This story was published originally by the North American Mission Board on NAMB.net – Click here to view this story there.
Ezell to NAMB Trustees: There is Still Much to Do
By Mike Ebert
TORONTO – Even in the midst of celebrating momentum and progress, North American Mission Board president Kevin Ezell punctuated his remarks at NAMB’s Oct. 9 board meeting by challenging trustees to remember that, “We are not where we need to be – there is still much to do.”
Ezell’s comments came at the close of three days of historic meetings during which members of NAMB’s Board of Trustees gathered for the first time in Canada. Trustees visited church plant sites throughout Toronto meeting church planters (See NAMB trustees see Toronto’s lostness and its promise). Those planters shared the challenges of ministering in the midst of one of the world’s most culturally diverse cities where half of all residents are foreign born. But trustees also heard how God is moving in the hearts of Toronto residents.
Matt Hess, who relocated to Toronto 15 months ago to start a church, shared the story of a young woman who began attending the small group gatherings leading up to his church launch. Recently she gave her life to Christ. Earlier in the week a planter from Montreal reported 40 baptisms on a recent Sunday in his months-old church.
“We could not do what the King of Kings has called us to do if it was not for the North American Mission Board,” Hess told trustees. “Thank you for the resources. Thank you for the prayers. And please keep it up.”
Jeff Christopherson, NAMB’s vice president for the Canada Region and for the U.S. Northeast Region, spoke at a Canada Celebration dinner prior to the Oct. 9 trustee meeting. He expressed gratitude that NAMB has tripled the resources coming into the nation since 2010.
“We are so thankful as Canadians that you have turned your attention to this country,” Christopherson told trustees. “The fact that you are here today means so much.”
Trustees heard reports from NAMB’s other four regions as well. Also at the meeting:
- Trustees approved a title change for Carlos Ferrer who is now executive vice president/chief financial officer. Ferrer reported that NAMB’s fiscal year-to-date revenue at the end of August was $109 million with expenses of $99 million. Cooperative Program revenue at the end of September had totaled $42.9 million and donations to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering totaled $56.9 million.
- Trustees were told NAMB-endorsed chaplains have shared Christ 31,000 times so far in 2013 with 7,238 professions of faith and 1,065 baptisms. NAMB’s executive director for Chaplaincy, Doug Carver, reported that response has been mostly positive to new guidelines NAMB issued to chaplains regarding same gender marriage ceremonies in the military. Carver said he anticipates continuing challenges for SBC military chaplains and asked for continued prayer.
- Al Gilbert, NAMB’s vice president for evangelism, reported how the six teams he oversees are serving in contexts throughout North America. Gilbert said NAMB is gearing up for the 2014 GPS: God’s Plan for Sharing emphasis on servant evangelism. In addition, he announced the development of an online presence where churches can post the kinds of ministry evangelism programs they have and how they might be willing to coach others in developing similar ministries
- Micah Millican, NAMB’s director for church planter relations, reported that 1,500 church planters are now part of NAMB’s Send North America Network planter care ministry. NAMB has established planter support teams in each of its 32 Send North America cities. These teams are locally led and have three gatherings each year to encourage and support church planters and their families. For the second year in a row NAMB is depositing $1,000 into the Guidestone retirement accounts of each church planter in its care network (See related story). Additionally, in November, NAMB will provide each planter with an online Bible library.
An historic time
In his address to trustees, Ezell announced a new funding model between NAMB and South Region state conventions. The traditional cooperative budget agreement between NAMB and each South state convention is transitioning to a grant system that is simpler, leaves more spending decisions to the states and will no longer include personnel.
With savings from the transition, Ezell said NAMB will be able to double church planting funds in 2015 in states such as Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. The shift of funds from South to non-South regions will also allow NAMB to invest $1 million over four years for new churches in the I-29 corridor that stretches from the Dakotas to Kansas City. The funding shift will also provide an additional 15 church planting catalysts throughout North America.
“This is an historic time,” Ezell said. “It allows us to do things we would not have had the funds to do. We are very thankful for our relationship in these states. It’s a new day and we are very grateful for that and very blessed to experience it.”
Ezell announced plans for three new national church planting catalysts:
- National CPC for Deaf Churches. This role will focus on starting 100 new churches for the deaf in the next 10 years.
- National CPC for Military Churches. Ezell said Southern Baptists must be intentional about making certain there is a church located by every military base since 80 percent of military members live off base.
- National CPC for Missional Communities (final title not yet determined). The role will focus on forming cell groups or missional communities in Send North America cities with the goal that they will eventually result in new church plants.
“The best is yet to be,” Ezell told trustees. “I want to encourage you–do not stand and glare at the past or even pause too much to ponder the present. Because there is a great deal to be done. We are not near where we need to be. But I am thankful for the opportunity before us and thankful that Southern Baptists have sacrificially given through the Cooperative Program and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering. I am so thankful for the sacrificial gifts of Southern Baptists so we can do what we do.”
Ezell ended his remarks by asking trustee Blake Gideon, pastor of First Baptist Church Inola, Okla., to close by praying Luke 10:2, that God would send more laborers to the harvest field.
Mike Ebert writes for the North American Mission Board.