Baltimore officially becomes Strategic Focus City
BALTIMORE, Md. (BP)--Though the signing and celebrating of the covenant still needs to take place, it’s official: Baltimore will become the North American Mission Board's newest Strategic Focus City.
Baltimore Baptist Association pastors officially have agreed to NAMB’s November 2005 invitation to form a partnership to focus national resources in local church evangelism and church planting efforts in the Baltimore area.
For the past three years, Baltimore area churches and associations, along with the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware (BCMD) and other partners, actively have been embracing Baltimore with the love of Christ through many cooperative efforts, locally known as Embrace Baltimore.
Accordingly, a real sense of brokenness for the people and neighborhoods of Baltimore began to overflow in the churches. An uneasiness for "business as usual" compelled Southern Baptist pastors from across the city to meet together to cry out to God, asking His Spirit to move across the city in compelling ways, ultimately leading to a continued partnership with NAMB and others, the pastors said.
John Yarbrough, vice president of NAMB, credited BCMD Executive Director David Lee Lee, BCMD staff, the associational leadership team and pastors and churches of Baltimore with being great mission partners.
“They have a passion to reach the lost and see a spiritual transformation occur in Baltimore, and have been on a journey of prayer and preparation that now escalates as they prepare for the launch [of Strategic Focus Cities]," Yarbrough said.
“Numbers of other state conventions, associations, hundreds of Southern Baptist churches and thousands of Southern Baptist volunteers will be mobilized to join our brothers and sisters in Baltimore to share Christ and start strong, vibrant churches to join the great existing churches to impact lostness in this urban center,” Yarbrough added.
The actual launch of the Strategic Focus City strategy in Baltimore is scheduled for 2008 or 2009.
The first two Strategic Focus cities, Chicago and Phoenix, implemented their strategic plans in 2000. They were followed by Las Vegas and Boston in 2001, Seattle and Philadelphia in 2002, Miami in 2003-2004 and New York City in 2003-2005. Cleveland, Ohio, the newest city, currently is being implemented as a Strategic Focus City.
Ritche Carney, NAMB’s Strategic Focus City coordinator, said he hopes Baltimore’s original Baptist heritage will come into national focus. He has worked closely with Baltimore Baptists.
Like Annie Armstrong who lived and ministered in Baltimore, “Baptists everywhere have the opportunity to invest in a city of great need,” he said in an interview with BaptistLIFE, the newspaper of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware.
“Baltimore, particularly the Inner Harbor, is growing economically and educationally off the charts. Even so, the poverty in the city is shocking; the crime is shocking; the vast number of unwed mothers and the number of high school dropouts are shocking,” Carney said.
Carney said his greatest hope for the Strategic Focus City emphasis is that Christians mobilize to build relationships within the region, helping Baltimoreans and others to build relationships with Christ. Ultimately, Carney said he'd like to see local churches all over Baltimore that are strong with self-sustaining ministries.
-- With reporting by Martin King.