Question 1: How do you envision IMB, NAMB, and local churches working together to reach unreached people groups in the States (college students, refugees, etc)?

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Question 1: How do you envision IMB, NAMB, and local churches working together to reach unreached people groups in the States (college students, refugees, etc)?

Reply: Let me begin by expressing how excited I am about the direction both of the IMB and NAMB. The presidents of both are men for whom I have the greatest respect and admiration. Tom Elliff is a father in the ministry to me and a hero in the faith. Kevin Ezell was my pastor for 8 years and one of my closest friends. Both men ooze integrity and vision for reaching the nations with the gospel. They are passionate for implementing the GCR and are already taking major steps to see this happen.

With that said I believe you will see great synergy between the IMB, NAMB and local churches that have a passion to reach the unreached people groups that the Lord has brought to our nation. I believe you will see the IMB providing, not personnel, but training. They will let the personnel needs be met by NAMB and the local church. I think you can expect them to provide training through missionaries who are home on sabbatical who have particular expertise with specific people groups. I also think you can look for NAMB to provide encouragement, training and even funding as we seek to reach out and share the gospel with those who have yet to hear the name of Jesus in us.

I believe college campuses in particular are one of the greatest mission fields available to us today. We still have free access to walk on these campuses and share the good news of King Jesus. That we don’t do it more passionately and pro-actively than we do is to our shame. However, I sense a growing passion for this very thing. I know that there are a number of students at Southeastern, who at their own initiative, regularly go to the campuses seeking out internationals to build relationships for the purpose of sharing the gospel. I believe we must become intentional in doing this, and we have a golden opportunity right now.

Why We Believe the GCRTF Report is Good for the Future of the SBC (5): Reaching North America (IMB & NAMB Collaboration)

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By: Danny Akin & Nathan Akin

Imagine this scenario. An IMB family is stateside for an extended period due to some family matters. In the city where they live they find a community of people from the very people group the IMB has trained them to reach. So they continue to do the work of the Great Commission (seeking to disciple) among this group. They eat meals with them, live life alongside of them, meet their family and friends, and share the gospel with them. And because of the efforts of this IMB family, a new work begins among this particular people group where previously there was none. Why is this an easily-imagined scenario? Because the IMB family knows the language, the customs, the religious backgrounds of this people group; therefore, they are more equipped than others to engage and disciple these peoples. In fact, the IMB is well-prepared to equip church planters and evangelists for cross-linguistic and cross-cultural ministries, and its workers are well-equipped to do cross-cultural and cross-linguistic ministry.

The cry of the Great Commission Resurgence has been that “the ends of the earth” are void of gospel-witness and Christ is not glorified among the nations, as He ought to be. And so the need for a GCR among Southern Baptists, who claim to be a missions people, is evident. And yet we live in interesting times. The potential for reaching the world’s unreached peoples has never been more within our grasp than it is now. One of the exciting things taking place that demonstrates this change is that God in His grace and providence is bringing “the ends of the earth” into many of our own neighborhoods. It is estimated that over 500 of the Unreached People Groups have significant populations on U.S. soil. Tragically, most of our congregations remain mostly southern, mostly white, and mostly middle class. So not only are we not reaching the “ends of the earth” geographically, we are not reaching the peoples from the ends of the earth that have moved into our neighborhoods. Sunday morning is still the most segregated hour in America. Although our cities increasingly house countless people from every “tribe, tongue, people, and nation,” our Southern Baptist churches remain, for the most part, culturally monolithic. The GCRTF has proposed a bold initiative that might help us address this problem.

Component five of the Task Force’s Report asks “That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting June 15-16, 2010, request that the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention and the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention consider a revised ministry assignment for the International Mission Board that would remove any geographical limitation on its mission to reach unreached and underserved people groups wherever they are found.”

This recommendation shows much forward thinking. IMB personnel are better equipped and trained for this type of work. The IMB does international missions well. The IMB’s primary focus is reaching people of differing tongues and cultures. In many ways, this takes some very intentional and specific training, which the IMB already provides. In short, the IMB is better poised to equip others for this work. This is not to say that NAMB and State conventions cannot help in this work, but NAMB and State conventions are not as prepared to reach groups that are radically different culturally, especially groups that speak another language. Given the recognition of the changes in many of our U.S. cities, with such an influx of Unreached People Groups, this component should make us more effective in targeting and reaching these UPG’s.

Another added consequence of this component might be stronger international missions as well. As we engage, and hopefully disciple these target people groups, it should enhance our work among their peoples globally. This is potentially a major benefit for the IMB, especially in countries that are difficult to get into or in countries where there is great suspicion of westerners. As we empower their own people to reach them, it is more likely that a church planting movement in that country will take place.

