The Southern Baptist Convention through both mission boards, through many if not all of the state conventions have a penchant for funding specialty mission endeavors. We will take Cooperative Program or other money from the churches and pay for salaries, travel expenses, and other associated costs so that we can have a presence at major events and locations.
Here’s a partial list: The Olympics, winter and summer, the World Cup, Super Bowl, beach resorts, ski resorts, the United Nations. There are many, many more.
I doubt that I am the only one who wonders about the efficacy of such things, and I doubt that I, alone, have had the thought that attending the 2014 World Cup in Brasil (Rio! Copacabana, Ipanema, Maracana stadium!) as an SBC/BP/IMB rep would be a good way to suffer for Jesus.
There are lost people in all of these places. There are Christian athletes in all of these sports. There is ministry, good ministry, to be done.
But, is this an effective way to use mission dollars?
The North American Mission Board, as a part of their refocus on church planting rather than a wide variety of other causes is redirecting their funds away from such ministries and into church planting.
Take the case of the Baptist Convention of New York.
I wrote earlier (see the Christian Index article) about how the BCNY has seven associational missionaries who are fully or partly funded by NAMB and that these people have been reassigned as church planting catalysts who have a goal of starting four churches per year in their associations. Their ministry will be evaluated on the basis of planting churches.
The same article reported that NAMB also has had a resort minister at Lake Placid, NY who related to Olympic hopefuls and was established as liason to the U. S. Olympic Committee. NAMB dropped this funding. The ministry will have to be picked up and funded locally.
NAMB has had a missionary, a chaplain, to the United Nations for years. No more NAMB funding for this. The chaplain will secure his own funding. As an aside, it seems to me that this is a location where building relationships with people, political leaders, from all over the world would be helpful to the International Mission Board. I am unaware if the IMB has people who already do this.
NAMB funds a campus minister at West Point. He will continue to receive funding, but not his counterparts at Princeton or NYU/Columbia. These will have to find alternative funding sources.
The handwriting is clearly on the wall here: Specialty ministry funding is out. Boutique, showcase missions are out. Church planting is in.
This is probably a change that needed to happen at NAMB.
With both mission boards and the state conventions having shrinking pools of funds, one might look for ministries like these to receive a closer look. Do we really want to put Cooperative Program, Lottie and Annie money into resort ministry? Is this the most effective way to spend those dollars? Would we rather have something permanent rather than temporary publicity for the folks back home?
Someone is asking these questions. Good.