Asking NAMB to Disclose Church Planting Partners

October 6, 2014

Dr. Rick Patrick | Senior Pastor
First Baptist Church of Sylacauga, AL

Dear NAMB Trustees,

As the pastor of a Southern Baptist Church happy to partner with NAMB in the planting of new Southern Baptist churches, let me thank you for all that you are doing for His Kingdom. I assure you the request I am making in this correspondence stems from a profound sense of gospel stewardship and an unwavering belief that those churches who participate through the North American Mission Board in planting new churches deserve to receive a complete disclosure of any and all information deemed helpful in understanding our mutual work.

Specifically, I am writing to request a clear and transparent report regarding the identity of every single cosponsoring church or organization with whom we are partnering in our church planting efforts at NAMB. In one form or another, this request has been made on the floor of the Southern Baptist Convention at least a few times. The typical answer, which is frankly unsatisfactory and non-responsive to the specific question, is that “NAMB plants Southern Baptist Churches who affirm the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 and give through the Cooperative Program.” Well, of course we do. So much is given. We expect nothing less. I am asking for something more.

My question concerns the nature and extent of the gospel partnerships in which we may be engaging. It is no secret that organizations like Acts 29 and PLNTD, among others, have organized networks of churches practicing a form of theological discrimination in their church planting. Specifically, they will only plant Calvinistic churches.

As we Southern Baptists who are soteriologically inclusive join forces with groups who are soteriologically exclusive, I grow concerned that our partnership is intrinsically out of balance in favor of organizations that frankly would disqualify me as a church planting pastor simply due to my theology—even though I am well within the boundaries of the BFM2K and even though my church gives faithfully through the Cooperative Program.

Suppose NAMB is facilitating and equipping 500 new church plants in 2014. A simple report format, with information provided by each church plant to NAMB as a requirement for support, might look something like this:

1. The Fellowship at Parkertown: NAMB, Union Baptist Association, FBC Parkertown.
2. Grace Church: NAMB, Melody Baptist Association, FBC Wilsonville, Acts 29.
3. FBC Tinytown: NAMB, Harper Baptist Association, Big City Baptist Church.

I realize this information may not be readily available, which is partly the point—I believe it should be. Southern Baptist Churches who support NAMB financially deserve to receive information when it is requested of them. My hope and prayer is that you will honor this request and disclose such matters that I, along with many others, deem to be relevant and appropriate as we consider our mutual work in the gospel.

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Jon Robb

I think this letter is unhelpful. Despite protesting one kind of exclusivity it promotes another. We need to move on from this kind of politicking, accept our different emphases and realise that this debate, which did Wesley and Whitfield no favours, will do us none either. The NAMB and the writer of this letter ought to have better things to do in the service of the Kingdom of God.

    Rick Patrick

    Jon,
    The helpfulness of this letter is indeed an open-ended question at this point—entirely bound up in the answer we hope to receive from NAMB. Should NAMB provide such a full disclosure of her partnerships to her constituency of faithful Southern Baptist Churches, it will prove to be a helpful letter. Should they decline such full disclosure, then I will be forced to agree with you that the letter was not helpful at all.

    I am not sure what you mean when you talk about this letter promoting exclusivity. I am promoting not exclusivity, but transparency. We should know how many churches possess *dual affiliation* with SBC and ACTS 29, and how many churches possess *single affiliation* with SBC. I am not sure what we do with that information when we gain it—perhaps nothing at all. But we will at least be properly informed about our partnerships. There will be no *silent partners* in our church planting efforts.

    Incidentally, lest I be misunderstood, let me disabuse you of the whole Wesley-Whitefield discussion about moving on from Calvinism. I don’t care if *single affiliated* SBC churches happen to plant Calvinistic churches. This is not some crusade against Calvinism. It is rather an inquiry against an extra-denominational organization with its own leadership structure, doctrinal statement, boot camps, conferences, etc., and a pattern of commingling our operations. To some degree, we may be partnering with an organization using money from Traditional SBC churches while excluding Traditional SBC church planters. I have a problem with partners who only want my money, but discriminate against my theology.

