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A sunset in the rearview mirror of car as a races down the road

I recall researching an article a few years back on the actions messengers took at certain conventions. Some years were marked by insightful and course-altering votes; others had no discernable effect. With the advantage of hindsight, we ask, What actions from the 2017 Southern Baptist Convention will have lasting impact on our denomination and the effectiveness of our work in the world?

The vote on alt-right racism will be remembered; and the appointment of a task force on evangelism has the potential to change our direction. But there was one motion that could produce even greater, meaningful change—if it makes it past the Executive Committee. And there’s a second that I want to suggest.

Modest proposal 1: Shall we merge the mission boards?

A couple of years ago, a messenger moved that a merger of the North American and International Mission Boards be studied. When his motion was ruled out of order for parliamentary reasons, the messenger pleaded that exploration of the issue not be delayed because of procedural rules. He cited the emerging financial crisis of the IMB and cuts in missionaries on the field that had just been announced as motivating factors. At the time, it was clear that NAMB had plenty of reserves, and a merger could fix the money crunch. But rules are rules, and the motion was dead.

Until this year.

A similar motion was made at the 2017 meeting in Phoenix. Here’s how Baptist Press reported it, in a list of motions that were referred to the Executive Committee:

“A motion by Harvey Brown of First Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C., requesting the president appoint a study committee to consider the feasibility of merging IMB and NAMB.”

There was no discussion this time around, or emotional pleading for the sake of missionaries on the field. And frankly, it seems some of steam has escaped on this topic.

IMB reported it is on firm financial footing. IMB President David Platt has weathered a couple of storms, and with the honeymoon over, he appears to be settling in for a long ministry focused on global missions. Platt still partners with NAMB, speaking at conferences about church planting in North America. But his heart beats for the peoples of the world.

And NAMB President Kevin Ezell has stopped making the offer, publically at least, for IMB to relocate from Richmond to Alpharetta. During Platt’s first year, Ezell said there was plenty of room at NAMB’s Georgia headquarters since his administrative staff had been radically downsized. Ezell still cheers for Platt’s presidency, but the pair aren’t making as many joint appearances. Maybe both have found their footing.

The question arises every decade or two: Is the distinction between “home” missions and “foreign” missions outdated (just as those terms are)? Should missions today be focused more on people groups and languages than geography—including in the United States? As the “nations” (translating ethnos as “nations” or “peoples”) have come to North America, should missionaries here share the gospel with them in the same ways they would back in their home countries?

And this: Should state conventions (again) lead church planting in their states, as the missions personnel most familiar with the nearby mission field and with the partner churches who can facilitate evangelistic church planting ministry?

Will one mission board focused on people groups, and state conventions focused on their own neighborhoods better achieve the evangelization of the world and the U.S.?

I can’t say for certain, but it’s a good time to explore the issue.

Modest proposal 2: Virtual messengers? In the next issue.

– Eric Reed is editor of the Illinois Baptist newspaper.

PRAYER | Frank Page

Editor’s note: This column is part of a Baptist Press series designed to follow the SBC Call to Prayer issued by Frank S. Page (photo below), president of the SBC Executive Committee, to pray for revival and spiritual awakening for our churches, our nation and our world during 2013.

Frank_PageState convention season is here!

I spoke at the Baptist Convention of New York’s annual meeting earlier this week to kick off a full season of state convention travel. My goal is to represent the Southern Baptist Convention to as many states as possible. The reason for this is simple: It is a time when I can touch the lives of a large number of pastors and church leaders.

Our cooperative ministries will only thrive when trust is strong among the churches, associations, state conventions and the SBC. I strive to encourage our state convention leaders in the common work for Christ in which we’re engaged. Trust is built when these relationships are strengthened.

Our state conventions serve as partners in many ways. First and foremost, they are involved in reaching people in their respective states with the Gospel. They also provide specialized ministries to a large number of our churches.

With more than two thirds of our churches facing slow-growth or no-growth challenges, many of our churches are hurting. In most instances, when a church needs help, it is the state convention to which it goes for training, encouragement and assistance across a wide range of needs.

State conventions also serve as partners as the conduits through which our Southern Baptist missions and ministries receive Cooperative Program funds to do the work God has entrusted to them. They have taken significant steps in forwarding a larger percentage of CP funds to these SBC ministries, for which we are grateful. Partnerships developed over the decades remain strong as we join together to do the work of God at every level.

It took me a little over a year in my current role to get to every state convention and visit with the executive directors of those conventions. I have found these men to be deeply called and passionate about winning people to Christ. Interestingly enough, most come from the states they serve and have a deep passion for their home base. They also have a clear vision for reaching the nations with the message of salvation through Jesus Christ, both here and abroad.

I have often said that if we lose the base, we have lost the battle. We need to work as partners in encouraging one another. While we have many, many churches in our state conventions, particularly in the South, we desperately need to understand the lostness that surrounds even those churches.

If there was ever a time when we need to be strengthening churches to reach the lost, it is now. Our state partners are true helpers in that needed ministry.

Join me in praying for the work of our state convention ministry partners.

— Pray for your state convention executive director.

— Pray for the church planting and other ministry specialists employed by your state convention.

— Pray for the ministry entities of your state convention.

— Pray for and participate in the missions initiatives of your state convention.

— Pray for the collegiate ministries in your state.

— Pray for me as I continue my assignment of building relationships and hopefully deepening trust as we encourage one another in the good work of our Lord.

I am thankful for our state convention partners and pray this fall will be a time of deepening resolve and commitment to the work of our Lord.

This column first appeared on