Send North America shared with pastors
Tobin Perry, Baptist Press
June 17, 2011

Send North America shared with pastors

Send North America shared with pastors
Tobin Perry, Baptist Press
June 17, 2011

PHOENIX — The North American Mission Board (NAMB) rolled out

its Send North America strategy to a packed house of pastors during a June 13

luncheon at the SBC Pastors’ Conference.

At least 1,000 pastors and their wives attended the luncheon, which featured

NAMB President Kevin Ezell, LifeWay vice president Ed Stetzer and a surprise

appearance by Rick Warren.

While Ezell had shared the Send North America strategy in a variety of

gatherings around the country over the past four months, Monday’s luncheon was

the first time he had unpacked the vision to a room full of pastors.

“With less than 4 percent of our (Southern Baptist) churches directly engaged

in church planting, we’ve got to do better,” Ezell told the pastors. “We must

do better. We are going to do better.”

Stetzer shared six reasons Southern Baptists need to start new churches in

North America: people need Jesus; new churches reach more people; God is

calling church planters; the nations are coming to North America; the future of

the convention depends upon it; and planting churches is how the disciples

responded to the Great Commission.

“Why do we need more churches?” Stetzer asked. “Because people need Jesus….

We are here because God has called us to proclaim the good news of Jesus

Christ. One of the most effective ways to do that is through the establishment

of new congregations.”

Stetzer explained that his passion to reach more people through church planting

is highly personal. His family’s spiritual legacy began when his sister became

involved in a Southern Baptist church plant in New York.

“People might say that the North America Mission Board is getting too focused

on church planting,” Stetzer said. “I say thank God…. We don’t need just the

North American Mission Board focused on church planting; we need this

denomination to get focused on church planting.”

Ezell explained that the Send North America strategy centers on the biblical

principle that churches plant churches. Using a visual representation of the

strategy, Ezell showed pastors that evangelism and leadership development

undergird everything the North American Mission Board will be doing.

Photo by John Swain

Rick Warren, senior pastor of Saddleback Church, made a surprise appearance at a NAMB luncheon for 1,000 pastors Monday at the Phoenix Convention Center, telling the pastors that a healthy church must reproduce and plant new churches.

“You’ll see the biggest part of what we’ll do is to mobilize and equip,” Ezell

said. “We’re going to mobilize churches to plant churches — through

associations, states and clusters of networks. All of it will be to mobilize

churches to plant churches.”

As part of this new strategy, Ezell told pastors that over the next couple of

years, NAMB will start by developing church-planting coalitions in 25 urban

areas around North America.

These coalitions will be made up of local pastors,

church planters, representatives of local state conventions and associations,

along with partnering pastors and state convention leaders from elsewhere. The

coalitions will develop local strategies for planting new churches in their


Then the board will develop coalitions in other locations around North America.

“It’s a new day,” Ezell said. “It really is. Pastor, we’re not going to make it

harder for you. Associations and states, we’re not (going to make it harder on

you either). We’re going to make it easier. We’re going to make it easier for

you to engage in missions and to pray and partner. We can do this together.”

The meeting concluded with a surprise visit by Rick Warren, who started

Saddleback Church in Orange County, Calif., in 1980 with just himself and his

wife. Today, Saddleback is one of the largest and most influential churches in

North America.

Warren told pastors that churches of all sizes could participate in church

planting. He noted that Saddleback had planted churches at every stage of its

development in keeping with his commitment to start at least one church every


“Don’t give me this thing of ‘we’re too small’ or ‘we don’t have enough money’

to start churches,” Warren said. “I don’t believe it. I simply don’t believe

it. You can start a church anywhere, at any time, if you’re intentional.”

Warren ended the luncheon by telling pastors not to strive for just growing

their churches — but to plant new ones. Reproduction, he said, is the mark of a

healthy church.

“I don’t think God brought you to this convention by accident,” Warren told the

pastors. “He wants to use your churches. He wants your church to have a

significant impact.”

Several of the pastors in attendance expressed their excitement about the

direction of the North American Mission Board as they left the luncheon.

“I’ve never been so excited about the potential of where our denomination could

go with the visionary leadership God has given us at NAMB,” said former SBC

President Johnny Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga.

Wesley Noss, who pastors New Hope Baptist Church in Versailles, Ky., called the

Send North America strategy “an answer to prayer.” Through a partnership his

church has forged with a Boston church planter, Noss has seen the difficulties

many church planters face in trying to reach their communities.

“I appreciate what Kevin said,” Noss said. “We have to do something different.

I really believe in my heart and spirit this is what we need to do.”

Daryl Craft, pastor of Green Street Baptist Church in High Point, called the

presentation “clean, clear and compelling.”

When asked whether he thought Send North America was something his church could

be part of, Craft responded, “It’s something our church must be a part of.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Perry writes for the North American Mission Board. For more

information about Send North America, visit www.namb.net.)