    As for better things to do in the service of God, I hope we always affirm the right of a Southern Baptist Pastor to take ten minutes to compose a letter requesting information from NAMB about our church planting process. Similarly, it will be a sad day indeed when NAMB has no time to respond to her constituency of SBC churches by providing answers deemed helpful in understanding the details of our mutual work. The people in the pews who are giving their support through NAMB deserve to be provided with all the information they need. It is part of NAMB’s job to be accountable.

William Thornton

Presumably, Rick, you have contacted someone at NAMB and have asked for this directly. Whom did you contact and what was their answer?

    Rick Patrick

    William,
    I contacted the NAMB Trustees by email through a website link. The message was received at NAMB by Mike Ebert, Executive Director for Public Relations, who informed me that they were working on a response. I expect a reply from NAMB at some point in the future. Since my email was addressed to the trustees, my hope is that they might be able to discuss at an actual Trustees Meeting the matter of disclosing all Church Planting Partners to Southern Baptists. I will be happy to pass on any information that I learn.

rhutchin

This may depend on how assistance is provided and the form of assistance – financial and technical. My church has engaged in church plants in the past. Most of the resources have come from members who attend and support the church plant until it is on a good foundation. Help has come from the local Baptist association, the regional Baptist association, and perhaps NAMB but I don’t recall that these have been significant. NAMB increases its ability to help church plants by leveraging its resources with regional and local Baptist associations to support local programs and this may be difficult to quantify. I am a numbers guy and like to see the results Pastor Rick is seeking, but I would not be disappointed if it were not forthcoming. Pastor Rick might just ask how his local and regional Baptist associations are working with NAMB and extrapolate from there. Given that one of the greatest needs for church plants is land – particularly in cities, it would be interesting to know if NAMB is purchasing land in key areas in anticipation of future church plants.

Allen M Rea

Any and all entities of the SBC receiving CP money should be completely open and transparent with all the local churches. If they fail to respond it will only further weaken my confidence in NAMB.

Randy White

My experience has been that you cannot even get a list of churches started with AAEO funds. They will send you to a cumbersome website that has a map you can click on to see partner churches, and if you had several full-time people you could analyze these churches, over time. Since these webmaps don’t gather the information on their own, it is clear that a list of NAMB supported church plants would be easy to distribute, and it seems like there shouldn’t be any question or issues or improprieties in sharing that list with anyone who wants it.

As I’ve looked over some of the churches on the map, I can see why NAMB doesn’t want the information to be readily available. Our CP / AAEO funds are starting lots of reformed churches led by rebellious church-planters. On many of the websites I looked at, the word Baptist is nowhere on any of the pages of their website…nor is the CP, or NAMB, or any sign that this is an SBC church. The BF&M is rarely their published statement of faith, but the Acts 29 statement can often be found.

In my opinion, if you want to fund SBC church plants that have traditional baptist ecclesiology and soteriology, you better not think NAMB is the place to put your money.

    Rick Patrick

    Randy,

    I’d be interested in taking a look at that map. Usually, links get hung up in moderation, so could you give us a few “key words” that we might Google in order to find this Master Map of NAMB church plants? I’ve found a few regional maps referencing SEND NORTH AMERICA, but they are organized around major cities only. It would be helpful to see firsthand this proof of CP / AAEO funded church starts and the predominantly reformed bias that you mentioned. Forgive me, I’m not from Missouri, the “show me” state, but I just like to see things with my own eyes.

Chris

If an Acts 29 church gives money to the Cooperative Program, they are by default supporting churches that may not be as calvinistic as they are. If they choose to specifically plant calvinistic churches IN ADDITION to their cooperative program giving, I do not think it is an issue with which we should be concerned. As long as they are giving to the CP, it is really not an issue if they also support other, orthodox, organizations with their ministry money. This is a letter designed to stir dissension.

