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
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
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.”
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.
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
“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.
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.)