I just read the article from Baptist Press regarding the new changes at NAMB. I am cautiously optimistic about the impact that this will have. We have transitioned through a “regionalized” restructuring here in the Dakota Baptist Convention and it has been a positive overall. It was certainly cause for apprehension as we started the process a few years ago, but we found over time that it helped our state staff be more accessible and more able to respond at a personal level over the older model of a centralized office. So hear me when I say that I think the regional aspect of the new strategy sounds like a step in a good direction.
I am still a little bothered by the “laser-like focus” on church planting (if you will pardon the allusion), and this new article did nothing to minimize my concern. Currently, NAMB handles many areas that are not directly tied in any real way to church planting and it appears that these areas could be lost in the shuffle. The reason I say this is something mentioned toward the end of the aforementioned article:
Six work groups — all focused on the overarching goal of evangelistic church planting — will exist at NAMB’s Alpharetta office: evangelism, mobilization, equipping, ministry controls, communications and missions support.
Other NAMB ministries such as Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, mission education and social ministries remain but will be more specifically focused on supporting the evangelistic church planting process.
The first paragraph looks OK, although I have no idea what “ministry controls” entails whatsoever. This kind of thing fits into a church planting strategy. My real issue is how anyone figures that disaster relief can be combined with church planting.
I have been training for the last year to take part in a new Chaplains unit for Dakota Disaster Relief. I have undergone all the necessary training and now await my endorsement from NAMB for Disaster Relief Chaplaincy. After doing all of this extensive training (nearly 40 hours worth of instruction time altogether), I can’t find or think of any way that you can credibly “support an evangelistic church planting process” as a part of disaster relief. This has the potential to become a true nightmare in fact.
Southern Baptists have made a good name for ourselves as a whole through our dedicated efforts in the area of disaster relief. Other relief agencies trust and count on SBC disaster relief teams in times of need. We have proved our mettle in disaster after disaster around the world. Disasters are not a place for church planting! People who have gone through the trauma of a disaster don’t need a new church, they need basics like food, shelter, possibly clothing or others supplies. They certainly need spiritual support, but the work of a chaplain in a disaster setting is completely different than the work of a pastor in a church. To be frank about it, most local pastors in a disaster area would not be able to help as much depending on the disaster because they will likely be victims of it as well. I wouldn’t have understood this myself even a year ago, but I get it now. I have a new appreciation for the high reputation that we have developed over the years as a top-notch disaster relief agency. I would hate to see us mess it up now.