A new partnership between the Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC) and the North American Mission Board (NAMB) will provide additional resources to start churches in high need areas throughout Arkansas. Approved at the August meeting of the ABSC Executive Board, the new Send Arkansas collaboration has begun.
Dr. J.D. “Sonny” Tucker, Executive Director for the ABSC sees this as a good thing for the state. “Arkansas Baptists have always had a close missions partnership with the International Mission Board and the North American Mission Board. But, with this move we enter into a much closer partnership in church planting in Arkansas with the North American Mission Board‘s Send Network. I’m thankful to our executive board for their unanimous vote to enter into this enhanced partnership,” Tucker said.
This new partnership means that now NAMB and the ABSC will collaborate in assessing, training, caring for and supporting ABSC church planters. The ABSC Church Planting Team will continue to care for church planters and provide retreat opportunities for planters and their spouses. Of the ABSC Church Planting Team and their role in the new Send Arkansas collaboration, Tucker said, “I am thankful that God has given Arkansas Baptists a “dream team” of a church planting staff, who will continue to be employed as your staff and lead church planting efforts across the state in this enhanced partnership.”
Vince Blubaugh, ABSC Church Planting Team Leader and Send Arkansas Director says, “This new enhanced partnership will allow us access to new resources to grow church planting efforts throughout the state—including in some of the most underserved parts of Arkansas.”
In the past, SBC churches worked through NAMB to plant churches in areas of high need mostly outside of the south. To plant churches in Arkansas, ABSC churches worked through the state convention. Now NAMB President Kevin Ezell said, “ABSC churches can access NAMB support for church planting in the state as well as beyond it.”
NAMB originally launched Send North America in 2011 with a focus on urban areas that were underrepresented by Southern Baptists. In recent years, NAMB has expanded the Send Network to include entire state conventions, like the ABSC. “The impact of this enhanced partnership will result in many more positive benefits to our church planters, sponsor churches, and church planter residency churches,” Tucker said. “Several of our sister southern state conventions have entered into a similar partnership, and they give this enhanced partnership the highest reviews with greater church planter benefits, care, and more churches planted.”
Ezell says these new networks have worked “incredibly well.” He added that these state Send Network agreements have streamlined how NAMB partners with states to do church planting. It has created even greater synergy and cooperation. For church planter candidates, it has been an encouragement because the process is simpler, and they have the benefit of knowing that both the state convention and NAMB are unified in their partnership and support for them.
Noting that Southern Baptists are better together, the ABSC is looking forward to seeing God move throughout Arkansas in a powerful way through this enhanced partnership. Dr. Larry White, pastor of Woodland Heights Baptist Church in Conway and current ABSC President echoed the sentiment of many adding, “When Southern Baptists are at their best is when we are in cooperation. The enhanced partnership with NAMB looks to be a great combination that should result in more healthy evangelistic churches in Arkansas.”
Dr. Tucker expressed his appreciation to NAMB and to the ABSC Executive Board and Church Planting Team in a recent video. Click here to watch the video.