The Baptist Convention of New Mexico's State Mission Board voted to accept a North American Mission Board offer of a $300,000 annual grant of funding for New Mexico evangelism and church planting. The board opted for reduced funding from NAMB for BCNM ministries in order to retain state convention involvement in New Mexico church planting and to continue selection of BCNM church planters. The grant and its stipulations will replace existing funding agreements with the national Southern Baptist agency. Substantial changes coming in 2020 to existing agreements prompted the action. The board made its decision after a final, lengthy discussion among its members and BCNM staff during its July 15 regular quarterly meeting. The new arrangement will take effect on Oct. 1, 2019.
The option the board chose was one of three proposals extended to the BCNM by NAMB President Kevin Ezell through BCNM Executive Director and Lead Missionary Joseph Bunce. Before Ezell's final offer to the state, Bunce, state convention officers and the SMB had consulted together and sought to negotiate with NAMB, but according to documents viewed by the Baptist New Mexican, Ezell ultimately said no. All of the options Ezell offered reduced funding provided by the agency to the BCNM for church planting and evangelism.
Two other options were available. One option - not chosen - would have required the use of a rigid NAMB-controlled church plant funding grid, a NAMB-controlled church planter assessment system, NAMB supervision of church plants, and NAMB supervision of in-state Church Planting Catalysts (CPCs). With that option, the BCNM would have served only in a consultative role with church planting in New Mexico. That plan would have still provided the BCNM with some funds for evangelism. A third option offered by Ezell would have removed the BCNM from all involvement in New Mexico church planting and removed all NAMB funding from the BCNM. It was called the "no partnership" option.
Before voting, much of the board's discussion addressed possible impacts of the proposed funding changes and what they could mean for New Mexico Baptists’ church planting work in the state. Initially, board members sought to fully understand the details of the current arrangement and the proposals offered.
Board members also discussed the ability of the convention to fund and supervise church planting with the reduced resources. Part of that discussion included the need for and feasibility of hiring CPCs for BCNM planting efforts. Bunce indicated, “This is a doable thing.” He also explained that New Mexico Baptists must support the work they do through the convention by giving. “We will have to see Mission New Mexico increase,” he said of the state missions offering. Others, too, echoed that encouragement in their comments.
In their deliberations, board members sought to understand how other conventions use the grant funding to do their work. Bunce explained that the BCNM is unique. It would be the smallest convention taking the grant funding arrangement. He emphasized, “We are not large, nor fledgling.” The BCNM he said, is 107 years old, but is like “the middle child.” Nineteen of the 42 state conventions are larger than the BCNM, and 22 are smaller. “No other convention has done what we are about to do, except the large Southern conventions,” he said. When a board member pondered aloud, “There is no precedent for how this works,” Bunce responded, “No.”
While some expressed frustration and distrust of NAMB, others took different approaches. One long-term, small church pastor said, “The bottom line has to be souls saved or souls lost.” He said, from his experience, “God always comes through for us.” Taking a middle ground, another said, “We are going to have to take a really positive approach and promote this ministry,” adding, “We need to have our eyes wide open.”
Members considered the possibility that NAMB may keep its two CPCs in the state; and, with the state also having CPCs in the field, conflict could occur. “We don’t have a choice; they will do their thing, whatever we do,” board member Kit Johnson said. “We are going to plant churches. I don’t see us not doing that. I don’t know that I see that as a competition. It could [just] make us two teams, rather than one team, doing the same thing.” Similarly, just before the final vote, a BCNM staff member contributed, “We can’t be divisive. If we are Kingdom-focused, and not divisive, we will be fine.”
Since the board members represent local churches in New Mexico, they shared some of their practices and ideas about special missions offerings and how their churches support MNM and the Cooperative Program. Board chairman Steve Ballew encouraged churches to first promote and support CP, to second promote and support their association, and to third promote and support the Mission New Mexico State Missions Offering. “CP and MNM affect the state,” he said. During the discussion, board members also briefly discussed the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering that benefits NAMB.
What does the SMB's decision mean for New Mexico Baptists? Some services and activities may change, but others will continue unaffected. Board members identified the following implications during the pre-vote discussion and during conversations afterward. New Mexico's Southern Baptist churches and the BCNM will remain in control of BCNM church planting, and the work will continue. Convention processes, staff, and budgets will likely require adjustments and changes, but no decisions have been made. New Mexico Baptists must increase their participation and generosity in CP and MNM giving. The Mission New Mexico State Missions Offering will expand in scope and importance. BCNM ministries will remain independent, church-driven and service-oriented. And, the BCNM will continue promoting and supporting CP.
