, La.
NAMB President Kevin Ezell and IMB President David Platt welcomed the assembly and challenged attendees to serve wherever God calls them.
IMB announces reset, personnel reduction
IMB leaders announced an organizational restructuring plan Aug. 27. that will reduce personnel expenses and balance their budget. IMB’s 2014 fiscal goals fell $21 million short. Deficits totaled more than $210 million in the last six years. The plan includes two personnel reduction phases. The first phase included a voluntary retirement incentive for qualifying employees through the end of 2015. The second phase will involve a voluntary resignation incentive for all employees along with a possible reduction of IMB personnel in 2016. IMB leaders said “It is expected that the 600-800 people who step aside from the IMB in the next six months will not be stepping ‘onto the sidelines of mission,’ but instead will be moving into a new phase of involvement in mission.” To remedy budget shortfalls, previous IMB leadership enacted a plan to slowly reduce the number of missionaries to 4,200. The number currently stands at 4,800.
NAMB announces new image, gives $4 million to IMB
NAMB introduced a new logo in September and presented messaging that reflects its goal to mobilize more churches and individuals to missional action in the effort to push back lostness and plant more churches in North America.
“Every Life On Mission” and “Every Church On Mission” are two phrases NAMB will use prominently to encourage individuals and churches to become more actively and personally involved in missional activity. Ezell said the move to a new look demonstrates NAMB’s emphasis on serving churches and pastors, and the continued streamlining of strategy. Every energy and all attention will be focused on fulfilling its mission as effectively as possible by the generosity of Southern Baptists through the Cooperative Program and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering.
Trustees of NAMB approved the establishment of Send Relief – a new compassion ministry to offer Southern Baptists opportunities to meet physical needs and serve underprivileged communities. NAMB’s disaster relief team will be part of Send Relief and continue to have its own director. The mission board will continue to serve as coordinator of national disaster relief responses. Also during their Oct. 7 meeting, NAMB’s trustees approved a $4 million budget reduction so the entity can send funds to assist IMB missionaries.
SBC messengers pray as one
Columbus, Ohio, hosted 5,406 messengers for the 2015 SBC annual meeting, June 15-17. Thousands of messengers knelt in prayer and raised their hands to heaven July 16 as they prayed for revival in the church and a great awakening across the United States. In the months leading up to the meeting, SBC president Ronnie Floyd called on Southern Baptists to pray for revival in America. The plea culminated in Columbus with an entire session devoted to prayer for the next Great Awakening in America and to reach the world for Christ. For more than 2.5 hours, Floyd and other leaders from across the SBC led in a time of guided worship and prayer.
LifeWay restructure & relocation
LifeWay Christian Resources President and CEO Thom S. Rainer outlined for trustees a vision for the entity’s future that includes an organizational restructuring, leadership changes and a probable relocation.
He announced the combining of two divisions – Church Resources and B&H Publishing – into LifeWay Resources Division led by current vice president Eric Geiger. Trustees approved two vice presidents. Selma Wilson, former vice president of B&H, was approved as vice president of a new organizational development division that will focus on LifeWay’s people strategies, culture development and change management. Cossy Pachares was elected as vice president of LifeWay’s retail division. Pachares fills the role vacated by Tim Vineyard who retired in January.
Trustees approved the sale of LifeWay’s 14.5 acre downtown Nashville property. A Nov. 24 announcement reported that the sale was completed.
Younger Southern Baptists more involved
Southern Baptists appear to be defying the prevalent notion that young adults are abandoning the American church, according to a February Baptist Press story. Attendance by younger generations reached a 10-year high at the 2014 SBC meeting in Baltimore, according to an annual survey of attendees. The survey, conducted by the SBC Executive Committee (EC), showed nearly one-fourth (24.68 percent) of attendees were younger than age 40. That surpassed by more than 4 percentage points the previous best for the age group, recorded in 2013.
The 2014 survey also showed 10-year highs for SBC attendees who are under 45 (33.44 percent, a gain of more than 3 percent over the previous high in 2013) and under 35 (15.93 percent, again an increase of more than 3 percent over the earlier high, which came in 2012).