NASHVILLE (BP) – Messengers to the upcoming SBC Annual Meeting in Nashville will vote on proposed changes to the mission and ministry statements of Lifeway that, in turn, will affect the North American Mission Board.
At the February SBC Executive Committee meeting, the Committee on Convention Missions and Ministry brought forward a motion to amend the missions and ministry assignment of Lifeway Christian Resources. Within those revisions, which were approved by Lifeway trustees in January, the entity would move away from collegiate ministry responsibilities to focus more on Vacation Bible School and camps as well as Bible and book publishing.
EC members responded by voting to forward the recommended changes for approval by messengers to the annual meeting at the Music City Center in downtown Nashville June 15-16.
Earlier this month, NAMB trustees voted unanimously on a resolution formally requesting ownership of the collegiate ministry assignment as Southern Baptists’ domestic missions agency. Those involved say the development would not have been possible without significant collaboration among SBC Executive Committee staff, NAMB leadership and leadership from the Baptist Collegiate State Directors. The changes were approved by the Executive Committee May 11 and now await final approval by messengers at the annual meeting.
Commenting on this potential transition in ministry assignments, Missouri Baptist Convention Executive Director John Yeats told The Pathway, “Missouri Baptists have a keen sense of priority and support for campus ministries at the undergraduate institutions in our state. The work of campus ministries has always been a state convention ministry with ministry strategies driven by local and associational support. So, this change won’t really impact the work by our missionaries and their campus teams very much.
“In the context of the repositioning work taking place at LifeWay, the change of national leadership from LifeWay back to the North American Mission Board is necessary,” Yeats added. “We don’t have clarity from NAMB as to the kind of support and resourcing NAMB plans to propose to the state conventions, but we welcome their collaboration.
“Honestly, to reach this demographic, it takes the priority of the state convention, associations, local committees (boards) working through a missionary or missionary team at the institution to communicate the gospel and disciple gospel leaders to make disciples.”
Gene Austin, the MBC’s state director of collegiate ministry, told The Pathway, “The MBC currently has 24 Campus Missionaries ministering on 27 state institutions. We are cooperating with HLGU and MBU to have a campus worker and discussions with SBU for this same partnership are ongoing. We also have two campus missionary apprentices in our farm system with plans to begin ministry on two new campuses in the fall of 2022.
“We need every one of these missionaries,” Austin added. “There are over 350,000 college students in Missouri and 60% of our campuses have no MBC presence. The Collegiate Ministries Group at the MBC is working to establish a gospel presence through traditional campus ministry, local MBC churches and associations. Together, we can see the most strategic group in our state hear the gospel and become disciple makers themselves. We welcome the NAMB to the team as we work to expand the Kingdom on the college campuses in Missouri.”
The proposed addition to NAMB’s ministry assignments approved by NAMB trustees reads: “Assisting churches in reaching and mobilizing college and university students in the United States and Canada. Promote the advancement of college and university ministry efforts in evangelism, discipleship, churchmanship, leadership development, and missions mobilization through collaborative partnerships.”
Shane Pruitt, NAMB’s director of Next Gen evangelism, said today’s college campus essentially serves as a preview of America’s tomorrow.
“It is literally where our future is being formed to be sent out as influencers,” he said. “Therefore, if we want to see a spiritual awakening that will impact the culture for many years to come, we must focus on having a Gospel influence on the college campuses immediately.”
Pruitt further indicated that, pending messengers’ approval, NAMB’s role on college campuses can help spur a pipeline of future missionaries.