Upon board members’ request, after voting, Bunce offered five “talking points” that board members could use to explain their decision to other New Mexico Baptists. One: "Whether you are NAMB or BCNM, church planting is critically important." Two: Local churches drive church planting. Three: The BCNM exists to resource churches. Four: Changes in the church planting process are coming. "We made a proactive offer of an adjusted partnership arrangement. NAMB responded with the $300,000 annual grant plan - because we are an older convention - and two other options." The $300,000 annual grant plan is what the BCNM’s board chose to approve. Five: The BCNM will work with local churches to resource them to plant New Mexico churches.
Despite challenges the new arrangement will bring to the convention's church planting efforts, Bunce and others spoke positively about the work that lies ahead. Jared Bridge, the current BCNM president, said, “I believe that the decision that was made by the board positions us to accomplish this mission most effectively as a state. It allows us the freedom to send church planters, opens the door to future partnerships and equips us to accomplish the mission of reaching the unsaved in New Mexico. Bridge said, after careful consideration, “I endorse the board’s desire to move forward with the proposed agreement.”
New Mexico NAMB trustee Bill Richard (administrator for First Baptist Church, Moriarty) said, “I feel privileged to have been involved in the discussions of the funding interface between NAMB and the BCNM, two entities that are committed to the Great Commission.” He admitted that the issues were complex, but also said he hoped that the partnership between the two entities will “continually improve.” Reflecting on his 60 years of Baptist church membership, he said, “I strongly expect that my local church, … my association, … my state convention, … and my denominational entities … will partner together for the good of the Kingdom!”
Scott Wilson, BCNM Missions Mobilization Team leader, told the Baptist New Mexican, “I am thankful for the faith and foresight of our board to make this hard decision.” He said, “Through a number of meetings and emails, it became clear that the BCNM needed to be in the position of taking responsibility for the recruitment, assessment and support of planters and church plants in our state.” He admitted that the change would mean additional hard work. Looking forward to serving churches, he said, “I believe the decision will allow our local churches to be the leader in our planting efforts.”
Bunce forwarded the following statement to SMB members and to the Baptist New Mexican after informing Ezell of the board's decision:
"One of the great needs of New Mexico is impacting lostness by planting more churches. Both the Baptist Convention of New Mexico and the North American Mission Board believe this is incredibly important. The BCNM recognizes that both NAMB and the Convention have church planting strategies. We also appreciate that, with these strategies, at times our processes may differ. In the past, the North American Mission Board has given New Mexico the freedom to both choose the amount each plant receives and assess planters. Dr. Bunce was informed that, beginning October 2020, we would no longer be able to make funding decisions at a state level, as NAMB would be going to a strategy called The Grid for all non-South states. The New Mexico Convention is 107 years old, so beginning October 1, 2019, we will receive a $300,000 grant from NAMB like the old South states. This will allow us to resource churches with planting dollars, as we believe planting needs to be driven by the local church. We will celebrate with anyone who chooses to plant Gospel-centered churches in New Mexico. We are thankful for every partnership, but we will always maintain the autonomy of the Baptists of New Mexico."
Responding to the news of the board’s decision, Ezell provided the Baptist New Mexican with the following statement, “The details of the agreement are not final yet, but we are searching for a way to make things positive and continue to partner with New Mexico Baptists to plant churches and reach New Mexico residents for Christ.”
The SMB's deliberation and decision did not happen suddenly. Months ago, NAMB announced changes coming in 2020 to funding of its church planting efforts, including those it undertakes in cooperation with the BCNM. Upon hearing of the upcoming change, Bunce immediately initiated discussions with NAMB, BCNM officers, and the convention's SMB.
At the July 15 meeting, Bunce participated in the discussion, as did other BCNM staff members and board members. But, Bunce urged members, “Don’t make a decision based on me; you do what you believe is the right thing for the convention [BCNM] under these dynamics.” Ultimately, Dave McFadden, pastor of First Baptist Church, Portales, made a motion to adopt the option offering the convention $300,000 annually.
Throughout the process, convention representatives visited directly with NAMB staff. New Mexico's NAMB trustee has also been involved in the process. But, though Bunce requested to meet personally with Ezell concerning the matter, Ezell cancelled two scheduled meetings and opted instead to communicate his final options via email to Bunce. According to Bunce, both cancellations were due to family events.
