ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–The first person North American Mission Board employees saw at the front door of the building on Wednesday morning was NAMB’s newest employee, who greeted each of them with a smile and a handshake. It was the mission board’s new president, Kevin Ezell.
Later that afternoon (Sept. 15), despite a sudden bout with laryngitis, Ezell met with NAMB’s 250-member staff. While he couldn’t say much, Ezell made them laugh and briefly outlined his vision for NAMB.
Ezell was introduced by trustee chairman Tim Dowdy, pastor of Eagle’s Landing First Baptist Church in McDonough, Ga. The introduction came a day after Ezell was elected as NAMB president in a called meeting of the trustees, effective immediately.
“On behalf of the trustees, I want to thank you for taking the time to pray for us over the last 10 months,” Dowdy said. “We call it a search [for president] but it’s more of a discovery process. God knows what He’s doing. We don’t always know what He’s doing or where He is leading. So it’s not our job to search, it’s our job to discover His will. And that’s what we did over the last 10 months. It’s been a very methodical, prayer-saturated discovery.”
Before welcoming him with a rousing standing ovation, NAMB staffers watched a video introducing the 48-year-old Ezell, his wife Lynette and his five children. The Ezells’ two oldest daughters — Anna and Shelly — are students at Union University in Jackson, Tenn. They also have son Taylor, 14; son John Michael, 11, whom they adopted from the Philippines; daughter Libby, 7, adopted from China; and daughter Micah Lyn, 5, adopted from Ethiopia.
Also featured in the video were SBC seminary presidents Paige Patterson, R. Albert Mohler Jr. and Daniel Akin, Union University President David S. Dockery and David Platt, pastor of the Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala.
“One of the greatest things we can do as Christian leaders is to recognize that people are our greatest resource,” Ezell told NAMB’s staff.
“There are pastors and laypeople who want to invest and engage in church planting,” said Ezell, who is known for his intense passion for church planting. “We need to allow them to be part of missions and do missions. That is what’s going to ignite the Southern Baptist Convention.
“Today, we’ve got the potential of entering a golden age of church planting. The GCR (Great Commission Resurgence) and Southern Baptists made it very clear that they want us to be about church planting. Fifty percent of NAMB’s budget is to be for church planting. So we need to be building the greatest church planting network in the world. God has given us the resources. We will have the passion. But we must focus and get it done. We can be the greatest church planting network the world has ever seen — to God’s glory, not our own,” Ezell said.
Insisting that NAMB staffers call him “Kevin” and not “Dr. Ezell,” the mission board’s new president said, “I want you to know that I’m here because I absolutely feel God has called me here. But I don’t have a cape with an ‘S’ on it. I have no white horse. I just want to do the right thing.
“I want to earn your trust and I don’t mind that,” he said. “Just give me a chance. Let’s test each other and let the results be our grading card.”
Ezell told the NAMB staff that “we do what we do — not because we work for NAMB or for Southern Baptists, or because we’re trying to get people to write or say nice things about us. We have to remember who we’re doing it for. You don’t work for NAMB, you work for Him. We’re going to work together and be a team. It’s more fun that way.”
Ezell had served as senior pastor of Highview Baptist Church, a multi-campus 6,000-member church in Louisville, Ky., since 1996.
Mickey Noah is a writer for the North American Mission Board.