Editors Note: This article is part two of a two part series describing a single interview the Baptist New Mexican conducted with the Baptist Convention of New Mexico’s new executive director, Steve Ballew, on Jan. 21, 2021. The first article from the interview addressed some of Ballew’s initial experiences and observations as he began his new role. The previous article is available on the Baptist New Mexican’s online news portal, GoBNM.com.
ALBUQUERQUE (BNM) - “Everything has to be driven by vision,” Steve Ballew said. He was addressing his approach to decision making and strategies for the Baptist Convention of New Mexico’s missionary staff in the days ahead. The Baptist New Mexican interviewed the new BCNM executive director, Steve Ballew, on Jan. 21. The interview covered his first impressions as executive director, his initial plans and his thoughts on issues already facing the convention.
Ballew envisions a missionary staff that is responsive to churches, helps them to win people to Jesus and helps them grow believers into multiplying Christians. He also wants the BCNM’s missionary staff to feel fulfilled and content in the work of their calling. He said he is not hurrying to fill the seven currently open positions on the missionary staff. “Every thing has to be driven by vision. We are here to reach people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ [and] to make Great commission Christians, multiplying disciples. That’s our goal,” he said. Accordingly, he wants to be careful that missionary staffing decisions effectively help and enable churches to do those things.
The Baptist New Mexican also asked Ballew a set of questions related to the BCNM’s relationship with the Southern Baptists’ North American Mission Board. In recent years, NAMB has significantly altered the way it relates to state conventions and carries out its work alongside state conventions. The changes have meant significant changes in funding for the BCNM’s statewide church planting, evangelism and hunger relief work.
Ballew began his responses without a pause. He said that New Mexico Baptists are “doing a better job than we think of interacting with [NAMB] staff on the ground.” We actually fund many of the same missionaries together,” he said. “We are already partnering to plant churches together, [just] not with the old model. We have already adapted and are already partnering.” Strengthening the BCNM’s relationship with NAMB is not starting from scratch; New Mexico Baptists already have a foundation of partnership to expand, he explained.
Ballew expressed his desire that “NAMB, at some point, returns to its roots of supporting [state conventions].” He explained that “NAMB was originally designed to work through state conventions to accomplish their tasks.” He said he hopes that those historical partnership relationships will eventually re-emerge, along with the trust that accompanies them. BCNM has to trust NAMB and NAMB has to trust BCNM, he said.
State conventions bring something to the table that NAMB’s work needs, Ballew explained. “We know what we are doing and what needs to be accomplished. Maybe ... state conventions [can be] more the drivers of the strategies,” he said. He also hopes NAMB will recognize “the uniqueness of cultures within each state that maybe can’t be totally appreciated from outside that context.” “I want to use this as an opportunity to reintroduce New Mexico to national entities in a fresh way,” he said. “A change in leadership offers the opportunity to reestablish relationships that might not be what they should be.”
Regarding the changed funding relationship between the BCNM and NAMB, Ballew expressed patience and confidence in the BCNM’s abilities. “The money will flow later,” he said. “We have been able to reconfigure our budget and needs so that, if no NAMB dollars come to New Mexico, we are still going to do the work that needs to be done.”
The BNM also asked Ballew to explain the differences evangelism, church planting and church revitalization, as well as the way they interact. Historically, evangelism has been a key topic among Southern Baptists. Church planting, though always present, and church revitalization have dominated many conversations in recent years. Some state conventions emphasize one or two of the three, while others have tried to balance all three.
Ballew described church planting and revitalization as strategies to accomplish evangelism. Each one’s main goal is making disciples, a task that involves sharing the Gospel and seeing people come to faith in Christ. Then, they need a place to learn and grow, he said.
Church planting, Ballew said, offers a methodology to do those things - revitalization does too. He said the BCNM also engages in other methodologies. For instance, the BCNM plans the annual New Mexico Evangelism Conference to “motivate, task and equip leaders in evangelism.” “Primarily, we are about sharing the Gospel,” he said. These methodologies merely “allow us to share the Gospel. … The goal is to see people come to faith and then become multiplying disciples in Christ.”
Ballew also emphasized the need for the BCNM to tell the story of all that God is doing through the convention’s work. “I am barely scratching the surface of my understanding of the ministries that are done throughout a year in a normal year’s time,” he admitted. He said the organization must learn how to tell those stories “so that New Mexico baptists feel proud of all of this stuff.” He hopes that telling such stories will engage them further in praying, giving and going on mission. He called story telling an avenue to offer “them a venue to serve, a greater venue than their local church might offer them.” He wants all New Mexico Baptists to see the potential of their local church and of local churches working and serving together in the Great Commission.
Ballew asked New Mexico Baptists to pray for him. “Pray for wisdom and discernment,” he said. “That is primary.” He also asked that individuals and churches pray for him during the increased travel he will experience. Last, he asked prayer that he keeps hearing God personally and continues the practices necessary to “have a challenging, and abiding relationship with Christ.” “Pray that I embrace the adventure,” he said.
“I try to end every phone call with every pastor by saying, ‘What can I do for you? Whatever you need from me, I will do my very best to help,’” Ballew said.