By Mike Ebert
SALT LAKE CITY – Trustees of the North American Mission Board (NAMB) approved the establishment of Send Relief, a new compassion ministry that will offer Southern Baptists opportunities to meet physical needs and serve underprivileged communities.
“Imagine 40,000 Southern Baptist churches engaged to meet needs in their communities and across North America,” said NAMB president Kevin Ezell shortly after trustees closed their meeting. “Send Relief will give churches hands-on opportunities to alleviate suffering and transform lives.”
Send Relief will launch in 2016 and include compassion ministries to combat hunger, poverty, serve children through foster care and adoption, combat human trafficking, minister to immigrants through international learning centers and meet inner city needs with construction and medical teams.
NAMB trustees approved David Melber as vice president of Send Relief. Melber has led Crossings ministries in Kentucky since 2003.
“Send Relief is going to be an ideal way for us as Southern Baptists to meet a real need—not only for the physical side but to proclaim the gospel, see people come to Christ and help be part of the church planting effort,” Melber said. (See related story: “Melber to lead new NAMB compassion ministry: Send Relief”) NAMB’s Disaster Relief team will reside within Send Relief and continue to have its own director. NAMB will continue to serve as coordinator of national disaster relief responses.
Trustees also approved a $4 million reduction in NAMB’s 2015-2016 fiscal year budget so the entity can send funds to assist International Mission Board (IMB) missionaries. Ezell requested the action in response to recent news that IMB will be reducing personnel by up to 15 percent in order to address ongoing revenue shortfalls.
“This is a kingdom vote,” declared NAMB trustee chairman Chuck Herring, senior pastor of Collierville First Baptist Church near Memphis, after NAMB trustees unanimously passed the resolution. Next, the SBC Executive Committee must approve the proposed assistance before NAMB can transfer funds to IMB.
In other business:
- Trustees received a report showing that revenue for 2014-15 was 1.15 percent higher than the previous year and revenue exceeded spending for the year.
- Trustees authorized several other position and structure changes in addition to Melber’s. Carlos Ferrer will serve as executive vice president; Kim Robinson, will serve as vice president of marketing and ministry support and Clark Logan will serve as chief financial officer. All three men have been promoted from other roles at NAMB.
- Gary Frost shared with trustees that he has resigned from his role as vice president of the Midwest region to move to the role of national facilitator for prayer and compassion initiatives with Mission America.
Ezell’s address to trustees included a brief look back at his first five years at the entity. Among the sharpest contrasts, in 2010 NAMB’s annual summer meeting had 300 attendees and NAMB paid them to attend. In 2015, the Send North America Conference in Nashville had more than 13,000 attendees and all but a few paid their own way.
He also pointed to downsizing that has allowed more resources to the field, better counting and tracking of Southern Baptist church plants and a tripling of resources NAMB sends to Canada.
“You are changing lives,” Ezell told trustees. As examples he mentioned a church plant in Detroit that recently had 250 at a preview service. Another in Augusta, Maine, is now averaging more than 700 a week in worship attendance.
“There are church planters all over North America who, because of your leadership, are being taken care of better than they ever have.”
Ezell closed by thanking trustees for their affirmation of Send Relief and shared his excitement about its potential.
“People are very excited about compassion ministry,” Ezell said. “We believe Send Relief is a way to help thousands of churches take their first missions step.”
Mike Ebert writes for the North American Mission Board.