    Rick Patrick

    Hi Chris,

    Thanks for interacting. First, let me correct you on your closing statement: “This is a letter designed to stir dissension.” Having designed the letter myself, I am absolutely the authority on what it was *designed* to do. (It may or may not have unintended consequences, but I can clearly speak to my own motives, and I assure you that “dissension” is the opposite of my design.) The letter was designed to elicit more information, to foster greater understanding, clarity, awareness and transparency regarding all of our church planting partners. None of our partnerships or plans should operate in secret, but only in the full light of day. I am seeking to shine the light on all of our Southern Baptist gospel partners. I find it more than a little odd that the full disclosure of pertinent ministry information can actually be viewed by some as the breeding of dissension. My gentle rebuttal is that the dissension truly arises as those possessing information keep those requesting information in the dark and under a shroud of mystery.

    Your point about dually affiliated Acts 29-SBC Hybrid Churches also supporting the SBC, at least to some degree, as they give through the Cooperative Program, has a certain amount of merit. However, it does not resolve the issue as neatly as one might imagine at first. First, there is the financial aspect—we don’t really know the *degree* to which a dually affiliated church supports each of its sponsoring organizations. It is conceivable that such a Hybrid Church might give 0.5% through the CP and 9.5% through Acts 29. Second, there is the loyalty aspect—we don’t really know whether the dually affiliated church identifies mostly with Acts 29 or with the SBC. Which conferences does the pastor attend? Which books does he read? Does he lean one way or the other in this uneven partnership? Is he mostly a Southern Baptist Pastor using a few Acts 29 dollars or is he mostly an Acts 29 Pastor using a whole bunch of SBC dollars? Third, there is the discrimination aspect—regardless of the CP support by that church, their affiliation with Acts 29 marginalizes me as a Southern Baptist Pastor since Acts 29 excludes me from membership. My church has not affiliated with a church planting network outside of Southern Baptist life that discriminates against Calvinist church planters in the Southern Baptist Convention. (To my knowledge, no such church planting organization yet exists.)

    If the same kind of soteriologically exclusive church planting network were to form on the Traditional side of the equation, in order to balance out the Acts 29 Network, then it would restore the organizational equilibrium of our convention. Suppose it were called Mission 316, or M316 for short. Then, we would not only have Acts 29-SBC Hybrids in the Calvinist wing, but we would also have M316-SBC Hybrids in the Traditionalist wing. Those who are Five Point Calvinists would be just as disqualified from this organization as I am now disqualified from Acts 29. Only at this hypothetical point would the CP gifts of Calvinists begin to be used to partner financially in support of an organization that would not have them for a member.

    Regardless of where a person stands on these and other matters, I simply believe we should have this public conversation as Southern Baptists. It seems to me that, for the most part, the issue keeps getting swept under the rug in the hopes that it will go away. It won’t. Dirt is piling up under the rug. Let’s lift it, shine the light, sweep the broom and empty the dust pan. I don’t want dissension. I am a peacemaker. But ignoring issues and pretending conflicts don’t exist does not resolve them. It is a very dysfunctional way to handle our problems. Blessings to you and yours as you serve in God’s kingdom.

      Chris

      Rick,
      First, I apologize for unintentionally questioning your motives. I should have said will sir up dissension, not “designed.” Poor choice of words on my part and not what I intended.

      Second, when I planted with NAMB, we were expected to give 10% to CP, not .5%. Why do you assume that “calvinist” plants only give marginally to the CP?

      Third, are you really concerned with the kinds of books a pastor reads and what conferences he attends? How in the world does that matter?

      Organizational equilibrium? That implies that NAMB is driving (even if unintentionally) the Acts 29 partnerships. NAMB supports SB planters that apply for funding, have a sending or partner church, and pass the assessment process.

        Rick Patrick

        Hi Chris,

        Thanks for your kind apology. I do realize this is a controversial matter, and I agree with you that people on both sides of the issue will express strong feelings about it.

        As to your question about me assuming that Calvinist plants only give marginally through the CP, my hypothetical construct is not intended to assume that they do or that they don’t—but merely that they *could.* Without accountability, the opportunity exists for churches to take advantage of a “dual affiliation” system. There is no check and balance in our system to defend us from such a “Weak CP, Strong Acts 29” church plant situation. In this case, I am trying to protect Southern Baptists from the possibility of starting churches that will one day side more closely with Acts 29 than with the SBC—perhaps even exclusively so.

