In his report to Southern Baptists gathered in New Orleans, North American Mission Board President Kevin Ezell emphasized that the missions entity will continue to report numbers that accurately reflect the reality of church planting in North America. He also affirmed NAMB’s continued commitment to support church planters, to resource churches for evangelism in their communities and to provide humanitarian aid and the hope of the gospel through Send Relief.
“We don’t do it alone,” Ezell told messengers in New Orleans. To illustrate his point, during his report and presentation, Ezell was joined by people serving through NAMB initiatives. He also thanked Southern Baptists for faithfully giving to support missions in North America.
“The commitments you and your churches make in the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering make it all possible,” Ezell said. Since 2010, he said, giving to the annual offering for North American missions is up 27%, and NAMB has seen record giving six out of the last seven years.
“Every dollar you give goes straight to our missionaries on the mission field,” Ezell said. “We’re grateful for the sacrifices that you’ve made and the generosity that you’ve shown.”
Investing in church planters
Since 2010, the Southern Baptist family of churches has planted 10,000 new churches, Ezell reported. While more planters are needed to plant more churches to meet the great spiritual need in North America, NAMB is committed to maintaining the high quality of current church planting efforts.
“The 10,000 churches planted since 2010 are not numbers on a page. They reflect the blood, sweat and tears of church planters, their families and the churches who sent them,” he said. “Each one of these church plants has a name, has an address and an SBC ID number. These are real churches with real people, each one doing great work every single day.”
Prior to 2010, church planting numbers reported by NAMB were not accurate, Ezell told messengers. In a video clip from his 2011 SBC report, he pledged transparency in reporting and accurate tracking of church plants.
“On that day back in 2011, I told you what we were going to do, and we’re doing it,” Ezell said, noting NAMB only supports church planters who adhere to the tenants of the SBC’s statement of faith, Baptist Faith and Message 2000. NAMB also has increased its support of church planters, moving from as little as $300 a month to $2,000–$3,000 a month, depending on the church’s location and assessment.
Ezell emphasized NAMB’s commitment to providing rigorous assessment of church planters, as well as orientation, coaching, ongoing training and care for the planter’s family.
“Have we invested more in our church planters? Absolutely,” he said. “And why have we done that? Because it’s working.” The current 4-year survival rate of NAMB church plants is more than 80%, Ezell said. At the current rate, by 2030, one-third of SBC churches will have been planted since 2010.
Questions on transparency, training space
Ezell fielded two questions following his report. Messenger Jared Moore of Homesteads Baptist Church in Crossville, Tennessee, asked Ezell if NAMB would commit to financial transparency by posting its internal audits to SBC.net, in light of a recent report detailing overspending at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. “Our trustees follow a very robust process of review,” Ezell responded, noting NAMB does make its audits public.
Dusty Deevers of Grace Community Church in Elgin, Oklahoma, asked Ezell to explain the thought process behind utilizing Echo Church in the San Francisco Bay Area as a training hub for church planting. Echo was planted by Andy Wood, who now serves as pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. Saddleback was disfellowshipped earlier this year by the SBC Executive Committee and appealed the decision in New Orleans.
Ezell said NAMB uses facilities all over North America, including places that they wouldn’t particularly agree with on certain stances, in order to accommodate its events. To decide whether to use a church facility, Ezell said, NAMB’s process is to ask whether the church is in good standing with its state convention. He noted NAMB has also used churches outside the SBC to host gatherings of church planters.
Hundreds meet Jesus through NOLA outreach
During the presentation following Ezell’s report, NAMB highlighted areas where it is cooperating with local churches, associations and state conventions.
Tim Dowdy, NAMB’s vice president of evangelism, reported on the Serve Tour and Crossover outreach efforts in New Orleans ahead of the annual meeting. He recounted one missions team who encountered a woman as they were doing community outreach in advance of a block party. She told them, “I need to be saved!” The team started a conversation with her, and she came to know Jesus, Dowdy said.
“Stories like that happened all over the city all week long, and we praise the Lord for it.”
He was joined on stage by local and state leaders who helped facilitate the outreach efforts. Steve Horn, executive director of Louisiana Baptists, reported 12,180 people participated in Serve Tour and Crossover outreach projects in New Orleans. The ministry resulted in 3,487 gospel conversations and 336 professions of faith.
Dowdy also introduced NAMB’s evangelism kit developed over the past year. Evangelism training will be offered around the country, he said, to help churches create a culture of evangelism.
“It is going to take all of us in this great work of evangelism in North America,” Dowdy said. “The need is too great, and the mission is too important. We’ve got to lock arms and have a common passion to share the gospel of Jesus Christ and do all that we can to take the gospel to others.”
Generous giving meets global needs
During the presentation, Ezell shared the story of Philip and Jummai Nache, a Minnesota church planting couple who faced a medical crisis in 2021. After Jummai’s illness resulted in her losing her legs and one arm, giving through the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering allowed NAMB to partner with the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention to provide a van for the family. “What an incredible blessing you have provided,” Ezell said, recognizing the couple in the convention hall.
Ezell was also joined by Paul Chitwood, president of the International Mission Board (IMB), and Bryant Wright, president of Send Relief, to report on the partnership between the Southern Baptist agencies to bring hope and relief to places and people in need.
Wright reported on Send Relief efforts in Turkey following a devastating earthquake in February, as well as recent international Serve Tours in Bangkok, Thailand and Nairobi, Kenya. Chitwood shared his experience in Ukraine, where the partnership of Southern Baptists has provided help for refugees displaced by ongoing war. Giving has helped fund more than 120 relief projects in the area, impacting more than 1.5 million people, he said.
The war in Ukraine has also affected global food supplies, cutting off needed resources in sub-Saharan Africa, Wright said. Because Send Relief’s operational costs are covered by NAMB and IMB, 100% of funds given to Send Relief go to ministry, he noted.
“It’s a wonderful way to show the love of God in action as we win the right to be heard to share the good news of Jesus Christ. Most of all, we are a gospel ministry. We’re not a humanitarian organization. We are a gospel ministry to share the good news of Jesus Christ.”
To view more photos from the NAMB report, click here.