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IMB, NAMB presidents discuss penetrating lostness
Erich Bridges, Baptist Press
May 12, 2011
5 MIN READ TIME

IMB, NAMB presidents discuss penetrating lostness

IMB, NAMB presidents discuss penetrating lostness
Erich Bridges, Baptist Press
May 12, 2011

RICHMOND, Va.

— Southern Baptists’ two mission boards have differing ministry assignments but

one overarching vision: Mobilize every church to evangelize the lost, make

disciples and plant new congregations.

“Working together, we can do more than we can do apart,” said Tom Elliff,

president of the International Mission Board (IMB), who met with Kevin Ezell,

president of the North American Mission Board (NAMB), April 25 to brainstorm

ways to partner in realizing that vision.

“We’re keenly aware that Southern Baptists have two different mission boards

with two different ministry statements,” Elliff said, “but we’re making a

determined effort to forge a new and stronger relationship.”

The mutual goal of the two mission boards, Ezell said, is to “work together

seamlessly, because we’re all trying to penetrate lostness — just in different

parts of the world. There’s really no reason we can’t do that together.”

North American Mission Board President Kevin Ezell, left, met April 25 with International Mission Board President Tom Elliff to brainstorm new ways to partner in reaching the lost. “Working together, we can do more than we can do apart,” said Elliff. Taking

the gospel to the millions of spiritually lost people in the United

States and around the world “is going to

take all hands on deck.”

Elliff, a former pastor, missionary and Southern Baptist Convention leader who

was elected IMB president March 1, and Ezell, also a veteran pastor who was

elected to lead NAMB last September, met one-on-one and with top IMB leadership

at IMB’s offices in Richmond, Va.

The two executives talked about “dozens” of ideas, as Elliff put it. Both men

stated that it was an exploratory starting point of discussions, but they

indicated potential projects could include missionary training, sharing

church-planting strategies — and joint initiatives aimed at engaging members of

unreached people groups living in North America.

“We put a lot of things on the table,” Ezell said. “To me it would be foolish

of the North American Mission Board not to use the expertise of the

International Mission Board in helping us when significant percentages of the

ethnic groups in our major cities are largely unreached.

“What we want to do is penetrate lostness. Obviously there are some things we

do distinctively apart. But there are some things we need to do distinctively

together,” Ezell said.

NAMB’s overarching goal, Ezell said recently, is to “mobilize and equip

thousands of churches — along with the (Southern Baptist) associations and

existing church-planting networks — to engage in church planting.”

Elliff indicated his top priority as IMB leader immediately after his March

election, using part of his acceptance speech to challenge Southern Baptists to

embrace all of the estimated 3,800 people groups overseas that are both

unengaged and unreached by the gospel — and to do it in one year following the

annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in June.

The ultimate goal: “that every people group on this globe (will have) some

church committed to take specific steps to strategize, to pray over, to learn

about and discover some way that the gospel witness can be shared with those

people.”

According to new mission research, an additional 584 unengaged, unreached

people groups can be found in North America. That number

is likely to increase as people from every corner of the globe continue to

immigrate to the United States

and Canada.

“I can’t tell you how excited I am for us to able to work together like this,

to be partners in the best sense of the word,” Ezell said. “Tom has always been

a hero of mine. I’ve always looked up to him as a pastor, and I’m honored to be

able to work with him.”

Elliff said the respect is mutual. “Kevin’s years of pastoring have given him

great insights on effective ways to mobilize our churches for reaching the

lost, discipling and church planting.”

It will take “all hands on deck,” Elliff noted, to take the Good News of Jesus

Christ to the millions of spiritually lost people in the United

States and around the world.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Bridges is an International Mission Board global

correspondent.)

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