Friday, May 18, 2012

NAMB trustees adopt church planting network guidelines

Our North American Mission Board has endured considerable criticism for supporting church plants that also have a relationship with some church planting network. We are regularly treated to considerable, breathless, blogging acrimony alleging all manner of things about NAMB and other church planting networks.

No matter that there have been few concrete examples offered of such things. But then facts usually don't slow down bloggers from displaying a good dose of denominational indignation. NAMB has consistently stated that they only plant churches that conform to the Baptist Faith and Message Statement. No one I know has pointed to a single church that does not so conform.

Understanding the scrutiny of such things, NAMB trustees adopted some guidelines for their church plants and other networks.

NAMB's document is below:

                                       NAMB / Network Guidelines

The North American Mission Board encourages church plants to partner with their association, state convention, NAMB and the IMB. NAMB also affirms that some churches engage with other networks for mission and evangelism purposes in accordance with article 14 “Cooperation” of the Baptist Faith and Message.

NAMB does not affirm or partner with individual networks, but partners with Baptist Faith and Message affirming churches and planters.

In order to be good stewards of Southern Baptist resources and remain focused on our mission, the following guidelines must be upheld in order for a church plant to receive benefits from the Send North America church planting strategy. Church planting is a family activity, and we want to partner with those whose plans and commitments include
a commitment to the SBC family.

As such, we require that churches we support:

1. AFFIRM their doctrine, polity and practices are compatible with the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.

2. PARTICIPATE as an SBC church, and have their denominational commitment reflected in their documents, web page, and shared with the congregation.

3. COMPLETE and remain faithful to all the Send North America strategy requirements and policies.

4. GIVE faithfully the agreed percentage through the Cooperative Program.

5. COMMIT to serve as a faithful SBC partner beyond receiving support in order to partner with the future strategy of Send North America in planting additional churches.
Everyone happy now?


Anonymous said...

Mr Thornton,
I am not as up-to-date as some are in regards to the most recent changes at NAMB, but let me share my thoughts which may or may-not be accurate in regards to why this explanation which was proffered is insufficient.
1) When I planted a church through NAMB some 10 years ago, there was a question on our application as to whether I consumed beverage alcohol...maybe this has since been removed as a qualifier. It was an issue then. To many people who give to the cooperative program, and hence NAMB, this would still be an issue. With the ACTS 29 group, the consumption of alcohol as a rule would be seen as a freedom in Christ that they have no issue with..... See this a contrast #1 and problematic at least to some extent.
2) Reproduction....Are dually aligned churches going to be more likely to reproduce ACTS 29 churches or SBC churches? No one should pretend that the average SBC church looks like the average ACTS 29 church. There are some substantial ecclesiological and soteriological differences. IF a church is mostly funded through SBC/NAMB but "grows up " to reproduce more ACTS 29, then I believe that people have a legitimate beef....Contrast #2,
3) "Show me the money"/financial support - Research those churches who show that they are dually aligned with SBC and ACTS 29 and see where their giving is, or more accurately, where their giving is not. This can be accomplished by cross-checking the ACTS 29 churches on their website, and then looking at the lifeway site, and seeing from the ACP who has given what, if anything, to the cooperative, ANnie, or Lottie. I did this about 3 years ago and the giving towards SB causes by dually aligned churches was very minimal. They have a right to do this, but does this mean that their missions money is going towards the ACTS 29 structure of churches? Can't say for sure b/c not privvy to each church's budget, but that would seem logical. Many SBs would have a problem with financially helping a church get started only to see that church, in a sense leave the fold as soon as they got on their feet. I have heard of this being done in this city where I live at a nearby church.
Not sure what the agreement is that is referenced here in regards to "give faithfully the agreed percentage". Is that a contract that runs as long as the church receives funds? Does this mean the church isn't really autonomous? More question than answers on this one, but suffice it to say that you will give where your heart is. Those who believe strongly in the ACTS 29 model should have the right to support it, but SBs should also know this before they pony up the money to get them started.
Just my two cents....Kevin

William Thornton said...

Thanks for the comment, Kevin, and you need not call me Mr. Thornton even though I am a certified sixtysomething curmudgeon.

Here's where I would go with all of your objections:

1. Show me the NAMB/ACTS29 plants. I know of one, maybe two. A29 is a network of only 400 churches in th US, many of which are Presbyterian or something else.