The current change is one more step in a multi-year trend. Since 2010, NAMB has slowly reduced funding to state conventions in accordance with the Great Commission Resurgence Committee Report, adopted by Southern Baptist Convention messengers at that year's SBC Annual Meeting. Formerly, cooperative agreements with NAMB brought $1.4 million to the BCNM each year to fund a variety of ministries and missionary positions (26 of them). With the recent SMB decision, on Oct. 1, 2019, NAMB will have reduced the BCNM's funding to $300,000 annually, reaching an annual reduction of approximately $1.1 million, and the convention will have lost the recent services of two NAMB-funded CPCs.
Funding reductions stimulated by the GCRC Report have also affected the state's Baptist associations. They no longer receive funding support from NAMB for Directors of Missions. Both New Mexico's Baptist associations and the BCNM have reduced staff and ministries due to the changes over the years.
The convention's most recent agreement with NAMB brought approximately $610,000 to the state annually from NAMB's SBC Cooperative Program allocation. Because of NAMB's usage guidelines, some funds received are never spent. In addition, NAMB also funded two CPCs who were employed by the agency, but supervised as part of the state convention's staff. With the board's decision, in addition to the funding reduction, the two CPCs will no longer work under the state convention’s supervision. NAMB has said it will continue its church planting efforts in the state through the two CPCs, but any such work will not be coordinated with the BCNM. NAMB could not at this time verify its intentions for future work.
Bunce called the decision and the situation that prompted it “a Paul-and-Barnabas moment.” The two men, he explained, differed over what to do with a young church planter, John Mark. So, they chose to continue their ministries separately, for a time. Later, Paul demonstrated the value he saw in John Mark as a colleague. “That is how we should see this,” Bunce reiterated. “It is a Paul-and-Barnabas moment.”
Editor's Note: The full statements of those who offered written comments are reproduced here. Portions of the statements are quoted in the article body.
As the NAMB Trustee from New Mexico, I feel privileged to have been involved in discussions of the funding interface between NAMB and the BCNM, two entities that are committed to the Great Commission. The issues in this support agreement are complex and both parties have constraints that conflict with the other party’s. In communications with both the BCNM and NAMB, I have stated that as a believer in the Lord Jesus, as a son of an SBC pastor, and as a member of a Southern Baptist Church continually for over 60 years, I strongly expect that my local church (First Baptist – Moriarty), my association (Central Baptist Association), my state convention (BCNM) and my denominational entities (e.g., NAMB) will partner together for the good of the Kingdom! I am hopeful that through frequent, personal communication, the partnership between the BCNM and NAMB will continually improve as mission objectives are viewed from each other’s perspectives.
Bill Richard, New Mexico’s NAMB trustee and church administrator at First Baptist Church, Moriarty
I am thankful for the faith and foresight of our board to make this hard decision. It will mean a lot of work for the BCNM Church Planting Team, but it will be worth it. In the end, the principle of subsidiarity informs this decision. Whatever can be done well locally should be [done locally], instead of relying on boards or organizations outside our state. This also means we will need to take on a stronger support role through the avenues of CP and Mission New Mexico to fund our in-state work.
Through a number of meetings and emails, it became clear that the BCNM needed to be in the position of taking responsibility for the recruitment, assessment, and support of planters and church plants in our state. This doesn’t mean our national partner in NAMB was doing anything wrong; it just means that the people who live and minister in New Mexico are best suited to know how to plant the Gospel resulting in churches here. The board members considered the opportunities and challenges that lay before our convention and decided to assume responsibility for planting in our state.
I believe the decision will allow our local churches to be the leader in our planting efforts. The [BCNM’s] Missions Mobilization Team and [its] Evangelism and Discipleship Team will [both] be able to more personally serve our churches and the specific needs in our state. Our processes will be streamlined and simplified, so as to minimize administrative items churches and planters have to walk through for support.
Scott Wilson, BCNM Missions Mobilization Team leader
The sentiment of our state missions board is unified and unequivocally supportive of the desire to reach New Mexico with the Gospel. I believe that the decision that was made by the board positions us to accomplish this mission most effectively as a state. It allows us the freedom to send church planters, opens the door to future partnerships and equips us to accomplish the mission of reaching the unsaved in New Mexico. As I have prayed about this proposal, discussed all possibilities and evaluated the impact of this decision, I endorse the board’s desire to move forward with the proposed agreement.
