Ezell: new day for church planting
Mickey Noah, Baptist Press
June 16, 2011

Ezell: new day for church planting

Ezell: new day for church planting
Mickey Noah, Baptist Press
June 16, 2011

PHOENIX — Missionaries and chaplains, a U.S. Army general, a

barber, two tornado victims and a redeemed young man mirrored the work of the

North American Mission Board (NAMB) during its report to messengers June 14 at

the 2011 SBC annual meeting.

“Knowing there are 318 million people in North America who need to know Jesus

Christ stirs our passion as trustees,” NAMB trustee chairman Tim Dowdy, senior

pastor of Eagles Landing First Baptist Church in McDonough, Ga., told the

messengers. “Last year, God led us to the right man, Kevin Ezell. We’re

starting down the right road. I can’t wait to see what God does with us,

together impacting the world for Jesus Christ.”

Ezell told messengers the months since his election have been very challenging.

“I have learned a lot in the nine months since I accepted this role, and I

appreciate your patience and prayers,” Ezell said. “I hope to clearly

communicate our direction in the midst of a very complex transition…. I am

striving to bring a sense of strategic focus and efficiency to our North

American missions.”

After thanking Southern Baptists for their support of the Cooperative Program

and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering, Ezell noted: “Biblical stewardship calls

us to the highest level of accountability with these funds. I am doing

everything in my power to spend each dime wisely. We must put more missionaries

and more new churches in North America’s least-reached areas.”

Ezell then outlined how NAMB’s mission board’s staff has been reduced by 38

percent through retirement and separation incentives, saving the mission board

$6 million a year. He said the budget has been cut another $8 million,

including slashing the travel budget by half.

“These savings will go to place more churches and more church planting

missionaries where they are needed most in North America,” Ezell said. “I

believe you cannot judge the effectiveness of an organization by the size of

its staff, but NAMB is not taking one step backwards. We intend to do more with

less infrastructure.”

Send North America

The new “big picture strategy” for church planting, called Send North America,

will enable Baptists to penetrate lostness through a regional mobilization

strategy, Ezell said.

“Already, 80 percent of NAMB’s resources are invested through the state

conventions to go to underserved areas — even before Send North America. But

this strategy will send even more in that direction.”

The GPS — God’s Plan for Sharing — initiative will continue to be one of the

entity’s top priorities under NAMB’s new vice president for evangelism, Larry

Wynn, Ezell said.

Ezell promised that, under his watch, future financial stewardship at NAMB will

demand “accuracy, transparency, effectiveness and efficiency — not smoke and

mirrors.” He then clarified and put into perspective some oft-quoted NAMB

statistics — for instance, that Southern Baptists planted 769 new churches in

2010, not the 1,400 to 1,500 a year usually reported in the past.

“When the old NAMB counted church plants, they didn’t ask for church names or

addresses or planter names. The new NAMB is asking and only counting

00c0hurches for which those details can be obtained,” Ezell said. “The old NAMB

had no system for consistently tracking new church plants across the 42 state

conventions. We are working with the states on such a system.

“Also, the old NAMB had no definition of a church plant agreed upon by all of

our state convention partners,” Ezell added. “The new NAMB is working on that

with state partners, to write a definition we all can adhere to.”

Photo by John Swain

Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board, told messengers at the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting, “We must put more missionaries on the field. We must take better care of our missionaries,” during the report June 14 at the Southern Baptist Convention in Phoenix, Ariz.

Ezell generated laughs and applause when he said, “If Wal-Mart can track how

much toilet paper it sells every hour, we should be able to track how many

churches are planted each year.”

The mission entity president also spoke to the question of how many

missionaries NAMB has.

“It’s been said that NAMB has more than 5,100 missionaries serving in North

America,” Ezell said. He said 3,480 of NAMB’s missionaries are jointly funded

with the states; 1,839 are spouses, some with ministry assignments and some

not; 1,616 are Mission Service Corps missionaries who receive no funding from

NAMB; and 38 are national missionaries, who are paid 100 percent by NAMB. In

addition, NAMB has 3,400 chaplains — 1,350 of them military chaplains — and 955

summer student missionaries on its rolls.

Disaster relief

In the wake of this spring’s rash of tornadoes, floods and wildfires around the

United States, disaster relief continues to be a vital ministry in partnership

with the states, Ezell said. So far in 2011, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief

has responded to 40 separate incidents, including deadly tornadoes in Alabama

and Joplin, Mo.

Ezell then introduced two of the 85,000 trained disaster relief volunteers in

the SBC, “blue hat” Gary Hunley and his wife and Twyla of Joplin, who

themselves lost their home in the Missouri city where 141 people were killed on

May 22.

“I’ve got a whole new feeling now for disaster victims,” Hunley said. “The

tragedy, the loss they have, the confusion they feel and for the

overwhelmingness of the whole thing. I can now say I’ve experienced it, and He (Christ)

helped me walk through it.”

For the first time in several years, NAMB used the annual meeting to introduce

and commission 20 new missionaries, chaplains and their spouses who will serve

in 11 different locations throughout North America.

Unreached Canada

Jeff Christopherson, NAMB’s vice president for Canada, and Jason McGibbon, a

church planting missionary in Toronto, and told messengers how unreached Canada


“Canada is one of the most unreached areas in North America, with only one

church for every 121,000 people,” the Canadian-born Christopherson said. “You

drive through Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver, and you see a sea of houses but

not one evangelical church. That’s just not right.”

Messengers also saw and heard the remarkable story of another NAMB church

planting missionary, Shaun Pillay, a native of Durban, South Africa, who — with

his new wife — sold most of their earthly possessions and moved to Norwich,


“I was amazed to find out there’s only 2 percent evangelical Christians in

Norwich, which broke my heart,” Pillay said. In Norwich, he’s planted

Cornerstone International Church and led 67 people to faith in Christ so far.

He said the church will baptize another 16 next month.

“I’m a testimony standing here today that Southern Baptists know how to care,

how to love, how to pray and how to give,” said Pillay, who introduced Derrick

Shelby, a Christian barber in Norwich, and Matthew Mowrey, a 24-year-old

ex-drug and alcohol addict Shelby recently won to Christ during a haircut in

his barber shop — one of the “proclamation points” Pillay has established in

Norwich. The messengers gave the trio a long standing ovation.

Also receiving an extended ovation was Maj. Gen. Douglas Carver, who appeared

at the convention for the final time as chief of chaplains for the U.S. Army.

In 2007, Carver was the first Southern Baptist to be named the Army’s chief of

chaplains in 50 years. After a distinguished military career, Carver and wife

Sunny will retire later this summer to Charlotte.

“It’s been my honor to wear the nation’s cloth for 38 years, supporting 2,900

chaplains of all faiths to 300,000 soldiers serving in 80 different countries,

including during wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and in the Horn of Africa, defending

us so we can serve God freely,” the two-star general said. “When you send a

Southern Baptist chaplain to the field, you can be assured we are bringing God

to soldiers and soldiers to God.”

Ezell ended the presentation by challenging individuals and churches to

participate in the entity’s Send North America Strategy. For more information,

visit namb.net and click the “Mobilize Me” button.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Noah writes for the North American Mission Board.)