Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Ma NAMB and now five Baby NAMBS

No big surprise here. The mostly megachurch people on the Great Commission Task Force called for decentralization of NAMB so now we have Ma NAMB and five baby NAMBs.

While I understand the concept of getting people out of Alpharetta and into the hinterlands, it remains to be seen if this is better or just different. The 25% reduction in HQ personnel should free up plenty of money to add the five new VPs and whatever attendant costs that come with them - buildings, assistants, clerical help, travel.

Will the new VPs be primarily used for fund dispersement and reporting? Or, what?

Is the expectation that they will be better at starting churches than state convention executives? Why?

How will the Baby NAMBs be different than the present arrangement with state conventions?

Ezell speaks of "working in close partnership with state Southern Baptist conventions", though, presumably, without the present Cooperative Agreements. So, we will have new agreements under different terminology? It's difficult for me to envision NAMB directly planting churches in, say, New England without involvement of the Baptist Convention of New England and any local association. Perhaps the details will be shared in next week's trustee meeting.

NAMB needs some success and no one is arguing that the status quo with NAMB was satisfactory.

Will having a NAMB VP on the ground in Chicago, Las Vegas, or Edmonton will translate into more churches? I don't know.

Guess we will find out.


Jonathan said...

This looks like the seeds of a plan that could fold the NAMB into the IMB. Would be logical.

William Thornton said...

At this stage I'd hate to saddle the IMB with NAMB, given the latter's history.

Gerald Harris, our state paper editor, says that the long IMB search may lead to that as well.

Blake said...

Does anyone else detect something strangely racist about this setup? Since when is Mexico and the Central American countries not a part of the North American continent? Isn't that how NAMB derives its name? Likewise, why are Mexico and the Central American countries an issue of the International Mission Board and not Canada? Last I checked a flight to Canada is an international flight.

Justin Owens said...

The difference in Mexico and Canada is the cultural barriers of the two countries. There are many similarities between the US & Canada, but Mexico is compeltely different, linguistically and culturally.

Jonathan said...

"NAMB needs some success"

Yes, we need success and we need the success to be meaningful. Southern Baptists have a history of declaring victory after getting to a majority vote (and we are professionals at managing votes and voting processes) rather than seeing victory on the ground.

We had an era of scandal at NAMB, a number of years with declining offerings, a recognition that information can't really be centrally controlled. In response, we've had a GCR emphasis complete with a blue ribbon panel that made recommendations (approved by the messengers), some state by state GCR blue ribbon panels that made recommendations (some approved with acclaim, some not so much), we put a blue ribbon pastor in the office of president of NAMB. Now, we've reorganized for growth.

In essence, we've pretty much exhausted all of the easy steps. Now, our efforts will have a different set of metrics. I don't expect the NAMB to establish meaningful metrics but it will not take too long to see the results of these steps.

It was a decline in 2 numbers (giving and baptisms...with giving as far and away the more weighty number) that forced the hand of SBC leaders to take action. It will be hard to not use these same number to evaluate the actions.

One thing that big time leaders can ill afford is failure to improve. So if, within the next 4-5 years, the NAMB situation does not improve, we'll hear "merger" rather than "failure". The speech pretty much writes itself along the lines of, "We went through the most dramatic reorganization of the NAMB in its history and now, we're ready for a seemless, lean, approach that is truly global in approach...from [small town in Alabama] to [large Asian metropolis with a name starting with the same letter as the name of the small town in Alabama], we have ONE Great Commission and now we will have ONE Mission sending structure. [cue the huzzahs, and straw hats flying into the air]

William said...

The new Ma NAMB CEO is on record saying that people will give (the figure $100m was mentioned) to a “compelling vision and effective strategy.” This is what is being offered. We will see if the AA offering rises, or stops the rate of decline.

I see no value in locking in an attitude of pessimism, although we have had ample reason to do so in this case.

Blake said...

Justin, there are cultural differences between African-Americans and white Southerners that was used to justify over a centuries of racism in the Church. I can't help but be wary that something similar is going on in this arrangement with Mexico and Central America. I'm also worried that lumping Canada in with the US in NAMB takes for granted apparent cultural similarities and marginalizes the many important differences between our two cultures. If NAMB were really about North America then it should include all of the countries on the continent. If it's about the US then it should be about the US. Bringing in Canada sounds like NAMB is interested in white North Americans.

Jonathan said...

"I see no value in locking in an attitude of pessimism"

Amen and amen.

What seems to be locked in, however, is a leadership mindset that responds dismissively, or worse, to critical questions and serious attempts at evaluation.

The overarching problem I see in Baptist institutional life is a fear of failure. Failure is instructive and helps to point us away from ongoing failure and toward a better path. Fear of failure is what tempts one to develop big plans while avoiding establishing clearly evaluatable metrics. This way, one can't ever been seen as having failed. If failure is never possible, success is rarely likely.

{written at a desk - not in my mother's basement; in business appropriate clothing - not in a house coat)

William said...

If NAMB avoids the kinds of meltdowns and mistakes of the past five years that is a backhanded success.

Moving beyond that, if they can stablize or increase the AA offering, that would be measurable success.

If they can show that applying a greater portion of their budget to actual, sustained church planting, that will be measurable success, though the measure is rather soft.

Seems to this SBC micropastor that NAMB has had a budget full of stuff that sounds good but which hasn't resulted in anyuthing of value to the SBC.

I am optimistic that (a) Ezell will not exhibit the personal failures of his two recent predecessors, that (b) more funding directed at church planting will pay off in the short term future, and that (c) NAMB will in the long run be a better expenditure of our money.

...but the sun is shining today and I'm in an optimistic mood. Tomorrow, reality may visit once again.

Justin Owens said...

Blake, I'm not saying there aren't cultural differences between the US & Canada. But the language barrier is the biggest reason I see that Mexico isn't part of the mission of NAMB. To reach Mexico would involve cultural training that NAMB isn't equipped for.

Blake said...

Justin, language difference is a big one but I can't help but wonder why this hasn't already been foreseen and dealt with. For one, Canada presents a unique language barrier in working with French Canada that I also doubt we're equipped to deal with. Even though French Canada isn't as large as Mexico and Central America, how long have we had Hispanic churches in our folds? How much a part have their leaders had in advising appropriate paths for progress to those at the head of NAMB and whoever in the SBC decided to structure things this way? How much influence and say have Southern Baptist Hispanic pastors and lay people been given in our leadership structures? Aren't they supposedly growing really fast? The blindspots of our leadership can not be disconnected from their cultural backgrounds which is almost entirely white and Southern. However, don't mistake me for blaming them for having blindspots. My complaint is that they have the resources and people to help them better address overcoming their blindspots and do not appear to be using them given the amount of time they've had to take advantage of the opportunity.

The SBC's reigning philosophy is still church growth. With a bunch of white Southern pastors attending mostly seminaries in the South it isn't surprising that our failures reflect the blindspots of a particular culture. This is the homogeneous unit principle at work.