        As to your question about books and conferences, let me explain why I believe this matters. I think in each Pastor’s heart, he loves God, he loves the Bible, he loves the lost, he loves his church family, and he also has certain beliefs and commitments both theologically and organizationally, toward “the larger body of Christians.” For the sake of simplicity, let’s just call it “denominational identity.” His choice of conferences, books, conventions and affiliations tell me a great deal about his denominational loyalty. Money and time are fantastic indicators of priorities. I want to know if the money in his church is flowing through the CP of the SBC, and I want to know if his time and energy is bound up in our denominational priorities and pursuits. These both go to the issue of whether, deep down, he is mostly a Southern Baptist or an Acts 29er. If I seem hesitant about Acts 29, please understand that this is a group that I support financially against my will, that doesn’t believe like I do, and that refuses to include me in its membership because of this difference in belief.

        As to your point about equilibrium, let me clarify that I do not lay the blame entirely at the feet of NAMB for our lack of balance. I don’t believe NAMB is driving it. I believe the presence of church planting networks that exclude some but not all Southern Baptists is responsible. The problem is not so much NAMB’s neutrality, but the combination of NAMB’s neutrality with the absence of a soteriologically exclusive church planting network favoring Traditionalists on the other side of the scale. Assuming NAMB is committed to soteriological neutrality, with the only test of partnership being the “BFM2K and CP Doctrine” already mentioned, then the only way to bring about balance is the creation of this hypothetical Mission 316 Network favoring Traditionalists in the same way that the Acts 29 Network favors Calvinists.

        Finally, exploring these issues is getting a few steps ahead of ourselves. At the moment, I’m just a Southern Baptist Pastor who wants to know: (1) how many churches are we are planting, and (2) what is the nature and extent of the partnerships in which we are engaging with organizations that have disqualified me, and many other Southern Baptists, from membership?

Max

“My question concerns the nature and extent of the gospel partnerships in which we may be engaging. It is no secret that organizations like Acts 29 and PLNTD, among others, have organized networks of churches practicing a form of theological discrimination in their church planting. Specifically, they will only plant Calvinistic churches.”

Perhaps it would be more appropriate to refer to this sort of activity as Theology Planting since the primary driver appears to be “theology”, rather than “church”. One could argue that all church planting involves planting some flavor of theology (Baptist, Methodist, etc.). It would (or should) make sense then that Southern Baptist church plants reflect the prevailing belief and practice of its majority members (non-Calvinist). However, since the BFM2000 allows theological wiggle room for both Calvinists and non-Calvinists under one big tent, a proper church planting formula might consider a proportionate planting (80% non-Calvinist; 20% Calvinist?). The theo-politics of SBC life is getting more than this old man can tolerate. Church planting seemed like such a straightforward thing in the past.

    Nate

    Max,

    I’m not sure about Rick’s position, but I think the issue is not whether an SBC church-plant leans toward being Reformed in its thelogy or not. I see Rick’s concern (and mine) being that Acts 29 is not a SBC church-planting network. I think everyone would have serious issue if our NAMB church-plants were getting money from a PCA church-planting network and be extremely worried about baptism issues, regardless of whether this church-plant contributed to the CP or not. I think there would be concerns of NAMB church-plants if they were duly aligned with the CBF as well, at least for me there would be concerns.

    Acts 29 or other non-SBC church-planting networks that impose restrictions, or adhere to principles not found in the BF&M, create fissures in that church-plant. It isn’t necessarily a case of the church-plant being “non-Christian” but it certainly cast doubts on denominational loyalty. I would think we (the SBC) would want to invest our money in like-minded church-plants. As a baseball fan I wouldn’t want the St. Louis Cardinals Triple A team paying for and training up players only to have the Chicago Cubs steal them, and upon investigating find out that the owner of the Triple A franchise had a deal with the Cubs on the side. That’s how I see this whole share a church-plant with a non-SBC affilated networks.