2. Show me the N/A29 plants that are not in conformance with the BFM. I know of none.

3. NAMB guidelines have requirements for CP support, SBC identification, and future commitment to be a faithful SBC partner (although this is not defined in the requirements).

If there are actual data to support your issues, I'd like to see it. Absent that, what I hear from you are presumptions along with objections to potential and theoretical problems.

I feel sure one could predict that there will be all manner of website cross checking on NAMB plants. They are fully aware of this.

When you find a plant that doesn't conform to the BFM, let me know. When you find numbers of plants that quickly jettison SBC stuff once they are established, let me know that also.

Thanks again for the comment.

Daniel said...

The way requirement #1 is worded could put a spotlight on an issue that has been overlooked for far too long: who can participate in the Lord's Supper? The BFM says that baptism "is prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord's Supper." If these churches' polity is really required to be in line with the BFM, then no unbaptized person will be allowed to partake. The vast majority of SBC churches practice open communion and thereby do not conform to this requirement. I'm curious to see how this issue will play out. I suspect that it might be conveniently ignored, but I hope it will move SBC churches to weigh their Lord's Supper practices against Scripture.

Tim Rogers said...


Where did you get these guidelines? I can't for the life of me find them on the NAMB website.

Anonymous said...

" I hope it will move SBC churches to weigh their Lord's Supper practices against Scripture."

I believe in open communion and I think it is biblical. it is the Lord's Supper and is to be done by the church - often. Who is the church? I guess maybe the line is drawn if we think local instead of universal. Who am I to tell a believer in Christ who is visiting my church that they are not church enough to partake in the Lord's Supper?

if I am missing something that indicates the Lord's Supper is for some and not all the church, please direct me.

Jon L. Estes

Daniel said...


Sounds I betrayed my bias toward close communion in my previous comment. Oops!

The point of what I wrote was not to argue one way or the other, but to highlight the fact that the BFM prohibits open communion. Since your church practices open communion, it is not in step with the BFM. That is not necessarily a problem, and it does not necessarily mean that you are not careful to obey the Bible.

My point is that it sounds like open communion would not be allowed in NAMB church plants.

I would like for every church to weigh their practices against Scripture, even if they come to different conclusions than I (and the BFM) do.

Anonymous said...


I know a lot of people interpret the BF&M as being closed communion. I don't. It states:

"The Lord's Supper is a symbolic act of obedience whereby members of the church, through partaking of the bread and the fruit of the vine, memorialize the death of the Redeemer and anticipate His second coming."

I do not interpret the words, "members of the church" to mean local only. I see it as the universal church. I admit I do not remember (as its been 12 years since we voted on it), if it was explained one way or the other by the group that constructed it.

Jon L. Estes

Daniel said...


I agree with you that the portion of the BFM you quoted does not prohibit open communion. The portion that does prohibit open communion is at the end of the paragraph prior to that one. It states that baptism is "prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord's Supper." This statement clearly prohibits anyone who has not been baptized from taking the Lord's Supper.

Also, you are arguing against closed communion, which I have not mentioned. I have only mentioned close communion. There is a difference between closed communion (with a 'd') and close communion (without the 'd'). Closed communion (with the 'd') is closed to everyone but members of a specific local church; close communion (without the 'd') is open to any baptized believers, but not to unbaptized believers. (By "baptized," I mean the Baptist definition of baptism.)

The BFM does not require closed communion, but it does at least require close communion. A church that will serve the Lord's Supper to an unbaptized person clearly does not believe that baptism is "prerequisite . . . to the Lord's Supper."

And just to be explicit, I don't think the BFM is on the same level as Scripture or that churches must conform to it. But if conformity to the BFM's polity is now required for NAMB church plants, then the issue of closed/close/open communion will need to be discussed.

Anonymous said...


I have not meant to be argumentative. I guess my problem with the whole thing is... should we require things for the Lord's Supper which are not a requirement for us to get to heaven? Why should it be easier to get to heaven than to join the organized church?

But, I do understand the BF&M thing for church planters concerning the dollars coming from the local churches across America, into NAMB. Yet(here's the rebel in me), if NAMB can make stringent guidelines with the money they disperse to church planters,we should be able to make our own guidelines, as a church, with the money we disperse.

Oh, I do support the CP, NAMB, IMB, SBC...

Jon L. Estes