By Mike Ebert
BOSTON—Kevin Ezell issued a call to Southern Baptist churches to come alongside church planters in North America in a way that will encourage, strengthen and provide accountability as they seek to take the gospel to under-reached areas.
“Every church regardless of size can be a sending church. It has everything to do with engagement, not with money,” Ezell said. “It is not based on how much money you contribute.” Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board, made his remarks at the Oct. 8 meeting of NAMB trustees in Boston.
Only about 500 of the current church planters in NAMB’s network have a sending church. Part of what keeps that number low, Ezell believes, is the misconception that a sending church must put money into a church plant. Ezell said NAMB is stepping up efforts to discover, develop and deploy churches willing to take on a sending church role.
NAMB’s goal is that every SBC plant would have a sending church partner. Ezell countered arguments that if churches increase their involvement with church plants it will negatively impact SBC-related offerings. “Some have said that the more you are engaged in church planting or hands-on missions when you are connecting specifically to a missionary, that would decrease the amount of your Cooperative Program (CP) giving or your Annie [Armstrong Easter Offering®] giving,” Ezell said. But NAMB’s research indicates just the opposite is true, Ezell said. A recent analysis looked at the CP giving of NAMB-associated sending churches in 2010 (before they became sending churches) and compared it to the most recent year’s giving reports. “Of all the sending churches we had last year, they gave $1 million more to the Cooperative Program,” Ezell said. “With Annie Armstrong, the sending churches gave $400,000 more. “We believe it is more of an argument to get people to engage in church planting than to encourage them not to,” Ezell said. Also during the meeting:
- Trustees received a financial report noting that Annie Armstrong Easter Offering receipts from fiscal year 2013-2014 were up 2 percent over the previous fiscal year. Cooperative Program receipts for the same period were down slightly.
- Trustees approved several recommendations including one to shift $2.2 million in budget underspends to Send North America church planting efforts; another to allow a higher percentage—from 10 percent to 15 percent—of NAMB church loans to go to church plants in Send Cities; and another that addressed updates to NAMB’s media relations policy.
- Aaron Coe, vice president of Mobilization and Marketing, reported that NAMB’s Send North America Experience events taking place this fall and next spring will have a combined reach of approximately 50,000 people. NAMB’s 2015 Send North America Conference already has seen nearly 6,000 paid registrants since registration opened Sep. 2.
Earlier in the week trustees toured Boston and heard ministry updates from several church planters who have started churches in and around some of the most un-reached areas of the city. Ezell concluded his remarks to trustees with a focus on the need to support and encourage pastors. NAMB’s latest initiative in this area is a partnership with Focus on the Family to provide a confidential pastor care line—1-844-PASTOR1—that is staffed by trained counselors who can help pastors in times of crisis. “Our number one customer is our pastors,” Ezell told trustees. “Because they lead our churches … and churches plant churches. Healthy churches can plant healthy churches. That’s why we take pastors very, very seriously.” Ezell closed the meeting by leading trustees in a time of prayer for pastors. Mike Ebert writes for the North American Mission Board.