    I may simply be echoing your argment Max, but I, like Rick (it appears), believe that NAMB should only be planting “true-blue” SBC churches. We are investing quite a bit of money in them. If the planters want to get more money on the side from other non-SBC organizations, they should have to get NAMB’s permission. At this point, NAMB allows for this. I would vote against it completely. Cardinals never partner with Cubs… The Cubs are too jealous of us anyway…. :-)

      Sean

      What is a true blue Southen baptist church? Just curious how you define that?

        Rick Patrick

        Sean,
        I cannot speak for Max’s use of the term “true blue,” but for my part, I have used terminology in previous articles referencing “Pure SBC” church plants and “SBC-Acts 29 Hybrid” church plants. That’s really the difference for me, not the numerous theological and methodological differences you cite. If they are supported by an Acts 29 affiliated sponsor, then they are not “pure SBC” or “true blue,” as I view the situation. They are at least partly accountable to a *denomination-type* network other than the SBC.

          sean

          Thanks for the clarification. Many SBC church planters in my area (Colorado) partner with many organizations. There are non Calvinist planters who are in multiple networks as well as guys who are affiliated with Acts 29. I understand your concern but in reality I wonder how many true blue planters are out there. From my perspective and experience out here in the west, planters try to partner with many networks and are not just tied to NAMB. This is systemic for both Calvinistic and non Calvinistic planters. Much of what I see from this blog and the Traditionalist guys is very “southern” in flavor and doesn’t apply to what is happening in underserved areas. while we may not like it, the days of true blue church plants is probably seen its day as the younger generation are not as denominationally loyal as they are relationally loyal with affinity networks– whether that’s Acts 29, PLANTD, saddleback, willow creek, Andy Stanley, mark groschel, Converge, catalyst, JD Greears network, or numerous local networks. The days of monolithic SBC church planting of true blue churches is probably a thing of the past. But I do think we have a right to see the numbers and data from NAMB as CP and AAEO giving churches and to ask questions and to seek clarification. There are so many different types of planters in diverse geographical areas with unique challenges as well as how they interface with the state conventions and partnering churches. My biggest concern is that church planting has been mainly done by mega churches who do their own thing without NAMB and the state comvention. I would like to see smaller churches (the majority of the SBC) be more active in church planting.

      Sean

      The reason I ask is that I pastor a reformed SBC church who gives 10% to the CP through the traditional model of my state convention. We also adhere to the BFM 2000 as our official doctrinal statement. We give a lot to Lottie and Annie and our stare missions offering. Yet we are also elder led with congregational approval. We don’t use LifeWay vbs or SS curriculum except the gospel project and we don’t do an altar call/public invitation but have seen many come to faith through our 7 week new members class. we proudly keep Baptist in our name and have contemporary music and I don’t wear a suit and tie when I preach. We also use the ESV as our official translation. Would we be considered a true blue SBC church? The reason I ask is that some of our identity consists of important doctrinal distinctives and others are merely preferences. What makes a church a true blue SBC church because if you get a room full of 10 Southen baptists and ask, they would probably give 10 different answers many of which would be bases solely on preference not doctrine.

      Max

      Nate – It’s clear that non-SBC church planting networks have had a tremendous influence on SBC church plants. Of the multitude in my area, I can’t think of one which is non-Calvinist. It’s not even clear that some of them are Southern Baptist since they don’t promote that on their church signs or websites except with “We adhere to BFM2000” embedded on a back page.

      It’s a much easier row to hoe for a reformed pastor fresh out of seminary to get in line for a NAMB church plant, than experience the weeping and gnashing of teeth after entering a traditional church by stealth and attempt to reform it. A young pastor at a church plant near me did a remarkable thing. He painted “Reformed” under “Southern Baptist” on his church sign. His website explains what reformed theology is. While I don’t agree with his theology, I sure appreciate his integrity! All current and prospective church members now know his theological flavor within the Southern Baptist family.

      As a Cardinals fan, I understand your concern about partnering with the Cubs. I still have my concerns whether or not two distinctly different theologies regarding God’s plan of salvation can really coexist in a single denomination (even though some say they always have). However, I suppose it’s time to settle into the new SBC now that Calvinization of the denomination is nearly complete at the entity leadership level and probably most church plants over the past few years.

