— 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
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
“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
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