By Joe Conway
NEW YORK – In a move of commitment and partnership, the Metropolitan New York Baptist Association has voted to transition to full funding for its executive director. The move, approved at the association’s mid-year meeting, will take effect in 2014.
“We’ve been in discussions about this for a while,” said George Russ, North American Mission Board church planting catalyst and executive director for the association. Russ’ church planting catalyst position is currently funded through NAMB. The arrangement is common for many associations in places where Southern Baptists are few in number compared to the general population.
“There were two primary reasons for the change,” said Russ. “First, this is healthy for the association, a sign of mature growth. Second, the direction of NAMB’s Send North America strategy is to fund new churches.” Russ affirmed that the change is in no way adverse.
“The decision of MNYBA to fund its director and staff is not negative and was not made in protest or anger,” said Russ. “We will continue to invite NAMB to partner with us in church planting. We need 20,000 new churches yesterday if we were to have the same ratio of churches to people that exists in other parts of the country.”
Russ and MNYBA board chairman Bob Cope placed a call to NAMB president Kevin Ezell prior to the association’s mid-year meeting. Russ said he wanted to make sure Ezell understood the motivation for the proposed move before the vote.
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“We felt it was important for Kevin to know what we were doing and why,” said Russ. “He was very happy when we explained what we were doing and very supportive.” Ezell echoed Russ’ comments.
“Our goal has been to put as much money as possible into new churches and then let those churches support their associations and other organizational structures,” Ezell said. “I commend New York Baptists for embracing this model.”
MNYBA has a current annual budget of approximately $370,000. Much of the staff is primarily volunteer and self-funded. Russ said churches in the 51-year-old association, some 200 strong, would have to consider increasing their support for the higher budget.
“It is a bit of an educational process,” said Russ. “Some of our churches did not support the association financially last year. I am meeting with churches to help them understand the new level of commitment this move will take.”
Russ confirmed the need for continued focus on church planting. He has assisted in the launch of three churches in the association this year, and is working with two other potential planters now. He said church planting will continue to be a critical part of his role when he transitions on January 1.
“Our churches are about 75 percent non-Anglo,” said Russ. “We have a huge international population here. There are some 800,00 Muslims living within the association. There are 2 million Jews, and large numbers of Sikhs and Hindus. We need international outreach strategies.
“But we are also challenging our churches to have a global reach. We are partnering to establish ministries to confront human trafficking. We are partnering with believers in Shanghai and Dakar for evangelism, training and church planting. We have to help our churches think globally.”
Russ will continue in his role as church planting catalyst through the end of the year, which will coincide with his 30th anniversary serving as a missionary through NAMB. The association will assume full responsibility for his compensation beginning in the new year.
Joe Conway writes for the North American Mission Board.
Published June 26, 2013