Jared Bridge, current BCNM president and pastor of Anchor Church, Albuquerque
One of the purposes of the State Mission Board of the Baptist Convention of New Mexico is to assist and facilitate the staff of BCNM to resource churches to do the work of God’s Kingdom. One of the great callings of our churches is to plant new churches. As we did an assessment of how the North American Mission Board proposed to adapt their processes with regard to church planting in New Mexico, we felt the need to lead our Convention to continue the processes that have brought significant recent success.
This means that in cooperation with local churches, we will retain the opportunity to assess potential church planters and determine the funding needs for church plants. This also means that our partnership with NAMB is changing; however, that partnership is always, by necessity, changing. This change is to a model of partnership, already used by the more established southern state conventions, that allows [the] BCNM to use the strategies and processes that we feel will be most successful in our unique setting.
We know that the challenge for New Mexico churches will be to consider giving a greater percentage of their budgets to the Cooperative Program and giving greater attention to the Mission New Mexico [State Missions] Offering. However, we are confident that our churches will embrace the challenge, opportunity and responsibility to reach our own “backyard” with the Gospel through personal evangelism and church planting.
Steve Ballew, BCNM State Mission Board chairman and pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church, Farmington.
One of the great needs of New Mexico is impacting lostness by planting more churches. Both the Baptist Convention of New Mexico and the North American Mission Board believe this is incredibly important.
The BCNM recognizes that both NAMB and the Convention have church planting strategies. We also appreciate that, with these strategies, at times our processes may differ. In the past, the North American Mission Board has given New Mexico the freedom to both choose the amount each plant receives and assess planters.
Dr. Bunce was informed that, beginning October 2020, we would no longer be able to make funding decisions at a state level, as NAMB would be going to a strategy called The Grid for all non-South states. The New Mexico Convention is 107 years old.
So, beginning October 1, 2019, we will receive a $300,000 grant from NAMB like the old-South states. This will allow us to resource churches with planting dollars, as we believe planting needs to be driven by the local church. We will celebrate with anyone who chooses to plant Gospel-centered churches in New Mexico. We are thankful for every partnership, but we will always maintain the autonomy of the Baptists of New Mexico.
Joseph Bunce, BCNM executive director and lead missionary
The details of the agreement are not final yet, but we are searching for a way to make things positive and continue to partner with New Mexico Baptists to plant churches and reach New Mexico residents for Christ.
Kevin Ezell, NAMB president
ARTESIA (BNM) - Through a Gospel-centered sports ministry, First Baptist Church, Artesia, is teaching children in their community to put Christ first in all that they do.
The ministry, Seek 1st Sports, offers “a competitive league that teaches children to be leaders and examples of Christ to all they come in contact with while building their skills as true athletes,” according to the church’s website.
According to First Baptist’s pastor, Ty Houghtaling, the idea for Seek 1st grew from a church mission trip to England. During the trip, seven men from the church conducted sports camps at various schools, teaching American football, basketball and golf. At the time, the church participated in Upward Sports, a national youth sports program, whose mission is to promote Jesus through sports. Even so, according to Houghtaling, many in Artesia’s sports community were wary of Upward, seeing it as a recreation league, lacking in competitiveness and athletic development. While the league’s reputation wasn’t entirely accurate, “it wasn't reaching the community they way the church wanted it to,” Houghtaling said. This led the church to utilize the experience gained during the mission trip to England and the development of its own program.
Seek 1st officially launched in 2013, with a basketball program and added football the following year. The co-ed ministry is open to children through fifth grade.
The ministry’s core verse is Matthew 6:33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Houghtaling said that while “competition is great, we want our kids to get advantages with coaches and to thrive in competition and succeed in sports. But really, that's not what it's about. If we seek God first, then all of those other things, like being a good athlete and participating on a football team that wins games, that will come when we put our priorities right."
“Our goal is to be spirit-filled, to be led by the Spirit in God's will, to be pursuing God first, and to be living missionally. A secondary advantage of that lifestyle will be that we'll thrive in sports, we'll be good teammates, and we'll grow as athletes,” he added.
Houghtaling also said that the ministry has “been a really unifying way for our church to come around sports ministry," adding that some of the adult Sunday school classes at the church have "adopted" teams in the league and have become the “boosters” of the teams.
