For those who like ecclesiastical drama you cannot beat our North American Mission Board. They have provided Southern Baptists with at least two major train wrecks in the last six years. But, alas, train wrecks are expensive and I’d forego them in favor of an organization that is effective in reaching North America for Christ. Thankfully, NAMB seems to be back on track absent the kind of dysfunctional behavior to which we had grown accustomed.
The new NAMB has declared an intention to spend half of their budget on church planting and to get there they have cut HQ personnel, travel expenses, and are redirecting the part of their budget that recycled funds back to state conventions.
Who would complain about that?
Well, some state conventions executives would, which is why state convention executives have appointed a special committee of state CEOs to “evaluate relations” between NAMB and state conventions.
Fair enough, autonomous Baptist bodies exercising their cherished autonomy.
How about we consider the Arkansas Baptist State Convention as an example. There are about 1500 churches and half a million members in the convention. Churches there took in a bit under $350 million in 2010.
NAMB kicks back about $425,000 to the ABSC for various causes. The ABSC leader, Emil Turner, says that figure is so small that its impact is “minimal.” Apparently, it’s not too minimal for him to complain about the cost and about the loss of it.
You can read Turner’s recent comments on NAMB here .
If there are that many churches with that much money Arkansas, one wonders exactly why NAMB is funneling back ANY dollars to that state, or to Georgia, Alabama or other strong SBC state conventions?
Evidently it is done because the states are accustomed to some NAMB gravy being ladled out from Alpharetta and don’t like the idea of it being reduced or eliminated.
In Baptist life sticks and stones may break bones but what really gets folks riled up is to cut their funding, minimal though it may be.
A little quiz here brethren/sistren. Which of the following are complaints about NAMB?
a) NAMB funds only about one-third of the cost of missionaries in Arkansas.
b) NAMB plans to cut funds for the health insurance of those missionaries for which which NAMB pays less than half the cost.
c) Arkansas receives less NAMB funding than almost every other state convention.
d) NAMB is going to make changes that will hurt the ASBC in the future.
e) NAMB is severely hurting their [state convention] partners.
f) NAMB's financial impact on Arkansas is "minimal."
g) NAMB's funding is "Incredibly complicated."
h) To get NAMB's minimal funding, the ASBC has to spend twice the dollars.
i) NAMB is missing a "serious evangelism stragegy."
j) NAMB "strategy for planting churches does not guarantee that churches that are planted will be marked by Baptist distinctives."
Well, how about ALL of the above? And one notes that all of them save for the last two concern money, which means that at least in Arkansas all of the complaints about NAMB can be solved if the state convention takes charge of funding missionaries in their own strong, heavily churched state.
And, really, if it is minimal, if NAMB funds don't even figure into their budget, and if it is incredibly complicated, and costs Arkansas so much of their own money why wouldn't they fund their own stuff and stop all this complaining?
Why not pick up the phone, call Kevin Ezell, and say "Kevin, we love you man but why don't you keep your $425k and put it in Maine or Montana. Where there aren't so many SBC churches?
Why not indeed.
Arkansas has 1500 churches in a state with less than 3 million people. The Baptist Convention of New England has about one-sixth the numbers of churches serving five times the population. Maybe those states would be a more sensible destination for the lousy $425,000 that is so minimal in Arkansas.
I have no quarrel with Arkansas or its leaders. My state, Georgia, gets the same type of funding from NAMB. I would note that in Arkansas Cooperative Program giving from churches is increasing. In Georgia, they are dropping like a rock. So, who do you think would be the more likely state convention executive to complain about NAMB?
NAMB still falls short of the glory of God. They still have some things going on that should be scrutinized but on this kickback funding to the states, I think they are on the right track.