Hammond: A crucial time in N. America

INDIANAPOLIS (BP)--"There is no more crucial time than now for Southern Baptists to join hands to fulfill the Great Commission," North American Mission Board President Geoff Hammond told Southern Baptist Convention messengers June 10 at the Indiana Convention Center.

Calling North America "a mission field that is becoming increasingly lost," Hammond closed out his first year as NAMB's president with a presentation that introduced Southern Baptists' new National Evangelism Initiative.

Launched under the banner of "GPS -- God's Plan for Sharing," the National Evangelism Initiative was designed in cooperation with state convention partners with a goal of mobilizing all Southern Baptists to share their faith with the lost people God has placed around them.

"Just like a car's GPS, God positions us every day with opportunities for sharing our faith," Hammond said. "Just like a GPS device gets people to their destinations, NAMB's GPS will help Southern Baptists reach their destination, which is every believer sharing, every person hearing by 2020.

"Just imagine if every believer in North America started sharing the Gospel -– and every person heard that Gospel by the year 2020," Hammond said. (For more information on the National Evangelism Initiative, see related story.)

In 2007, the mission board supported the work of more than 150,000 missionaries and mission volunteers, while Southern Baptists gave a record $59.3 million to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North America missions, Hammond reported.

Calling NAMB "the premier 21st-century mission agency for reaching North America for Christ," Hammond said the board is focused on "pushing back the darkness in the United States, Canada and their territories."

"I thank the Lord for the privilege to lead your North American Mission Board and am amazed how quickly one year can go by," he said. "In this first year, I've been pleasantly reminded that Southern Baptists love their mission boards and their missionaries."

NAMB has the challenge of assisting 16 million-plus Southern Baptists in more than 44,000 churches in their task of fulfilling the Great Commission via the a strategy of "sharing Christ, starting churches and sending missionaries," Hammond said.

"North America is truly a mission field and the nations have become our neighbors," but three factors are making NAMB's challenge more difficult, Hammond said. "We are faced with the challenge of a rapidly increasing population. With over 300 million people now in the United States, the projection is that the population will be 400 million by 2045." Canada is adding more than 250,000 immigrants each year, he added.

The continent also is growing increasingly diverse, Hammond said, noting that North America will be home to more than 100 million Hispanics over the next few decades. The population also is becoming increasingly secular and pluralistic, he said.

To reach the North American mission field for Christ and impact the culture, Hammond said the mission board will emphasize:

-- a people-group focus, whereby NAMB will gain a better understanding of who lives in the mission field.

-- an urban-center focus, since 80 percent of the U.S. population and 83 percent of the Canadian population live in urban centers.

-- "sowing down North America with the Gospel," which includes providing the Scripture in different languages. "Millions of people are entering North America who have never seen a Bible in their own language," Hammond said.

-- the addition of more missionaries and mission volunteers in the field. While the board supported more than 150,000 missionaries and mission volunteers during 2007, the Southern Baptist Convention's laity remain "an untapped resource," Hammond said.

While Southern Baptists gave a record $59.3 million for the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering in 2007, the 2008 goal will be raised to $61 million to support field missionaries, Hammond announced.

He noted that the hope Southern Baptists provide through their ministries was on display just prior to the SBC annual meeting when disaster relief volunteers responded to flooding in Indiana that displaced several thousand families from their homes. He showed a video clip of Southern Baptist volunteers operating feeding units just a short drive from the convention center.

Hammond then introduced three NAMB missionaries: Lamar Duke, a missionary serving in Pittsburgh's inner city; Don Waylan, a Mission Service Corps missionary in the oil and gas fields of Wyoming; and Dick May, a church planter and MSC missionary in urban Boston.

Hammond ended the presentation by challenging messengers and their churches to commitment themselves to reaching people for Christ and leading others to do so as well. Each attendee received a "3:16" card with space to fill in the names of three people in need of Christ they would promise to pray for.

"Now it's our turn," Hammond said. "Joining hands as a part of God's family all over North America, praying, engaging, sowing and God will give the harvest."

Mickey Noah is a staff writer for the North American Mission Board.

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