When asked if there were any kids who had potential to mature to the caliber of Landry Jones, a National Football League quarterback and Artesia native, Houghtaling said, "I don't know if we've got another Landry Jones, but we've got some kids coming through that we're going to be really proud of."
ALBUQUERQUE (BNM) - Christian Challenge is the collegiate ministry of the Baptist Convention of New Mexico. There are eight ministries on university and community college campuses around New Mexico. Each one aims to raise up men and women - college students - every year who will devote their summer to spreading the Gospel all over the world. Those students have sensed a calling from the Lord to utilize this summer during their college years to “make Jesus famous” in the destination to which the ministry assigns them.
This summer, these eight Christian Challenge ministries will send 73 university students and staff as summer missionaries. Each summer missionary will serve 7-9 weeks of the summer. They will leave for their assignments towards the end of May and return home the end of July. All of the students receive extensive training and are prepared to serve the Lord wholeheartedly and with integrity. Students learn how to work as a team and love their teammates, so that the people around them will see their love for each other and will know that they are Christ’s disciples. Although each team is trained in unique ways to appropriately serve in their designated assignments, training in presenting the Gospel is a high priority.
All of the missionaries are college students from one of our eight New Mexico Christian Challenge ministries. They were offered opportunities to purposefully and strategically use their summer to grow personally and to influence other people for Christ. Each student prayed about applying for these opportunities and followed God’s leading. After filling out an extensive application and collecting references, they interviewed and waited as ministry directors and staff guided them to their assigned team. Each team serves a specific partnership and mission opportunity. Although all assignments look slightly different, they share the same Gospel purpose.
Every church member who gives to his or her church - and their church gives to the Cooperative Program, is already a partner with these students. Through the Cooperative Program, the Baptist Convention of New Mexico funds the eight Christian Challenge Collegiate Ministries. The directors and staff at each campus work year-round to raise up college students who sense a calling to go and live the Great Commission. Many of them, like these 73 students, will specifically pursue their calling through summer service to God’s Kingdom.
New Mexico Baptists also partner with college students through the Mission New Mexico State Missions Offering that churches collect each fall. A portion of the offering each year funds summer collegiate missionaries. Each student receives a portion of the Mission New Mexico funds designated to summer missions. The generosity of New Mexico Baptists fully covers the costs of the New Mexico Teams. Those two teams travel throughout the state serving local churches.
In addition to New Mexico Baptist church members, the students of each Christian Challenge ministry also give to missions. They collect their own offerings during weekly mid-week, on-campus worship services and semester retreats. Student missionaries also raise a portion of their summer mission cost from family, friends and home churches.
Beyond their giving, Christian Challenge encourages New Mexico Baptists to partner with collegiate summer missionaries by praying for them. Use the portraits in this issue to pray for each student this summer. Ask God to “make Jesus famous” through them. Ask Him to help them show great love for one another and for the people they will serve. Ask God to grant them boldness and clarity as they spread the Good News. Also, ask God to grant them safety as they travel around New Mexico and around the world.
The students all serve in one of three opportunities during the summer: the New Mexico Teams, Project Impact Denver and international partnerships.
The New Mexico team travels from corner to corner, top to bottom and east to west within the state, serving weeklong assignments in requesting BCNM churches. The teams can serve each church in a variety of ways: helping facilitate Vacation Bible Schools; minor clean up or remodel/demo projects; neighborhood outreach and loving and serving the church congregation. Christian Challenge will have two New Mexico teams on the road this summer. Combined, the two teams will serve 14 churches.
Project Impact Denver focuses on workplace evangelism. Students work full time at various places of employment. Then, in the evenings and on weekends, they receive training in discipleship, life skills, small group life and working alongside a church. Project Impact Denver students will live on the Colorado Christian University campus and receive training from a team of Christian Challenge staff members and Project Impact alumni from campuses throughout the Rocky Mountain region.
Students assigned to international partnerships take language classes, teach English, and build friendships with local college students and others. Through those activities, they hope to share the Gospel and lead people into a relationship with Christ. Many of their destinations are restricted-access countries with little to no opportunities for hearing the Gospel. Long-term International Mission Board partners will meet the international teams on the field. The IMB partners set up housing and university strategies and provide support and encouragement for the teams.
Every summer missionary will intentionally build relationships with children, teenagers, college students, adults, co-workers, supervisors and anyone else God brings along their way in order to love, serve, encourage, share the Gospel, disciple people and so much more.