I love New Mexico and I love New Mexico Baptists! The BCNM, made up of approximately 350 cooperating Southern Baptist churches (although levels of cooperation vary) in the Land of Enchantment, has been assisting churches in cooperative missions and ministry for almost 100 years. Whether at the beginning of last century or in the second decade of this century, New Mexico Baptists have a fertile mission field.
With a population of around 2 million, New Mexico — the fifth largest state geographically — boasts a diverse population. In addition to the Anglo and Hispanic (Mexican and Spanish) community, NM is also home to a large Native American population (Navajo and Apache) on two Reservations and 19 Pueblos. As part of our total mission field, the BCNM estimates that upwards of 90% of New Mexicans — regardless of their ethnicity — are lost without Christ! Let me repeat that — 90% of all New Mexicans do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, who, the Bible tells us, is the ONLY way to heaven and eternal life.
New Mexico Baptists have a passion for fulfilling the Great Commission and winning New Mexico and the world to Jesus Christ! But, we know that this passion must begin with our friends and neighbors in our own communities. And, when a true Great Commission resurgence happens — which is spiritual, not organizational — then our churches will be on fire to reach our Jerusalems. As revival spreads, we will witness an overflowing passion for the lost wherever they might be — whether in our own state, in a major metropolitan area of the United States, or the very ends of the earth. After all, lostness is lostness and our friends, family and neighbors in New Mexico are just as much in need of the Gospel than folks in New York City, Los Angeles, or Phoenix.
In New Mexico, the Great Commission is not an either/or proposition, but rather a both/and. In all four Gospels plus the Book of Acts, Jesus gives His “marching orders” to his disciples. That same commission is in effect for Christ’s churches today. While some Southern Baptists like to focus on the Great Commission found in Matthew 28, we would do well to remember Christ’s last words before He ascended into heaven:
“But, you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
With 90% lostness in NM, the Southern Baptist churches that comprise the Baptist Convention of New Mexico must continually re-prioritize in order to more effectively cooperate together as we fulfill the Great Commission at home and abroad. But, that re-prioritization will come from within, not from without. It will be determined as New Mexico Baptists prayerfully consider how God would want us to partner together to keep marching forward.
While others — including leaders at the new NAMB and other leaders within the SBC — would like to “help” churches to radically re-prioritize, the reality is that local churches and State Conventions remain autonomous. Even as the new NAMB rolls out the new strategic partnership agreements way ahead of schedule, these new “partnership” agreements are still supposed to be mutually beneficial.
If the new NAMB decides that certain jointly funded missionary positions are no longer worthy of NAMB funding because these positions are not related to church planting, that is their right within their own sphere of autonomy. The new NAMB has already informed the BCNM — one of those “western, underserved states” that was supposed to get more, not less, help from NAMB — that we will see funding cut by $221,443 (or 20%) beginning with the 2012 budget. If the new NAMB cuts all or most of the approxiamtely $1.1 million funding that the BCNM received under the old cooperative agreement (which, at this point, seems highly likely), then our new “strategic partnership” with the new NAMB will look quite different than it does today.
Of course, the way that the new NAMB has been completely gutted and rebuilt should tell us something about how the entire SBC may look in a few short years. While New Mexico Baptists may have questions about the future, we know who ultimately holds our future in His hands. Where we can continue to partner with the new NAMB, we will most likely do that. But, like all State Conventions, the BCNM will take the advice of the GCRTF, as included in their interim report (which seems to be what the new NAMB is operating under anyway):
“Our vision is that the North American Mission Board is to free at least 25% of the cooperative budgets annually in order to penetrate the lostness of North America more effectively. Each partner will be considered individually, rather than collectively. Therefore, at the end of these four years, the North American Board will be completely free from these present agreements. It is understood that state conventions will manage their budgets accordingly.” (GCRTF Progress Report, pages 21-22)
If the new NAMB wants to be free from the present cooperative agreements, then by all means, they should be free, although they should have at least honored the terms of the Final Report by phasing-out the existing agreements over a seven-year period. The new NAMB’s accelerated phase-out will certainly put pressure on the BCNM and other State Conventions to “manage their budgets accordingly.”
New Mexico Baptists truly appreciate the budgeting advice that the Task Force gave in its Progress Report. I can confidently say that the BCNM has begun to consider how we can manage OUR budget accordingly. And, because the GCRTF thought that the process of sending money to the old NAMB (through CP) and then NAMB turning around and returning a portion of that money back to the State Conventions was inefficient and outdated, New Mexico Baptists will develop our budget for 2012 that may end up eliminating one of the steps in that obviously arcane process.