New Mexico Baptists, the new NAMB & the Future

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.

14 comments for “New Mexico Baptists, the new NAMB & the Future

  1. April 20, 2011 at 6:30 AM

    Just a quick question? In the last ten years New Mexico has received NAMB support how many churches have been planted and are now contributing to the mission of New Mexico? You site 350 churches. How many have been added? What has the increase looked like?

    • April 20, 2011 at 7:37 AM

      Aaron,

      Thanks for the question. I have only been in NM for a little under four years, so I do not have the number of church plants off the top of my head. I will see if I can track that down and let you know. As you aske specifically about church plants, are you asking that question because you think that for NAMB funds (past and future) to be effective, they should only be given for planting new churches or was there some other reason that you wanted to know that information? Thanks for stopping by. God bless,

      Howell

  2. Luke
    April 20, 2011 at 7:17 AM

    Howell,

    Just to avoid confusion, I wanted to make sure I understand correctly. The current cooperative agreement with the BCNM (which I guess is expiring rather soon) returned $1.1 million dollars to the BCNM from the CP money that you all sent to the national convention, correct?

    I guess what I am wondering is according to the , the BCNM had $4,123,967.00 in CP contributions. From this, the BCNM kept 69.49% ($2,865,744) while forwarding 30.51% ($1,258,222) to the national convention. From that $1.2 million that was forwarded, $1.1 million came back through NAMB cooperative agreements, correct? So according to my stats, under the “old” cooperative agreements only $158,222 stayed at the national level – or, to put it in percentages, 3.8% of BCNM’s CP gifts.

    So, if they ask you all to give up $221,443 under the “new” partnership agreements, that still only amounts to a cut of approximately 5.6% of CP gifts that stay in the state or that come back through NAMB funding. It would bring you all to the point where 8.7% of CP gifts actually leave the state and are not kept by the BCNM or through the “new” partnership agreements with NAMB.

    I agree that there is much work to be done in New Mexico – a ton of work and I do think that you should receive funding. I am just not sure about your threats to reallocate funding when you already receive a lion’s share of the CP funding being reinvested into your state. This is just my humble (and hopefully respectful) opinion…

    – Luke

    • April 20, 2011 at 8:14 AM

      Luke,

      I will have to look at specific CP numbers in any potential reallocation or readjustment and get back with you on those. I would quibble with you on one point. Why is it a threat if NM (or any other State Convention) does exactly what the GCRTF told us to do, namely to “manage our budgets accordingly” in light of what is happening at the new NAMB? If the autonomous churches of the autonomous State Conventions approve a budget that takes into account the State’s priorities (which may or may not be the same as the new NAMB’s), then how is that a threat? If NM or any other State Convention believes that vital ministries need to continue and have to manage or readjust their budgets to deal with the present and future realities, I would not say that is a threat. At least not in a Convention of autonomous churches, State Conventions, and national entities. And, any potential reallocation or adjustments are most likely only to affect what the new NAMB receives, not necessarily affecting what the IMB or the Seminaries receive. Of course, anything that the BCNM does will have to be approved by the churches at our annual meeting in October. Thanks for the questions. Hope that helps. Have a great day and God bless,

      Howell

  3. Luke
    April 20, 2011 at 7:43 AM

    Howell,

    I apologize for the 2 comments. For some reason the website didn’t show the first one was awaiting moderation until 30min after I submitted it. Feel free to delete the second one.

    – Luke

  4. April 20, 2011 at 7:51 AM

    What I am asking is what have been the results of prior investments. NAMB has been empowered to plant churches through the states. Their focus and funding is on church planting. Does New Mexico have a strategy and a legacy of planting effective churches? Before lamenting about losing funding one has to ask what have we done with what we have already received.

    • April 20, 2011 at 8:03 AM

      Aaron,

      Before the end of the day, I will try to get you the numbers about church plants. However, from your statement, you seem to be saying that results from prior NAMB investments are measured in numbers of new churches planted. If I am misreading you, please let me know. If I am not misreading you, then I would respectfully disagree as to return on investments being limited to church plants. We have a number of ministries (children’s, student, collegiate, etc.) that have effective ministries that have seen hundreds, if not thousands, make professions of faith in Christ in the last ten years. These ministries have received NAMB funding for things that would not be considered church planting, but yet were used in an effetive way to fulfill the Great Commission — which is both evangelism and discipleship. That’s just my initial thought, but I will try to answer your question more fully in my next reply. Thanks and have a great day,

      Howell

    • April 20, 2011 at 6:37 PM

      Aaron,

      I wanted to get back with you on church planting numbers in NM. According to official sources with the BCNM, we have helped plant 106 churches in the last ten years. Typically, the funding model that has been used is 75/25, with 75% coming from NAMB and 25% coming from the BCNM. However, almost 100% of “start-up” costs are funded by the BCNM. I don’t know what those numbers might be, but they would not be insignificant. That might push us closer to a 50/50 split, but I cannot say that for certain. We have had (and currently do have) strong state Directors of Missions who emphasis and encourage church planting, although probably not to the extent of the new NAMB. I would point out that the GCRTF’s Final Report called for “at least 50%” of NAMB funds for church planting. That language might be stretched to 60%, but much past that, the clear language of the report loses its meaning. I’m quite certain that this particular recommendation would have received far more scrutiny and debate had the actual language read that NAMB would focus and fund on “90%” or “almost exclusively” on church planting. No one, including me, is against church planting. But, the new NAMB’s appraoch is not balanced, IMO. Thanks again for the questions. Hope that helps. God bless,

      Howell

  5. April 20, 2011 at 2:46 PM

    How has the BCNM been using the $1.1 million received under the ‘old’ Cooperative Agreement?

