Should the IMB & NAMB Merge?

October 5, 2015

by Dr. Adam Harwood

** This article was originally posted by Dr. Adam Harwood on his website www.adamharwood.com and is used by permission.

Dr. Adam Harwood is: Associate Professor of Theology (occupying the McFarland Chair of Theology), Director of the Baptist Center for Theology & Ministry, and Editor of the Journal for Baptist Theology & Ministry at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary 

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According to this report in Christian Examiner, SBC President Ronnie Floyd asked this question at last week’s conference hosted by Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary: 

For the sake of Gospel advancement, should the International Mission Board and the North American Mission Board become one mission board, the Global Mission Board of our Southern Baptist Convention?

The answer to this question will either strengthen or weaken the evangelistic work of one of the most significant mission-sending efforts in history. For that reason, I hope the answer is formed carefully and with input from: the convention of Southern Baptist churches (which would reflect congregational polity rather a Presbyterian or Episcopal polity), not decided by a small group of people hand-picked by an individual; seasoned IMB missionaries and seasoned NAMB missionaries, rather than only agency administrators.

I have spoken privately with several missions leaders and thinkers who each have decades of experience in both domestic and international missions. All of them have strong reservations about merging these agencies. Their reasons are not based in economics, but in missions. Will money be saved if offices of two agencies are combined into one? Yes. However, social, cultural, and linguistic issues create significant differences between reaching Somalis in the United States with the gospel and reaching Somalis in East Africa. Can one mission agency do both well? That is the question that Dr. Floyd has raised.

The Lord has entrusted Southern Baptists with incredibly rich resources of people, finances, and opportunities. He will one day hold us accountable for what we did with what He entrusted to us (Matt 25:14-30; 2 Cor 5:10). I pray we will answer Dr. Floyd’s question in such a way that the Lord will one day commend the present generation of Southern Baptists as faithful stewards.

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Randall Cofield

Questions such as that posed by Ronnie Floyd are needful given the condition of our denominational entities. The corporate model adopted by the SBC in the early 20th century is not viable in the rapidly changing 21st century. Indeed, one wonders if the sheer pragmatism of that model has not lead to our current decline. If we do not become both more theological and more strategic in our thinking and structure–and continually clarify our theology and update our strategies as shifting global pressures evolve–we will continue to experience decline. Simply being well-intentioned is no longer sufficient…if it ever was.

Ron F. Hale

As many corporations are planning “decentralization” a few SBC leaders are toying with the idea of the “centralization” of our mission boards. I do not see this as a good idea and I see no significant value in moving toward one large agency.

Bigger is not necessarily better or more effective, in fact, it can be more costly, and require more time to adapt and adjust to a changing world.

    Scott Shaver

    Yes Ron, you’re correct.

    But…..1 centralized agency with 1 trustee board is a more easily “controlled” apparatus if the goal of the structure is more “theological and strategic” thinking.

    I don’t trust such buzzwords personally.

William

I’ve seen nothing that explains how merging the two mission boards is advantageous in any way. It’s one of those big ideas that attracts the big thinkers among us and big ideas may be good, bad, or neutral.

I appreciate Dr. Harwood calling attention to this.

If the leaders of any of the six seminaries were to favor IMB and NAMB merging, one might ask why they do not see much more duplication in six separate seminaries.

    Scott Shaver

    Good point William:

    Think of the money saved by doing at 3 campuses what’s being attempted at six. Might also help increase the number of resident, matriculating students.

    Looks like the eventual full flavor (i.e. reform calvinism) of SBC seminaries has already been decided so why not cut to the chase and start saving money now.

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