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Ezell’s heart beats for church planting, adoption
Mike Ebert, North American Mission Board
September 03, 2010
6 MIN READ TIME

Ezell’s heart beats for church planting, adoption

Ezell’s heart beats for church planting, adoption
Mike Ebert, North American Mission Board
September 03, 2010

ALPHARETTA, Ga. — When Kevin

Ezell invited Buff and Cissy McNickle on stage at the 2010 SBC Pastor’s

Conference in Orlando with newborn son Jedidiah, it became an emotional

highlight of the two-day event.

Ezell led the conference to

establish a fund for pastors who wanted to adopt, and Buff, a Florida pastor,

was the first to benefit from the fund. But the couple still had $10,000 in

outstanding costs associated with the adoption of Jedidiah and his twin

brother, Judah.

“They don’t know this,”

Ezell said to the audience with his arm around the tearful couple, “but the

generous sponsors that we have for the pastor’s conference are going to pay

your adoption off in full.”

Ezell’s family has been

greatly impacted by adoption. He and his wife, Lynette, have adopted three

children, each from different nations.

“It has made a huge impact

on our biological children because it has made them more missions-minded,” he

says. “And I tell people our family always has someone to cheer for when we

watch the Olympics.”

On Sep. 14, trustees of the

North American Mission Board will hold a special meeting in Atlanta to consider

making Ezell the new president of the entity. The 48-year-old currently pastors

Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky.

Ezell first sensed God’s

call to ministry when he was a high school sophomore.

“My parents and pastor

didn’t really push me into it at the time,” he recalls. “They believed that if

it was a true calling of God, I would pursue it on my own.”

That call was confirmed and

solidified during his time as a student on a tennis scholarship at Union

University in Jackson, Tenn.

Photo courtesy of Highview Baptist Church

North American Mission Board (NAMB) trustees will meet Sep. 14 in Atlanta to consider the unanimous recommendation of NAMB’s trustee search committee to approve Kevin Ezell as NAMB’s next president.

“I thought at the time that

I would go into student ministry,” Ezell says. He had served in student

ministry at First Baptist Church, Paducah, Ky. The church’s pastor at the time,

J. Robert White, serves today as executive director of the Georgia Baptist

Convention.

With financial help from

First Baptist, Ezell attended seminary at Southwestern Baptist Theological

Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Nearing completion of seminary, God began

turning Ezell toward senior pastor roles, although he says his first attempt at

preaching was not exactly a success.

“It was a miserable

experience,” he now recalls, laughing. “My wife called her mother and said she

was praying about what kind of work she could do to support us.”

But soon after that came a

call from Hilltop Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, and Ezell became pastor

of the congregation of seven. He specifically reached out to the growing

Hispanic community near the church and by the time he left in late 1988, half

of the church’s 50 members were Hispanic.

Ezell pastored First Baptist

Church, Hartsville, Tenn., from early 1989 to 1991. He led First Baptist

Church, Marion, Ill., from 1991-1996.

When Ezell came to Highview

in 1996 the church met on a single campus and averaged 1,200 on Sunday

mornings. Today, Highview consists of seven campuses, one that meets across the

Ohio River in southern Indiana. Two of the campuses consist of Hispanic

congregations. One meets on campus at the University of Louisville. The church

now averages more than 3,000 in worship attendance.

“We realized we were not

going to reach Louisville from where we were located,” Ezell remembers. “So we

were faced with staying where we were or relocating. We decided to do both.”

Highview’s separate campuses

each have their own teaching pastors, but weekly staff meetings and

accountability from Ezell keep the Highview culture and standards present on

each campus.

“What has happened at

Highview is that I have surrounded myself with great people,” Ezell says. “I

don’t mind being the dumbest guy in the room.”

Highview’s 2010 missions

giving goal is $1.4 million with $582,000 being spent locally, $150,000

nationally and $700,000 internationally. The church web site includes a

calendar with more than two-dozen mission events and trips scheduled for 2010.

Last year more than 500 of Highview’s members participated in a mission trip.

Ezell has led Highview to

start several new churches since becoming pastor. The church is currently

funding eight church plants in Atlanta, Boise, Idaho, Clarksville, Ind. (a

Louisville suburb), Cleveland, Indianapolis (two churches), New York City and

Philadelphia.

“All of our church plants

are in major cities,” Ezell says. “For too long Southern Baptists have put

their churches in the same places while the Northeast, the West and Canada are

underserved. When people have been in the same place too long, they can get

stale. There is something invigorating in doing something new.”

Ezell believes church

planting success is more about finding high quality planters and focusing on

quality churches rather than quantity.

“I like to invest in young

leaders and church planters. I like to find the right people more than invest

in a particular city. We’ve focused a lot on quantity and I’m not sure Southern

Baptists are buying that as the best way to measure it.”

Ezell says his heart is in

finding pastors and churches who want to plant churches and finding ways to get

resources to them.

“The greatest unused

resource we have are the pastors and the people of the Southern Baptist

Convention. We need to get them invigorated to start churches. What we should

focus on is developing sending churches and finding passionate pastors and

allow them to plant churches,” he says. “There are people out there who are

passionate about seeing people come to know Christ and passionate about

starting churches. It’s not about being a funnel but being an amplifier for

those who are doing it anyway.”

Ezell says his excitement

about NAMB’s new potential grew after passage of the Great Commission

Resurgence recommendations at this year’s Southern Baptist Convention in June.

“The messengers really sent a message that they

want NAMB to be focused on church planting. That really excited me—to look at

North America and get as many people engaged in this as possible and give it

our best shot.”