by Kevin Ezell, President of the North American Mission Board
ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP) — As each year transitions into the next, we see a lot of “list” stories looking back on the best and worst of the preceding 12 months. Some of these stories can be useless and annoying, but the idea is still not a bad one if we keep the right focus.
I encourage you to take some time in the days ahead and make your own list of highlights noting what God did in your church and in your personal journey throughout the past year. Not only will it make you more grateful for how He has blessed during this past year, it will also build your anticipation of the great things He has in store for the year ahead.
There were many 2014 ministry highlights at the North American Mission Board through Send North America that merit celebration.
— We are seeing new church plants gain traction in some of the toughest spiritual climates in North America. For instance in Montreal, where evangelicals number less than half a percent, several new church plants are thriving; one averages 750 in attendance each week.
— In Maine, which has the third lowest weekly church attendance of any U.S. state, there are similar encouraging signs. Kennebec Community Church in Augusta is averaging 400 for weekly worship. In Portland, Cross Church launched this year with 200 people and baptized 13 this summer.
— In some of the hard-to-reach rural areas the story is the same. Alaska is in the midst of a church planting surge. Before 2012 Alaska Southern Baptists averaged one or two plants a year. But in the last two years, at least 19 new churches have been planted and more are coming. We have increased our funding to Alaska Baptists to help get these churches started.
— Starting with the church planting class of 2010, we began tracking new Southern Baptist church plants better than ever and the news is good: 91 percent are surviving and on average attendance is up, baptism ratios are healthy and our church plants are giving to Southern Baptist Convention missions.
— We had 185 churches participate in “Churches Planting Churches” training in 2014. These churches are now equipped and ready to become effective partners for church plants and church planters throughout North America. Overall, more than 3,900 churches are involved in our mobilization process and 1,880 have already been connected with a ministry location or a church planter.
I’m also very happy to say that NAMB is doing much better than ever before to support, encourage and stay connected with church planters. Our Planter Support Ministry provides ongoing encouragement and equipping for our planters. In addition, an increasing number of churches are directly connecting with church planters.
There is so much more to be done in our effort to give people better access to the Gospel in North America, especially in and around our cities where more than 80 percent of North Americans live. But it is also encouraging to take a brief look back to celebrate God’s activity and His faithfulness as we move forward with our efforts to push back lostness.
I hope you will take a moment to look back in gratitude as well.
Dr. Kevin Ezell serves as the President of the North American Mission Board, providing strategic vision, direction, and leadership as NAMB works to reach North America through evangelism and church planting.
Reprinted from Baptist Press (www.baptistpress.com).
Baptist Press (BP) is the official news service of the Southern Baptist Convention and provides news to the 42 state Baptist papers. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally.