ALBUQUERQUE (BNM) - The largest allocation of the 2019 Mission New Mexico State Missions Offering is $100,000 for church planting. Why is that so important? History offers some perspective.
Learning to Work Together
In 1919, Southern Baptists were searching for ways to simultaneously fund Gospel work in states and provide regular funding for International Mission Board and Home Mission Board work. To address the issue, Southern Baptist Convention leaders conceived the “75 Million Campaign.” The campaign intentionally split its proceeds between state and SBC causes. The campaign challenged churches to give through their state conventions several years before the Cooperative Program came into existence. The state conventions would retain some campaign dollars for in-state work and forward what remained to support "Southwide Causes," similar to today’s SBC causes. New Mexico's 75 Million Campaign goal was $250,000.
J.W. Bruner, New Mexico Baptists' corresponding secretary (the precursor to the executive director) wrote on August 15, 1919 in the Baptist New Mexican, "This task will challenge our courage and will link us up with God," and, "We will come out of this campaign with our minds and hearts fixed on the salvation of the lost and the putting forward of Christ's kingdom."
The campaign allowed five years to raise the $250,000. New Mexico’s year-one goal was $25,000. The amount was split among five allocations: $10,000 for state missions in New Mexico, $6,000 for SBC home missions, $6,000 for SBC international missions, $1,750 for New Mexico Christian education (for a college in the state) and $1,250 for benevolence. The allocations called for forwarding almost half (48%) of the campaign proceeds to mission causes outside of New Mexico.
Exuberant about mission work, New Mexico churches pledged $381,000 toward their 75 Million Campaign goal. But, the United States’ entry into World War I in 1917 affected churches’ ability to give. Nearly three years into the campaign, only $114,000 had been collected. At the campaign’s close, Southern Baptists did not meet the goal. But, the campaign helped Southern Baptists everywhere see the value of working together, even though such plan would need some adjustments. In 1925, driven by that unified effort to fund mission work together, Southern Baptists launched the Cooperative Program.
Learning How Much Church Plants Cost
During the years of the 75 Million Campaign, the Baptist Convention of New Mexico planted 3.4 churches per year. In 1920, the convention planted 21 churches. Churches in Gallup, Hatch, and Quemado owe their existence to that year. But, according to historian Lewis Myers, the state’s church planting dipped to an all-time low from 1920 to 1929. He noted there was “not enough strength” for churches to get through. For perspective, before the 75 Million Campaign began, New Mexico Baptists planted 74 churches.
In 1920 the BCNM had $54,000 to fund in-state mission work. In 1925, that number dropped to $32,000. The war and the Great Depression undoubtedly affected giving. At the same time, New Mexico’s state mission board desperately needed funds to help churches establish more churches in the state. During the same period, outside support flowing into the BCNM from SBC entities dropped by one-half. In 1919, J.L. Isabell, a missionary in the San Juan Valley of northwest New Mexico, received $800 of support. In Santa Fe, J.F. Measlles received $1,200. At the same time New Mexico’s average salary was $2,936 - significantly more than missionaries received. In the southern United States, the average salary was higher at $3,700. Sending half of New Mexico Baptists’ missions giving to help work outside the state may have hobbled the state’s church planting efforts from 1920-29.
Learning to Support New Mexico Work
One hundred years later, New Mexico Baptists face another critical crossroads. Our goal for decades has been to become a self-sustaining convention that plants, assists, and strengthens churches across the state. Similarly, the BCNM will always partner with SBC entities to accomplish the task of making disciples among the nations. The BCNM family of churches will do both because those activities drive the state convention’s existence. In a 1912 issue of the Baptist New Mexican, S.B. Calloway published an article entitled, "Two Arguments for State Missions." "When you help to organize a church in a destitute community, you are helping to enthrone God as ruler in that community," he wrote. "If brethren and churches could but grasp the situation; could see the needs of the fields; could see the wide door of opportunity opened to us in New Mexico, it would take no pleading to secure the money to send laborers into the harvest."
Sharing and Focusing
New Mexico Baptists must strongly support the Cooperative Program so missionaries can develop leaders and plant churches around the world. Likewise, they must also participate in and strongly support developing leaders and planting churches in this state. Neglecting work close to home will compromise SBC support, too. In the same way, neglecting support of work around the world causes shortsightedness and hampers God’s blessing upon work within New Mexico.
The International Mission Board, the North American Mission Board and SBC seminaries each receive support from the Cooperative Program, direct donors and special missions offerings. The support for New Mexico mission work is similar: CP, direct donors and the Mission New Mexico State Missions Offering. That is why giving through the Mission New Mexico Offering to support church planting and other causes in our state is so important.
As S.B. Calloway suggested, if we can grasp the situation, see the needs of the fields, and see the door of opportunity, we will have the support to send out planters into the destitute communities of our state. The time is now. Paul's words in 2 Corinthians 9:6 challenged me recently. He wrote, "And God is able to make every grace overflow to you, so that in every way, always having everything you need, you may excel in every good work."
Please join me in giving through this year's Mission New Mexico offering to support church planting. As you give, may God's grace overflow to you and the 1.6 million lost people in New Mexico.