ATLANTA, Ga. – The man who pushed GPS (God’s Plan for Sharing) in Missouri has been recognized for his efforts by North American Mission Board (NAMB) July 25 with the first GPS Award.
Gary Taylor, director of evangelism for the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC), spearheaded the get-out-and-knock-on-doors evangelism effort. Although the glass vase has his name etched in it, he gives credit to each church in the state that participated, as well as the 50 associational directors of missions that helped – and are helping – to keep things moving.
“Over 600 churches participated in GPS,” Taylor said. “This belongs to them. Missouri had one of the largest Scripture distributions of any the 42 states that participated.”
GPS is a ten-year program. Last year – the first year, the MBC purchased 800,000 door-hangars and Gospel tracts to be distributed by churches across the state. Those 600 churches who particpated were encouraged to prayer walk their communities in the days leading up to Easter, while coordinated TV commercials and billboards reinforced the GPS message. Roughly one-third of Missouri homes were reached and Taylor hopes those gaps will be filled; next year’s theme is “No Home Left Behind.”
“The impact is still going on,” Taylor said. “I got an e-mail last week from a church that had such a good experience with GPS leading up to Easter they decided to do the same thing leading up to Vacation Bible School (VBS). They had their largest VBS and saw eight children saved.
David Tolliver, executive director for the MBC, agreed that church involvement was the key to GPS’s success this spring and its success in future years.
“It doesn’t matter what we try to do,” Tolliver said “what made GPS work was churches coming together and getting involved.”
The GPS award was presented at a NAMB meeting of almost 500 state leaders in Atlanta. As the search for a new NAMB president goes on, and many questions linger about how NAMB will implement the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force recommendations, Interim President Richard Harris said Southern Baptists “need to be full of faith, not full of fear” in the weeks and months to come.
“God has given Southern Baptists a prominent role in North America to reach people with the Gospel, but we cannot continue down the same road we’re going,” Harris said. “We are losing North America for Christ, and I don’t think that’s what the Father wants.”
The audience listened intently as Harris explained that based on current budget commitments to state conventions, current Cooperative Program (CP) giving trends will leave NAMB with nothing for other ministry initiatives by 2020. “We’ve clearly got to do some things differently,” he said.
According to Harris, the GCR recommendations focus NAMB’s priorities to three: evangelism/discipleship, church planting and mobilizing a missional movement. Fully half of NAMB’s future ministry efforts and resources will go toward planting healthy, multiplying churches in the United States and Canada, he said.
“Metropolitan areas, where 63 percent of the population now lives, will be a top priority. We want to reach – with IMB’s help – the 587 under-reached and under-served people groups. We want to make sure our evangelism strategy fits both the setting and the culture.
“To do all this, we must re-prioritize our funding,” Harris said. “The GCR recommendations call for phasing out our cooperative agreements with the states over seven years but since 2011 budgets are already in place, we will probably not start that process until 2012. We will also re-look at what our metrics of success should be.”
In response to a question whether the NAMB building would be sold and staff re-deployed out in the field, Harris and NAMB’s trustee chairman, Tim Dowdy, agreed that “all options are on the table.”
“The 258 million lost people in North America is our target, our bull’s eye,” said Dowdy, pastor of Eagle’s Landing First Baptist Church in McDonough, Ga. “We are determined to roll up our sleeves and change whatever needs to be changed to reach those 258 million lost people.
“As chairman of the NAMB trustees, I’m determined that at this point in Southern Baptist life, it’s not a time to just change the labels on doors and do what we’ve always done. We’re not going to say, ‘well, Orlando has passed, we’re going to rearrange some titles and organization charts and continue business as usual.’ That’s not the plan.”
Dowdy said the plan is, however, to take seriously what the GCR task force recommended and “put hands and feet to it.”
“We don’t know how it’s going to look yet. It’s going to look differently than it does today, I can tell you that. Because what we’ve got today is not doing the job. We can’t say how every facet and every feature of NAMB will look in the future. But things will change – things have to change.”
Dowdy said no time is being wasted, that trustee officers and NAMB’s senior leadership have already met since the GCR recommendations passed and will meet in two weeks to begin mapping out coming changes, prior to the next scheduled board of trustees meeting slated for Los Angeles in early October.
At the same time, the NAMB president search committee – chaired by Ted Traylor, former NAMB trustee and pastor of Olive Baptist Church, Pensacola, Fla. – continues to consider candidates.
Regardless of the changes to come, one major NAMB initiative Harris and other NAMB leaders agreed would continue to be a top priority is the agency’s ongoing GPS campaign, set to run until 2020.
In this year’s kick-off GPS campaign, between March 1 and Apr. 30, 10,500 SBC churches participated by distributing some 15 million “Find It Here” printed pieces in communities across the nation, impacting nearly 45 million people.
Pipes asked the state leaders to agree that in 2012, “we will reach 80 percent or 40,000 of our SBC churches. And we want to see 1 million people accept Christ and be baptized in 2012. Can we all agree on that?”