    No one wants a budget cut so I understand the objections, but there are more than two and a half times as many people just in the Atlanta metro area as are in the entire state of NM…more churches too, of course. And, the GBC claims about as high a percentage of lostness there as you do for NM.

    So, BCNM employees got a raise this year? Didn’t get one last year? Sounds like finances are pretty stable there compared to my state, church, and SBC entities, most of whom haven’t received a raise in many years and where downsizing has been an annual affair.

    I understand that state conventions may make their choices even as NAMB makes theirs and don’t fault them for that. But if I were in NM and saw that today only 30 cents on my CP dollar got out of my state, and understood that the BCNM was going to reduce that to 15 or 20 cents on the dollar to compensate for NAMB kickback cuts, I would conclude that the CP was more of a state convention offering. If I believed that the work of NAMB, IMB, and the seminaries was important I would be forced to look at another more efficient method to support them.

    • April 20, 2011 at 6:30 PM

      William,

      I don’t have a breakdown of how every penny has been spent that we have received from NAMB, but it would be distributed to the various jointly funded missionaries that we have in the state for their ministry and work. These would include not only church planting, but children’s, student, collegiate, language work, Native American work, church health and growth, evangelism, local associations, etc. I would not say that the BCNM is “stable.” We have had to reduce our overall budget in 2011 from 2010. There were reductions in every major category, including salaries. While our staff work extremely hard, I doubt that raises were included, but I am not on the Budget and Finance Committee for the Executive Board.

      As to the allocations, there is (and will continue to be) strong support for IMB, the seminaries, and other ministries in the SBC apart from the new NAMB. If we readjust our budget for 2012 in light of the $221,443 initial cut from NAMB, it would be because we have determined what our priorities and vision are to reach the 90% lost within NM. Those priorities may or may not reflect the new NAMB leadership’s thinking (and most likely do not). If you look at what we send back to national SBC causes through CP, Lottie, and Annie, we currently send 51% back (and that’s not including what we get back from NAMB). All things being equal (which they are not), we will probably see no reduction in our overall support for our International missionaries and the seminaries. Where the adjustment will come is the share of the CP pie that goes to the new NAMB. Hope that helps. Thanks and God bless,

      Howell

  6. April 21, 2011 at 1:21 PM

    Howell, I’m all for comparing statistics but when anyone throws in LM and AA into any discussion of how much Cooperative Program money is kept by a state convention, I understand that the goal is to make the figure look better. The BCNM already keeps 70 cents on every CP dollar. If they adjust and keep more because NAMB cuts the kickback money, that percentage will rise.

    I like my state convention too but I am not given to trying to make their percentages look better. The GBC keeps a little over 60 cents on the dollar.

    State conventions have nothing to do with the amount my church chooses to give to Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong, although I am glad they support my doing so.

    • April 21, 2011 at 4:07 PM

      William,

      I don’t necessarily disagree with what you are saying, but I think that when you look at overall numbers, what I shared is the percentages that are forwarded to national SBC causes. Again, each state convention — which is made up of the churches within that state — must determine their own level of cooperation with the national SBC. I do not know how all this will shake out in the BCNM, but if the new NAMB drastically changes the strategic partnership agreements, the BCNM will have to determine how we will manage the overall budget that we have to work with. New Mexico is one of those interesting states (in more ways than one) in that we are not really old-line, but we are not a new work area either. That may put us in a position both good and bad. In the bad sense, NAMB is cutting our funding. Many new work states would have to agree to whatever NAMB offered by way of a new strategic partnership agreement. They would not be able to manage their budgets to make adjustments. New Mexico does have the churches and the resources to be able to continue with ministries that we believe are still important, but that NAMB may no longer fund because of the church planting emphasis. Still don’t know how it will turn out. The next few months will tell. Thanks and God bless,

      Howell

  7. Stuart
    April 21, 2011 at 2:50 PM

    Howell,

    Do you know if any of the jointly funded missionaries are state convention staffers? (Whether executive, department head, strategists, etc.) And if so, how many, which positions, and how much of the $1.1mm goes toward their support?

    • April 21, 2011 at 4:00 PM

      Stuart,

      Yes, we have several jointly funded missionaries that are state convention staffers. This would include both our Student Ministry leader and our Collegiate Ministry leader. There are several others as well that are jointly funded, but I do not have that list memorized. I could not tell you how much of the $1.1m goes to their support, but if I am not mistaken, there is probably a 75/25 split, with NAMB covering 75% and the BCNM covering 25% of their salaries. It could be 50/50, but I don’t think so. I think you will find that this arrangement is typical of most State Conventions under the older cooperative agreements. In addition, I know that much of this NAMB funding will be used for minsitry within the state. Hope that helps. Thanks,

      Howell

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