Some fear that this component will create unnecessary overlap and duplication, which is one of the things the Task Force was tasked to amend. This is a legitimate concern. However, we do not believe this Component is about duplication at all. Instead, it is about cooperation and utilizing the special training and attention IMB personnel have to reach people groups they are more specifically trained to reach. The other entities that might overlap with the work of the IMB among these peoples are not necessarily trained or training people for this work. That does not mean that they do not have strategies and ideas for this work, but that the IMB is better equipped to reach those of radically different culture (i.e. language).

IMB and NAMB have the opportunity for a creative collaboration. This excites us. The IMB specially trains people culturally and linguistically to engage particular people groups and in so doing helps state conventions in their desire to reach these people groups as well. In addition, hopefully, this work will go hand in hand with local churches. This could strengthen relationships between the IMB and local churches, which is always a good thing. So there is much potential in this component as we imagine the possibilities it brings.

The scenario mentioned at the beginning is not imaginary. This is happening already in places without any specific mandate from the IMB. Imagine what would happen if we released IMB personnel trained in the language, culture, and religions of these people groups, in tandem with our local churches and church plants in Urban centers. We might cease to be so mostly white, mostly southern, mostly middle-class. Our congregations and our convention might begin to better reflect the scenario in Revelation 5 in which believers from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation gather together to worship the risen Lord. Our convention might find itself being a witness to the fact that the gospel transcends socio-economic, national, cultural, and linguistic barriers. Imagine!

Aspect 3(a): A Mission Focused on the Nations (An Awkward Tension)

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(By: Danny Akin & Bruce Ashford)

The SBC has always had international missions at the center of its concern. This is no secret. The Triennial Convention met for the express purpose of organizing international missions activities in general and the work of Luther Rice and the Judsons in particular.[1] The SBC, after having been established in 1845, soon formed the Foreign Mission board, through which churches have supported thousands of missionaries. Today, the number of SBC missionaries hovers at more than approximately 5,600 while the budget of the International Mission Board is approximately $300 million.[2] Because of a serious shortfall in funding, the IMB plans to reduce the number of personnel to 5,000 by 2010. If we are not careful, our “focus on” the nations might become a “passing glance toward” them. The goal of the GCR is to reverse this trend and to do so as quickly as possible.

An Awkward Tension

Reflection upon the biblical narrative makes it clear that our efforts fall short. Revelation 5 serves to illustrate the point. This chapter portrays perhaps the most breathtaking and glorious vision in all of Scripture. In it, God gives a vision to John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, who was being held captive in his old age on the island of Patmos. In the midst of the vision, John sees the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders prostrate before the Lord, singing a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth” (5:9-10). And again, together with all of heaven, they were singing with a loud voice: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing” (5:12).

In this passage, which reveals to us the consummation of God’s redemptive purposes, we note two truths in particular. First, we note that there is something so profoundly true, and so deeply good, and so strikingly beautiful about our God that he finds for himself worshipers among every type of person on the face of the earth. He brings his salvation not just to every continent, and not merely to every nation-state, but also to every “tribe and tongue and people and nation”- to every people across the span of history and to the farthest reaches of the globe. In doing so, he makes clear that he is superior to all other “gods” and that he is intent upon winning the nations to himself. This is no footnote to redemptive history. It stands front and center. God killed his Son in order to redeem the nations. In the words of our Lord, “This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Mt 24:14).

Second, we learn that this salvation comes through Christ alone. John tells us that the creatures and elders sing to the Lamb: “You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by your blood.” Salvation is wrought by the shed blood of the Lamb of God. For this reason, Luke describes him as the chief cornerstone of the church and writes: “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). In this vein, Paul writes “through [Jesus Christ] we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name” (Rom 1:5) And it is for this reason that we sing: “There is a fountain filled with blood, drawn from Emanuel’s veins, and sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.”

But we must not allow these two points to stand alone. We must place beside them two glaring realities. The first reality is that there are several billion people who have little or no access to the gospel. They could search for days and months and years and never find a Bible or a Christian or a church. The second reality is that there has been perhaps no network of churches at any time in history which is as well placed as ours to take the gospel to the nations. There are those who have never heard the gospel, to whom we could easily take the gospel, and yet we do not. The question we all must ask is, “Why?”

Here is the bottom line: If we believe that salvation comes through Christ alone, and if we know that two billion people have little or no access to the gospel, then we are faced with a dilemma. Either we build Great Commission churches and accomplish the task that God has given us, or we force the Lord to plow around us to accomplish his will. Indeed, the Lord will accomplish his will. The question before us is, “Will we be found in his will or watching from the sidelines in disobedience?” We are hopeful it will be the former.

[1] Dockery, Southern Baptist Consensus and Renewal, 38.

[2] In 1997, the SBC’s study, “Covenant for a New Century,” recommended that the Foreign Mission Board (FMB) change its name to the International Mission Board (IMB).