        Johnathan Pritchett

        Max, I have my doubts too. Unity talk will carry the day for non-thinkers, but anyone on either side who has given any thought to it knows that within a single denomination, the differing theologies most likely can no longer coexist, regardless if they did in the past. Few will just say it out loud.

        I count Calvinists as brothers and sisters in Christ, and am happy to partner with them, and until recently, was a member of a Redormed SBC church.

        However, for other reasons. I think the “big umbrella” approach to the SBC has its downsides. The primary one being that a Southern Baptist moving to a new city has no idea what any given SBC church near them believes and teaches. Even Methodists have this problem in a way, since they don’t know if a given pastor at a local UMC church is a conservative or liberal until they spend a Sunday to find out. In this respect, the PCA gets it right. There is a common identity. Go to any PCA church in the US and you know what hymns will be sung and what kind of sermons you will hear. Calvary Chapel is the same deal. That is not to say that those denominations are better or perfect, but that is a huge plus in their favor. They certainly don’t have these kinds of problems discussed here.

        It doesn’t bother me if the denomination splits or stays together though. We are more a confederation that denomination anyway.

        I am more bothered with people who shut-up and sing no matter what is going on around them. That will no longer do. I am not one of those “right or wrong, I give to the CP” kind of people.

        In fact, I make sure that zero of the money I give at my local SBC church goes to anything other than our local church needs and endeavors I have no love for any of the convention entities as they stand today for both theological and political reasons, and I don’t really even have much affinity for any of our seminaries and/or colleges anymore either. That isn’t to say I am therefore against them, it is only to say I personally have nothing for them.

        I am in basic agreement with most of the BF&M and a member of a SBC church, and those are basically the only reasons I have been a Southern Baptist for the past 22 years.

        It would be of no consequence to me personally if I stopped being a Southern Baptist tomorrow. My formative years were under the pastorate of Steve Lawson at a non-denominational church. He is a SBC pastor now, and presumably could stop being one again and go back to non-denominational if he wanted to do so and took a position at another non-denominational church. I guess, as a former Calvinist, I also learned my lack of strong denominational affiliation from them…go figure.

          Max

          “I think the “big umbrella” approach to the SBC has its downsides. The primary one being that a Southern Baptist moving to a new city has no idea what any given SBC church near them believes and teaches.”

          Johnathan, I actually have an easy fix for this. Paint “Reformed” or “Traditional” (or Calvinist/non-Calvinist) on the church signs of SBC’s 45,000+ churches (as in the real-life example I provided in my comment above). Prospective (and current) church members really need to know what’s behind those doors. Just tell my who you are … you’ll always know who I am.

Lydia

I would be very interested in knowing the amount the SBC has given Sojourn in Louisville. I realize they broke from Acts 29 a few years ago but they WERE an Acts 29 church plant and they have hired former Mars Hill staffers in the past few years.As I understand it, most of the principle planters were from SBTS.

So as far as I am concerned, they were trained by Acts 29 players and have that DNA implanted there. The early planters were probably trained by Mark Driscoll at the Acts 29 boot camp. I certainly hope they did not take his mysoginistic theology to heart which is too vulgar to mention on blogs.

They really do have large staff for that size of an operation so I am puzzeled how they make it without help from some SBC entity. (See their website for all the pastors) I would also like to see what they give to the CP. I also understand they are planting churches in other states. There is one in Georgia from whom I keep receiving donation letters. I am wondering what list they garnered my information from and why an SBC church plant would seek donations in that way? Or is it an SBC church plant? As I understand it now, Sojourn has their own church planting network. It is all very vague and needlessly complicated. Are they SBC or not?

NAMB needs to be more forthcoming with OPM.

Christian

If NAMB isn’t forthcoming with this info, would I be in error to believe it means the laity can not be trusted? In other words it means put your trust in us, we know best how to spend your offerings, and stop asking questions. Of all institutions, the Church of our Lord and Savior, should be the most transparent. Can the laity not be trusted with this? Do we not deserve to see how our offerings are used?

Christian

Just to follow up has NAMB been in touch?

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